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Fifteen snakes on a dead man’s chest.

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Now, who's up for some sushi?
Oh Tony, Tony, Tony. The "Do critics really matter?" discussion is so very last month. Still, nothing will stop the New York TimesA.O. Scott from martyring his chosen profession:

…Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but the judgment of critics almost never makes the difference between failure and success, at least for mass-release, big-budget movies like “Dead Man’s Chest” or “The Da Vinci Code.”

So why review them? Why not let the market do its work, let the
audience have its fun and occupy ourselves with the arcana — the art —
we critics ostensibly prefer? The obvious answer is that art, or at
least the kind of pleasure, wonder and surprise we associate with art,
often pops out of commerce, and we want to be around to celebrate when
it does and to complain when it doesn’t. But the deeper answer is that
our love of movies is sometimes expressed as a mistrust of the people
who make and sell them, and even of the people who see them. We take
entertainment very seriously, which is to say that we don’t go to the
movies for fun. Or for money. We do it for you.

While we appreciate the ideas being expressed, there’s something a bit insufferable about the article — though it’s possible we’re just in a bad mood, as it’s 6,000 degrees in New York and we have no air conditioning in our apartment and this weekend we sprawled on the couch praying for death and watching "The Chronicles of Riddick" on TV because it was too hot to find the remote, and an extended sequence in which Vin Diesel bulgingly rock climbs his way up a mountain to escape the sun on some ill-advised planet where daylight burns you to a CG cinder was completely ineffective as we’d already been outside that day and experienced that unpleasant sensation in real life.

We had a point to make somewhere…yes, the film that prompted the article, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest," continues to defy unimpressed critics, breaking record after box office record, but there isn’t the critical hostility greeting this fact that one would expect — maybe because no one expected the first film to be particularly good, and the fact that it was watchable was a pleasant surprise. The consensus with "Dead Man’s Chest" is that it’s a flashy, overlong mess, but there are worse cinematic sins. At Cinemarati, there’s a smart, lengthy and entertaining discussion of the film that kicks off with this key observation:

Is Captain Jack Sparrow the Doctor Frank-N-Furter of the new millennium? Will (Bloom) and Elizabeth (Knightley) here seem to channel Brad and Janet, zero chemistry between them, each deeply focused on Depp’s boozy brigand deviant. Explaining the state of pure Will’s heart to Davy Jones, Jack exposits, “He’s in love…” and quickly adds “with a woman…” Uh-HUH.

At Salon, Aemilia Scott chronicles the continuing adventures of "Snakes on a Plane," which we is striking us as the most joyless, calculated experiment in movie marketing imaginable, and the true thing critics should fear — films that abandon all pretense of art at all in favor of artificial and crowd-dictated camp appeal. If it can even be called camp (WWSSD: What would Susan Sontag do?).

This reveals the meaning of the cult classic. The C factor lies not in the shittiness of the film but in the agreement between moviemaker and moviegoer on the film’s shittiness. The moviegoer goes to see a movie and thinks, "Wow, this movie is going to be terrible for X, Y and Z reasons." The bad movie delivers reasons X, Y and Z. The cult film responds, "Oh yeah? You think you know X, Y and Z? We’re gonna show you some X, Y and Z!"

"Snakes on a Plane" is an agreement, but one born of an unlikely power shift. It’s an agreement between moviegoer and Hollywood. It’s an agreement between David and Goliath, where Goliath slips up and calls himself a knuckle-dragging retard giant.

Incidentally, as Josh Tyler at Cinema Blend reports today, "Snakes on a Plane" will not be screened for critics. Of course not! There’s no room for critics, even grumpily ignored ones, in this equation. Tragic.

+ Avast, Me Critics! Ye Kill the Fun: Critics and the Masses Disagree About Film Choices (NY Times)
+ Cinemarati Summit: POTC: Dead Man’s Chest
+ Hissy fit (Salon)
+ Snakes On A Plane Hidden From Critics
(Cinema Blend)


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.