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The week’s critic ramble: Riding Alone in Mutual Appreciation.

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Also opening this week: The awesomely ridiculous-looking "Crank," Neil LaBute‘s enigmatic "The Wicker Man" remake, and Mike Judge‘s "Idiocracy." But no reviews for you (or us)! "Crank"’s press screening, at least here in New York, is today at 11am. "The Wicker Man" is infamously (well, infamously in our tiny entertainment news bubble) not being screened for critics. And "Idiocracy"? Is opening unheralded in a few cities today — New York is not one of them — sans even a website.

Also, some documentary we may have mentioned before opens today.


"I'm the actor behind the mask."
+ "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles": Mostly kind, if not glowing, words for Zhang Zimou‘s latest. Everyone’s quick to point out the film’s sentimentality — as Nathan Lee writes in the New York Times:

Vulnerable, corny and disarmingly frank, a film in which people don’t just weep but slobber and moan, “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles” drives melodrama right off the map. Cynics are in for a very long haul.

But he admits that "for all its schematic hyperbole, the film is warm and affecting." At Salon, Andrew O’Hehir groups the film stylistically with "Not One Less" and "The Road Home," and declares that "once you get used to the apparent flatness and emotional reserve of
this picture, it’s a sad, slyly comic tale of family trauma and
reconciliation that packs a wallop."

At the LA Weekly, Ella Taylor is more dismissive, and in a nicely incisive review writes that the film is a "fatally reverential vehicle for veteran Japanese actor Ken Takakura and the greater glory of the post-Mao proletariat":

Far from paying tribute to the rural poor, Riding Alone patronizes them by conflating simplicity with simple-mindedness and reducing them to binary oppositions.

Armond White at the New York Press likes the film, calling it "a cerebral tear-jerker."


"Do I have a girlfriend?"
+ "Mutual Appreciation": It’s been ages since we’re seen Andrew Bujalski‘s latest interpretation of our fumbling generation’s poignant cri de coeur, too long ago to write a proper review, and our roommate absconded to California with our DVD copy. Still, we wanted to say that we like it an awful lot, partially because it manages to transcend the self-consciousness and reflexive irony that have crippled the work of most young filmmakers. Its characters are themselves crippled by self-consciousness and reflexive irony  (and perhaps too much aimless niceness); the film, on the other hand, is sharply observed without ever being snide or too easy.

Anyway, almost everyone else loves the film: At the New York Times, Manohla Dargis compares the film to Jean Eustache‘s "The Mother and the Whore":

The men and women in “Mutual Appreciation” often come across as being as inwardly directed as those in the Eustache; the crucial difference is that the shadow of 1968 that hangs over the French characters invests their self-absorption with an intimation of tragedy. Mr. Bujalski’s characters, by contrast, don’t even have generational failure on their side, an absence of history, of myth, alluded to by Alan’s drunken confession that all he wants out of life is “a good story.”

J. Hoberman at the Voice pens a positive review that’s still packed with backhanded complements — in the absence of Armond White on this one, we have Hoberman to thank for breaking out the "s" word: "Funny Ha Ha managed to be both charmingly lackadaisical and annoyingly smug; Mutual Appreciation, which Bujalski shot in grainy black-and-white in hipster Brooklyn (and is self-distributing), is even more so." David Edelstein at New York writes that "With its halfhearted breakups of halfhearted relationships and fumbling declarations of attraction, Mutual Appreciation is a tapestry of indecision. It’s full of ‘random’ encounters that resonate like crazy, like the one in a bar with an acquaintance of Ellie’s who says, ‘I’m finding all this plant stuff, so I think it means I should start a garden.’ "

Heh. Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly also makes the Eustache comparison; he does think the film is a "wee-bit-too-wee." And this week’s Reverse Shot three, Jeff Reichert, Nick Pinkerton and Michael Koresky, are prompted to engage in an interesting discussion on the topic: "Is Andrew Bujalski the cinematic voice of a mumbling, inarticulate, moderately employable generation, or a talentless student filmmaker who’s managed to spin a single badly done trick into an honest-to-goodness moviemaking career?"


And now we’re blowing town for the long weekend. Back Tuesday.


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.