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Odds: Thursday – An auteur argument, 151 combined years, animated animals.

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"So here's something for you to argue with: Screenwriters regularly get screwed."
At the Onion AV Club, Keith Phipps and Scott Tobias discuss whether screenwriters get enough credit for their work. The film the debate centers on is, naturally, "Babel," since that very issue is what caused director Alejandro González Iñárritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga to testily end their filmmaking partnership. Tobian writes (and we think many are with him here):

In Arriaga’s case, I think the "auteurs" label is appropriate, because he’s one of the few screenwriters with a distinctive voice and a continuity to his work. Yet along with credit comes blame, too. I’d argue that much of what is good about the Iñárritu/Arriaga collaborations—and everything that’s good about Babel—is Iñárritu’s dynamic, texturally rich direction and not so much the humorless machinations of Arriaga’s scripts. The best passages by far in Babel are the wordless sequences, like the disorienting pulse of sound and image in the Japanese discotheque, or the plaintive guitar that strums as an entire Moroccan village takes a wounded Cate Blanchett into its collective care. With a lesser director, I think you’ve got Crash 2, an inelegant, deeply contrived narrative about the ripple effects of violence across the globe, or some such pretentious nonsense. Noel Murray‘s review of the film declared "Hallelujah" at the news that the two were parting ways, and to that I can only add an "Amen, brother," though I’m not entirely convinced that the prudish Iñárritu will choose material best-suited to his undeniable skills as a pure filmmaker.

It’s an interesting exchange, and one that nicely illustrates one can discuss theory without losing the interest of anyone who’s a non-academic.

At The House Next Door, Matt Zoller Seitz dismantles "Harsh Times," a film that should  only intrigue those of you dying with curiosity as to what Christian Bale playing a thug is like:

Playing a white underclass hardcase who’s internalized Chicano street posturing (and learned to speak decent Spanish), he instead suggests a member of Max Fischer’s repertory company stumbling through a high school stage version of Bound by Honor – pronouncing “bullshit” as “boo-shit,” and crowing keepers like “I got a bone, Gracie!” and “Roll dat shit up!”

At the Telegraph, Tara Winter Wilson sighs over seeing Paul Newman and Robert Redford together again in photos, and then gets a little dramatic:

It’s men like Newman and Redford who make women want to give up the rat race – even, dare I say it, the desperation for equality. Why?

Because they are exceptional beings: they have morals made of steel, hearts made of gold, talent made of intelligence, and beauty made of angels. Perhaps I’m getting carried away.

Ian Johns at the London Times inspects this year’s "The Wild Barnyard Ant Bully who went Over the Hedge during Open Season":

“The similarity of some cartoons this year is undeniable,” says the director George Miller, whose eclectic career includes Mad Max, everyone’s favourite talking pig Babe, and now the Warner Bros cartoon Happy Feet. He admits that when his animators began work on the film, they tended to do low-rent imitations of hits from DreamWorks and Pixar, the CG brand leader behind Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.

What would Walt do? At the Guardian, Jonathan Jones makes the claim that Disney was "one of the great American artists of the 20th century."

Disney’s supreme achievement was to give visual reality to the fairytales of the Europe that Americans growing up in the 1930s and 40s no longer knew, as their immigrant parents had. Of course, we can buy the original transcripts of peasant tales by the Grimms or Charles Perrault, or read retellings by Angela Carter. Yet Disney reached into folklore, grasped its essentials, and represented it for the modern child. When it comes to Snow White, can anyone separate the folk story from Disney’s version?

This strikes us a bit as forceful retroactive celebration of something that inextricable from modern culture whether it’s good or not, but it’s an interesting read regardless. And over at the Independent, Andrew Roberts reexamines another monolithic cultural icon: James Bond. Roberts looks at the first round of Bond casting, and the earlier actors who’d been considered for the role:

A few years earlier, the rights to Moonraker were owned by the Rank Organisation, which was scrutinising Fleming‘s work with a view to providing a vehicle for Dirk Bogarde, and in 1958 James Mason was even scheduled to star in a television adaptation of From Russia with Love. EON Productions founded in 1961, started by Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, also considered Mason, for the first Bond movie, Dr No. Cary Grant was in the running too, but was reluctant to commit to a sequel.

+ Crosstalk: Do screenwriters really matter? (Onion AV Club)
+ On safari: Christian Bale in Harsh Times (The House Next Door)
+  Why we love them the way they were – and still are (Telegraph)
+ Toontown heads for double trouble (London Times)
+ ‘One of the 20th century’s great artists’ (Guardian)
+ The Bond bunch: the failed contenders for coveted role (Independent)


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.