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Odds: Thursday – Squirm comedy, fest failures, Rivette.

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"We didn't succeed in finding a title. It's without meaning. It's only a label."
MSNBC, lately fond of declaring potential Oscar candidacies, has Erik Lundegaard writing up reasons why Sacha Baron Cohen should get a Best Supporting Actor nod. We’re not talking "Borat," here, we’re talking "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby." But on to the unavoidable "Borat" (we hope the moviegoing public likes the film as much as the press), David Edelstein is inspired by the film to write a great feature in New York on "the new wave of squirm comedy":

As someone with an admittedly low tolerance for watching the humiliation of others—I find it hard to look at the faces of baseball players after they’ve struck out—I’m spending more and more time squirming, cringing, averting my eyes, and plugging my ears. It’s worse, obviously, when real people are getting burned—although on something like American Idol the contestants at least know what they’re in for. But even fictional works are becoming harder to endure. In both its British and American incarnations, The Office revolves around the relentless degradation of a cretinous middle manager who’s desperate to be liked. Its brilliant creator, Ricky Gervais, now plumbs the depths of his (apparent) self-hatred on Extras. Curb Your Enthusiasm requires you to identify with a man who shrinks might say has a narcissistic personality disorder, and whose sense of entitlement has a way of escalating the most casual negotiations of modern society into appalling confrontations. And we’re not talking about one scene per episode. It’s virtually every scene.

Ah, we are so there with our hands over our eyes, Mr. Edelstein. After giving it some thought, here’s what the film really evoked for us: watching a video about the Milgram experiment in Psych 101 during which, halfway through, people started laughing; about two-thirds of the way through we had to leave for a little bit. We’ve got no tolerance.

At Time Out New York, Melissa Anderson writes about the Museum of the Moving Image’s complete Jacques Rivette retrospective, which will include a two-day screening of his 12-and-a-half–hour 1971 film "Out 1."

At the LA Times, Rachel Abramowitz interviews Chad Lowe, who’s pushing his feature directorial debut, "Beautiful Ohio": "Although he won an Emmy at 25 for his portrayal of a teen dying of AIDS on the series ‘Life Goes On,’ Lowe was better known as the slightly less handsome younger brother of pretty-boy former Brat Packer Rob Lowe, or later as the husband of two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank, who infamously forgot to thank him when she won her first statuette." Oof. At LA Weekly, prep for AFI Fest includes A-Y blurbs about the films, critics’ picks, and Scott Foundas‘ musings on the ghost of the festival’s predecessor Filmex, a.k.a. the Los Angeles International Film Exposition, and the current fest’s shortcomings:

Who loses out in this equation is the audience, the sort of intelligent Los Angeles filmgoers AFI Fest purportedly seeks to attract. I am admittedly writing from a position of privilege, having the good fortune, as part of my job, to spend a fair part of the year attending and reporting from film festivals great and small all around the world. In other words, I know what’s out there, and I know what you’re missing out on. I also know that these are crisis times for the exhibition of foreign and independent films in America, and thus festivals like AFI Fest have grown in their importance, in many cases providing the only opportunity for theatrical showings that many films will ever have.

At the Japan Times, Rob Schwartz has his own programming worries about just-finished Tokyo International Film Festival:

[T]he specter of commercialism at the festival only grows more daunting. Starting next year TIFF will incorporate itself into a larger "International Contents Carnival." This amorphous event is aiming to promote Japanese video games, music, anime and film theoretically to markets abroad. Rather than striving for film of higher quality, the move appears to be pushing TIFF toward easily accessible commercial film that can be (somehow) sold to distributors in the West. This concentration on business was driven home by the Closing Ceremony speech of Akira Amari, Minister of Industry, Trade and Finance, who pompously declared: "I believe Tokyo will be the Mecca for contents in the 21st century."

Ah, the future: commercial and inappropriately plural. Also at the Japan Times, Philip Brasor surveys the fest’s Competition and notes that of the 15 films, "three contained serious drug use, four school bullying, three sub-plots dealt with incest, three dead or dying fathers; three had scenes in which a character killed or threatened another with a knife, and three featured people who slashed their wrists — two on screen." Mark Schilling rounds up the Japanese Eyes section.

At the New York Times, Sharon Waxman checks in on "Bobby," another Oscar hopeful.

Kevin Maher interviews Adam Beach, of "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Smoke Signals," in the London Times.

And at the Guardian, an utterly strange but also strangely appealing piece from Matthew Hays about director gaydar:

Tim Burton‘s film Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985) is sheer camp at its best. The film’s central character is an adult man wearing pancake make-up who is stuck at age nine. Still, it was possible to dismiss the tremor on my film-maker gaydar by attributing Pee-Wee’s quirks to the actor who created and played him, Paul Reubens. But then came Batman (1989), in which an art-deco Gotham City was threatened by the real star of the film, a garish, operatic Joker played by Jack Nicholson (who made references to The Wizard of Oz); and Edward Scissorhands (1990), in which Johnny Depp portrayed an adolescent unable to fit in due to attributes beyond his control. This I read as an obvious queer parable.

Alas, my film-maker gaydar was off again. Burton is a tried-and-true heterosexual, as I would learn when I interviewed him about his 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes. I asked Burton if he’d considered introducing any homosexual ape characters into the movie; the thought had never crossed his mind.

+ An award for Sacha Baron Cohen? Darn right (MSNBC)
+ So Funny It Hurts (New York)
+ Ways of seeing (Time Out New York)
+ Picking up the pieces (LA Times)
+ AFI Fest, A to Y (LA Weekly)
+ Critics’ Picks (LA Weekly)
+ Missing the Ex-Factor (LA Weekly)
+ This lens lacks focus (Japan Times)
+ Theme of dysfunction runs thick (Japan Times)
+ Some ‘eyes’ keen, some crossed (Japan Times)
+ A Hopeful, Rather Than Sensational, Look at a Politician (NY Times)
+ Flying the white, blue and Red flag (London Times)
+ Mad about the boys (Guardian)


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.