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DID YOU READ

“49 Up,” “Pocket Money”

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By Michael Atkinson

IFC News

[Photo: “49 Up,” First Run Features]

Recent studies have demonstrated that no, your entire body does not get “renewed” on a cellular level every seven years (skin cells get batched every few days, while some brain cells never change). But Michael Apted’s famous and beloved “Up” films, which have chronicled the lives of 12 Brits since they were precocious second-graders, keeps returning to these cross-sectioned citizens every seven years as if to see if they are in fact the same people. They are and they aren’t — people age, lose the fire of their youthful ambitions, marry, spawn, grow more peaceful and complacent, fatten, settle into routines.

Almost by definition, this epic project — “49 Up” is the seventh in the string, stretching over more than four decades — keeps getting larger, more expansive and more profound with each entry. And yet, nothing cataclysmic happens. Apted’s 12 subjects (two of the original 14 dropped out in their 20s) sit for the camera, disclosing the details of their lives (or some of them, anyway), and Apted continues, as he always has, cutting to the older footage, as if daring us to think we know these people after having seen them grow up from tykes into adults looking at the business-end of middle age. A class-consciousness notion was in place in the first 1964 film, but preexisting agendas couldn’t survive the films’ real-time historical reach — life takes over, in all of its banality, private pleasures, employment struggle and divorce hurt.

Of course, with age, the relationship between the interviewee and the project they’d signed on for in their naive youth becomes more complex. The cabbie, the housewife, the librarian, the lawyer, the physicist, the near-homeless outcast — all are used to the invasion of filmmaking crews into their homes, but today they’re no longer entertained by the quasi-celebrity and tend to bridle and rebel. Approaching 50 now, several of them understandably bellyache about being forced again and again to evaluate their lives for an international audience. Here’s both the original model for and the antidote to contemporary reality television.

Will Apted (or his associates) press on until they’re all dead? Even if they don’t, the films have acquired an existential chill. The 12 participants move in the blink of the eye from being fresh-faced schoolkids to being weathered dinosaurs, typically beset by obesity, alcohol, emotional erosion, bad English dentistry and the savagery of time. It can get only scarier with subsequent entries, by which time the series may be the most thorough and leveling portrait of ordinary humankind ever committed to film.

Reality took other shapes in the American New Wave of the 60s and 70s, and here comes a forgotten honey: Stuart Rosenberg’s “Pocket Money” (1972), a conscientiously low-key dawdle written by “Terry” Malick and featuring Paul Newman as an unapologetically dopey and penniless Arizona livestock freelancer who accepts a shady deal to buy Mexican cattle and march them up across the border. Helping him is boozy, hedonistic negotiator Lee Marvin, in a filthy suit jacket and leather gloves; together, they spend most of the movie driving around in a shellshocked T-bird, wondering why the world doesn’t understand them. Sometimes the movie is so faithful to the characters’ reality that it loses track of its plot, but the Nixon-era, south-of-the-border sun-scorch is palpable, and the actors are clearly having a royal ball (you envy Newman, sharing a lazy film shoot in Mexico with Marvin).

Remembered today only for “Cool Hand Luke,” Rosenberg was awake to the New Wave’s gritty, symbolic possibilities, and remains underrated. (He and Newman made a total of four films together.) “Pocket Money” comes in Warner’s Paul Newman Collection, one of those ubiquitous studio crate-releases designed to maximize the lesser titles in a longtime star’s library (here, that means 1958’s “The Left-Handed Gun,” 1959’s “The Young Philadelphians” and 1975’s “The Drowning Pool”). But the box, packed with audio tracks and featurettes, also includes the seminal neo-noir “Harper” (1966) and the boxing biopic “Somebody Up There Likes Me” (1956), the commentary on which features Newman, co-star Robert Loggia, director Robert Wise, and all-around gabber Martin Scorsese.


“49 Up” (First Run Features) and “Pocket Money” (part of Warner Home Video’s “The Paul Newman Collection”) are both available on DVD on November 14th.

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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.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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SO EXCITED!!!

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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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.”

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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. 

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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.