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“The Wild Blue Yonder,” “Pandora’s Box”

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By Michael Atkinson

IFC News

[Photo: “The Wild Blue Yonder,” 518 Media Inc./Subversive Cinema]

These days, to be a Herzogian — a devotee of and eager participant in German master Werner Herzog’s lifelong quest for the mythopoetic image experience — is like being a beer-lover during Oktoberfest. This year there were three new films released here (“Grizzly Man,” “The White Diamond,” “Wheel of Time”), revivals of “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” and “Kasper Hauser,” and now two more new movies, each dancing in that no man’s land between documentary and fiction: “Rescue Dawn,” a fictionalized remake of the Herzog doc “Little Dieter Needs to Fly” starring Christian Bale, and “The Wild Blue Yonder,” coming straight to DVD.

The latter film, which has been hitting festivals since last year, is the braver freak-out. A mock-doc in format, but a film that actually finds its strangest epiphanies in genuine non-fiction footage, “Yonder” is science fiction, and not all that different from Herzog’s apocalyptic tone poem “Fata Morgana,” filmed 35 years earlier. We meet Brad Dourif, aged and wild-eyed and pony-tailed, glaring directly into Herzog’s camera from a ghost-town streetcorner, and recounting in a fuming rant the story of his race — aliens from the edge of Andromeda who landed here years ago after their world had been ruined, and failed miserably to either establish a cooperative kingdom on Earth or even assimilate. “We suck,” he spits, as he also recounts the parallel story of a human space voyage sent to locate an inhabitable world as ours devolves into polluted chaos. Ironically, the humans locate the alien’s abandoned planet, and explore its murky depths.

The story obviously came second — what came first was the unseen, real-world footage illustrating the human sojourn: life aboard the NASA shuttle mission STS-34, sent into orbit in 1989 for purposes of launching the Galileo craft at Jupiter. Here’s Herzog at play in the fields of absurd physics, rapt as the astronauts float in no-gravity space, attend to personal hygiene with surreal difficulty, and sleep strapped to the wall. We’ve seen astronauts floating in spacecraft interiors before, and we’ve seen the epic emptiness of space, but we haven’t seen them until Herzog shows them to us. Along the way he invents alternate poetic stories for their bizarre behavior, all of it attending to the emotional tribulation of space-lost loneliness. The crowning flourish is the arrival at the alien planet: Herzog uses breathtaking footage shot in the waters of the Antarctic to depict a barren, blue world with a liquid atmosphere and a sky of ice. Vital to each of these visual orchestrations is the achingly mournful soundtrack mass, a fugue arranged by Herzog between Dutch jazz cellist Ernst Reijseger, Senegalese vocalist Mola Sylla and a five-man Sardinian shepherd choir. It’s a Herzog thing — if you’re fortunate, you’ll understand. The DVD has a making-of featurette and, naturally, a Herzog commentary track.

Another kind of German sine qua non — G.W. Pabst’s Expressionist landmark “Pandora’s Box” (1929), restored, retitled, polished and retooled for digital eternity in a Criterion package that’ll surely be a holiday-gift ubiquity. A brooding whorl of shadow, menace and sexual manipulation based on Wedekind’s stories, Pabst’s film introduced — and for the most part epitomized — Louise Brooks, who as a man-eating Berlin prostitute immediately became one of cinema’s most enduring icons. (That black bob wig still shows up in films, whenever a female character is masquerading as a demimondaine.) From society-skewering slut-triumph to bad date with Jack the Ripper, Brooks’ Lulu may be a femme fatale paradigm, but Brooks herself remains one of the most mesmerizing — not merely beautiful — actresses to ever meet celluloid. To see her is to experience movies almost on a chemical level. Criterion’s package includes four different musical scores, two documentaries about Brooks, interviews, commentaries and essays by Kenneth Tynan and J. Hoberman.

“The Wild Blue Yonder” (Subversive Cinema) was released on DVD November 14th; “Pandora’s Box” (Criterion) will be available on DVD on November 28th.


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.