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The week’s critic wrangle: “For Your Consideration,” “Fast Food Nation.”

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Home for Purim.
+ "For Your Consideration": Critics are undecided as to how sharp a satire of Hollywood Christopher Guest has managed in his latest (and firmly non-mockumentary) effort. Nathan Lee at the Village Voice salutes the film for the way in which it "pulls off the neat trick of skewering the movie industry while remaking it in its own image." Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly writes that "the level of tender, ruthless, inspired, lethally accurate study that has gone into the follicular expression of each and every character in Christopher Guest’s latest hilarious cultural corrective is something inspiring to behold." (She does acknowledge that this film is "more inside baseball" than Guest’s biggest hits.)

On the other side, Scott Foundas at LA Weekly
bemoans that the film "doesn’t risk ruffling any feathers, and that’s
exactly what’s wrong with it: It’s less a satirical bite at the hand
that feeds Guest than it is a toothless nibble, and it isn’t
particularly funny." He goes on to writes that many of the points will seem "five-minutes-ago to anyone who’s ever seen an episode of Extras or Entourage," and that "[t]his is the first of Guest’s movies that has felt calculated to me." Jonathan Rosenbaum at the Chicago Reader expresses a similar complaint, calling the film "far too mild to threaten any of [the actors’] industry standing," and warning that it "has its moments, but don’t expect many fresh insights." At the New York Times, Stephen Holden allows that "For Your Consideration" is "by far the broadest comedy Mr. Guest and company have made. Despite its merriment, it is also the flimsiest." At the New York Press, Armond White snipes that the film "never grasps contemporary Hollywood’s cultural decline: It smirks at how Hollywood divas connect their egos to money, their insecurities to fame, their work to prizes. Instead of shaming Hollywood vanity, For Your Consideration becomes part of the problem. Nothing’s sadder than useless satire."

That said, everyone adores Catherine O’Hara (even White, who sighs while proclaiming that she’ll never get an Oscar). Schwarzbaum insists that "laurels and swag ought to be handed over to O’Hara for her brilliant portrayal of aging-actresshood." At New York, David Edelstein writes that she "has never been so physically daring and emotionally open. You’ll laugh and cry as the talk of a nomination wakes her character up from a hoarse, withered stupor and turns her into something too foolishly hopeful to bear."

And then there are those who see something deeper in Guest’s films, like Michael Koresky at indieWIRE, who writes that

Catherine O’Hara…owns it from the first frame, in which she brushes her bundle of tawny hair while watching and trying to emulate Bette Davis in "Jezebel," to the last–a close-up as terrifying as it is laugh-out-loud. The narrative is hers; her pathos sting, her slapstick sticks, and her facial contortions tickle even as they break your heart.

And Stephanie Zacharek at Salon likes the film, but finds it lacking after "A Mighty Wind," which she thinks "may well turn out to be one of the most perfect (and the most moving) comedies of the decade."

Our own Matt Singer was mighty unimpressed by the film.


"We all have to eat a little shit from time to time."
+ "Fast Food Nation": A.O. Scott at the New York Times notes that Richard Linklater and Eric Schlosser have "undertaken a much deeper and more comprehensive critique of contemporary American life" in a glowing review of the film. Given its lukewarm reception at Cannes, Linklater’s fictionalized take on Schlosser’s nonfiction bestseller has pulled some pretty good reviews stateside. The LA Weekly‘s Scott Foundas writes that "if Linklater’s film is somewhat shapeless and rough around the edges, it is also, moment by moment, oddly elating, thanks to the intelligence of its script." He praises the film’s "humanism and understanding." Jonathan Rosenbaum at the Chicago Reader calls the film "angry and persuasive piece of agitprop." Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly likes that "the interwoven ensemble approach to storytelling works even though handled by someone other than Robert Altman," while at indieWIRE, Michael Koresky calls the film "terrific" and finds that its "sly, sad vision is about so much more than hamburgers: logos, prefabricated homes, frozen dinners, Nike, Chili’s, the Sunglass Hut, all with the stamp of anonymity."

David Edelstein at New York both thinks the film works and wishes it was better:

It gets the job done and then some, but it’s ugly and clumsily shaped, and every scene is there to rack up sociological points: When an illegal immigrant leans over a giant meat-grinder and you think, “There go his legs!” it would be surprising if there, indeed, did not go his legs.

And J. Hoberman at the Village Voice thinks that "[t]he movie is valiant, if curiously anemic. Its most galvanizing scene effectively undermines the argument: Bruce Willis has a lip-smacking cameo as the voice of cynical realism—a Mickey’s operative who mocks American ‘fraidy cats and shocks [Greg] Kinnear with the smirking assertion that ‘we all have to eat a little shit from time to time.’"

Our review is here; we’d have to agree with those who pointed out the Willis cameo — it’s without a doubt the best part of the film.


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.