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DID YOU READ

“Gray Matters,” “Glastonbury”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “Gray Matters,” Yari Film Group, 2007]

Gray Matters

There’s something to the idea of a gay reimagining of
the classic screwball comedy as a love triangle
between a straight brother and his gay sister who both
fall in love with the same woman. But “Gray Matters”
takes that charming premise in charmless and
unsophisticated directions.

Writer/director Sue Kramer acknowledges in the press
notes that she wanted to capture the “elegance and
grace of [a] 1940s movie classic,” but her film feels,
sounds and looks more like an episode of “Mad About
You” than like a film by Howard Hawks or Gregory La
Cava. Her characters talk quickly enough to exist
within a screwball comedy world, but what they say
never even approximates the wit of Preston Sturges or
Billy Wilder. Granted, the comparison is unfair;
Kramer is a first-time filmmaker and I’m measuring her
against some of the giants of the art form. But if
she’s retooling these filmmakers’ movies for a modern
audience who else can I compare her to?

Heather Graham plays Gray (sadly, she does not have a
crazy sidekick named Matters), a bubbly ad exec who
lives with her doctor brother Sam (Tom Cavanaugh). The
two share a life of dinner parties, jogging in the
park, being mistaken for a couple, and, occasionally,
working. They’re both single, partly because the
furnishings in their apartment have more personality
than they do. Enter Charlie (Bridget Moynahan), a
zoologist who happens to be the perfect mate for both:
she is a 1940s film buff, she loves dogs and she
never wears a bra. She falls for Sam and Gray falls
for her and realizes for the first time in her life
that she may be gay. Molly Shannon is Gray’s easily
excitable co-worker; Alan Cumming plays one of her
straight suitors and later dresses like a woman.

According to the press notes Kramer is not gay, and it
leaves my curious why she chose to explore the topic
when she, evidentially, doesn’t have a great deal to
say about the (gray) matter. Gray’s acceptance of her
own homosexuality is one big joke (including “wacky”
therapy sessions with Dr. Sissy Spacek at bowling
alleys or on rock climbing walls) and her big coming
out story a time in her past when she literally came
out of a closet. Kramer’s better when dealing with
more general female topics, like how society and media
and, yes, men give women warped self-images; Gray is
terrified, for instance, of her unsightly chin fat,
but, of course, Heather Graham has no chin fat (and as
one who does, I should know).

It’s an idiosyncratic picture; whatever else you can
say about it, it’s hard to deny “Gray Matters” comes
from an singular voice, even if that voice is mostly
interested in cheap therapist jokes and giving all due
praise to that remarkable spice nutmeg (seriously,
count how many times it comes up in casual
conversation). Still, in one delightful moment,
Kramer hits her target. Gray comes home to find
Charlie alone, watching a classic musical that both
love and know by heart. The two begin reenacting the
dance, and for once, the promise of that gay
reimagining of classical Hollywood cinema is realized
is a moment of true beauty and charm, one that carries
the same blissful high as the movies Gray, Charlie and Kramer love. But then Sam walks in, the moment passes and it’s back to business as usual.

Glastonbury

Epic in length and scope, if not level of success,
Julien Temple’s documentary about the Glastonbury
Music Festival is sort of like a history lesson by a
professor on a long, strange drug trip. Forget
chronology or story: free association reigns as Temple
pieces together his nearly two and a half hour
chronicle of Britain’s longest running and most famous
celebration of music, hippie culture and building
sculpture out of garbage. It’s Burning Man with a
better soundtrack.

A few totally bitchin’ moments aside — who knew
Richie Havens could wail on the acoustic guitar?!?
— watching “Glastonbury” is like watching someone
else’s home movies: they have all this nostalgia and
all these fabulous personal stories associated with
the images. We just see a bunch of guys on drugs
flopping around in some mud for 140 minutes.

There’s lots of footage of Glastonbury musical
performances from Radiohead, Coldplay, Joe Strummer,
The Prodigy, Pulp, and many, many more (though
rarely full songs, which kind of sucks) spliced with
lots of footage of Glastonbury attendees, using the
public toilets, doing drugs, sneaking their way onto
the festival grounds. Temple covers a lot of ground,
literally and figuratively, but the buzz that everyone
at Glastonbury gets from being there didn’t transfer
to the film. Even if most everyone on screen looks
like they’re having a pretty good time, we’re not
really having one watching them.

The movie is too long and too focused to fully enjoy.
Rather than a theatrical release, the project would be
best served as a DVD, where you could skip around and
watch the performances at your leisure. With Temple’s
hand on the remote control, as it were, the concert
tends to run long.

“Gray Matters” in limited release February 23rd (official site). “Glastonbruy” opens in Los Angeles on February 23rd (official site).

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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.