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“Climates,” “Isolation”

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By Michael Atkinson

IFC News

[Photo: Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Climates,” Zeitgeist Films, 2007]

I love ultra-minimalist international art films, the kind heralded at global film festivals and most famously exemplified by Hou Hsiao-hsien, Abbas Kiarostami, Tsai Ming-liang, Carlos Reygadas, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Šarūnas Bartas, Bruno Dumont, Nuri Bilge Ceylan — you know the drill, the long static shots, the non-communicative acting, the oblique narratives, the attention to passing time and natural phenomena and what exactly we don’t know about what’s going on. But I sometimes grow suspicious; it seems so easy, doesn’t it? Do we respect these movies merely for what they aren’t? Personally, I’d make a pulpitarian’s full-throated case for the filmmakers listed above, but when watching films by pretenders to this bandwagon (for instance, Vimukthi Jayasundara’s “The Forsaken Land,” from Sri Lanka, and Portugese ennui-specialist Pedro Costa’s “Colossal Youth”), I grow to sympathize with the ticket-buying hoi polloi who generally demand a little clarity and propulsion along with their cinematographic visual blitz.

On the other hand, of course, we all hope in our hearts that if we plopped our middlebrow parents or neighbors or hockey-fan pals down in front of the right art film (someone, please, muster a better meta-genre title than this one), they’d see the truthfulness and wisdom and hidden beauty as we do. Ceylan’s newest film, “Climates,” is a good choice for the experiment — it couldn’t be clearer in its essaying the ordinary collapse of a long-term relationship, and yet the film communicates its emotional weather to us in ways that shock us with its secrets. A couple — an older but worldly architecture professor and his younger designer mate, played by Ceylan and his real wife, Ebru Ceylan — are vacationing in Greece, photographing the ruins. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but then we discover it’s already happening: the camera unceremoniously lingers, and lingers, on a closeup of the woman’s face as she watches her man, and we see her forget her life, and then remember it, and then mourn it, crying.

From there, sorrow comes to town. The relationship dissolves the way they do in reality, and in Raymond Carver stories — with a derisive chuckle, with an unanswered question, with a secret nobody knows who knows. Because the characters behave like real people, we participate emotionally in their scenes as if we were present, exploring on our own what may’ve happened in the past and what’s going on behind their eyes now. Ceylan’s camera favors observant angles, but it’s mostly a character study of the man, a charming, sophisticated academic lost in his own life. Shot, rapturously, on digital video, “Climates” limns palpable human territory, but it’s a great film because of Ceylan’s subtle and restrained eloquence — eloquence? Can you name a recent American film that could be lauded for its visual eloquence? Rather than a one-man Turkish new wave, Ceylan seems to be the Turkish representative in a global trend, inspired by Antonioni and guided by Kiarostami and Hou, and meant not just for local audiences but for the Earthly citizens of Cannes-istan. It’s a demographic that could grow — sit your “Knocked-Up”-focused friends down to Ceylan’s portrait of discontent, and see if they don’t catch their breaths.

Or show them the newest, or rather, only Irish cow farm horror movie, Billy O’Brien’s minimalist-in-its-own-way film “Isolation,” which stands as some kind of crafty demonstration that with effective filmmaking and a headful of uncomfortable ideas, a delirious horror experience can be built from any locale, and with any amount of money. (Actually, the film cost around $5 million, but it looks like it could’ve been made for a fraction of that.) Suffice it to say that the cows on star John Lynch’s remote County Wicklow farm have been test-subjected to a little genetic engineering, which only appears to be a potential problem when a lovely bovine vet (Ruth Negga) routinely slides her entire arm into a pregnant cow’s uterus and gets bitten for her troubles. It’s a slow burn to major yuck from there, with low-budget (and non-digital) effects having to do little of the genre work because O’Brien’s moviemaking by itself so expertly creates a sense of natural menace. The DVD’s extras include O’Brien’s fabulous award-winning short, “The Tale of the Rat that Wrote” (1999), which also eschews CGIs for puppetry and a winning way with antiquated-storybook raw materials.

“Climates” (Zeitgeist) and “Isolation” (First Look) are now available on DVD.


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.