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“Gone Baby Gone”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “Gone Baby Gone,” Miramax, 2007]

We hear Patrick Kenzie before we see him, as he narrates images of his blue-collar neighborhood. “This city is haaaahd,” he says, and if the visuals don’t give away the setting, that thick Boston accent sure as hell does. Patrick tells us he believes that the things we don’t choose — where we grow up, who our friends are — are the things that really make us who we are. “Gone Baby Gone” is about the process by which Patrick discovers he is wrong.

The film is actor Ben Affleck’s directorial debut, as well as his first return to screenwriting since his Academy Award winning script for 1997’s “Good Will Hunting,” and it is an impressive one. There are similarities to “Good Will Hunting” and other movies — most notably “Mystic River,” which is also based on a Dennis Lehane novel set in working-class Boston — but the movie stands on its own, as a thriller that, like the recent “Michael Clayton,” is more concerned with the morality behind its thrills.

Affleck doesn’t appear in the film, but his brother Casey plays Kenzie, a tough private investigator with a deceivingly youthful exterior. Kenzie has a reputation around his neighborhood for his connections to people who won’t speak with the cops; he’s hired, along with his partner and girlfriend Angie (Michelle Monaghan) by the family of a missing girl to augment a police investigation led by Captain Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman) and Detective Remy Bressant (Ed Harris). The cops often underestimate Kenzie — when Bressant first meets him and Angie he snickers, “I was expecting an older couple” — and it’s easy to see why. He’s 31 and looks at least five years younger and Affleck’s fragile voice (which is higher than Monaghan’s) cracks in a way that suggests a state of suspended pubescence. But Kenzie knows this place, has access to its secrets, and hints, occasionally, at a past that was probably as dark as the men he’s chasing.

Most of “Gone Baby Gone” is about character rather than action, but there are two bravura sequences, and in each Affleck (working with veteran cinematographer John Toll) distinguishes himself with a knack for building, sustaining and then releasing tension. Instead of relying on a noisy soundtrack to provide emotional cues, Affleck conveys excitement and suspense through silence. In the midst of a terrifyingly bloody siege of a drug den, Affleck turns down all the sound until all we hear is Kenzie’s frantic breathing. The camerawork is often handheld in a way that recalls “Children of Men” — long takes that never sacrifice clarity for the easy intensity that comes with shaky shots. And the screenplay is littered with brilliant little nuggets of hardboiled morality (“Murder’s a sin.” “Depends on who you do it to.”).

When Doyle and his cronies dismiss Kenzie for his youth they also assume his innocence equals naïveté. “You don’t know what the world is made of yet,” they warn. They may be right; Kenzie has a much different understanding of morality after he follows the kidnapping plot through to the end. The movie is littered with tough choices but the worst comes at the end of the movie, when Kenzie has to make a decision in which neither option is right or wrong. We watch as he weighs the alternatives and then we watch further as the repercussions of his actions begin to ripple through his life. The film’s film shot lingers long enough on its subjects to remind us that it’s the choices we make — and how we live with our choices — that define us. That great last shot shows Kenzie finally understands. He’s made his choice and he’s prepared to do what he must to see it right.

“Gone Baby Gone” opens in limited release October 19th (official site).


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.