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“Kurt Cobain About a Son”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: AJ Schnack’s “Kurt Cobain About a Son,” Balcony Releasing, 2007]

Though Kurt Cobain is (obviously) the subject and star of this documentary, he does not appear on screen at all until the very end of the film’s 90-minute running time. Instead, “About a Son” is a compilation of the highlights of some 25 hours of never-before-heard audio interviews with Cobain, set against a collection of images of the Pacific Northwest where Cobain grew up, lived and worked. The result is interesting and, at times, a little unnerving, like taking a walk down the haunted streets of Seattle, WA while the ghost of Kurt Cobain whispers in your ear.

The most famous musician of his generation guides us through his unhappy upbringing, his unhappy formative years and his unhappy time as one of the biggest rock stars in the world. Very little of what Cobain has to say about anything is positive; he’s sort of a far less funny (and far less Jewish) Woody Allen: angry at life, skeptical of others and pessimistic to no end. He talks about his drug use (“I did heroin a lot,” he states bluntly) his desire to quit the band and hints at the sad end of his life when he discusses his chronic stomach pain and his suicidal thoughts.

Because we never see Cobain, it’s easy to forget that he’s the one who’s talking. For someone with one of the most distinctive singing voices in a century, Cobain’s speaking voice is so indistinct. There is none of that iconic howl that was so crucial to Nirvana’s success in these interviews. And by refusing to show him to us, director AJ Schnack has stripped Cobain of his mystique. Cobain’s allowed to be who he perhaps was beneath all that: an incredibly thoughtful, discontented musician.

Michael Azerrad, former Rolling Stone editor and author of as “Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana,” conducted the first of the interviews with Cobain on my 12th birthday. Months before my 13th birthday, Cobain was dead. Though some of my hipper friends had already discovered grunge, I was still mired in the comedy record ghetto, years away from discovering pop music. If you’d played those opening iconic notes from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” back then, I’d have probably started singing the words of the Weird Al parody version, “Smells Like Nirvana.”

Which is all to suggest that I am not a Nirvana expert, and not even really much of a fan (I’m probably a bigger fan of Azerrad, who also wrote the superb book “Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes From the American Indie Underground 1981-1991”) and I can’t speak here to how a Nirvana obsessive may react to the film. My reaction was largely sadness, not just for Cobain’s problems, but for his self-awareness of them coupled with his inability to correct them. He sounds like a man strapped into an amusement park ride who’s discovered he wants to get off just after the train’s left the station. A lot of documentaries about musicians make you want to go and put on one of the band’s records as soon as the film is over. “Kurt Cobain About a Son” — which doesn’t a feature a note of Nirvana music on its soundtrack — didn’t make me want to do that. It made me want to take a deep breath and a long walk in the sunshine.

“Kurt Cobain About a Son” is now in theaters (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.