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DID YOU READ

NYFF: Clean-up.

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"...remaining behind the camera just doesn't feel like an option."
We’re more than ready to put this festival to rest, so here are the blurby remnants of our review backlog. We’ll be back as regularly scheduled on Tuesday, jury duty gods willing.

"The Axe in the Attic": In an understandable but dire move, filmmakers Ed Pincus and Lucia Small put themselves in their own doc about the displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina. The wheels-within-wheels urge that’s begun to plague a segment of documentaries comes from a good place — what’s more verité than including your own process, struggles and qualms in your film? — but is rarely warranted and in the case of "The Axe in the Attic" is something of a deal-breaker. Pincus and Small aren’t likable presences on camera, and their squabbles, their discomfort over the fact that their subjects keep asking them for money and their feelings of inadequacy seem piddling enough next to the massive losses the pair are documenting to make the fact that such things are given screen time at all insulting.

"Flight of the Red Balloon": Our review from Cannes is here.

"The Last Mistress": Catherine Breillat, that dedicated, humorless raconteur of tales of how essential and horrible love and sex are, has actually produced something that’s, for a while, fun to watch in this period piece set in 18th century France. It’s all thanks to Asia Argento, playing Vellini, the courtesan in question, who’s been thrown over by Ryno de Marigny, her impoverished rake of a lover, for a young heiress he plans to marry. Shrieking her orgasms to the sky, flashing period-appropriate armpit hair, glaring over Spanish fans and bursting into a room to lick blood off of a wounded man’s chest, Argento turns in a performance that’s either brilliant or woeful; we’ve yet to decide. The best part of the film is a lengthy flashback chronicling how Vellini and Ryno met, became involved and went off on a very strange furlough in Algeria — after that, the film loses momentum as Breillat hammers in her usual themes with a heavy hand.

"The Man From London": To be honest, we’ve never acquired a taste for Hungarian director Béla Tarr, so we can’t really speak to whether "The Man From London" is good Tarr or, as seemed to be the majority opinion at Cannes, bad Tarr. It is Tarr, with some extraordinary mise en scène — a ten (plus)-minute opening shot of a crime taking place, as observed from the watchtower of dockworker Maloin (Miroslav Krobot); a brilliantly beautiful image of Maloin undressing for bed, the night shift over, as sunlight streams in through the open window; a pan through the local tavern that reveals two men dancing. The story, as it is, involves Maloin stumbling onto a load of stolen cash and deciding what to do next (the camera often lurks behind his head like a weight on his shoulders) — that plot is secondary to the patience-testing pacing and long takes, which allow plenty of time for you ponder morality and existence or what you’re going to have for dinner.

"Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project": If you’re fond of Don Rickles, and it’s hard not to be, there’s plenty to enjoy in John Landis‘ documentary, which weaves footage of the comedian on stage with vintage TV clips and interviews with friends and admirers. Still, it’s a standard talking-head doc and a strange presence at the festival — the only exceptional thing about it as a film is the exceptional comfort some of the often guarded interview subjects, which include Clint Eastwood, Robert De Niro and Sidney Poitier, show on camera. 

"No Country For Old Men": Our review from Cannes is here; we watched it for a second time and, yes, it’s still kickass. Our favorite film of the year to date.

"The Orphanage": Scary and silly, Juan Antonio Bayona‘s
debut film is not this year’s answer to "Pan’s Labyrinth," despite the push it’s getting from producer Guillermo del Toro. Under the gloss of Spanish gothic, it’s just the kind of horror film that gets dumber the more you think about it. "The Sea Inside"’s Belén Rueda plays Laura, a woman who, with her husband and son, moves back into the building that once housed her adored childhood orphanage despite the fact that it’s now so haunted it all but has "Ghost children rool!" spray-painted on its walls in blood. Soon her son is claiming to have made some new imaginary friends, and then vanishing, leaving Laura devastated and looking toward the occult for answers. Three segments had us covering our eyes, one with a raspy-breathed child in a scarecrow sack-mask, another with a really disgusting moment of violence and a third that introduced frightening supernatural take on Red Light, Green Light. The rest of the film had us rolling them.

"Paranoid Park": Gus Van Sant, working mainly with nonprofessional actors (as he did in "Elephant"), has come close to achieving what must be many a director’s dream in removing acting from his film’s equation entirely. "Paranoid Park"’s star, Gabe Nevins, exists as a beautiful blank, the film creating a richly detailed, conflicted inner life for him via Leslie Shatz‘s exceptional sound design and cinematography from Christopher Doyle and Kathy Li. Nevins delivers a halting voiceover of text lifted from Blake Nelson’s young adult novel, the basis of the film, and the artificiality of the narration only emphasizes how eerily and wonderfully the film itself captures adolescence.

"Persepolis": In the press notes we immediately lost, "Persepolis" co-director Marjane Satrapi said something to the effect that she didn’t want to do a live action version of her acclaimed graphic novel because then it would just be a film about foreign people and their problems. She has a point — "Persepolis"’s stylized cel animation makes her story both more accessible and more personal because it’s a constant reminder of subjectivity. The film sees the Iranian revolution and the country’s subsequent shift toward fundamentalism through the eyes of the then-prepubescent Marjane, who’s eventually shipped off to school in Vienna by her liberal parents for the sake of her education. Homesick for a country that no longer exists as she knew it, Marjane struggles to find her place in the world, but "Persepolis" maintains a marvelously lighthearted tone — Marjane is sharp-tongued, self-deprecating, fallible and funny, and the animation follows her narration (she’s voiced by Chiara Mastroianni) fluidly through digressions, anecdotes and one very off-key version of "Eye of the Tiger." 

"Secret Sunshine": We went into Lee Chang-dong film knowing nothing about it except that lead actress Jeon Do-yeon won the acting prize at Cannes. It was a good way to see the film, and if "Secret Sunshine" had any prospects of making it to a theater near you, we’d suggest you stop reading now. Jeon plays Shin-ae, a widow who moves with her son, Jun, to the conservative small town in which her husband grew up. She’s not quite right, something we get a sense of in careful increments as she meets her neighbors and is paid a visit by her brother from Seoul. And then something terrible happens, and Shin-ae comes crashing apart under the force of new and repressed grief, finding abrupt but unstable solace in born again Christianity, which she clutches onto and which lends her a feverish radiance and an ill-advised bravado that spurs her to a devastating encounter at a prison. We admire "Secret Sunshine" more than we like it; Jeon puts herself through incredible paroxysms of emotional pain and suffering and never seems less than genuine, but the film itself can seem isolating and ungenerous in its steady observation of her character through darker and darker times. "Secret Sunshine" essentially takes a melodramatic tale of tragedy and plays it straight and unsentimental, and while we never knew where it would lead, we often didn’t want to know.

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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.