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“The Darjeeling Limited”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “The Darjeeling Limited,” Fox Searchlight, 2007]

Is Wes Anderson’s schtick getting tired, or am I simply getting tired of Wes Anderson’s schtick? This is what I know: I was as big a fan of Anderson’s after “Rushmore” as has existed on this earth. But his each of his succeeding films — from “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” and now “The Darjeeling Limited” — has touched me less than the one before it. I can remember the rush of shock that met me when I saw “Rushmore” for the first time — there was a movie brimming with cinematic invention. It felt new and special and unique. I think the most frustrating thing about Anderson’s new movie is that that sense of surprise his films used to provide is completely gone. At this point, we all know what a “Wes Anderson movie” is going to be. His work was once a break from convention; now he’s practically a genre unto himself.

There is a distinction to be made between a director exploring a personal theme over and over and a director making the same movie over and over. Hitchcock was obsessed with icy blondes and mistaken identities but he examined those ideas in movies as radically different as “North by Northwest” and “Marnie.” Unfortunately, I find it increasingly difficult to tell one Anderson movie from the next which, in turn, feeds that feeling that there is nothing in “The Darjeeling Limited” that I haven’t seen before, from the aggressively immature brothers Francis, Peter and Jack (played by Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman) and their perpetually dour demeanors to the British Invasion soundtrack and dreamy slow-motion cinematography.

The brothers board the titular train as part of an attempt to reconnect after the death of their father and the disastrous funeral that their mother (Anjelica Huston) did not attend. All the brothers have problems: Francis is badly beaten after an automobile accident (which, as tabloids circling Wilson’s personal problems have already noted, is likely self-induced); Jack is reeling from another busted relationship with a woman; Peter’s too busy dealing with his father issues to get a grip on the fact that he’s about to become one himself. The train ride and several extensive detours into the Indian countryside are transformative, of course, though not in the ways the brothers initially intended.

The one member of the creative team who does impress is Schwartzman, who collaborated with Anderson and Roman Coppola on the screenplay, and who gives the finest and most complex performance in the company. After he followed the runaway success of “Rushmore” with his, shall we say, less than impressive turns in films like “Slackers,” one might have been tempted to write Schwartzman off as a footnote on the indie film landscape of the late-1990s. But he made a strong impression in Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” and here exudes a surprising amount of charisma (aided, no doubt, by one of the finest cinematic moustaches in ages). With time, he could become the least likely but most beloved leading man of the day, a, Elliott Gould for the ’00s.

Anderson’s direction is confident, maybe a little too confident. There’s no sense of daring or risk, just calm complacency. Back in college, I once got into an argument with a roommate over a rock band whose just-released new album was radically different than the previous one we’d spent all year listening to. He argued that the new record stunk because it was nothing like the last one; I said who cares about that, it’s still a great CD with tons of great tracks — which it was — and you have to admire artists who constantly push themselves and try new things. We could have been talking about Anderson. If you want to see him repeat the same movie he’s made for going on a decade now — the same sorta-jokes, the same old music, the same stock shots — you’ll probably enjoy “The Darjeeling Limited.” But if you’re a fan like me, and you believe him capable of much bigger, more dynamic things, you may find yourself wondering when Wes Anderson will get around to making something that isn’t just another “Wes Anderson movie.”

See Alison Willmore’s review of the film from last week here.

“The Darjeeling Limited” 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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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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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.