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DID YOU READ

Crispin Hellion Glover on “It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.”

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By Aaron Hillis

IFC News

[Photos: Left, Crispin Hellion Glover; below, “It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.” Volcanic Eruptions, 2007]

Hoping to leverage some hype from his role as the monstrous Grendel in “Beowulf,” the irrefutably eccentric Crispin Hellion Glover (“Willard,” “Wild at Heart”) timed it so that his second directorial feature, “It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.” would be released the very same week. While it’s unlikely that the collective audience who shelled out over $28 million this past weekend for that CGI-animated epic will repeat that business for the second leg of Glover’s “It” trilogy (following “What Is It?” with its all-Down syndrome cast), he seems astutely aware that his loyal cult following only grows with each unusual new career step. Co-directed by David Brothers and written by its late star, a cerebral palsy sufferer named Steven C. Stewart, “It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.” is a hallucinatory, psychosexually violent, avant-garde fantasy that explores a disturbing theme: even the physically handicapped can act like tyrants. Deeply concerned about piracy, Glover was frequently seen at this year’s Sundance carrying his 35mm print of the film wherever he went, so I wasn’t at all surprised when he requested I only watch it on his laptop before our interview.

My first exposure to “What Is It?” was a time-coded rough cut you brought along with your slideshow tour in the late ’90s. I watched that version of the film in Tempe, Arizona with a non-festival crowd, who were squirming and nervously laughing throughout. Have the crowd reactions been different for “It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.”?

Yes. They’re very different kinds of movies, I think. “What Is It?” is specifically my psychological reaction to corporately funded and distributed cinema, and the fact that anything that could possibly make an audience feel uncomfortable is necessarily excised. There’s entertainment to it, but on some level, it works almost like a thesis. Whereas “EVERYTHING IS FINE,” there’s a purposeful reason in making that film second because I feel like the thesis has been stated in “What Is It?”: What is it that we’re not able to explore? What does it mean to the culture that we’re not able to explore these things? Certainly, there will be people who see “EVERYTHING IS FINE” who haven’t seen “What Is It?”, and if they’re uncomfortable with the graphic sexuality that is in both films, yes, there will be concern. But other than that, I feel that [the new film] has a fair amount of universal interest. More precisely, “EVERYTHING IS FINE” has a very strong, emotional experience, concentrating on Steven C. Stewart’s catharsis. “What Is It?” is a more distanced, intellectual view of the characters.

Stewart was clearly not a professional screenwriter. What attracted you to his script?

Well, I read it many years ago in the mid-’80s, and there was the central scene where he asks Linda Barnes — the character played by [Fassbinder regular] Margit Carstensen — to marry him. There were other peripheral things that were all interesting, but to me, that was the central emotional crux of the whole movie. I could see that there was an emotional reality. I never asked Steve, but I assume this was something that happened, maybe more than once. As soon as I read that, I just knew this was a film I had to produce.

Besides being personal, how did you recognize the experience as cathartic for him?

Essentially, the film [is bookended] with him in the nursing home. That was the only thing shot on location, not on soundstages, and coincidentally, it was in the nursing home that he’d been locked in for 10 years when his mother died. He couldn’t get out, and people would derisively call him an M.R., a mental retard, which is not a nice thing to say to anybody. We found out when we got to the location that it was actually the place, so that footage is very powerful. That was his experience, his life, during his 20s. Steve was a pretty tough guy. We were involved in other things all the time while we working, so I never had an opportunity to sit down and say “Well, Steve, what’s it like to be here?”

What was the last time you spoke with him?

I got a call one morning. I found out he was on life support; his lung had collapsed. Cerebral palsy is not degenerative, but he was choking on his own saliva. We’d finished shooting about a month before, and he was basically asking us permission to take himself off life support, to make sure we had enough footage. Of course, that was a very sad day, and a heavy responsibility to let him know that, yes, we did have enough footage. I knew that if I had said “No, Steve, we don’t have enough. You need to keep yourself alive,” he would have done it. But if he had gotten that operation on time, he would’ve had to live in a nursing home. I know he didn’t want to do that again. That says it there how he felt about that nursing home — it was when he got out that he wrote this screenplay. It was a very particular kind of imprisonment that was a central element of his life.

Are you ever concerned that producing a film so far outside of the mainstream is commercial suicide?

No, this is why I tour with the film. It’s a guarantee. Because I’ve toured with my slideshow, I personally know what my market is. I have to be careful, and it’s not a huge amount of money. If I spent a million dollars, I would have trouble. These films are made for somewhere between $150,000 and $200,000. And it takes time, but over time, I can recoup that money. I’m not going to make money on these films, but that isn’t what’s important. What the films ultimately do is enable me to recoup by performing my slideshow and selling my books. I split the box office with the theater, 50/50, so if it’s an $8 ticket, I get $4. [For] the slideshow, the question and answer, and book signing, I generally charge $10 and I take that 100%. So that’s $14, plus the money I make on the books, which I publish myself.

I still own an album you recorded in 1989 entitled “The Big Problem Does Not Equal the Solution, The Solution = Let It Be.” On the back cover, there was a puzzle where listeners had to figure out what the lyrics to all nine songs had in common, and there was a phone number to call when you knew the answer. Did you ever call anyone back?

No, I never did. I think if people figured it out, that’s the accomplishment. They don’t have to know they’re right. [laughs] But there were people who got it. There was a phone number at the time, but I’ve since changed it to CrispinGlover.com. This was pre-Internet, so really it was a way for people to get information on where the books were available. But I did have many people call, not just a small amount, and leave messages to what they thought the Big Problem was. I never say what it is because it would spoil the question. There are certain things that I leave mysteries. The question of the film is “What is It?” The appearance on David Letterman, I’ve never really explained what that is, and so people question me.

What needs to be explained? It looked like you tried to roundhouse kick him in the face.

Well, some people think one thing, and other people think other things. It has life on YouTube. I’ve never confirmed nor denied that I was on the show. [laughs] But just in general, I like to leave things a mystery. There are people that are naturally thoughtful who think they are being condescended to when things are really explained. I mean, yes, there are people who can misinterpret things or whatever in a negative fashion. When I go and do the questions and answers for “What Is It?”, I’m very careful to not explain symbolism, but I do feel with that film that it’s helpful to put it in context of what it’s reacting to. I’m going to do the same thing with the Steve Stewart film, and I know people will have questions about that as well, and it’ll be valuable, but it’s even more imperative for “What Is It?”.

Are there any major misconceptions about you or your work that bother you?

It’s going away in general, but there have been conceptions — and you see it written on the internet — that people think I’m insane or psychotic. It felt for a while that that was almost a majority of opinion. But I mean, I’ve been in the business professionally since I was 13. Is that almost 30 years? Is that possible? I’m 42, or 43? I can’t even remember how old I am. What year is this? [laughs] I was born in ’64, and this is 2007, so yeah, 43. I started in film when I was 18, so that’s a long time to have been around. I’ve now published four books, I’ve had a record out, and I’ve produced, directed and edited two different films that I’m proud of. It’s like, at a certain point, how genuinely insane can someone who’s done all that be? [laughs] So it has to be going away. I’ve never really fought it because I’ve always felt the truth comes out. But when you start reading things that aren’t true repeated over and over again, that does become truth no matter what. It doesn’t necessarily hurt my audience for going around and touring with the films; there’s an interest in somebody who is passionate about unusual and thoughtful things. So I’m not really concerned about rectifying so much, but it can be a bit irritating. It’s really so, so off the mark, but I understand what it’s about. I’ve had something to do with it being there, so I can’t really complain because that would be silly.

“It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.” opens in New York in November 21st.

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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.