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DID YOU READ

Critic wrangle: “No Country For Old Men.”

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"It'll do till the mess gets here."
Even the New York PressArmond White likes the Coen brothers’ "No Country For Old Men," adapted from the novel by Cormac McCarthy: "It would be pathetic to reduce/praise No Country as a thriller. The Coens’ technique goes far beyond that. Moss, Chirgurh and Bell’s appointments with mortality lift the film from plot mechanisms to a confrontation with fate." Solid to delirious praise from most of the rest of our usual round of critics. We particularly liked this, from A.O. Scott at the New York Times:

[T]he most lasting impression left by this film is likely to be the deep satisfaction that comes from witnessing the nearly perfect execution of a difficult task. “No Country for Old Men” is purgatory for the squeamish and the easily spooked. For formalists — those moviegoers sent into raptures by tight editing, nimble camera work and faultless sound design — it’s pure heaven.

"’No Country for Old Men’ is as good a film as the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, have ever made, and they made ‘Fargo,’" adds Roger Ebert. "This movie is a masterful evocation of time, place, character, moral choices, immoral certainties, human nature and fate. It is also, in the photography by Roger Deakins, the editing by the Coens and the music by Carter Burwell, startlingly beautiful, stark and lonely." From Scott Foundas at the LA Weekly:

It’s easy to imagine how the Coens, whose Achilles’ heel has always been their predilection for smug irony and easy caricature, might have turned McCarthy’s taciturn Texans into simplistic western-mythos archetypes: the amoral criminal, the righteous peacekeeper, and the naive but basically good-hearted rube in over his head. Instead, they’ve made a film of great, enveloping gravitas, in which words like "hero" and "villain" carry ever less weight the deeper we follow the characters into their desperate journeys.

Keith Phipps at the Onion AV Club deems the film "a strong return after a few years off" for the Coens, while Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly writes that the film "reverses [their] slide into arch pastiche, brilliantly." Glenn Kenny at Premiere suggests that "the picture represents a high-water mark for the Coens. It’s their best picture, and could well turn out to be the best picture of the year." And of the ending, which goes in directions you might not expect, Michael Koresky at indieWIRE writes that  "The Coens close the film with what might be the most take-your-breath-away ending since Richard Linklater both refused and granted our wishes with "Before Sunset"’s final fade-out."

Among the less-sold: Anthony Lane at the New Yorker is impressed by the technical skill of the film, but is left emotionally cold: "[T]here remains a nagging sense that the Coens are not so much investing their emotions in a cinematic genre—in this case, the Western revenge drama—as picking it up, inspecting it, and then setting themselves the task of constructing a perfect copy." So is Slate‘s Dana Stevens, who declares that "while it may be their most ambitious and successful film in years, remains just a Coen brothers movie, a curio to collect rather than an experience to remember." Stephanie Zacharek at Salon adds that the film "feels less like a breathing, thinking movie than an exercise."

David Edelstein at New York calls it "a near masterpiece" but also "a cosmic bummer": "No one, not even Jones’s sheriff, has comparable weight, and so, in the end, cruelty, chaos, and resignation swamp everything—including the Coens’ evident delight in their crackerjack thriller set pieces and soulfully weird actors." Andrew Sarris at the New York Observer echoes that "I cannot look at it and write about it in any other way than as an exercise in cosmic futility," though he concludes that he’s not sorry he saw it. And Jonathan Rosenbaum at the Chicago Reader writes a fascinating if frustrating pan in which he essentially deems the film’s perceived nihilism a kind of perverse panacea for a troubled national psyche. He places Chigurh alongside Hannibal Lecter as figures that are "a savior of sorts, a saintlike holy psycho who made us feel less uneasy about wanton slaughter," writing that "the picture of human nature in No Country for Old Men is… so bleak I wonder if it must provide for some a reassuring explanation for our defeatism and apathy in the face of atrocity."

As for us, we’ve shrieked our love for this film out enough already. Our review from Cannes is here; we’re eager to see how it’ll do at the box office. It’s hard to believe any other film this year will receive comparative praise, but it also seems a little too dark, too strange for mainstream or award success. We’d love to be proven wrong.

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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.