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Critic wrangle: “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”

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"Let your imagination set you free" - season's worst tagline?
In many ways, Julian Schnabel’s often majestically off-putting presence in person makes the excellent reviews that "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is receiving all the more impressive — one never wants to encourage someone so secure in the conviction of his own genius. The film, which is based on the memoir Jean-Dominique Bauby dictated by blinking his left eyelid after a stoke left the rest of him paralyzed, is now looking like a major year-end best-of/award candidate. We liked it too, though not as much — our review from the New York Film Festival is here.

"Whatever Schnabel’s posturings as a painter," writes David Edelstein at New York, "he’s a major film director, alive not only to light and texture but to characters’ emotions—which twist the light and warp the textures and permeate the canvas." Raves David Denby at the New Yorker, "Schnabel’s movie… is a gloriously unlocked experience, with some of the freest and most creative uses of the camera and some of the most daring, cruel, and heartbreaking emotional explorations that have appeared in recent movies." Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly is cautious of the overly gorgeous film, noting that "I tend to be wary of ethereal composition applied to unpoetic, human, physical mess, for its romanticizing, narcotizing effect," but in this case finding that "this assertive adaptation brings Jean-Dominique Bauby’s phenomenal memoir… to life honestly." Armond White at the New York Press, chooses to devote most of his review to ragging on "Control," but still declares that "Diving Bell" "tells a real person’s life story so
inventively you might forget how rotten recent biopics have been."

Glenn Kenny at Premiere
notes that "Diving Bell" is "an exemplary film about the so-called
triumph of the human spirit by largely upending every cliché the usual
cinematic treatment of the triumph of the human spirit indulges." "At
times, ‘Bell’ seems heightened and romanticized, particularly in the
way everyone around Bauby remains supportive and attentive, even at
their own expense," adds Tasha Robinson at the Onion AV Club.
"But that just prevents the film from becoming standard-arc
disease-of-the-week fare, with its programmed trials and inevitable
victories. Instead, Schnabel’s sleepy, drifty, at times morbidly funny
film tackles something more ambitious, by getting into the head of
someone who’s trying to get out of there himself."

A.O. Scott at the New York Times writes that Schnabel "demonstrates his own imaginative freedom in every frame and sequence, dispensing with narrative and expository conventions in favor of a wild, intuitive honesty," and Salon‘s Stephanie Zacharek muses that "The picture is so imaginatively made, so attuned to sensual pleasure, so keyed in to the indescribable something that makes life life, that it speaks of something far more elemental than mere filmmaking skill: This is what movies, at their best, can be." "Conscious life itself, even at its most extremely limited parameters, has never been so richly ennobled on the screen as it is here," concludes Andrew Sarris at the New York Observer.

Dissenters: Chris Wisniewski at indieWIRE is ambivalent: "So is this art cinema posing as a middle-brow biopic, or a middle-brow
biopic posing as art cinema? Either way, it’s an engrossing oddity, a
film that is too superficial and obvious to be truly profound but also
too strikingly vivid and affecting to be dismissed." Nick Schager at Slant is not, and declares that Schnabel and screenwriter Ronald Harwood have adapted Bauby’s memoir "with only slightly more restraint than that shown by competitive gorger Kobayashi at Nathan’s annual hot dog-eating contest. It’s Johnny Got His Gun (or, at least, the portions used in Metallica’s ‘One’ video) via My Left Foot, stylistically Miramax-ized to within an inch of its life."  And Scott Foundas at the LA Weekly writes, hilariously, that if the Cannes Best Director award (which "Diving Bell" won) "were determined solely on the basis of quantity, there would be no question that Schnabel’s was deserved, for there is more directing per square inch of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly than one is likely to find in any other movie released this year."


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.