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“Southland Tales.”

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"There would be a lot less violence in the world if everyone just did a little more cardio."We’ve still under the weather and are also having terrible trouble writing about "Southland Tales," but don’t want to let it go without mention. So this isn’t going to be very coherent, which many would no doubt deem appropriate.

There seems to be some alchemical disconnect between the movies Richard Kelly has in his head and what actually ends up on screen. We like "Donnie Darko" plenty, but can’t believe that anyone can glean the interpretations Kelly has offered in interviews and on DVD extras from what’s in the film alone. There’s not enough of it there on screen… and anyway, why would you want to? Those supplemental explanations just drag down something that’s better left happily oblique. If Kelly had managed to make clear everything he intended in the film, it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good.

Now, if Mr. Kelly were to stand next to the screen at every showing of "Southland Tales" and offer verbal footnotes, perhaps with backing of the three graphic novels that precede the film and allow it to kick off, "Star Wars" style, on book four, the whole thing would surely unravel, if not elegantly, at least in a way that made some sense. As it stands, though, "Southland Tales" is overstuffed, underexplicated, hubristically ambitious, uneven, bewildering and kind of awesome. We can’t imagine it’s going to please most anyone, and we have to admit our personal susceptibility to the fabulous disaster, but "Southland Tales" has wormed its way in our brain like few other films this year and is, without a doubt, one of our favorites.

The basics are: It’s 2008, Texas has been bombed by terrorists, neocons run rampant in
the upper echelons of the government, the U.S. is buckled down under a
‘roided-up Patriot Act and at war with Iran, Iraq, North Korea and
Syria, the draft has been reinstated, oil is out of the question and Southern California is being
powered by an experimental, laws-of-thermodynamics-defying invention
called Fluid Karma, housed in a massive structure looming off the Santa
Monica shore. This entire scenario is dropped on us in first ten minutes with the help of a animated overview, and from there the story lets forth a dozen tentacles following scattered characters: a famous actor with links to the Republican party and an inconvenient case of amnesia (Dwayne Johnson); a porn star with talk show and franchise ambitions who’s written a screenplay that foretells the coming apocalypse (Sarah Michelle Gellar); a Venice Beach-based radical activist group called the neo-Marxists; a scarred former actor turned soldier turned narrator, drug addict and sniper (Justin Timberlake); and a cop with, possibly, a twin and also, possibly, amnesia (Seann William Scott).

How to explicate "Southland Tales"’ unearthly pull? It comes in part because the casting is all in air quotes — The Rock, Buffy, Stifler, various SNL escapees, Mandy Moore, an almost unrecognizable Kevin Smith and the current king of the pop charts — but the acting is often as earnest as the over-the-top scenarios will allow, particularly Johnson and Timberlake, who manages to make a sequence in which he imagines himself as the star of a music video set in an arcade, lip syncing to the Killers’ "All These Things That I’ve Done," bafflingly resonant. It’s also because the film seems like a hallucination born from years of apocalyptic Los Angeles imagery, the meeting point of "Kiss Me Deadly" and "Blade Runner" (both of which receive nods) and dozens of other tales on celluloid and in print that would have the city constantly on the verge of catastrophe and still soldiering on, cheerfully oblivious to the fact. And its in part because it fearlessly mixes T.S. Eliot references with the cheapest of dumb blond jokes, and because under a front of irony the film has its big sloppy heart out on its sleeve.

So "Southland Tales" is about L.A., it’s about the end of the world, it’s overtly a comedy but also helplessly mournful, it’s a genre mash-up particularly fixated on the ever-rewarding oeuvre of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it’s, less successfully, a heavy-handed but fervent political satire. It’s also 19 minutes shorter than the version that was so poorly received at Cannes, and you can see the edges of a snipped storyline apparently involving Janeane Garofalo, who appears fleetingly toward the film’s climax. We’d like to see that first cut, but we’d also just like to see the film again. (We’re in the stalwart minority there — though our colleague Matt Singer did allow that he’d see it a second time… in a year.) Certainly it’s valiantly, foolhardily its own film, and it’s sure as hell like nothing else you’ll find in theaters, and that, we’d hope, would be recommendation enough.


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.