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SXSW 2008: “Humboldt County.”

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03082008_humboldtcounty.jpgTerm I wish someone cleverer than me would coin: one to describe that kind of movie in which a free-spirited (and ever so lightly damaged, like a can of discounted tomatoes) girl latches on to a glum male protagonist and hauls him off to introduce him to joy and laughter — see “Garden State,” see “Elizabethtown,” see everything in between. “Humboldt County,” the feature debut of Danny Jacobs and Darren Grodsky, starts off looking like yet another entry in this genre, with Fairuza Balk playing Bogart, an actress/singer who swoops into L.A. to offer the promise of salvation to depressed med student Peter (Jeremy Strong), whose strict professor father (Peter Bogdanovich) has just failed him in his final class. But after taking Peter home to Humboldt with her after a one night stand, Bogart fades out of the film, which turns instead into a love story between Peter and a way of life — a ramshackle, dilated-pupils day-to-day funded by the illicit farming of marijuana. Brad Dourif, always a loopy pleasure, is a curmudgeonly physics prof who fled academia for a life in the woods with his spacey wife (Frances Conroy), his stepson Max (Chris Messina) and Max’s sprite of a daughter (Madison Davenport).

“Humboldt County” involves a whole bunch of gawkish gazing at a rose-colored representation of the neo-hippie Humboldt lifestyle — constant weed consumption, a local school funded by a community pool of pot plants, an outhouse, gas lamps and plenty of wide-lensed shots of the eye-poppingly gorgeous landscape on this sparsely settled stretch of northern California coast. But despite all the “Look how kooky!,” the film’s genial and pleasant, and the expected transformation of the exaggeratedly buttoned-up Peter into a flannel-wearing expert on DIY irrigation systems is balanced by the less conventional way the film’s main relationship becomes the friendship between him and the prickly Max, who’s smart enough to see that the life his family is living is both an escape and a trap, and who’s gambling on an oversized crop to lift him out of the cycle. Yes, you can stay too long at the party, and eventually the hubristic Max gets his comeuppance, driving Conroy and Dourif into unwieldy monologues and mild overacting — unable to recommend either the outlaw-farmer thing or the rejoin-the-system one, “Humboldt County” settles instead for making the case, vaguely, for doing something in between. Or at least taking a summer off to get really high and look at the ocean, which sounds none too shabby to me.

[Photo: Jeremy Strong in “Humboldt Country,” Embark Productions, 2008]

+ “Humboldt County” (SXSW)
+ “Humboldt County” (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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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.