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Cannes 08: “Changeling.”

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05212008_changeling.jpgA cloche-wearing madonna, Angelina Jolie is the porcelain personification of trembling courage and devoted motherhood in “Changeling.” As Christine Collins, entire scenes exist solely for the world’s most famous collector of international orphans to allow her eyes to well up as, clutching her hands over her mouth, she gives in to despair of ever finding Walter, her kidnapped son. Other times, the facade shatters and she shrieks “He’s not my son! He’s not my son!” Or “Did you kill my son?! Did you kill my son?!” Or “No! No! No!” Someone actually refers to her as having “moxie,” which is something you were allowed to say without airquotes in the 1920s, when the film is set, but which isn’t so accurate — mostly she picturesquely suffers and droops and then lifts her chin and enlists the help offered her by those who’d like to use her case as a weapon against the corrupt Los Angeles Police Department.

“Changeling” is director Clint Eastwood at his most manipulative, leagues beyond “Million Dollar Baby.” The film’s based on the actual Wineville Chicken Murders, in which Gordon Stewart Northcott kidnapped and killed at least three boys on his ranch in what’s now Mira Loma. One of the boys was 10-year-old Walter Collins, who was at the heart of a scandal surrounding the case — after he was reported missing, the L.A.P.D. found another child who claimed to be Walter. When Christine Collins, Walter’s mother, denied that boy was her son, the police had her sent to the county psych ward. It’s an intriguing set-up, none the least because, as the film shows it, Christine at first dazedly lets herself be convinced that the boy could hers after all. But “Changeling” can’t allow its characters to appear to be made of flesh and blood — Jeffrey Donovan, as the police captain who finds “Walter” eventually has Christine committed, might as well be vamping in a black cape. John Malkovich is ever a-tremble with indignation as the crusading Reverend Briegleb, who comes to Christine’s rescue. Christine is a saintly single mother with a spotless house and a modish but demure wardrobe who wakes up already in full make-up, who tirelessly dotes on her darling child and who supports them both as a skillful supervisor at the phone company switchboard. “Changeling” doesn’t want to tell a story — it wants to be a portrait of a conquering heroine trampling on injustice, and not that of a realistic and wronged woman who was in danger of getting ground in the gears of a dishonest and powerful organization. Given that Christine’s great moments of triumph are those of enduring mistreatment, however, the intermittent faux feminist sentiments seem drearily misplaced. And like most true stories, “Changeling”‘ has no clean ending, struggles through what feels like an anticlimax in search of closure and settling on an ill-favored exchange of dialogue that I’d have called the worst in the festival until I saw “Surveillance” this morning (more on that in a bit).

With its star, its varnished vintage appearance and the ability to generate bewildering reviews like this one, “Changeling” is a picture all but created to win Academy Awards. Maybe it will, but hell if it deserves any. For the awards show clip, I’d suggest the scene where Christine visits the killer in prison, unnecessary to the plot and the film as a whole except as an opportunity to show off more of Jolie’s histrionic emoting. It might as well be useful for something.

“Changeling” will be released in the U.S. by November 7th.

[Photo: “Changeling,” Universal Pictures, 2008]

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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.


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.