On DVD: “Times and Winds,” “Chop Shop”

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07142008_timesandwinds.jpgBy Michael Atkinson

It’s amazing to contemplate, but world cinema didn’t really make serious feature films about children until after WWII; Vittorio De Sica’s “Shoeshine” (1946) might’ve been the first. (You could stretch and consider Hal Roach’s vivid and roughhewn “Our Gang” shorts as qualifying, and I wouldn’t argue.) After the New Waves got rolling, of course, juveniles proliferated like rabbits on screen, but prior to that nearly the first half of cinema history had little or nothing to say about the bedeviled, often neglected, wide-eyed life of the pre-adult. Did cinema change with the war, or did we? Two new movies to DVD, Reha Erdem’s “Times and Winds” (2006) and Ramin Bahrani’s “Chop Shop” (2007), make their individual cases that little outside of the movie dynamic has changed at all, and that life as a 12-year-old in any corner of the globe is still subject to the grinding, merciless self-involvement of the adult world.

Erdem’s movie is a native Turkish art film, more elliptical and allusively observant even than the recent films of Nuri Bilge Ceylan. The setting is a remote Pontic Mountain village, the time is unspecified, the cultural climate is post-medieval and Muslim (the hamlet has little, but possesses its own minaret), the characters are two preteen boys who live out their lives in a state of embittered, anticipatory stasis. They watch animals copulate, they steal cigarettes, they work, but they also hate their parents: the sickly imam’s son relentlessly plots all manner of surreptitious patricide, while his friend, entranced by a crush on their young and serene schoolteacher, is revolted to find his righteous father spying on her. Other fathers beat and humiliate other sons and daughters and orphans; “shithead” is the label passed down from each generation to the next. But the action of Erdem’s film belongs to the quotidian, to the relationship between moon and clouds, to the unrolling of each day (and its prayer cycle) and of the seasonal process. Sure, there’s a coming-of-age primal scene, but the girl in question retreats to her bed and weeps after seeing her parents in flagrante. Aching with the Górecki-like symphonic throbs of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, the film suggests a version of Victor Erice’s “The Spirit of the Beehive” for the new millennium, even if its poetry outpaces Erice’s — Erdem punctuates his semi-narrative with surreal tableaux of his cast of children slumbering (or dead?) buried in pine needles, covered with the debris of a demolished house, in leaves, nearly subsumed by undergrowth, etc. You’re never sure what’s going on in these enigmatic images, or, really, between them (the characters do not express themselves openly), you’re just sure you’ve never quite seen this particular brand of mysterious poetry before.

07142008_chopshop.jpgBahrani’s “Chop Shop” takes place in the unmistakable present, but its setting exudes sociopolitical commentary without anyone saying a word: it’s the hunk of Flushing, Queens known as Willets Point, a resident-free neighborhood that floods routinely and is comprised entirely of auto repair shops, junk dealers and the titular stolen-car-processing outfits. Seen from the orphaned 12-year-old hero’s perspective, it’s a lawless frontier of make-it-on-your-own American Dreamism; for us, it’s the asshole of the global economy, a squalid proto-slum that’s indistinguishable from unremarkable slices of Bombay or Rio, thriving on manufactured leftovers and cannibalized industry. But there’s Shea Stadium looming in the near distance, and there are the airliners flying out of LaGuardia overhead — this is an America we don’t see in movies, and Bahrani, whose “Man Push Cart” (2005) had a similar torque to it, knows how to make his semi-doc ultra-realism jump out at you as neo-Kafka-esque metaphor.

We’re in the tradition of Satyajit Ray and Ken Loach, but we’re in New York, and for that overdue transplantation, we should be thankful. It’s unfortunate, then, that Alejandro (Alejandro Polanco) is a relatively simple character — bullet-headed and ambitious, but still only a kid, wrestling with his love and shame for his older sister (Isamar Gonzales), who moonlights blowjobbing at night, and becoming obsessive about his own get-rich schemes. (We never learn what became of their parents.) How could Alejandro’s dreams, and his coffee can of cash, end up except in anti-climactic disappointment? Chin-deep in convincing texture, Bahrani never takes the daring next step for which his symbolic realism cries out — into a realm (epic, absurdist, satiric, visionary, what have you) where the broader meaning of his narratives overtakes his oppressive everyday details. When he does, he might make a masterpiece.

[Photo: “Times and Winds,” Kino, 2007; “Chop Shop,” Koch Lorber, 2007]

“Times and Winds” (Kino Video) and “Chop Shop” (Koch Lorber Films) are now available on DVD.


Two for None

Watch Free Episodes of Benders and Gigi Does It Right Now

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The 50th season of Documentary Now! is drawing to a close tonight starting at 10P with the tale of friends, falsettos, and feathered hair, “Gentle & Soft: The Story of the Blue Jean Committee.” After the moving finale, stay tuned for special sneak peeks of your two favorite new shows Benders and Gigi Does It. Or if you can’t wait, you can watch them RIGHT NOW below.

Watch an episode of Benders

Watch an episode of Gigi Does It

Crack open a cold one with a sneak peek of the Benders premiere at 11P —it’s what the hockey loving team members of Uncle Chubbys would do! This band of friends loves drinking beer and playing hockey, but they’re really only good at one of those things.

Then starting at 11:30P, get to know Gigi Does It, the new show starring David Krumholtz as a grandma who gets her groove back. Gertrude Rotblum, a.k.a. “Gigi,” may have lost her beloved husband, but she gained a new lease on life thanks to a secret bank account filled with millions. With her trusty sidekick in tow, Gigi is ready to take on the world, one buzzword, politician, and naked art class at a time.

In addition to YouTube and right here on IFC.com, an episode each of Benders and Gigi Does It can be seen on VOD and TV Everywhere platforms through IFC’s cable partners.

Early looks got you hooked? Then be sure to catch the new seasons of Benders and Gigi Does It when they premiere on IFC starting Thursday, October 1 at 10P and 10:30P, respectively. It’s like Christmas in early October!


Todd Margaret at Comic Con

David Cross Wrote a Hilarious Letter to Todd Margaret Fans at New York Comic Con

Todd Margaret returns on January 7th, 2016 at 10P on IFC.

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As you may have heard, David Cross is returning to IFC for a third season of Todd Margaret. If you were lucky enough to be at New York Comic Con, you may have seen a sneak peek of the first three episodes of the six-episode series. (Everyone else will have to wait until Thursday, January 7th, 2016 at 10p ET/PT.)

David Cross was really sorry that he couldn’t be at the New York Comic Con Todd Margaret panel, but as he explains in a personal letter to fans below, his contract very clearly states that he won’t get out of bed for less than $2,500. He had no choice but to prolong his stay in bed by writing you, the loyal fans, a letter to explain what he’s been up to and why you should watch the new season of Todd Margaret. He even gives a few hints about Season three and how you could possibly win a car. Not really, but you should read David’s very funny letter below.


Walking Dead

Zombie Killers

10 Weapons You Definitely Want in the Zombie Apocalypse

Catch Robert Kirkman on Comedy Bang! Bang!

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How do you kill that which is already dead? Spectacularly. Zombies aren’t just cannon-fodder — they’re guilt-free target practice for every weapon you can imagine. In celebration of The Walking Dead‘s Robert Kirkman on tonight’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, here are 10 items you definitely want when the inevitable zombie outbreak happens.

10. The Boomstick, Evil Dead franchise


Ash’s trusty sawed-off shotgun, aka the boomstick, is the perfect tool for winning any argument with the undead.

9. Double-Double-Barrelled Sawed-Off Shotguns, Resident Evil: Afterlife

Resident Evil

The only thing better than a double-barrelled shotgun? Double-double-barrelled shotguns! Resident Evil‘s Alice shows off her inhuman ex-human killing powers by loading four barrels with quarters for maximum enemy-shredding effect.

8. Chainsaw Hand, Evil Dead franchise


Ash’s chainsaw enhancement gives new meaning to the phrase “lend a hand.”

7. Machine Gun/Grenade Launcher Combo Leg, Planet Terror

Planet Terror Rose McGowan

When Cherry Darling gets a gun as a replacement left leg she uses it to kick dead ass far harder than any human limb. Especially when she launches the most epic crotch shot of all time.

6. Cricket Bat, Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead‘s characters attack incoming zombies with anything at hand, be it a handy cricket bat or a box of old vinyl records.

5. Morgan’s Bo staff, The Walking Dead

You can’t get much lower tech than a stick, making Morgan’s weapon the most easily maintained in any post-apocalyptic situation. It’s also the only weapon with a non-lethal option, enabling Morgan to maintain his respect for all living humans while still beating any of those humans idiotic enough to attack him.

4. Grand Piano, Zombieland

Zombieland has a magnificent musical moment when an old lady baits a zombie into a Looney Tunes-esque death by crushing underneath a grand piano. With Woody Harrelson banjoing another brain-eater into oblivion, the movie is an entire orchestra of undead-enders.

3. Michonne’s Katana, The Walking Dead

Michonne may be the most badass character in fiction. She doesn’t just defeat zombies, she slices them apart with utter contempt and keeps her own nearest and dearest undead on chains to protect her from the hordes. But only after amputating anything which would make them dangerous.

2. Decapitation Arrow Truck!, Juan of the Dead

Juan of the Dead

The decapitation arrow is one of the most glorious weapons we’ve ever seen, combining every benefit of staying alive — planning, teamwork, tool use, and the ability to shout “duck” — into a weapon that can create entire corpse circles.

1. Daryl’s crossbow, The Walking Dead

Shotguns announce your total victory over anything in front of you. They also announce your edible presence to everything in every other direction for miles. Expert hunter Daryl Dixon solves this problem with a badass crossbow. Silent, brutal, and you can even recover the bolts from collapsed corpses. Daryl knows the importance of recycling in the zombie apocalypse.


Bob & David Are Back

Watch David Cross, Bob Odenkirk and Scott Aukerman in the Hilarious ‘With Bob & David’ Trailer

Catch David Cross in the return of Todd Margaret on January 7th at 10P on IFC.

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David Cross (Todd Margaret), Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) and Comedy Bang! Bang! host Scott Aukerman are back with the trailer for the long-awaited Mr. Show “non-reunion” reunion, W/ Bob & David.

The upcoming Netflix sketch comedy show reunites Bob and David with Mr. Show writers and performers John Ennis, Jay Johnston, Paul F. Tompkins, Brian Posehn and Mr. Hot Saucerman himself, Scott Aukerman. But this is not a Mr. Show reunion. In March, Odenkirk told Rolling Stone that W/ Bob & David is “a new sketch-comedy show featuring the writing and performing of the great and special Bob and David and please use those terms because it’s like [the] King of Pop — the Great and Special Bob and David.”

Still, Bob and David fans will notice that the new show tackles topics like time travel, police interrogations and eccentric tech wizards with the same absurdist wit that made Mr. Show a comedy classic. Also, lots of wigs. You can’t have a sketch show without wigs.

After you’ve binge-watched W/ Bob & David in November, be sure to catch David in the third season of Todd Margaret when it premieres Thursday, January 7th at 10P ET/PT on IFC. The first three episodes of the six-episode series air back-to-back on January 7th, with the remaining three episodes premiering the following week on Thursday, January 14th at 10pm ET/PT. Finally those cans of Thunder Muscle you’ve been hoarding for a rainy day will come in handy.

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