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DID YOU READ

We Todd Did.

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08142008_simplejack.jpgWhile the folks behind “Tropic Thunder” had obviously soldiered up in advance for — and were probably counting on — controversy surrounding Robert Downey Jr.’s (totally hilarious) turn as a method actor in surgically applied blackface, the vehement protests surrounding the film’s frequent, gleeful use of the work “retarded” seem to have blindsided them. Bonnie Goldstein at Slate points to the 11-page kit released by a group that includes the American Association of People With Disabilities and the National Down Syndrome Congress, encouraging boycotting and picketing of theaters throughout this week. Timothy Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics and another vocal opponent of the movie, admitted to NPR that, in true movie-protest tradition, he hadn’t actually seen the film beyond the key r-word sequences and didn’t plan to, a fact director/star Ben Stiller leapt on on Good Morning America yesterday:

“We screened the movie so many times and this didn’t come up until very late and I think the guy spearheading [the protest] hasn’t seen the movie. So in the context of the film I think it’s really clear, they were making fun of the actors and actors who try to use serious subjects to win awards. It’s about actors and self-importance. I think the context of the movie it’s pretty clear.”

And screenwriter Justin Theroux pointed out to New York that “Simple Jack,” the film within the film in which Stiller’s character plays a broader than broad caricature of a mentally disabled man in hopes that it’d lead him to an Oscar, isn’t that much of an exaggeration from projects that have actually been made: “There are MANY films we’re lampooning there, and TV movies included, just a bunch of movies we found completely outrageous.”

So, sure, Hollywood is the ultimate butt of all the jokes. And sure, what Orlando critic Roger Moore is attempting to label “the New Outrageousness” is also turning out to be a convenient way to pack in all the -ist jokes that will fit while crying no foul because, hey, those jokes aren’t aimed at who they seem to be aimed at. But I particularly enjoyed a judicious bit of word choice in Manohla Dargis‘ review in the New York Times, in which she twice uses “retard” as it’s utilized in the film: “one misbegotten attempt to bait Oscar with a weepie called ‘Simple Jack,’ in which he played a bucktoothed retarded man,” and “Kirk’s explanation for why Tugg’s performance as a retarded man in ‘Simple Jack’ doomed his chances for an Oscar.” The PC copy-edit would be “mentally disabled,” though the Times seems to use both terms freely, but why not apply the term directly to the role? Stiller’s “Simple Jack” character bears about as much resemblance to someone with an actual disability as Mickey Rooney did an Asian person in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” — maybe “retarded” could become something like “minstrelsy,” used only to describe offensively bad roles in films, like, say, “Riding the Bus with My Sister.”

[Photo: “Tropic Thunder,” DreamWorks, 2008]

+ How To Picket Tropic Thunder (Slate)
+ Disabled Group Calls For ‘Tropic Thunder’ Boycott (NRP)
+ Ben Stiller: Taking Chances with “Tropic Thunder” (ABC News)
+ ‘Tropic Thunder’ Writer Justin Theroux on ‘Simple Jack,’ ‘Iron Man 2,’ and Stupid Actors (New York)
+ War May Be Hell, but Hollywood Is Even Worse (NY Times)

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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SO EXCITED!!!

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.”

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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. 

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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.