This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


“Jellyfish,” “Snow Angels”

“Jellyfish,” “Snow Angels” (photo)

Posted by on

The new Israeli film “Jellyfish” (2007) — co-directed by lifemates Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen, and a Camera d’Or winner at Cannes — is both familiar and otherworldly. Israeli filmmakers, doubtlessly because of their particularly tense position in the world, of their society’s fervent militarization and of the question of the Palestinians, love the everyone’s-connected social-weave film, à la “Crash” (Amos Gitai has made several), bouncing amongst a variety of intersecting characters as a way to paint a portrait of the whole culture. As a sub-subgenre, it has its pitfalls, but as all of our cultures become more and more deracinative and immigrant-scrambled, it’s easy to see the idea’s allure. “Jellyfish,” fortunately, adopts the mode but maintains modesty: a mere 78 minutes long (hallelujah), the movie is sharp and poetic on particulars (somewhat like Keret’s short fiction, though Geffen is credited as the screenwriter), and is rescued from undue ambition by drop-dead bits of mundane magical realism. Most of all, it’s a woman’s film; of the roughly 12 characters, only two are men. As it is, three women dominate: Batia (the rather Islid Le Besco-ish Sarah Adler, whom Godard filmed so rapturously in “Notre Musique”), a lost waitress numb from a breakup and confronted one day at the beach with a mute five-year-old girl who simply walked out of the sea; Keren (Noa Knoller), a newlywed stuck honeymooning in a Tel Aviv dump after she breaks her ankle during her reception; and Joy (Ma-nenita De Latorre), a Filipino nursemaid far from home and commissioned to care for a belligerent old woman.

Confident enough to simply suggest the fantastical and never nail it down, and nervy enough to quote Jean Vigo’s “L’Atalante” in the end, “Jellyfish” is rich with motifs and mysteries, and displays a sweet, patient personality. Scenes often trail off like a dozing child, and dreaminess is a given, particularly once Batia, plagued by ambivalence about her narcissistic parents, gets hit by a bus and walks the streets of the city in her hospital gown, still searching for the wide-eyed nymph in the bathing suit who disappeared when she wasn’t looking. Like Wong Kar-Wai, Keret and Geffen prioritize poetic simile and jukebox irony, a woman’s lovely suicide-note poem (“A ship inside a bottle cannot sink, or collect dust…”) and a plaintive Hebrew-ized cover of “La Vie en Rose.” But “Jellyfish” hangs together rather blissfully in the end because of its sympathetic aura, and the responsive presence of the actresses — especially Adler and De Latorre, who has a disarming way of seeming repulsed by and empathic toward the sullen Israelis around her at the same moment.

09302008_snowangels.jpgSame microgenre, different frontier: David Gordon Green’s “Snow Angels” (2008) limns out a community at the other end of the sensibility scale, namely snowbound North American malaise and self-destruction, played out in a low-rent suburban nowhere where the prettiest woman in town (Kate Beckinsale) waits tables at the old school, Greek-owned chow mein house, where marriages crumble like thin ice, and where the high schoolers’ lives are an aimless mix of pot haze and marching band practice. Based on Stewart O’Nan’s debut novel, the film involves three interconnected families (a faithless high school teacher, a state trooper, another waitress, plenty of old folks stuck in their aging living rooms, etc.), but focuses on Michael Angarano’s sheepish teen, and on Glenn (Sam Rockwell), a chronically jobless drunk who’s now sober, employed and fervently born again, trying to be a good Christian father to his semi-spoiled four-year-old daughter, and to get in good again with his ex-wife (Beckinsale), who harbors a lingering affection but visibly bristles at the uselessness of every man around her. Rockwell is indelible; Glenn is a complex admixture of native intelligence and sour inadequacy, go-getter energy and finally, ignorant fury.

In this kind of movie, convincing realism is 90% of the battle — we know these people, even if the story’s fire alarms feel a little forced and predictable. (Or, more precisely, feel like an unadventurously plotted debut novel that might’ve tried for Raymond Carver-ness but resorted to the conventional in ways Carver wouldn’t have.) Suffice it to say that the fragile, unhappy equilibrium suffered by the characters is eventually destroyed by tragic happenstance, after which only the acting sustains us. Beckinsale isn’t quite up to her big scenes, but Rockwell certainly is, and in smaller roles, Olivia Thirlby (as an irresistibly funky high school new-girl-in-town) and Jeanetta Arnette (as Angarano’s weathered mom) are so vivid you could think you recognize them from somewhere real. Green’s improvisational style lets actors find the right stuff, even if their back is to us when it happens, and it’s a pleasure to get lost in. Your preference for either “Snow Angels” or Green’s more recent “Pineapple Express” would say more about your temperament than about the films’ relative merits — which I think are virtually neck and neck, a dead heat between the morbid and the crispy — but either way Green is having quite the Elvis year.

[Additional photos: “Snow Angels,” Warner Independent, 2007]

“Jellyfish” (Zeitgest Films) and “Snow Angels” (Warner Home Video) are now available on DVD.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

Posted by on


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.

Posted by on
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.

Posted by on
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.