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“Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father.”

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10272008_dearzachary.jpgThe common refrain when describing Kurt Kuenne’s documentary “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father” is that you shouldn’t — that the shocking events that occur over the course of the film should blindside audiences as much as they blindside the filmmaker and his subjects. But you wouldn’t be watching “Dear Zachary” if it were merely the film Kuenne first set out to make: a celluloid memorial to his childhood friend Andrew Bagby, a cheery 28-year-old with a touch of the hobbit to him, an Eagle Scout, an eager on-camera participant in all of Kuenne’s teenage attempts at moviemaking, and a doctor who was finishing up his family practice internship when he was murdered in 2001, almost certainly by his ex-girlfriend.

That loss spurred Kuenne to begin creating an obituary for Andrew, a collage of home movies and interviews with friends and family that would represent “everything there is to know” about the man. “Dear Zachary” succeeds at many things, most of all at being an almost unwatchably raw representation of grief, but its original goal turns out to be insurmountable. It becomes clear that you simply can’t create a fair portrait of someone near to you who died, unfairly and untimely. The more Kuenne digs, talks to people, roadtrips across the country and flies to England to meet cousins, the more remote Andrew, who was blessedly normal, becomes. Everyone is too close to express more than mourning.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, Kuenne was blessed with a series nightmarishly serendipitous events that unfolded as he was making “Dear Zachary” and that bend the film into something else entirely, into an outraged document of the failure of a system to punish or prevent crime. Shirley Turner, the unstable older woman Andrew used to date, who drove across four states to see him and shoot him multiple times after he broke off their relationship, flees to her hometown in Newfoundland, Canada while the police are gathering evidence against her. As the extradition process limps forward, Turner announces she’s pregnant with Andrew’s baby, and Kate and David, Andrew’s parents, prepare to fight for custody of their grandson once he’s born and a DNA test confirms his parentage. Astonishingly, Turner is loosed on bail twice, her newborn son left in her custody and later returned to her after a stint with his grandparents, who are placed in the surreal position of having to accompany their son’s alleged killer on playdates and to discuss over the phone whether they would want a photo of the once couple as a Christmas present.

Turner is fascinating monster, insecure, sociopathic, manipulative and outrageously brash, and Kuenne doesn’t try to be the least bit fair with her, which, given the circumstances, is appropriate. He’s not a sophisticated filmmaker, illustrating voiceover almost literally with clips, returning to other footage repeatedly, and struggling openly with structure. But that roughness works with the barely contained emotions displayed on screen, and when, in the final act, something truly terrible happens, seems the only way this story could be told, awkwardly, anguished, at much personal artifact as film created for public consumption.

[Photo: “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father,” Oscilloscope, 2008]

+ “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father” (Oscilloscope)


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.