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DID YOU READ

NYFF 2008: “Ashes of Time Redux.”

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10082008_ashesoftime.jpgWhen Wong Kar-wai’s lone attempt at a martial arts film, “Ashes of Time,” first came out in 1994, it was considered by most to be awfully pretty and mystifyingly elliptical. “Redux” finds it restored, re-edited, seven minutes shorter, with feverishly heightened colors and dramatic new music from Yo-Yo Ma. Having never seen the original version, I can’t speak to whether it’s also been clarified, but here’s what I got:

The Blind Swordsman (who’s more in the process of losing his vision) loves his wife Peach Blossom, but left her because she has a thing for Huang Yaoshi, a warrior who’s a bit of a wandering playboy, having also stolen the heart of, and then jilted, Murong Yin, who’s nutty and has developed a separate personality in which she cross-dresses and claims to be her brother, Murong Yang. They all, along with Hong Qi, a rural would-be assassin, his wife, and a destitute peasant girl seeking revenge, drift in and then out of the life of Ouyang Feng, who was once a great swordsman himself, but who now lives alone in the desert acting as an agent for other fighters and dreaming of his own great love, who abandoned him to marry his brother. Each eventually dies or goes off to become a figure of legend.

Well, wuxia stories don’t need to make perfect sense, something Wong winked at in “2046,” when Tony Leung enlisted Faye Wong to help him write one: “Iron Abacus? Isn’t he dead?” “Is he? Then make it Iron Head.” “Where did Iron Head come from all of a sudden?” Stiil, as a martial arts film, “Ashes of Time Redux” kind of sucks, despite choreography from Sammo Hung — no one gets around to fighting until halfway through, at which point the action is shot gorgeously and incomprehensibly by cinematographer Christopher Doyle.

That’s fine. It’s better to look at “Ashes of Time Redux” as a typical Wong Kar-wai film that just happens to be set in a mythical, martial arts-dominated landscape, an episodic reverie in which the beautifully heartbroken once again muse to themselves in meandering voiceovers and scrutinize the situations in which they find themselves for meaning or consolation, and it’s all so lusciously lovely and cinematic you take it in with jaw agape. The cast is ridiculous: Tony Leung, Carina Lau, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Brigitte Lin, Jacky Cheung, Charlie Yeung, and Leslie Cheung and Maggie Cheung as the separated lovers whose broken relationship turns out to be what the film is actually all about. She convalesces by the sea, and he stares out at the unreal dunes, and they both have the kind of faces film was created to capture. The remembered fragment of the last time they saw each other is an encounter more heated and dangerous than any battle — love, for Wong, will always outdo swordplay.

“Ashes of Time Redux” will open on October 10th. For more coverage of the New York Film Festival, click here.

[Photo: “Ashes of Time Redux,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2008]

+ “Ashes of Time Redux” (NYFF)
+ “Ashes of Time Redux” (Sony Pictures Classics)

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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.