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NYFF 2008: The rest.

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10152008_imgonnaexplode.jpg“I’m Gonna Explode”
An unhappy girl and a troubled boy meet in detention in their high school in a suburb of Mexico City, and before you can shout “Holy Nouvelle Vague, Batman!” they’re running away on a dreamy days-long adventure together, having found their perfect co-conspirator. Their parents don’t take this well, but their on-the-lam offspring haven’t actually gone further than the roof of the boy’s house, where they sunbathe with the radio on, divest themselves of their virginity, curl up to movies in a tent, and sneak food and booze from downstairs when everyone’s out. The lad’s father is a former activist turned right-wing politician, but the film’s rebellion is more of the usual teenage variety, a swooningly enjoyable series of episodes set to a languid soundtrack of Bright Eyes and Zoot Woman that convey a thorough sense of all-consuming and self-centered pubescent angst. It’s a shame that it has to end, and in fact it seems to reach half a dozen conclusions before its final, unsatisfying one.

“Night and Day”
While not a major departure for Hong Sang-soo, “Night and Day” is more male-focused than the other films of his I’ve seen, which may be why I like it less — he’s so unforgiving in his portrayals of Korean men that this portrait of a middle-aged painter who flees for Paris after getting caught smoking pot feels a lot like spending two and a half hours in the company of someone unendingly unpleasant if amusingly pathetic. Camped out in a guest house crowded with travelers half his age, Sung-nam weeps on the phone to his wife at night and spends his days trying to sleep with an art student, and his contact with anyone who’s not a Korean expat doesn’t reach much beyond an awkward conversation at the airport when he first arrives. He runs into a former lover on the street and fails to see her deep loneliness, and meets a North Korean exchange student at a party and minor, hilarious freakout, to the embarrassment of his hosts. But while Sung-nam’s troubled state of affairs lead him to contemplate religion and having children, a coda set back in Korea, centered around a dream sequence, indicates that in the comfort of his own environment, Sung-nam hasn’t moved forward at all.

“A Christmas Tale”
Arnaud Desplechin’s film about a family gathering for the holidays has been picked up by our sister company IFC Films, so I’ll abstain from anything beyond this: It’s one of best of the year, and scenes (Mathieu Amalric taking a sodden curbside faceplant; Emmanuelle Devos clenching her fists in glee at the approach of a train that whites out the screen) have wormed their way inextricably and apparently permanently into my brain.

“The Headless Woman”
Cheating — I haven’t actually seen Lucrecia Martel’s film since Cannes, where it was roundly booed at the press screening, but I’ve been longing to. The narrative in “The Headless Woman” is so submerged it’s almost subliminal — after seeing it I was caught up in conversation after conversation as to what it was actually about, which would be the class gulf and an internal view of few days spent in shock. It is, in its quiet way, audaciously daring, and I like it a lot in retrospect, though the chances of someone picking it up seem regrettably slim.

Ex-sailor Asa lives with his sister and her family on a Kazakhstan steppe, helping them raise sheep and dreaming of a yurt of his own. Unfortunately, his hard-ass brother-in-law won’t give Asa his promised starter set until he gets married, and Asa’s attempt to woo what seems to be the only girl in the area, the titular Tulpan, with stories of ocean-related danger, aren’t working out. Sergei Dvortsevoy’s film is a look at a wind-whipped, nomadic, livestock-based lifestyle that’s assailably exotic, but it’s not, despite two sheep births, as anthropological in nature as many of the films from unusual corners of the world that round the festival circuit can be. Asa’s just as clueless about sheepherding as the average audience member, and his dream of having both a flock and 900 channels of satellite cable is neither grounded nor shared by anyone else he encounters — everyone else would rather head to the city or leave Kazakhstan entirely. “Tulpan” may have plenty of spectacular shots of Mars-like countrysides, and others in which the chaos of children and puppies and camels wander into and out of a wide shot like the most miraculous choreography, but mostly it’s a small story of family and of bending your dreams to fit with what you actually have.

“Tokyo Sonata”
This dysfunctional family drama, billed as a change of pace for Kiyoshi Kurosawa, a director still best known for his J-horror work, engages a variety of Japanese societal ills head-on: A Tokyo patriarch finds his job outsourced and joins other loitering suit-wearing former salarymen too ashamed to admit their joblessness to their loved ones; his wife cleans and cooks and smiles and feels unfulfilled; his older son, frustrated with a lack of prospects and what he perceives as national inaction, enlists in the U.S. Army and goes to Iraq; his younger son is sullen and uncommunicative until he finds an outlet in the piano. Save the strange and naïve military storyline, these plots are nothing that haven’t already been seen in dozens of other films and TV dramas from Japan. J-horror may be well into its afterlife, but the indirect social critiques of “Pulse” and “Bright Future” are far more resonant than anything in this subdued and stale offering.

For all of our coverage of the 2008 New York Film Festival, click here.

[Photos: “I’m Gonna Explode,” Canana Films, 2008; “Tulpan,” Match Factory, 2008]


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.