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DID YOU READ

Critic wrangle: “Slumdog Millionaire.”

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11122008_slumdogmillionaire.jpgHalf grimy portrait of Mumbai poverty, half fable by way of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” Danny Boyle’s new film “Slumdog Millionaire” was a hit at Toronto, where it won the Audience Award, and is a solid candidate for a sleeper hit in the new “Juno” sense of the term, given that the film’s from an established director and cost a reported $15 million (cheap!). Will it sleeper its way to an Oscar nomination? It’s certainly edgily feel-good; as Manohla Dargis at the New York Times puts it, “this proves to be one of the most upbeat stories about living in hell imaginable.” For her, the film’s visual stunning if a little too calculating: “In the end, what gives me reluctant pause about this bright, cheery, hard-to-resist movie is that its joyfulness feels more like a filmmaker’s calculation than an honest cry from the heart about the human spirit (or, better yet, a moral tale).” Andrew Sarris at the New York Observer finds that it’s actually the mismatching of sentiments that makes it work, writing that it’s “precisely because the varied parts don’t cohere as smoothly as they are supposed to in the ideal well-made film.”

“Is ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ gimmicky?” asks Andrew O’Hehir at Salon. “Sure it is, and in my judgment its dramatic and romantic elements — as central as Boyle and Beaufoy may believe them — are incidental. The real star of the film is not a person but a city, the vertiginous, exciting, massively overcrowded ‘maximum city’ of Mumbai.” “It’s like the Bollywood version of a Capra fable sprayed with colorful drops of dark-side-of-the-Third-World squalor,” as Owen Gleiberman puts it at Entertainment Weekly. “Slumdog Millionaire rousingly celebrates the escape from the slums, but since it’s Jamal’s childhood that allows him to win big on TV (and to win that girl), you could also say that the movie ennobles poverty.” “That destiny favors the pure-of-heart who are disadvantaged and romantic is an unabashedly mushy concept,” counters Nick Schager at Slant, “and yet Boyle’s direction is ecstatic, enthralled by the notion that kindness and generosity in the face of hardship have a way of paying dividends in the most unexpected, circuitous ways.”

“Frankly, I don’t trust Boyle; I feel the need to defend myself against a director for whom brutality and slickness are so inextricable,” writes David Edelstein at New York. “But he’s brilliant at what he does, at the kind of hyperkinetic, every-shot-a-grabber filmmaking that many attempt and few bring off.” For Scott Foundas at the Village Voice, on the other hand, “it’s that very tension between gritty, street-level reality and fairy-tale invention that ultimately makes Slumdog Millionaire feel even more buoyant and life-affirming.”

Roger Ebert is ebullient, declaring that Boyle “combines the suspense of a game show with the vision and energy of ‘City of God’ and never stops sprinting.”

On the nay side: Eric Hynes at indieWIRE doesn’t buy it: “A goofy picaresque to rival ‘Forrest Gump,’ ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ has a similar power to please, shell-gaming the audience into emotionally investing in and celebrating its protagonist’s dumb romanticism.” And at the New York Press, Armond White, as one might have predicted, hates the film, snarling “There hasn’t been a social drama this decadently over-hyped since City of God. Boyle plays the same game of pandering to liberal sensibilities while entertaining safe, middle-class distance,” and signing off, catching, with “Boyle is a poverty pimp with an Avid.”

[Photos: “Slumdog Millionaire,” Fox Searchlight, 2008]

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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.