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DID YOU READ

“Blind Mountain,” “Inheritance”

“Blind Mountain,” “Inheritance” (photo)

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There are two ways to take on Li Yang’s potent, concise “Blind Mountain” (2007), and both have horns: as the howling social-critique screed it was intended to be, and as a Chinese realist version of the “white trash” exploitation epics of the American ’60s and ’70s — which makes the dynamic of the story universally human, not exclusively Chinese. But Chinese it is in actuality, through and through: simply put, unemployed college grad Bai (Lu Huang) accepts a job to collect medicinal herbs in the remote northern country, and after landing in a secluded village wakes up to find herself literally sold into slavery, as a bought-and-paid-for bride for a local ne’er-do-well. Li’s approach is dead serious, and he’s helplessly critiquing not a single issue or socioeconomic condition, but the mercenary callousness of an entire people. I’ve never been to China, but the Chinese films I’ve seen recently (including Jia Zhangke’s “Still Life,” Li Yu’s “Lost in Beijing” and Li’s own “Blind Shaft”), coupled with the various eruptions of rottenness to come from the country since the build-up to the Olympics, leave the impression of a culture sick with corruption. It’s certainly a contrast from the comparatively gentle humanist vision provided by the Fifth Generation filmmakers, who examined endemic misogyny and old-fashioned norms but pulled far short of actively lambasting the basic realities of Chinese morality.

Bai tries to escape, of course — for a good part of the film, you’re convinced these hicks got more than they bargained for with this fiery waif. But we discover that the village, which is apparently suffering from a chronic woman deficit, is all but constructed around the verities of keeping captured women in and outsiders out; there’s only one faithfully guarded road to town, mountains form natural barriers, and the townspeople all conspire together. Bai is even met by two other young wives, both of whom confess to having been sold and implore her to give up her resistance. Soon enough, of course, she is raped by her “husband” (a witless jerk who’s the constant source of derision and impotence jokes around town), and his eager mother begins the vigil for a grandchild, which we know would more or less seal Bai’s fate. An organic aspect of “Blind Mountain” that particularly stings western eyes is how little Bai is shocked or appalled by her situation when the reality dawns on her — as bizarre as the scenario appears to us, for Chinese girls, it appears to be a viable threat, and an at least semi-common problem tolerated by the authorities. It’s obvious by virtue of its gravity and realism that Li’s movie is not hyperbole, but in fact (like “Blind Shaft”) nearly reportage.

01132009_blindmountain2.jpgThe question remains throughout, as time passes and Bai’s enforced compromises grow more harrowing, will she surrender, like a female Winston Smith, to the totalitarianism of traditional peasant values and Chinese turpitude? If there’s a gripe to be had about “Blind Mountain,” it may be that it’s too beautiful in its spectacular landscapes, and with Lu, who’s quite Gong Li-ish and whose hair is too often salon-ready. But the thrust of the film is mighty and daring.

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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.