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Rotterdam 2009: Carlos Reygadas and Guy Maddin

Rotterdam 2009: Carlos Reygadas and Guy Maddin  (photo)

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The 38th International Film Festival in Rotterdam has streamlined its program into three sections, but it hasn’t lost its focus. The fest still throws its weight behind young filmmakers, and a previous beneficiary, Carlos Reygadas, has emerged as a central figure early on this year. He’s credited as producer on two films, Carlos Serrano Azcona’s “El Árbol” (2009) and Amat Escalante’s “Los Bastardos” (2008), and he’s presenting two of his own works as well. The first is “Serenghetti,” a new feature-length video projected on an office building in the center of town, which joins outdoor loops by Guy Maddin and Nanouk Leopold. The second is his earliest film, “Adulte,” a seven-minute comic short from 1998, which arrives as part of a series on auteur debuts.

Before the world premiere screening of “El Árbol,” Reygadas pumped up his opener “Adulte” by saying, “it doesn’t work very well,” and we’ll leave it at that. “Árbol,” however, works very well indeed, and is in its own modest way one of the strongest works I’ve seen at the festival. It’s an impressive effort in Dardenne-like minimalism, following the near-vagabond Santiago as he obsessively walks around central Madrid, atoning for a sin never revealed. Bosco Sodi, a Mexican painter new to acting, inhabits the character with a feline, loping grace, and one has to study his every gesture to parse the sparse details of his life that emerge. Serrano Azcona keeps a fastidious grip on Santiago’s point of view, particularly given locked-in immediacy by David Valdeperez’s deft handheld camera work. Azcona and his cinematographer indulge in very few shots where Santiago is not in the frame (only two or three by my count), so when some release is given (a shot of seagulls and streetlights against the sky), it becomes nearly rapturous. With reality slowly suffocating Santiago, Serrano Azcona offers a way out in a wonderfully surreal and spiritual deus ex machina finale.

The outdoor exhibition of “Serenghetti” displays Reygadas’ playful side. Two female soccer teams face off in an ancient mountain range in central Mexico, shot as if for TV, complete with on-screen graphics, gratuitous replays and a leggy sideline reporter. It’s an agglomeration of things he likes: sports, sun flares, his country and the cinema. But while the action plays much like a regular broadcast, Reygadas can’t help but tweak it. He employs high-angle shots that catch wheat swaying in front of the lens, cutaways to mountains that ignore the action for minutes on end, and after a few replays, goes for a full reenactment of the deciding goal. It’s both banal and mesmerizing, watching the game for its transient beauty, and patiently awaiting his next deconstruction.

About a five-minute walk from “Serenghetti,” another building has Guy Maddin’s “Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair” projecting on its face, a seven-minute short he whipped together in about a week. He started with a question — “Who hasn’t wanted to see a film beauty go to the chair?!?” — and rang up Isabella Rossellini. And there we have it: Isabella orgasmically writhing to the twirling of a jerry-rigged generator, light bulbs popping and nightclub patrons disrobing. An ode to Thomas Edison and sex and the dreams both have provided and fulfilled.


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.