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Sundance 2009: The Truth Was Out There

Sundance 2009: The Truth Was Out There (photo)

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Everyone at the Sundance Film Festival is looking for something. Filmmakers are looking for distributors. Distributors are looking for hits. Attendees are looking for tickets. Publicists are looking for good press. Journalists are looking for good stories. Sponsors are looking for stars to take pictures with their products. Volunteers are looking to get noticed. I don’t get to see too many movies at Sundance — sadly, my schedule is so crammed with interviews that I barely have time to see any of the films I’m talking to people about — but of the dozen or so films I saw, nearly half revolved around characters who were looking for truth and finding it in unlikely places.

The idea was most explicit in “Passing Strange” which was, incredibly, director Spike Lee’s first film ever to premiere at the festival (because, according to Lee, he’s never had a film completed in January before). The documentary is a record of the final performances of the warm and funny musical of the same name from July of last year. The vibe is sort of “‘The Last Waltz’ on Broadway” — the air of finality in the actors and musicians’ sweaty faces is palpable, and Lee, like Scorsese, uses a fleet of cameras to take us onto the stage and into the ensemble. The autobiographical story follows an African-American teenager (played by Daniel Breaker as well as the show’s creator Stew, who narrates and provides musical commentary on the action), who leaves his home in middle class Los Angeles for artistic inspiration in bohemian Europe. Stew believes that “normal everyday things are phony,” and he sets off on his journey looking for “the real.” He ultimately comes to the conclusion that “the real” is a construct that can only be found in art, a fine reason to make a film like Lee’s, which makes no attempt to mask the production’s theatricality or expand it beyond the borders of the stage. Stew’s creation and Lee’s filming of it may be highly artificial, but the emotions the filmmakers dredge up are hauntingly true.

01262009_intheloop.jpgTruth is a construct of a much more sinister sort in the scalding British satire “In the Loop,” a production that could best be described as the love child of “Dr. Strangelove” and “The Office.” When British Minister of International Development Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) talks out of turn about the “unforeseeable” nature of war during a radio interview, he becomes the pawn of politicos on both sides of the pond on the issue of invasion. “In the Loop” paints a brutally unflattering portrait of the halls of Western power, where decisions are determined entirely by careerism, and those in charge are so wrapped up in their own bullshit — two different characters are unhappy with the way their office is set up — they remain oblivious to the mess they’re making of the world (Steve Coogan has a funny cameo as a man whose mother’s garden wall is symbolically crumbling). Nothing is immutable except self-interest, least of all the truth, which is pointedly manipulated throughout. A U.S. diplomat blatantly falsifies the minutes of a meeting to erase the evidence of the existence of a secret war committee (to reflect “what was intended to be said”); later, a U.K. minister defends his own changes to a document by explaining, “whether it happened or not is irrelevant. It’s true.” When Simon begins to feel the pressure of the manipulation coming from all signs, he wonders if it is braver to resign in protest of injustice or to remain on the job in order to fight it. Should someone sacrifice his principles to keep fighting for them? “In the Loop” has no good answer.


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.