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Oscar shorts, stop-motion Gaiman and “Blair Witch” in Afghanistan

Oscar shorts, stop-motion Gaiman and “Blair Witch” in Afghanistan (photo)

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On offer this week are films both long in the making and short on running time. Dakota Fanning does a double bill, Steve Martin further damages his credibility and “Blair Witch” director Daniel Myrick returns to have people running for their sanity.

“2008 Academy Award Nominated Short Films”
For one week only, Shorts International and Magnolia Pictures have teamed up again to bring you the world’s finest in the way of live action and animated shorts from a multitude of international filmmakers, as determined by the Academy’s selection committee. This year’s live action lineup includes the Swiss/German drama “Auf der Strecke (On the Line),” the French life reimagination drama “Manon on the Asphalt”, the Roddy Doyle-adaptation “New Boy” [pictured right], the Danish comedy “The Pig” and the German Holocaust-themed drama “Spielzeugland (Toyland).” The animated slate consists of the Japanese hand-drawn “La Maison en Petits Cubes”, the Russian slice of life “Lavatory – Lovestory” (which one can get a taste of here), the French CG aquacomedy “Oktapodi”, Pixar’s “Presto” and “This Way Up,” a U.K.-produced undertaker satire.
Opens in limited release.

Despite all that was achieved with the sorely underrated “Stardust,” king of literary kook Neil Gaiman’s various projects keep on finding their way to the big screen, though they’re still in search of the right audience to appreciate them. It is unsurprising then that he gravitated towards director Henry Selick for this stop-motion adaptation of his multi-award-winning novella, since Selick’s similar mindmeld with Tim Burton led to “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Dakota Fanning voices another one of Gaiman’s trademark impish protagonists as the titular young girl who discovers a mysterious door to a mirror universe where wonders both alluring and dangerous await her.
Opens wide and in 3D in select theaters.

With a history going back nearly to its inspiring event, this passion project, 10 stop-start years in the making, is a coming of age story about a group of friends (Jay Baruchel, Dan Fogler, Sam Huntington, Chris Marquette) who make a pilgrimage to the Skywalker Ranch to steal a peak at “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” as a final gesture of solidarity to a terminally ill member of their troupe. The film went through reshoots, test screenings of an illness-free version and even prompted a Stop Darth Weinstein campaign by fans against the film’s distributor, the Weinstein Company. Likely relieved for not being the target of fan protests for a change, George Lucas actually enjoyed the film so much, he resisted the standard cease and desist letter 14-year-olds typically get in their mail after sticking a Wookie roar on their website, and offered director Kyle Newman the full range of official sound effects.
Opens in limited release.

“He’s Just Not That Into You”
Thanks most likely to producer/star Drew Barrymore donating her address book, this romantic comedy, based on a self-help book which itself was inspired by a line from “Sex and the City,” boasts an ensemble cast that would make the likes of the late great Robert Altman seethe with jealousy, you know, if he were into these kinds of movies. “Sexual Life” helmer Ken Kwapis has a bigger budget to work with for this relationship comedy that weaves a multi-threaded story around the idea of lopsided love. Ginnifer Goodwin stars as Gigi, a lady perennially unlucky in love, seemingly unable to interpret the subtle signals of the dating game, while a cast featuring the likes of Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Justin Long, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connolly and Bradley Cooper revolve around her orbit as young lovers hooking up and breaking up searching for that special someone.
Opens wide.

“Memorial Day”
Watching some of the chaotically assembled pseudo-found footage from avant-garde theater director Josh Fox’s feature debut, it’s difficult to tell whom he’s angrier with — an outgoing administration that trains its soldiers to hate rather than to protect, or “Girls Gone Wild” founder Joe Francis. Opening with some handheld footage captured at an unspecified beach resort playing host to some spring break revelry, Fox trails a group of likely lads through a lurid night of hard drinking, hard partying and the odd no-means-yes romantic interlude. With the camera still rolling, Fox follows these same fellas back to their day job as guards at an Abu Ghraib-esque hellhole where widespread prisoner abuse and casual torture is all part of a day’s work.
Opens in New York.


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.