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Spring Preview: Rian Johnson on The Festival of Fakery

Spring Preview: Rian Johnson on The Festival of Fakery (photo)

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When Rian Johnson attended USC in the ’90s, he had a certain criteria that needed to be met when choosing an apartment. “It was walking distance from the New Beverly,” says Johnson, who’s been living in the same place near the venerable Los Angeles revival house ever since. Thanks to a collision of fate, whimsy and just a little bit of conniving reminiscent of his latest film, the thoroughly delightful conman caper “The Brothers Bloom,” Johnson will take over programming duties at the theater starting tonight in what’s being billed as “Rian Johnson’s Festival of Fakery, a week of films regarding frauds, fakers, charlatans, hoaxters, huxters and other unsavory sorts.” Johnson follows other recent guest programmers at the theater that include Edgar Wright, Diablo Cody and Peter Bogdanovich, and will be onhand every night of the festival to give introductions to the films. Fortunately, if you’re not in L.A. this week, I got the writer/director to talk a little bit about his picks, (almost) all of which you can watch at home:

02182009_DirtyRottenScoundr.jpgFebruary 18 & 19:
Rian Johnson’s “The Brothers Bloom” (2009) and Frank Oz’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (1988)

We’re starting off with “Brothers Bloom” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” which is terrifying for me — the prospect of putting “The Brothers Bloom” in the company of any of these movies is, but “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” in particular, because not only is it one of my favorite con movies, it’s one of my favorite comedies. People sometimes forget how good a con man movie it is, how well it works on that level, because it’s so well known as a comedy. But in terms of a classic form of how a con man movie can hit an audience just right at the end, it does its job really well.

When we put the festival together, I didn’t plan on doing a screening of “Bloom.” It came that way because we couldn’t get a couple other choices and eventually I just realized well, why not? Originally, I wanted to do “Paper Moon” along with “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” but Peter Bogdanovich had just shown it with his festival [two weeks before]. I thought we could do “The Last of Sheila,” but we couldn’t find a print, and then I really wanted to do the original “Sleuth,” which is one of my favorites, and there was a problem of tracking that down.


02182009_HouseofGames.jpgFebruary 20 & 21:
David Mamet’s “House of Games” (1987) and “The Spanish Prisoner” (1997)

I’m excited because I haven’t seen “Spanish Prisoner” in a long while and I think in terms of the con, “House of Games” is definitely Mamet’s masterpiece. I actually first saw it in college and just recently got the Criterion disc that they released of it — I just love Joe Mantegna in the movie. I love the way that it’s such a heady dissection of the con game and of deception. It’s one of my favorite films. So it’s a David Mamet twofer that night.

02182009_TheSting.jpgFebruary 22 & 23:
George Roy Hill’s “The Sting” (1973) and John Huston’s “The Man Who Would Be King” (1975)

“The Sting” was my first exposure to the conman genre. It probably was for a lot of people. Redford and Newman, the reason it’s still dearly loved today is the chemistry between those two guys, but I also think it’s really well-crafted…it’s a pioneering con man movie. It was one of the first to do that particular “big twist at the end con” and pull it over on the audience. I’m curious when people see the film for the first time, having the cultural knowledge of the past 20 or 30 years now, [what] they [are going to think]. And “The Man Who Would Be King” is one of my top films of all time. I just…I deeply, emotionally love that film. [laughs] It’s not exactly a con man movie, but there’s a loose connection within it, and any excuse I could get to see it on the big screen I’ll take. And then the next night we get into the heavier regions of fakes and fakery…

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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.