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The Return of Jane Fonda’s long-M.I.A. “F.T.A.”

The Return of Jane Fonda’s long-M.I.A. “F.T.A.” (photo)

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By 1971, America’s involvement in Vietnam had steamrolled onward in full combat-&-bombing mode for six solid years, just about as long as the U.S. has currently been occupying Iraq. They’re different wars, but similar enough to make the evidence presented in the long-censored, long-buried, long-bootlegged film “F.T.A.” (1972) all the more astonishing: it was then, more than midway through the first Nixon term, that a couple of full-on movie stars (Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda) helped gather together a band of lefty anti-war musicians, actors and activists, and devised a cheesy vaudeville show to act as counterpoint to the Bob Hope pro-war paradigm. And then they toured, but not at home for other activists or mere American voters, but on or around military bases, for G.I.s, beginning at Fort Bragg (which wasn’t filmed) and ending up bouncing around the Pacific Rim from one installation to another. The delighted enlisted men showed up by the thousands, having been rebelling themselves in huge numbers by then, and it’s their catchphrase “Fuck The Army” that the show adopted as its own. The resulting rough-hewn documentary opened for a single week in 1972 and then was suddenly pulled (director Francine Parker thinks after a White House phone call was made to the distributor), never to be legally seen again, until now.

That was a different world, certainly; our contemporary Hollywood celebrities commit themselves, safely, to grieving over Darfur, but imagine, if you can, Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon (try and find younger stars, as Fonda was then) risking their careers by singing risible ditties about military injustice and genocide to grunts at bases in Baghdad and Kuwait. “F.T.A.” is actually, all on its own, barely a movie; the skits are self-consciously awful, the songs worse (except perhaps when balladeer Len Chandler belts out a Vietnamese folk song on his guitar, to the crowd’s approval), and the speeches are mostly tailored to the specific concerns of the enlisted men, including officer racism and the injustice of huge U.S. bases in the Philippines and on Okinawa being little more than massive chunks of real estate stolen from the natives. (The budget spent on the project was so minimal that the film’s poster, reproduced on the DVD, looks like it used ad art from the upcoming Fonda-Sutherland comedy “Steelyard Blues.”)

But who cares? It’s a document of disarming anti-authoritarian nerve, and the spirit of the thing is infectious and energizing, for as much of what the performers do as the grunts, who were sick of delivering bombs and laying waste, and were openly thankful for the opportunity to say so on camera. The film is, in any case, remarkable for how little it is known and how rarely it’s been seen, shepherded around only in illegal video dupes like Samizdat, a minor footnote to the American-Vietnam era that’s only gained volume because of its suppression. (Another Fonda-sponsored documentary from ’72, “Winter Soldier,” also enjoyed a semi-official disappearance.) It’s hard, too, not to sympathize with Fonda here, all young and fiery and absolutely correct, even as a play (“33 Variations”) she’s acting in today, at the age of 72, gets picketed by the Not Fonda Jane kvetchers. (In real terms — let’s be honest — her appearance on Hanoi Radio did not burn a single village or kill a single child.) Triple-billed with, say, Godard’s “Letter to Jane” and Ashby’s “Coming Home,” “F.T.A.” becomes a long-lost integer in the equation of a fascinating and resonant public woman, quite possibly the most heroic American celebrity since studio stars enlisted for combat during WWII.


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.