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Red Hands and Redheads

Red Hands and Redheads (photo)

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The new forensic doc “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son about His Father” is a hot-to-the-touch ignition flame for an unsolvable aesthetic debate between intellect and empathy, film-unto-itself and humanity, self-justifying culture and the life it’s supposed to augment, art and love. It is in some ways a deplorable film, and a seriously compromised documentary, and yet it burns your heart. The movie’s misjudgments almost become its qualities, because they are birthed out of unregulated passion and outrage; as a non-fiction film, it does not constitute an argument but a wail of grief. I had misgivings about the way director Kurt Kuenne made the film from the very beginning, but “Dear Zachary” nonetheless opened my oldest wounds, and I bled.

Kuenne was a lifelong best friend to one Andrew Bagby, a family practitioner who in 2001, at 28, was gunned down by his girlfriend in a Pennsylvania parking lot. As we see in copious detail, Bagby had starred in Kuenne’s amateur film productions from when the two were preteens, and so Kuenne’s position in making the film is clear: he is furious and saddened down to the soles of his feet. While this initial part of “Dear Zachary” is often no more sophisticated than the home movies that comprise it, it still sings the song of this unpretentious, garrulous, lovable man so convincingly that we grow envious of the scores of people who knew Bagby and who joyously dedicated themselves to being his friends. The apple-cheeked Bagby was obviously a life force, about whom no one has anything middling to say, a fact that provides crazily combustible fuel to the deranged tragedy of what happens next: the woman obviously responsible for Bagby’s murder, Shirley Jane Turner, is given all kinds of leeway by the Canadian justice system (she and Bagby had met in Newfoundland, where he went to med school), and when she is eventually arrested, she announces that she’s four months pregnant with Bagby’s child.

She wasn’t lying, and Kuenne stays close to Bagby’s aging parents as they move north to be near the newborn boy, Zachary — who looks too much like Bagby to be fair — and endure an amicable shared-custody arrangement with their son’s apparently disturbed killer. Kuenne’s docket from there is to track the unjust and negligent course of events that leads to further tragedy, and in this, he employs every cheap, childish gimmick used by shrill true crime reenactment shows (the film is, oddly, the inaugural production of MSNBC Films). He even goes to places “America’s Most Wanted” wouldn’t — animating the mouths of Canadian politicians and attorneys in mockery, and so on. The syntax of Kuenne’s film can be brutally lowbrow and manipulative, and I couldn’t blame viewers for dismissing it outright for that. Real-life personal catastrophes happen all the time, after all; is it an excuse to treat viewers as if we’re fools?

But clearly Kuenne didn’t care as much about us, or our viewing experience, as he does about the three generations of Bagbys, and for that I cannot blame him. The tragedy is partly his to bear and make of what he will, and if anything, he’s used the film to eulogize Bagby and to draw together the crowds of people who loved him. The movie’s ulterior purpose may well trump our grouchiness about overripe methods and lack of good taste. But the true story does the walking; “Dear Zachary” is not easy to shake, for reasons that have little to do with cinema, and much more to do with the bonds and painful holes in our own lives.


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.