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SXSW 2009: “Bruno” and Kubrick

SXSW 2009: “Bruno” and Kubrick (photo)

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A silence fell over the bus full of journalists that were being ferried from a preview of 20 minutes of Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest comedy, “Bruno,” over to see Sam Raimi’s new horror film “Drag Me to Hell.” The mood was so unexpectedly solemn that one prominent online journalist asked loudly, “Why is it so quiet in here?” to which another replied, “Because we’re all traumatized.” Indeed, what we had witnessed was true to the introduction given by a SXSW/Fantastic Fest staffer who said, “what you’re about to see is rough footage…it’s nasty,” referring to the image quality before adding about the content, “well, not nasty…maybe some of it.” That was an understatement.

If the 20 minutes that were shown in Austin on Sunday were an accurate indicator, “Bruno” may not only best Cohen’s last starring role in “Borat,” but may even be funnier than nearly anything that the comedian did during his HBO series “Da Ali G Show.” Cohen taped a video introduction for three extended scenes from the film, sitting at an editing bay and, almost surprisingly given his desire on “Borat” to stay in character, wore street clothes and spoke in his native British accent. As an audience that included the likes of Morgan Spurlock and New York Times columnist David Carr looked on, Cohen blithely introduced himself as the guy who came up with “Wa Wa We Wah” as a catchphrase and presented Bruno as “a funny old chap.” Though the plot is too unnecessarily complicated to explain here, the gist of Cohen’s latest improvised comedy has his gay German fashion host alter ego losing his job shortly before Fashion Week, which leads to a journey cross-country to Hollywood with the goal of becoming the “biggest Austrian celebrity since Hitler.”

When Bruno realizes that an adopted baby could give his career a boost, he interviews parents of prospective babies to use in a photo shoot. The first set of clips Cohen presented was a series of horrifying responses by the would-be stage parents to a line of questioning about how far their infant would go to get the job. Bruno peppered the parents with queries such as, “Is your baby comfortable with bees, wasps and hornets?” and “Would your baby be comfortable being dropped from the fourth floor of a building?” (One particularly ambitious mother shook her head, “Probably.”) Bruno’s baby obsession continued into the second round of clips, which Cohen introduced as taking place in “some ghastly shithole called Texas,” to an approving round of applause from the audience. His character Bruno isn’t so lucky when he struts out on stage for the talk show “Today with Richard Bay,” and announces his love for African-American men in front of a largely African-American audience. To make matters worse, Bruno carts out an African-American baby wearing tight brown leather pants and a T-shirt with the word “Gayby” embossed in gold on the front. He taunts the crowd with claims that he swapped an iPod for the baby and he considers babies to be a real “dick magnet,” but what brought down the house were the photos he then revealed, showing off of his African-American child being swarmed by bees in one and at the center of a mock crucifixion in another, looking like sick and twisted Anne Geddes portraits. Still, Cohen saved the best clip for last, a wrestling match shot somewhere in hillbilly country after he makes a transformation into “Straight Dave,” a heterosexual, army fatigue-clad wrestling promoter with the televised wrestling show “Straight Dave’s Man Slamming Maxout.” I wouldn’t want to spoil what happens, but if you’re suspicious of Straight Dave’s sexual orientation, you’re probably right to be and the scene that follows when Straight Dave is called out as a “fag” involves Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” a wrestling match and spectators wearing shirts with slogans like, “My Asshole’s Just for Shitting.”

03172009_drag-me-to-hell_l.jpgShockingly, it was Sam Raimi’s new horror film that was the tamer part of Universal’s canny double bill at SXSW, though not by much. Billed as a work in progress, “Drag Me to Hell” premiered in front of a crowd with a significant fanboy presence that was riled up by Ain’t It Cool News’ Harry Knowles’ rousing introduction and gave Raimi a standing ovation as soon as he stepped on the Paramount stage. What Raimi gave them in return was a strange bit of slapstick (he pretended to mistake a Four Seasons Hotel citation for excessive noise as his speech to the crowd and held his tie in front of his face and said, “who turned out the lights”) and a frightfest that should please any of his devoted fans. Beginning with an ’80s-style Universal logo, the film actually seems as though it could’ve been made during the 1990s, fitting nicely between “Darkman” and “Army of Darkness” with a wacky sense of humor and literally eye-popping scares. Alison Lohman stars as a bank loan manager who gets cursed by a old lady whose home is about to be foreclosed upon, at which point nearly everything she touches seems to squirt blood, goo or some disgusting mixture thereof. It’s a fun little diversion for both the audience and the director, who probably needed to get something like this out of his system before returning to make “Spider-Man 4.”


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.