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SXSW 2009: “How Did We Get Away With That?”

SXSW 2009: “How Did We Get Away With That?” (photo)

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“This movie’s a comedy, I guess,” director Jody Hill said in his introduction to “Observe and Report,” the Seth Rogen-starring entry into the burgeoning mall cop genre. If Hill wasn’t quite certain about what he had on his hands before the film played to a packed Paramount Theater, he could rest easy after the “weird-ass” character study pretty much killed it (both figuratively and all too literally at times, as Alison Willmore noted in her review on Indie Eye). By Tuesday morning, Hill and cast members Rogen, Faris, Michael Pena and Danny McBride were at the Austin Convention Center for a panel moderated by film critic Elvis Mitchell, who opened up the discussion by asking Hill, “what made you think the world needed a comedic version of ‘Taxi Driver’?” (Later on in the panel, Rogen belatedly responded by asking in return, ‘What if Albert Brooks was the star of ‘Taxi Driver’?”)

Scorsese’s classic about alienation and self-loathing came up quite a bit as a touchstone for Seth Rogen’s mall security guard during the hour that followed, though the panel could’ve easily been called “Observe and Report: How We Got Away With It.” As the audience at Monday night’s screening could attest, the film is pretty shocking for a studio comedy, both in how graphic some of the violence and full-frontal male nudity is (the film’s main villain is a mall-lot flasher) and the unconventional rhythm of the punchlines, a particular tone that Hill has cultivated since his first film, “The Foot Fist Way.” Faris said at the panel that though she prides herself on being brave, she was sure a few of her scenes would be toned down, including a sex scene with Rogen where her character Brandi is passed out with a streak of vomit on her bed after mixing tequila shots with pills that she was convinced Warner Bros. would cut. “My parents will never see this,” the actress thought, though if she was talked into it by Hill, she did get minor revenge on the writer/director by inadvertently mentioning that the trainwreck Brandi was based on one of his ex-girlfriends.

Although the confession made Hill blush, his face was red throughout the panel, mostly from laughing. Rogen, in particular, got the panel crowd going when talking about the debates of how much to show of the flasher, saying that in his initial conversations with Hill, he didn’t want to studio to “get weird that’s there’s going to be dick all over the screen,” before sagely adding, “Comedy’s going dick. I’ve been saying that for years. The sphincter’s next.” Though the role of the flasher ultimately went to his “Foot Fist Way” production designer Randy Gambill, McBride joked that “I really wanted to play the flasher, but Jody said my dick wasn’t small enough.” (As for the small role McBride does have in the film, it was revealed that it was “Foot Fist Way” co-star Colette Wolfe who came up with the inspired suggestion for his drug dealer character to have a ridiculously realistic tattoo of his son on his chest, after seeing prison inmates with that kind of ink — Mitchell had to walk off the stage in laughter after hearing this.)

03182009_observe_and_report_002.jpgBut all kidding aside, Faris started the most interesting dialogue about the film, mentioning that she had to audition for the role and loved the fact that this was the rare comedy that “didn’t make apologies” when most comedies she sees are all “about making apologies,” whether it’s having to fall for the right guy in a romantic comedy or saying sorry for a silly pratfall. When Mitchell prodded her for her original vision for “The House Bunny,” Faris said that her story idea, which Hill said he thought was “amazing,” involved being a Playmate, but she was also a druggie who was kicked out of the mansion and had to retreat home to a small Christian town with plenty of abusive relationships. Rogen said that he too was concerned with the state of female characters in comedies, relating a story about getting a torrent of studio notes when a female character does something even slightly questionable in one of the scripts he’s done with his writing partner Evan Goldberg, while the men can do “get away with pretty much anything.”

Things became slightly more cerebral as Todd Haynes and Richard Linklater took to the stage for one of SXSW’s “Conversation” series, though this particular talk had clearly been started the night before when Linklater arranged a special screening of Haynes’ long-banned Karen Carpenter biopic-by-way-of-Barbie-dolls, “Superstar,” at the Alamo Ritz. The two filmmakers have been friends ever since meeting at New York’s IFP film market in 1988 and traded bootlegs of Chantal Akerman and Rainer Werner Fassbinder films ever since. Both laid back and far more into talking about film theory and films they admired than filmmaking, Linklater and Haynes often stopped to consider how much alike they are and in fact, their careers have been loosely intertwined as Haynes signified with a particularly amusing anecdote about how when his 1991 drama “Poison” played the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles, he and the theater manager were thrilled to discover Madonna buy a ticket for the film, only to have her walk out when the trailer for Linklater’s “Slacker” played and the joke involving a woman trying to sell what is claimed to be a Madonna pap smear had the pop singer storming out of the theater. Linklater considered them even as Haynes related how Linklater took a date to a screening of Haynes’ “Safe” and things didn’t go well since she was a hypochondriac to begin with.

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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.