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DID YOU READ

SXSW 2009: “The Hurt Locker.”

SXSW 2009: “The Hurt Locker.” (photo)

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“The Hurt Locker” is an action movie, which, given that it’s also a movie about the Iraq War, is kind of a revelation. Enough Iraq War films have been made now to enforce the common belief that no one actually wants to watch Iraq War films because they’re “depressing.” Which they generally are. The war is depressing. The trauma faced by the troops is depressing, the ethical morass of our involvement is depressing, the cost, in dollars and, more importantly, in lives — depressing.

“The Hurt Locker” doesn’t sidestep these facts as much as it doesn’t engage them at all — it’s a movie about combat, about the lulls and lows and unexpected, wild highs of life in a war zone. It’s essentially apolitical, its concerns not about the larger picture but how the men on which it focuses live lives stretched tight as a wire, and about how one of them has grown to love that. It’s also, with no disrespect to the seriousness of its setting, just a kick-ass entertainment, peppered with set pieces that summon incredible suspense out of stillness, whether during the defusing of an IED on a cleared out city street or during a sniper battle out in the desert. No finger-wagging, no “Redacted”-style didacticism, just head-rushingly cinematic sequences showing off the extremely dangerous day-to-day of an army bomb squad stationed in Iraq. A bravura opening shows the unit’s tools of trade: a robot with a camera, an armored suit that won’t do a damn thing if the tech wearing it has to actually close enough to a bomb to defuse it, and guns to wave uneasily at the crowd watching from the surrounding buildings, one that might conceal whoever has ability to detonate the explosive. When a bomb does goes off, the impact’s broken into tremory shots of dust rising off the ground, debris mushrooming into the air and blood spraying against the inside of a helmet.

The most familiar faces in the film — Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, Guy Pearce — show up and depart in unexpected places. The main roles belong to a pair of up-and-comers who’ve been rattling around the indie world for a while now, Anthony Mackie, of “Half Nelson” and “She Hate Me,” and Jeremy Renner, of “28 Weeks Later” and “North Country.” Mackie’s the straight-laced Sergeant Sanborn and Renner is James, the bomb tech and what one colonel admiring deems a “wild man,” both very skilled and very reckless with his work. Their relationship’s your basic odd-couple-coming-to-terms, and James, corn-fed and cocky, is in many ways your basic blockbuster hero. But the film’s set in something closer to the real world, where that’s not such a good thing — that swagger and that thrill-seeking make James more than a little fucked-up, someone who puts the lives of those around him in danger even as he demonstrates how great he is at what he does, how much better he is under pressure.

Kathryn Bigelow’s always shown a gift for injecting intelligence into big, pop productions, or maybe just knowing that aiming wider doesn’t require dumbing down. Or maybe that’s not even the point — “Point Break” could by no sane person be described as “smart,” but it’s more than earned its following with its full-born commitment to giddy, physics defying stunts and unwinking man-angst. The sluggish parts of “The Hurt Locker” — a storyline involving an particularly underdeveloped psychiatrist, a nighttime solo attempt at revenge — feel extraneous because, well, they are, adding nothing of worth to the characters or narrative, but also because they represent time away from the singular adrenaline-heightened sharpness of the bomb scenes. For James, everything between those peaks is colorless and dull, his life ideally one dally with mortality after another, and the film, as admirable as it is, feels like it should be true to that too.

“The Hurt Locker” will be in theaters June 26.

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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.