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Marc Webb and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Boys of “Summer”

Marc Webb and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Boys of “Summer” (photo)

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If casting Joseph Gordon-Levitt right off heavy-duty roles in “Stop-Loss” and “The Lookout” wasn’t enough of a tip-off, the fact that Marc Webb comes into an interview clutching a copy of Norman Mailer’s “The Deer Park” is evidence enough that his directorial debut “(500) Days of Summer” isn’t your typical romantic comedy. In fact, while some at Sundance hailed the film as an “anti-rom com,” it’d be easier to classify simply as one of the most satisfying boy meets girl tales to come down the pike in a long time. The boy in question is Tom (Gordon-Levitt), an aspiring architect killing time penning platitudes for a greeting card company, where he meets Summer (Deschanel), the type of dream girl whose yearbook quote comes from a Belle and Sebastian lyric and will look at a porno and muse, “that looks doable.” But though their relationship begins as the two bond over The Smiths in an office elevator, Tom and Summer spend the following 499 days in a romance varying between the soaring heights of Johnny Marr’s guitar riffs and the melancholy of Morrissey’s most solemn vocals, jumping back and forth in time. Drenched in pop culture, the film lends itself to Webb’s unique visual sensibilities that made his music videos so memorable — there are split screens, musical numbers and even references to “Small Wonder.” And for Levitt, it offers a change of pace, but one that also plays to his strengths as an intuitive everyman. Both were on hand in Austin for the SXSW premiere of the film and spoke about how “(500) Days of Summer” is a film for our times, L.A. architecture and just what one can call their latest film.

03202009_500DaysofSummer(we.jpgMarc, when you directed the video for My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not Okay,” there was buzz about you as a feature filmmaker since “Okay” worked as a great faux trailer for a teen comedy. I imagine you were offered a bunch of teen comedies and horror remakes, so what was it about this film that appealed to you?

Marc Webb: Certainly the My Chemical Romance stuff gave me access I hadn’t had before. I didn’t have a pinpointed agenda when it came to doing a movie. If you do music videos, because they’re typically aimed at teenagers and the pop music market, you get all these teen movie scripts or, like you say, horror remakes, and I was a bit reluctant. Nothing really caught my eye. The one thing I knew I didn’t want to do was a romantic comedy because I felt like I didn’t have any connection with those.

There are a lot of good scripts that aren’t special, that don’t have their own identity. They’re just form-fitting melodramas, and “(500) Days of Summer,” when I read it the first time, it just made sense to me. Up until that point, I was in a zone just doing video after video after video with different kinds of artists, which was fun and a really exciting time professionally. But there got to a point where the music business was spending less and less money on videos and it’s becoming harder to do something different and grow, so I felt the added pressure to start doing movies.

Not to harp on the music video thing, but how did making videos and working a music clearances gig on the Seattle grunge rock doc “Hype” shape your vision for this film, in which music is so integral to the story?

MW: A few songs were written into the script for “Summer,” but I was never the music fanatic that obviously the people at The Playlist [where Webb recently wrote a detailed track list of the film’s soundtrack] are, or that a lot of my friends are, or even [screenwriter] Scott Neustadter was. I was really into theater when I was in high school and that was just where I came from. So it comes more from a utility perspective — it just helps the image flow. Doug Pray, who directed “Hype,” I remember watching him edit certain sequences and the way he put music down with the image, how he’d put it under dialogue and how it would serve to drive things forward — you can do so much with that. You can also rely on it too heavily and then it becomes sort of a collage rather than something that drives the narrative, but where they collide is a really interesting space.

I’ve read that before you pitched the film you presented a map to the actors — what did that consist of?

MW: The scroll! It was a scroll. I was going in to meet people to convince them that I could do the job, so I plotted out the 500 days in order, because it’s told out of order. I wanted the actors to be able to tell where they were in the context of it, because not only do you shoot out of order, but the story’s told out of order, [making it] confusing to see where their emotional train was, what stop it was at.

03202009_500DaysofSummer3.jpgA particularly striking aspect of the film was how you shot Los Angeles, a place where it seems romance goes to die in the movies. Were these some of your favorite locations or were they already in the screenplay?

MW: Originally, the screenplay was set in San Francisco, but as we approached shooting, we found out we could shoot in Los Angeles, which was a benefit for crew and for financial reasons, but also ended up being a boon creatively. When you shoot music videos, you shoot downtown Los Angeles as sort of a generic urban center and it’s usually decayed. There’s a lot of alternative bands that rock out in the Alexandria, which is a downtrodden hotel, so I’m very familiar with it, but it’s surprising how interesting and beautiful a lot of those locations are. It comes from Tom’s point of view — he looks into the past to find meaning and beauty. That’s what he does in his architecture and in his relationships. There’s this layer of downtown that’s been forgotten — it’s kind of gross, but also very beautiful if you look underneath the surface, so it fit metaphorically.

Some have called the film an anti-romantic comedy, but the film can’t easily be categorized into a genre — what would you call it?

MW: We use a lot of the romantic comedy conventions. Technically it’s more of a coming of age story. It’s a pop movie — it’s there to make you laugh, it’s not about war or violence. It’s about love, which you can turn your nose at sometimes, but I think as long as people watch it on its own terms, hopefully they’ll like it.


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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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.