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Is “Meeting People” Still Easy?

Is “Meeting People” Still Easy? (photo)

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[This article is part of our Radiohead Fanatic Fortnight — check out our box set giveaway here.]

When Radiohead achieved worldwide fame following the success of “OK Computer,” Grant Gee was there capturing it all with an array of cameras, some fresh ideas and a lot of style. Ten plus years later, that style still looks fresh in his documentary “Meeting People Is Easy,” an uncomfortable chronicle of Radiohead’s 1998 tour, a portrait of the band as they hit the height of their success as well as their breaking point as a group. A prolific music video director (he also directed the video for Radiohead’s “No Surprises”), Gee’s since gone on to shoot more feature documentaries, including 2007’s “Joy Division,” which was critically adored but slightly overshadowed by “Control,” Anton Corbijn’s narrative biopic of the band’s lead singer Ian Curtis that came out the same year.

I caught Gee on the phone while he was clearly on holiday, and found out he was maneuvering on a few potential feature projects. One looks to be about Vietnam War deserters in 1968 London, and another about the writer W. G. Sebald. On the surface, most of our time was spent prying into his past with Radiohead, but our subconsciouses were talking geography.

There’s a visual similarity in some of your work with scrolling text.

Oh, I use it in everything, I’ve got two ideas and that’s one of ’em. It’s all over the place. It’s in “Joy Division.” Everything I do has a head, somebody talking with text floating in front of them or behind them.

In “Meeting People Is Easy,” it’s used along with a barrage of really absurd interview questions.

Yeah, sort of absurd. Just questions really — if you take them out of context, they’re always absurd, or most the time, yes. That all happens from a two- or three-day period. It wasn’t me going, let’s find the most idiotic things from around the world. They sat in these hotel suites for three days, four suites booked up simultaneously, I’ve never seen anything like it. Maybe more bands do it more often now. They had 20-minute slots, or if it was a big paper, it’d be a 40-minute slot, and there were just journalists in holding patterns outside the door. It was crazy, so I was running around, leaving a microphone in one room, going and filming something in another. I wasn’t hamming it up.

Have you developed a distaste for music journalism since then?

No, not at all, because it’s kind of what I do as well. I’m not putting myself in a superior position. The best thing you can do in a documentary is show people, show what people do. And there was this real sense that everyone was doing their job. I know Thom [Yorke] was really interested in that idea at the time as well, because he was unhappy with their role at being on the other end of all those questions. Things definitely changed for them afterward. And I don’t think people will ask a band like Radiohead those kinds of questions again so easily. If you show people themselves at work, then it makes them more self-conscious. I’m not saying all journalists are going to watch it, but it’s what documentaries are supposed to do, show the reality of something. And then if that reality is uncomfortable, then maybe it changes a little bit.

04082009_Radiohead6.jpgYou’re obviously quite conscious of the effects of media saturation. I’m wondering if you grappled with this in your own work in this context, especially in that documentary where you’re exposing it.

The funny thing is, at the same time that I thought I was nailing this newfangled phenomena of the multi-format, multi-outlet blitz — siphoning off the talent and putting them into a thousand different places, not just one magazine — it was the first time web sites were doing chats and all that sort of shit. I thought, this is just insane and it’ll all collapse quite soon. And of course, it becomes the dominant celebrity culture, the dominant mode of how you deal with pop over the next decade. We were putting little surveillance cameras in the band’s dressing room and it felt like we were working along the same lines as people who were developing reality TV. We were doing it in a slightly more arty way, but it’s the same as “Big Brother,” what we were doing with that band, seeing them locked in their bubble. “Radiohead Big Brother” is what I think of that film in a way.

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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.