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Family Values

Family Values (photo)

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A chamber piece resolutely devoid of flash and glitter, “Summer Hours” isn’t a film one would have anticipated from the director of such disparate provocations as “Irma Vep,” “Clean,” Demonlover” and “Boarding Gate.” Then again, Olivier Assayas’ new release is subtly provocative in its own right. Its willingness to lay out ideas about art and life in the age of globalization makes it his biggest dare yet. What distinguishes this Assayas movie from the others is the manner with which it sustains an unspoiled blend of the intimately emotional with the unequivocally intellectual. The cumulative strengths of “Summer Hours” as a philosophic elegy and a generational saga are powerful enough to throw everything else Assayas has done in illuminated relief.

The movie’s first summer dream is an idyllic one, with children playing on the grounds of an old country house whose widowed owner Hélène (Edith Scob) is celebrating her 75th birthday with her brood of three accomplished 40-something offspring. The light surrounding the party is festive and bright, but shadows seep in from the edges. Hélène knows — or, at least, suspects — that this may be her last birthday, and she’s intent on making sure the house’s 19th century art treasures, most of which (lithographs, glassware, furniture, original Corot paintings) belonged to her distinguished uncle, will be cared for in her absence.

Eldest son Frédéric (Charles Berling), an economics professor, regards each artifact with the mildest impatience. He’s taking it for granted that the house and its contents will always be in the family, no matter what happens to his mother. But it becomes all too clear, after Hélène’s death, just how perishable those dreams are. His sister Adrienne (Juliette Binoche) is a fashion designer with more at stake in America and Japan than in France, while younger brother Jérémie (Jérémie Renier) chooses to raise his family close to his shoe business in China. It’s left to Frédéric, the only one staying close to home, to decide what to do with Hélène’s stuff, and what he does is bring in appraisers and auctioneers to, piece by piece, yard by yard, disperse a rich family legacy.

05132009summerhours.jpgAssayas clearly shares Frédéric’s disdain for the economic forces that erode collective memories and transform art into commodity. But there’s nothing programmatic or (obviously) ideological in his approach. He doesn’t condemn Frédéric’s sibs for the life choices they make any more than he chastises their own children for all but bypassing the craftsmanship of their ancestors. Indeed, the writer/director’s melancholy resignation with culture’s casual dismantling arouses far deeper emotions than could be summoned with a more open attack on corporate culture; though a few zingers are fired here and there by Frédéric and Adrienne, mostly at Jérémie’s labor practices. But even they yield to what’s become the mantra of 21st century progress: It is what it is and what can you do, anyway? Making a movie about it all seems to be one answer — and Assayas has made one of the most haunting, probing, and (in the end) tentatively hopeful one could possibly imagine.

The world at large seems divided in two camps — those who dug Rian Johnson’s 2005 debut feature, “Brick,” for its cunning appropriation of ’20s pulp-magazine tropes for a contemporary teen crime thriller and those who thought the whole exercise was too coy and airless for its own good. I was — and remain — very much in the former constituency. Subletting Dashiell Hammett’s argot without sounding like a scratchy 78 RPM record is one thing, but using it to effectively bend the suburban high school subgenre without losing hold on plausibility is quite a larger thing. Risky, for sure, and you wouldn’t want to see it done again any time soon. But “Brick” had enough assurance going for it at the jump to make one wonder (avidly, avidly) what its writer/director would try next.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

E.coli-class-

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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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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