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Kathryn Bigelow Goes to War

Kathryn Bigelow Goes to War (photo)

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Kathryn Bigelow’s long been known as the most bad-ass chick in the action movie boys club, a superbly kinetic filmmaker whose work has ranged from the vampire horror-Western “Near Dark” to the brawny surfer heist cult favorite “Point Break” to the dystopic visions of “Strange Days.” Her new film, “The Hurt Locker,” treads into the most daring territory of all — the cinematic no man’s land of the current Iraq War, where a U.S. bomb squad struggles under the overwhelming pressure of putting their lives on the line day after day.

Written by journalist-turned-screenwriter Mark Boal, an embedded reporter in Iraq whose 2004 Playboy story “Death and Dishonor” became the basis for the 2007 film “In the Valley of Elah,” “The Hurt Locker” is no didactic slog through the conflict’s well-discussed political mire. It’s instead pulse-poundingly experiential, dropping you into the unstable head-space of a trio of men — ably played by Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty — who in the face on constant peril have turned to breakdowns, violence and almost sociopathic bravado. It’s a tour de force, and one that has a rare opportunity to unite the cinephile and cineplex crowds in acclaim. I got a chance to talk with Bigelow and Boal at SXSW earlier this year, as the film finished up a festival tour that started in Toronto in 2008.

I was going to ask you what I’m sure is a variation on a question you’ve gotten in every interview, about the Iraq War and how loaded it’s become as a topic for a film. But I realized there really aren’t many films that are actually set in combat, that they all tend to be about–

Kathryn Bigelow: Reintegration into the home front — right. So I look at it as — there hasn’t really been one, and there’s sort of zero competition. We’re setting the bar.

Mark Boal: We made the movie because we thought it was going be a good story and, hopefully, an intense cinematic experience. We just hope people like it as much as we do, and then leave the market to those who specialize in counting beans.

In the best way possible, “The Hurt Locker” is very much an action movie. And sometimes there’s a sense that the Iraq War’s not supposed to be represented as exciting in that fashion, that doing so is somehow ethically problematic…

KB: Well, it’s really based on firsthand observation, the observation being Mark on an embed. So that’s the purchase. And under the aegis of true fiction, we tried to look at it as accurate, authentic and realistic. It’s not a documentary; it’s a character study of a volunteer soldier and of men who, arguably, have the most dangerous job in the world. What is the psychological chemistry of that individual that gets up in the morning and walks toward what a rational human being would be running from? You can politicize that or non-politicize it.

MB: There’s no politics in the trenches, is the old saw. And it’s kind of true. We just tried to make it realistic, naturalistic and exciting — exciting is probably the wrong word. But it’s naturally tense. It’s a bomb. It could go off. It could kill you. If we could show that, then we did our job. And leave the politics to the politicians.

KB: And not glamorize it. That was something very important to me, to not mediate it. This is an extraordinary facet of this particular conflict. There’s a natural dramatic narrative to bomb disarmament. It doesn’t need any other kind of framing. Personally, I think it’s extremely heroic. But it’s there for you to make your own opinion.

06192009_hurtlocker2.jpgI thought Jeremy Renner’s character James was pretty remarkable — Mark, while you were embedded, did you come across people who were similarly addicted to that rush of danger?

MB: It’s a movie — I probably shouldn’t generalize about the psychology of soldiers because it’s a broad, complicated question that would take years to answer. But it’s definitely true that we’re dealing with an all-volunteer army, not a draft army, and we wanted to show what that meant in a cinematic way, and not show yet another Vietnam-era view of war.

Not to say there’s anything wrong with those movies. But that was a different war in a different time. I think Kathryn did a great job of taking that type of movie, a war movie, and reinventing it in a contemporary way to be very intense and edge-of-your-seat and, second of all, to reflect the new psychological reality of an all-volunteer army, which is what we have. It’s a job. They choose to do it. Good or bad, it’s just a different situation than people that are drafted.

Was that part of the appeal in choosing this particular aspect of the war?

KB: The appeal for me — and it’s like this in all the projects that I’ve done — starts from character first, and then moves outward.

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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.