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Knowing It All

Knowing It All (photo)

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Woody Allen has returned to New York, but does New York want him back? For the excruciating “Whatever Works,” his first Gotham-set movie since 2004’s “Melinda and Melinda,” Allen dusted off a script written around the time of “Annie Hall,” intended as a vehicle for Zero Mostel, who died a few months after that film was released in 1977. The replacement mouthpiece for Allen’s borscht-y misanthropy is Larry David, who, playing Boris Yellnikoff, frequently breaks the fourth wall, to hector, lecture and obsess. “This is not a feel-good movie,” Boris, addressing the camera, pontificates at the outset. Rather, it is a numbing movie, filled with creaky, wheezy shtick about sex, politics, religion and the city that even the Catskill comics in “Broadway Danny Rose” would have a hard time cracking a smile at.

Boris, who once tried to kill himself during an argument with his psychotherapist wife by throwing himself out of their Beekman Place apartment, now limps along in Lower East Side digs, having given up his spouse and a career as a professor of quantum mechanics at Columbia to verbally abuse kids while teaching them chess. A leggy Mississippi runaway, Melodie St. Ann Celestine (Evan Rachel Wood), begs the curmudgeon to spend a night on his couch; cheerily enduring Boris’ insults and screeds on Fred Astaire films (catnip to all women in Allen’s version of Mars-Venus relations), she soon becomes his bride.

Boris, like David’s character on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” is exaggerated for affect; both are unbearable narcissists always convinced of their own superiority. But whereas David’s HBO persona frequently gets his comeuppance, whether from one of Susie Essman’s epic cuss-filled blue streaks or Wanda Sykes’ withering glares, the voluble Boris remains unchecked, his cynical, tiresome rants to both the characters and the audience presented as the truth, or at least Allen’s lazy version of it. “I’m the only one who sees the whole picture. That’s what they mean by genius,” Boris says to the audience in the final scene, amidst happily paired-off couples who have no intention of correcting him.

06172009_$999.jpgA quieter expounding on the big picture is heard in Tatia Rosenthal’s feature debut, the stop-motion animation “$9.99”. Rosenthal, co-writing with Etgar Keret, on whose short stories the film is based (a novella of Keret’s was the basis for 2006’s inventive “Wristcutters: A Love Story”; he also co-directed 2007’s “Jellyfish”), concocts a Sydney-set, adult-themed “Davey and Goliath.” Dave Peck (voiced by Samuel Johnson), an unemployed 28-year-old gourmand living at home with his beleaguered dad (Anthony LaPaglia), spends the titular amount for a mail-order-only book on the meaning of life. The earnest premise extends to Dave’s neighbors in his apartment complex: a hospitable retiree visited by a potty-mouthed guardian angel, a squabbling young couple, a magician in the red, a little boy deeply attached to his piggy bank, and a supermodel, for whom Dave’s besotted brother, Lenny, makes bizarre sacrifices.

Like most films about the criss-crossing pursuit of happiness, “$9.99” plays as a pseudo-profound palliative, engaging in naïve bafflement about everyday struggles and heartaches. Though Rosenthal’s animated characters are pleasingly influenced by Lucian Freud’s portraiture — a grim, sometimes macabre look that can cut through the more cloying aspects of the film — the tepid humanism of the project offers only the revelation that, yes, everybody hurts.


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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GIFs via Giphy

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.