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Infinite Loop

Infinite Loop (photo)

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What is cinema? André Bazin published a book of essays that tried to answer that question. But if somebody asked me for the short answer, I’d advise them to visit Seriously.

On first glance, the site seems little more than a poignant goof: a tribute to the late Michael Jackson that draws its inspiration from the John F. Kennedy memorial in Washington, D.C., with its eternal flame — but instead of a flame that never goes out, it’s a video loop featuring variations on the Gloved One’s signature move.

But it’s more than that. In addition to being diabolically mesmerizing — between the array of clips and the faintly “Billie Jean”-like backbeat, one tends to lose track of time staring at the damned thing — Eternal Moonwalk is also an incidental tutorial in the basic properties of cinema. It returns motion pictures to their origin point, when the medium’s core appeal was the chance to watch strangers performing, their bodies moving from Point A to Point B, their familiar or amusing actions serving as an emotional connection point, a reminder that we’re members of the same species inhabiting the same small world.

The format is ingeniously simple. The page shows a horizontal row of images that move from screen left to screen right, like a strip of film being manually threaded through projector gears. All the clips share certain core characteristics: they start out devoid of people, then a person or object enters frame right and exits frame left. Most of the clips are live-action — simple profile shots of people dancing, their motion framed head-to-toe, but there are some wild card images as well. When the snippets are butted up against each other — sliding along the horizontal strip from frame right to frame left — the moonwalking people, animals or objects seamlessly join at the edges of the frame. The process creates the illusion of continuous motion — continuous metamorphosis. One thing becomes another, one person becomes another. It’s not just diverting. It’s lovely.

But how is it cinematic? Let me count the ways. For one thing, it illustrates the democratizing potential of movies better than any number of earnest, micro-budget indie dramas. Anyone with a video camera can contribute, and dance talent isn’t just optional, it’s beside the point. Context is everything here. As you watch the strip of images flicker across your computer screen (and I repeat, don’t visit this site unless you’re ready to give up way more time than you anticipated), you come across some fine, even superb dancers. But their skill truly pops (in a way that it wouldn’t if you were seeing stand-alone clips on YouTube) when it’s juxtaposed with the other people who are just shuffling or loping or hopping through the frame. Conversely, the amateurs’ efforts seem more touching, even beautiful, when they’re joined (via editing) to more graceful performers.

07222009_eternalmoonwalk5.jpgThe sum total reminds us that dancing (as practiced in life) isn’t a contest, that there are no prizes for awesomeness; it’s just a means of self-expression that reveals one’s personality and life history as plainly as clothes or accents. All the performers are united by unselfconscious joy. If you’re a person who doesn’t dance for fear of being laughed at, this site might (temporarily) cure you of it.

The site also demonstrates how malleable raw footage can be. If one designs shots carefully enough — choosing the contents of the frame, the camera’s distance from the subject and the screen direction for certain aesthetic reasons — one can combine the resulting shots in any order and still express a film’s central idea. Eternal Moonwalk shuffles the shots at random, yet they always fit together perfectly, in a harmonious parade of motion.

Just as strikingly, Eternal Moonwalk affirms the infinite expressive possibilities of art. No, seriously, hear me out. Every contributor must satisfy the same criteria: the frame starts and finishes “empty”; objects or people “moonwalk” from screen right to screen left; the clip can’t last longer than ten seconds; the file size can’t exceed three megabytes. Beyond that, anything goes. And the sheer diversity of submissions is stunning. The non-live performances include shots of stuffed animals, dolls, action figures, simple household objects and toys (including a Mr. Potato Head R2-D2), all of which appear to moonwalk via stop-motion photography. There are cartoons (3-D and 2-D computer animation, and seemingly hand-drawn stuff); cannily chosen images from video games (including a bit showing the Incredible Hulk tromping across a landscape, his movements reversed so that he seems to be busting Michael’s move) and images of animals (also reversed) including a mounted horse, a stag beetle and a housecat.

07222009_eternalmoonwalk2.jpgThe live action performances (some by people dressed like Michael, most by folks in street clothes, each clip stamped with an ID number and the city and country of origin) include moonwalks by a clown, a chef and a motorcycle cop; a dad dragging a baby through the frame, followed by a toddler walking; conga lines of students, families and retail employees; a woman gliding across a beach; a teenage girl shimmying through a dimly lit, cluttered suburban house, and so forth. The participants hail from every conceivable nation, race and ethnicity, both genders and many age groups. The seamless fusion of people, situations and ideas evokes the 1991 video for Jackson’s “Black or White,” which used lateral screen movements, clever transitions and then-revolutionary “morphing” effects to affirm commonality. In its splendid, bare-bones way, Eternal Moonwalk accomplishes the same feat. The full spectrum of humanity is arrayed before you, and it’s dancing.


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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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.