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New Wave and Old Guard

New Wave and Old Guard (photo)

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“The only thing important is where somebody’s going.” That bit of existential wisdom comes from none other than John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), the soft-spoken, bank-jacking antihero of “Public Enemies,” Michael Mann’s latest epic about unhappy tough guys doing what they do best. It’s offered by way of flirtation, as part of Dillinger’s out-of-nowhere and all-out attempt to impress a gorgeous hat-check girl named Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) — a pitch of woo so intense, and so divorced from what Billie considers realistic feeling, that it both unsettles and amuses her. “I’m catching up, meeting someone like you,” he tells her. “Boy, you’re in a hurry,” she deadpans. “If you were looking at what I’m looking at,” “Public Enemy” Number One informs her, “you’d be in a hurry, too.”

On first viewing, I was inclined to call “Public Enemies” minor Mann, a characterization meant not as a putdown, but a simple summary. As anyone who’s read me before well knows, I’m a student of the poetic-bombastic filmmaker, whose worst films are more visually arresting and artistically committed than almost any recent Oscar winner I can recall. His films often play like Samuel Fuller by way of Michelangelo Antonioni — violent tone poems exploring the angst of machismo and the impossibility of deep and lasting connection by way of dreamy montage, hypnotic music and disorienting, off-center compositions. I’m hugely impressed by Mann’s formal restlessness, his thematic consistency and his willingness to change up his game over time (moving from the Stanley Kubrick-level anal retentiveness of his work prior to 1999’s “The Insider” to a more visually and dramatically loose aesthetic, much of it stemming from his recent conversion to high-definition video and mostly handheld camerawork).

That said, “Public Enemies” initially struck me as a signpost/stopgap feature along the lines of “Collateral,” a Michael Mann 101 movie that compressed some of his signature tropes into easily graspable baubles, a work less interesting for its situations and set pieces than for the way in which it seemed to find its director taking stock of recent preoccupations and stylistic tics before moving on. (Conscious callbacks to prior Mann movies abound, such as the mirroring of obsessed cops and robbers, and gestures such as Dillinger somewhat gingerly laying his gun on a tabletop when he enters a hotel-room-as-domestic-sanctuary, and telling bank customers he’s after the bank’s money, not theirs — all echoes of key moments in “Heat” and its TV movie inspiration, “L.A. Takedown.”) The structure of Mann, Ronan Bennett and Ann Biderman’s script is episodic, patchy even. Judged against the norms of modern screenwriting convention, the film doesn’t cover much ground; it’s episodic in a manner faintly reminiscent of mid-period Oliver Stone (think “Born on the Fourth of July” or “The Doors,” films that traded narrative-advancing montage for a spare assortment of protracted, often borderline real-time scenes).

07012009_PublicEnemies1.jpgAnd yet, in the two-plus weeks since I first saw “Public Enemies,” it has lingered in my mind more vividly than almost any Hollywood film of the past couple of years — and I’m convinced that its ostentatiously un-blockbustery tendencies are the source of the movie’s vividness. While offering many of the core elements that the marketplace demands (including a badass antihero, a crime-and-violence storyline and a love story), “Public Enemies” gives those same elements short shrift, the better to concentrate on intense but largely unarticulated feelings and psychological states.


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.