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Tones of Home

Tones of Home (photo)

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Despite filmgoers’ general lack of ticket-buying interest, the omnibus film — thematically contiguous shorts or semi-shorts by various filmmakers, packaged together as a feature — is enjoying an unlikely resurgence akin to its Euro heyday in the ’60s. What’s rousing about the phenom, then and especially now, is that its thriving fecundity is largely fed by the creative yens of directors and producers, not by the entertainment demands of a mass audience. To a certain degree, you get the sense that no one involved in, say, “Paris, Je T’Aime” (2006) (Van Sant, Assayas, Coen, Cuaron, etc.), or “To Each His Own Cinema” (2007) (Angelopoulos, Kiarostami, Kitano, Egoyan, Campion, Loach, Dardennes, de Oliveira, Wong, Lynch, etc.), or “New York, I Love You” (2009) (Akin, Ratner, Iwai, Nair, etc.), cared much if filmgoers queue up or not, so long as they get a chance to explore the short form and then assemble a larger fugue out of the disparate powerhouse voices assembled. As it is, the collections are almost always interesting, if not often satisfying, but the Japanese-produced, digitally-shot “Tokyo!” (2009) is a thorny, dyspeptic joy, less an outright “city symphony” love letter like several of the other recent genre shots than an idiosyncratic prism-view of one of the world’s most pop culture-disoriented urban cultures.

Not that Tokyo itself is the material protagonist; the three sections, by foreigners Michel Gondry, Leos Carax and Bong Joon-ho, are obsessive meta-tales characteristic of their auteurs, and the city is plumbed mostly for its cramped sense of the surreal. Gondry’s “Interior Design” begins prosaically enough, as a young woman and her filmmaker boyfriend crash on a friend’s apartment floor, bicker and lose their car to impoundment as the debut of his new interactive film (at a porn theater) approaches. But then Gondry’s distinctive sense emerges: feeling like little more than a byproduct and facilitator of her boyfriend’s ambition, the girl begins to slowly transform into a chair, a process that’s indisputably physical just as it is subjective, in the typical Gondry way — it depends on how you look at it, and her.

Bong’s “Shaking Tokyo” is a lovely, resonant and oddly critic-dumped ode to dense urban life and its contingent loneliness — a catastrophically insulated shut-in, whose apartment is a labyrinth of meticulously stacked books, household goods and used cardboard, has his decade-long routine (at one point, he closes his eyes, opens them, and suddenly another year has passed) disrupted by earthquakes and a pizza delivery girl with tattoo buttons (to push in case of “sadness,” “hysteria,” “headache” and so on). The anal-retentive apocalypse that follows is delicate and inspiring, and Bong’s attention to details (a goosebump-risen hair, a plume of dust from a never-used shoe) is dazzling.

07072009_tokyo2.jpgBut Carax’s lunatic entry, “Merde,” is an unfettered cataract of reckless, psychosocial id, coming at us in the form of a monster movie (Godzilla’s theme and roar figure in the soundtrack), with its society-threatening creature, rising out of the sewer, played by Carax vet-acrobat-homunculus Denis Lavant. A smelly, unwashed, outrageously dressed (green velvet suit and cartoonishly twisted orange beard), palsy-gnarled homicidal Frenchman, limping through the streets hurling war-surplus hand grenades and terrorizing the often-terrorized Japanese, in a film made in Japan by an eccentric Frenchman, is one thing — but Carax pushes all of the buttons, bringing the titular goon to trial (where he only speaks gibberish with a renegade defense lawyer who has the same beard and dead eye, the two looking like mutant variations of Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible), where the translations (and multiple screens) mix and match between French, Japanese and nonsense, the Japanese authorities talk about “tougher immigration regulations” against “white foreigners with red beards,” and Merde himself becomes a pop star, complete with followers, figurine collectibles and a TV-news logo. That Carax has Lavant continually looking up into the light in a Christ-like pose may be the final affront, for the French at least if not the Japanese, whose famed isolationist homogeneity/xenophobia otherwise takes it in the throat.


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.