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Misspent Youth

Misspent Youth (photo)

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The most remarkable thing about Sacha Gervasi’s “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” may be that it is unarguably one of the most heart-swelling and moving films ever made about rock ‘n’ roll, and at the same time, it is very unlikely to convert any viewers into passionate Anvil fans. In fact, the movie barely bothers to make a case for Anvil, the orphaned band maudit from the ’80s surge in heavy metal heavy hitters, as musicians, and doesn’t allow you to hear a single song all the way through. (Contrast that to, say, Jeff Stein’s “The Kids Are Alright,” which has certainly transformed innocent non-partisans into life-grabbing Who fans, and did it with whole songs played beginning to end.)

Frankly, Anvil’s thunking, adolescent caterwaul isn’t very promising, even if Anvil’s commercial fate seems less surprising in retrospect than the success of bands like Mötley Crüe, Anthrax and Megadeth. It’s no news: show business and its audiences are fickle bitches, utterly careless and sometimes cruel with the fates of the starry-eyed. As it is, Gervasi, a die-hard fan and ex-roadie, may love Anvil, but he knows his film couldn’t sell the Canadian band’s music to non-metalheads, and so he very smartly focuses instead on the group’s two standing members, Steve Kudlow and Robb Reiner, both of whom are terribly easy to love and root for. There, at the outset, we’re faced with the heartbreaking B-side of the American showbiz dream: once on the verge of global stardom, Kudlow and Reiner are now back in small-town Canada, cobbling together low-rent livings as a food-service deliveryman and a jackhammering construction workhorse, respectively. And they’ve been there for 20 years, still touring on occasion (playing to often threadbare audiences, sometimes to no one at all), and still hoping their luck will turn around.

Well, of course it has, thanks to Gervasi’s film, which, like Errol Morris’s “The Thin Blue Line” has literally rescued its own subjects from the fate the film documents. (Anvil is now backing up AC/DC, has had their self-promoted latest album rereleased by VH1, and is now a vet of late-night talk shows.) If anyone has earned it, Kudlow and Reiner have, and not just with longevity, but with purity of heart — they were going to their graves playing as Anvil, even if it meant playing only to their loyal wives and kids.

Steve “Lips” Kudlow is the protagonist here, the most guileless and endearingly unpretentious aging rocker of all time, his watery basset-hound eyes and huge crooked grin beseeching an unfair world for another chance to play classics like “Metal on Metal,” “Flight of the Bumble Beast” and “Infanticide.” Reiner, the drummer and the more widely acknowledged musical innovator, is far more introverted, but naturally Gervasi’s film becomes a portrait of the two men’s lifelong hard rock marriage-of-passion, a working friendship that has lasted so long it seems more durable than any other relationship in their lives. But the reason “Anvil!” has been a phenomenon is because the boys’ arc from menopausal zeroes to heroes had already begun, in the mysterious differential between a ripoff Berlin nightclub appearance featuring a few dozen spectators and a invitation to a festival in Japan, where for some reason the stadium fills with thousands of raving young Asian fans. Kudlow and Reiner stepped in shit somewhere, but so did Gervasi.

10062009_Princess.jpgFeel free to sour your feel-good Anvil buzz with Anders Morgenthaler’s “Princess,” a Danish anime (!) from Lars von Trier’s production company that tackles the hot zone between the porn industry and children, and then pulls you into the dogfight with a suicide’s desperation. Juxtaposing old-fashioned frame-by-frame sketch drawing and swoony digital flourishes, the movie begins with the shooting of a pregnant gangbang, witnessed by the actress’ priest brother, and then rolls out into a revenge flick sans frontières, as the disillusioned man rescues the abused five-year-old daughter of his now-dead sister from a brothel, and becomes an Andrew Vachss-ish avenging angel.

Blood, or in Godard’s phrase “red,” puddles and sprays in great quantities, when it’s not supplementing the action with live-action home-movie flashbacks. Morgenthaler’s world is hyperbolic in the graphic novel way — the dead actress’ exploiteer-boyfriend erects a lavish tomb for her surrounded by giant stone penises — but its sense of outrage is curdling, and its moral balance sheet is complex, since the brother was culpable at the beginning of his sister’s career, and the little girl is a semi-civilized ruined thing prone to grabbing at adult crotches. She is, in fact, drawn a little too much like Boo from “Monsters, Inc.” for comfort — but nothing about “Princess” is supposed to be comforting, except perhaps the tour de force sequence in which the porn company’s entire operation is burned to the ground to the tune of Edith Piaf’s “No Regrets.” When the five-year-old musters the rage to finish off a porn lackey with a tire iron, you know there’s no salvation ahead.

[Additional photo: “Princess,” Zentropa Entertainments, 2006]

“Anvil! The Story of Anvil” (VH1 Films) and “Princess” (Palisades Tartan) are now available on DVD.


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.