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The Education of Nick Hornby

The Education of Nick Hornby (photo)

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You’d think that the coming-of-age tale about a girl in her teens had run out of juice. But then, along comes “An Education” to revitalize the genre. The darling of this year’s Sundance, which instantly put its radiant young star Carey Mulligan on the Oscar radar, “An Education” is based on journalist Lynn Barber’s tell-all piece about a youthful affair circa 1961, before “the ’60s” took hold. Directed by Lone Scherfig, the film, as promised by the title, recounts the sentimental education of 16-year-old Jenny, an excellent student enamored of all things French and impatient to tango with adult life. A romance with 30ish sophisticate David (Peter Sarsgaard) offers the glamor and culture missing from the drab world of her parents and the Twickenham ‘burbs, but risks derailing Jenny’s dream of a place at Oxford.

No small part of the film’s sparkle comes from the screenplay and witty, literate dialogue furnished by Nick Hornby. A bestselling novelist — with a second gig in the world of rock — Hornby is most visible stateside for the screen adaptations of his books “High Fidelity” and “About a Boy,” which take a comic but empathic look at the dilemmas of floundering manchildren. But in “An Education,” Hornby, a modest, forthcoming fellow, has had no trouble inhabiting the inner world of a teenage heroine who sounds both charmingly herself and like a voice from a vanished, straitlaced era when women faced limited options. From Barber’s original ten-page essay, Hornby has conjured an entire world. Adding a subtext of female empowerment, he also created such key characters as Peter’s glam friends (Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike), who seduce Jenny almost more than does Peter, while capturing the language and attitudes of a pocket in time before Carnaby Street and the Beatles blew it all wide open.

Coming-of-agers are like a tired old workhorse. What made you feel you could separate this film from the pack? Is that a mean question?

No, it’s not a mean question and I’m not sure [laughing] I ever felt I could do that. The beauty of the film is that everybody’s on top of their game, so you’ve got half a chance, whatever the material. We were helped immeasurably by Carey. She, by herself — the charm and maturity of her performance, helps to separate the film from the pack. And the setting felt sufficiently different so that it would not seem like something you’ve seen a million times before.

What attracted you to this project?

I found the original material — an essay in Granta — and told my wife [Amanda Posey, producer of “An Education”], “Look, there’s a film in here.” I liked it tonally — it was painful and funny — and I didn’t know much about that particular time, because it was the early 1960s and didn’t know the period’s underworld bohemia. The rest of Carey’s world I recognized, because it’s not so different from the way I grew up as a suburban kid who was frightened of missing out on the city. I feel a lot of identification with that character.

10072009_An-Education2.jpgIs this story and period going to speak to today’s audience?

You don’t have to have lived in that time to understand the dilemmas. In some ways, the rules of period drama help because there are boundaries placed on conduct that are clearer than they are now — it’s easier to see when characters are transgressing. And it seems to have spoken quite deeply to teen girls who have seen the movie. Just about every woman I know has come out with a story about a guy in a car looking to pick her up.

You found that literal a closeness?

Smart pretty girls of any generation, the story’s always the same.

I have a slight problem with David, Sarsgaard’s character. He was pretty smarmy, like when he asks to look at her topless. And at the screening I attended, the combination of his unattractive aspects plus the fact that he’s Jewish struck some viewers as anti-Semitic. Do you anticipate any flack over that?

That’s interesting. One of the things that is quite clear in [Barber’s] piece is that Britain was anti-Semitic at the time, and Peter’s an outsider and has to use whatever tools he has at his disposal. I hope the movie makes it clear that it’s other people’s reactions that are anti-Semitic. One of the things that drew me to the piece was there’s a charm in the guy, yet he’s clunky as well. So he wasn’t just a smooth predator.


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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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.