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DID YOU READ

Everybody’s (Sorta) Fine

Everybody’s (Sorta) Fine (photo)

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“Everyone’s been asking how we’re doing this week,” film critic-turned-AFI programmer Robert Koehler said, shortly before a screening of Juan José Campanella’s Argentinean murder mystery “The Secret of Their Eyes.” “And the answer is our sponsors.” Indeed, thanks to chief sponsor Audi, AFI has responded to an economy that’s been particularly unkind to film festivals with free tickets that have ensured capacity attendance to most, if not all, of their screenings at the Mann’s Chinese Theaters in Hollywood.

Even the more obscure titles that Koehler and his team have programmed, like Philippe Grandrieux’s “The Lake” or the Spanish Berlinale winner “The Milk of Sorrow,” have seen solid attendance. But the fact that so many have been asking the question is more telling than the answer — with a changing audience profile (a Bugs Bunny impersonator wandered into Tuesday’s screening of “Youth in Revolt” in full costume from entertaining on the Hollywood Walk of Fame right outside) and speculation about what the great turnout might even mean for the future of the festival.

The strange mood was passed on to the festival’s one true world premiere, “Everybody’s Fine,” which could hardly describe the bittersweet nature of the evening. The week before, the film’s distributor Miramax let go of their president, Daniel Battsek, and was reduced to a smaller operation. Shortly after he was appointed, Battsek surprised everyone by coming out swinging when he took over from Miramax founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein with a streak of hits like “The Queen” and “No Country for Old Men.” He seems, strangely, to have come full circle in making a film that Harvey would’ve gladly greenlit in his day as his swan song for the company. In fact, Harvey did distribute the 1990 Giuseppe Tornatore film that “Everybody’s Fine” is based on.

There are worse ways to go out. Without Miramax, there aren’t many places left to put out this kind of cinematic comfort food that the major studios have abandoned in favor of financing would-be blockbusters and that edgier independents have rarely shown an interest in. (For those who still wax nostalgic about Miramax’s days as part of that second category, this has been a tragedy long settled.) And if there was ever a director to handle such material, it’s Kirk Jones, who proved a particularly human touch with 1998’s “Waking Ned Devine” before stumbling with the excesses of food fights and facial boils in the kiddie comedy “Nanny McPhee.”

“Everybody’s Fine” indulges both those impulses, with the former unfortunately giving into the latter in the story of a retired widower (Robert De Niro) who tires of his daily routine of puttering around the house and sets off to surprise each of his four kids who have settled around the country. Contrary to the actual De Niro, who introduced the film in typical brevity by saying, “Well, okay, I have to say something,” Frank is a talkative type, prone to having wistful conversations without everyone around, musing to his fellow train passengers about the PVC coating he applied to the miles of phone line that they pass, wondering about the good news and the bad news that have come across “my wires.”

11112009_EverybodysFine2.jpgLittle does Frank know that there’s plenty of bad news being splashed across those wires by his children, who have a far easier time talking to each other than to their demanding dad. As Frank visits Chicago to see his ad exec daughter Amy (Kate Beckinsale), Denver for his classical musician son Robert (Sam Rockwell) and Las Vegas for his dancer daughter Rosie (Drew Barrymore), he’s unaware that his unsuccessful first visit to see his troubled son David in New York is a major cause for concern to the rest of the family that serves as the film’s throughline.

While Beckinsale, Barrymore and Rockwell all give their characters more definition and vibrancy than they probably deserve, “Everyody’s Fine” is really just a showcase for De Niro to do his best “About Schmidt” impression. Though he tries admirably, he’s stuck with Jones’ obvious allegiance to Tornatore’s original film, which dabbled in dream sequences and flashbacks that weren’t entirely successful in emphasizing the patriarch’s disconnect with his children even in 1990 or from the guy who worked his magic on “Cinema Paradiso.” Interestingly enough, Jones, a Brit, said before the premiere that that it took him a long time to have “the courage to make a film here [in the U.S.],” which makes his strange choice to remake an Italian melodrama something altogether foreign.

As for Bob and Harvey themselves, the brothers Weinstein had three films to present at AFI — “The Road,” “Youth in Revolt” and the Toronto pick-up “A Single Man,” and while I can only speak for the latter two, the films connected in a way that has been rare for the pair’s much-maligned post-Miramax era. However, the success of “Youth in Revolt” didn’t come easy.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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SO EXCITED!!!

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.”

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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. 

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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.