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Ingmar Bergman’s favorite Muppet.

Ingmar Bergman’s favorite Muppet. (photo)

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W. Magazine‘s article on the auctioning off of the late Ingmar Bergman’s home and belongings confirmed what I’d long suspected: Animal was, in fact, his favorite Muppet.

Bergman was also known to relish the odd blockbuster during his two daily film viewings at a screening room ten minutes’ drive from his house. Watching “Jurassic Park,” he exclaimed enthusiastically: “Those Americans know how to put on the pants!”

That our masters of rigor often have a taste for the frivolous should no longer be a surprise. Very few haven’t admitted, on the record, to some kind of cultural fondness that’s, you know, unworthy of their work or whatever.

In the ’60s, Robert Bresson expressed great enthusiasm for “Goldfinger”; Stanley Kubrick was obsessed with beer commercials and had James Cameron come over and explain the effects in “True Lies” to him. Just as it’s an axiom that musicians listen to way more stuff than makes it into their work (unless you’re David Byrne or — god help us — Ry Cooder), directors can and should take in a lot of different material.

It’s that adventurous attitude that seems to be missing from the guardians of the highbrow vanguard, who’d like to impose an either/or choice: embrace the underground, avoid the multiplex, pare down your options. The best-known exponent of this view is Cassavetes champion Ray Carney, whose one-man war against everything he doesn’t approve of has been going on for years. In a representative ’90s speech, Carney provided a typically austere suggested viewing list, “any one of which is more important than Spike Lee’s, Oliver Stone’s, Steven Spielberg’s, Joel and Ethan Coen’s, and Quentin Tarantino’s complete work.” Preach it!

11302009_manhunter.jpgExcept no: when your idea of what’s worthy is more hermetic than that of the people producing it, you’re missing something. For example, Carney deems Tom Noonan “the greatest living American director,” part of the continuity of resistance. But Noonan’s also a working actor who thinks Michael Mann is “one of the best directors ever.”

And that’s the problem with lists like the aforementioned TIFF list: they’re more restrictive than the filmmakers they’re touting. A balanced viewing diet isn’t just for the filmmaker sorting through new ideas; these days, sifting through the major releases for traces of life is as adventurous as anything you could be doing.

It takes work to dig up an alternate canon of the rigorous (and yes, frequently awesome), but these days, it seems it’s even harder for critics in the mainstream of arthouse viewing to dig up anything else. In memory of Bergman, then, let’s try harder. A re-evaluation of “Spider-Man 3,” anyone?

[Photo: “The Muppet Show,” Walt Disney Home Entertainment, 1976-80; Tom Noonan in Michael Mann’s “Manhunter,” De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, 1986]


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.