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Girls on film, again.

Girls on film, again. (photo)

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The year can’t end until someone writes an essay decrying the lack of female directors, both in Hollywood and worldwide. This year, the honors go to the New York Times‘ Manohla Dargis, with the bluntly titled “Women in the Seats but Not Behind the Camera.”

The statistics, as usual, are damning: Dargis points out precisely how many H’wood films this year directed by women — out of 600 or so movies released in New York this year, about 10% were female directed.

But the article’s also full of unpacked assumptions and declarations. For starters: is “Precious” really “the most passionately debated women’s picture in memory”? What makes it a “women’s picture” (and if the subject is female directors, what are we make of gay male director Lee Daniels)? Is it really true that the financial success of “New Moon” and “The Blind Side” is “good for women in film”? If so, why? Has conventional wisdom really dictated for years “that women don’t go to the movies and can’t open movies,” and if so, why do chick flicks exist?

In comparing the respective careers of Michael Mann and Kathryn Bigelow, isn’t it relevant that Bigelow’s financial track record in the ’90s and ’00s (specifically, the triple-fails of “Strange Days,” “The Weight of Water” and “K-19: The Widowmaker”) and lack of a huge, defining success at least in part explain her struggles (compared to Mann’s relatively profitable ’90s streak) and his success as much as institutional sexism? And how is it exactly that “The vogue for comics and superheroes has generally forced women to sigh and squeal on the sidelines”? Aren’t there female geeks too?

This is the part where I tell you that I’m not actually sexist (something you’d hope would go without saying, but you never know) and that I understand and care about what Dargis is getting at. I’m just saying it’s time for this annual essayistic ritual to take a new leap into the land of pure journalism.

12112009_clairedenis.jpgFor example: Dargis dismisses the kind of arthouse movie she likes (and I do too!) as something “I bet you never heard about, much less saw, most of them,” but it dawned on me that six out of my nine favorite working female directors were French. And yes, those numbers are alarmingly small, but: what’s up with that statistical disproportionately? France isn’t generally noted for its exceptional progressivism in gender matters, so how’d that come about? Might Dargis’ sly suggestion that women might be doing badly in Hollywood because “any business that refers to its creations as product cannot, by definition, have much imagination” — insinuating women just can’t play the hack game — actually bear fruit in the surplus of unconventional French female auteurs?

Another thought: I went to film school for a while at NYU, and I’d say the number of women in each class wasn’t more than 1/3. Given that NYU is notoriously willing to take anyone’s money if they can hurdle a certain academic bar, and generally regarded as one of the country’s premiere film schools, it’s hard to know what was up with that disproportionality (unless NYU itself is sexist in the very admissions process, which is hard to credit).

So, like, let’s send an actual reporter to go to the source (because, for better or worse, film schools are where a lot of directors pass through these days) and see what that’s about. Interview the women in the program, talk to them about their goals and ambitions, track them — do something to figure out what the gap in film school (and its greater margin behind the camera professionally) is about.

I know I’m just giving anecdotal evidence here, but that’s my point — I’m tired of reading this article every year, and I’d like to see some harder reporting. I’m just as interested in broadening up the number of voices in film; we have enough hack directors with no discernible directorial personality (male or female) around already.

[Photo: “Twilight: New Moon,” Summit Entertainment, 2009; Claire Denis]


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.