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Why “Paul Blart” may be the most important film of 2009.

Why “Paul Blart” may be the most important film of 2009. (photo)

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Our friends over at the newly launched Film Salon have been posting entries from different writers on what each considers the most important film of the decade. (I’m a contributor.) In the same spirit as, say, Michael Tully arguing for “The Real Cancun,” let me offer up a proposition: “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” speaks for 2009 like no other movie.

That’s not to say it’s a good film, or even a competent one. Under the helmsmanship of the ever-regrettable Steve Carr (“Dr. Dolittle 2,” “Daddy Day Care” and — ultimate insult — “Next Friday”), it’s crass and poorly paced, a “Die Hard” homage for the PG “Ouch! My Balls!” set. Blart (rhymes with “fart,” something you can’t help but think was on the screenwriters’ minds), as embodied by Kevin James, is a big ol’ tub of New Jersey lard, complete with an ’80s relic mustache, and there’s nothing particularly lovable about him. Nor can much be said for the uncolorful villain (Keir O’Donnell) or the one-man-versus-all stuff. And the eyelines don’t match! In every respect, this is one terrible movie.

On the other hand: this is “Dawn of the Dead,” only the protagonists are the zombies, unaware they’re unaware. I love Romero’s movie, but that has a lot more to do with how well-made it is than any complex “critique” it’s offering about mall culture (which is pretty self-evident).

“Paul Blart,” on the other hand, thinks it’s good clean family fare, which makes it revealing. With the exception of the villain, crew and token hot chick to be won over by Blart (Jayma Mays), everyone here is fat, out-of-shape, working a minimum-wage job with no prospects for advancement and deeply pissed off about it; an alleged comic highlight is Blart having the crap beaten out of him by an over-enraged fat woman. A world outside shoddy suburban homes and stifling mall culture doesn’t exist; the jobs are sedentary, the intellectual stimulation nil.

12172009_paulblart_9.jpg“Paul Blart”‘s a movie for the recession economy, filmed in a world full of crap being protected by people who can’t afford to buy any of it. It’s unapologetically suburban (filmed in Massachusetts, set in New Jersey) and absolutely marginalized. Its main locales are functional: Blart’s mess of a home, the bank within the mall where checks are deposited, and the horrific T.G.I. Friday’s type restaurant the holiday party takes place at. It is, in short, incredibly depressing and zero fun whatsoever.

None of which the film seems to recognize. And, of course, its outsize success — combined with its dismal reviews — led to some conservative soapboxing about how this is a real American movie, not that effete nonsense critics like. Which is in itself part of the zeitgeist!

My point here is that “Paul Blart” is as ugly and misshapen as the year it’s part of. Future scholars could study it just as rigorously as, say, ugly ’50s anti-Communist paranoia or ’60s movies featuring dudes with sitars. No joke.

It’s still a terrible movie, though.

[Photos: “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” Paramount, 2009]


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.