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DID YOU READ

Eight to anticipate at Sundance 2010.

Eight to anticipate at Sundance 2010. (photo)

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“REBEL: This is the renewed rebellion. This is the recharged fight against the establishment of the expected. This is the rebirth of the battle for brave new ideas. This is Sundance, reminded. And this is your call to join us.” That’s the first thing you see when you visit Sundance’s website, where the 2010 festival lineup was unveiled a few hours ago.

Well, like, color me skeptical. Still, there’s always stuff to look forward to — based on nothing more than sifting the line-up for prior track records, guess-work and early reviews of stuff that’s already premiered, here’s eight to anticipate if you’re lucky enough to make it out to Park City this January:

U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
“Lucky” (Jeffrey Blitz)
The premise isn’t extraordinary — “The story of what happens when ordinary people hit the lottery jackpot” — but a lot of people loved “Spellbound” and sadly ignored “Rocket Science,” Blitz’s uneven but often quite funny/moving narrative take on adolescent awkwardness. Since then he’s been killing time directing episodes of “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” which can only be a good thing: more documentaries could use sharp comic timing. It’ll be a crowd-pleaser anyway.

“Smash His Camera” (Leon Gast)
Leon Gast has a truly all-over-the-place resume — anyone want to come over and watch all 131 minutes of “The Grateful Dead,” a concert doc from 1977 co-directed with Jerry Garcia? But in 1996 he gave us “When We Were Kings,” one of the sharpest, most rhythmically attuned uses of archival footage to capture a world-historical moment — Ali/Foreman, 1974 — in all its dimensions, be they cultural, musical, pugilistic or just Muhammad Ali rapping about the importance of flossing. Gast’s subject this time is Ron Galella, paparrazo extraordinaire. Wikipedia’s career highlights include being “punched in the jaw by Marlon Brando in Chinatown, beaten up by Richard Burton’s bodyguards in Mexico, hosed down by friends of Brigitte Bardot in Saint Tropez, [having] his tires slashed by Elvis Presley’s guards in Queens and [being] sued twice by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.” Hopefully Gast will get his editorial rhythm on and tie together 50 years of pop cultural time-surfing into something intoxicating rather than dutifully plodding, rushing through footage and highlights.

U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION
“Holy Rollers” (Kevin Taylor Asch)
OK, listen: “A young Hasidic man, seduced by money, power and opportunity, becomes an international Ecstasy smuggler.” Sounds like a New York profile stretched to dubious length; also, the screenwriter is Antonio Macia, whose other feature credit — “Anne B. Real” — is ranked #48 on IMDB’s “Bottom 100″ and is described as the coming of age story of a young female rapper, who finds her inspiration by reading the Diary of Anne Frank.” So there’s reasons to be wary. On the other hand, it stars Jesse Eisenberg, currently our reigning champion for interpreting nervous young men on the cusp of life-changing moments. I’ve personally watched him almost single-handedly rescue Fred Durst’s “The Education of Charlie Banks”; there’s pretty much nothing he can’t do at this moment. Or, you know, it could just be “The Wackness.”

“Lovers of Hate” (Bryan Poyser)
Bryan Poyser was an up-and-coming cause célèbre when I left Austin, alongside other scene mainstays like Kyle Henry, Alex Karpovsky and Bob Byington. 2004’s “Dear Pillow” received good reviews all round from trustworthy types for its non-sensational portrayal of an 18-year-old’s friendship with the fiftysomething ex-porn director next door, apparently avoiding the twin traps of hysteria and quirkiness. “Lovers of Hate” has a cast that includes Karpovsky — hilarious in both “Beeswax” and “Harmony and Me” — and will perhaps be Poyser’s break-out feature. Also, it’s cute that Sundance is dipping its big toe into something that could vaguely be classified, by virtue of cast-list alone, (sorry guys) “mumblecore.” Welcome to the party guys; what took you so long?

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
“Last Train Home” (Lixin Fan)
Chinese documentary cinema is pretty much where it’s at right now — cf. Jia Zhangke’s documentary work, NYFF 2009 selection “Ghost Town” — and I’m told we’re not even close to scratching the surface at this point. Lixin Fan’s doc follows factory workers struggling to get home to celebrate the new year, which sounds like a perfect micro premise for a macro portrait of contemporary China and its disconnect from area to area. indieWIRE‘s Eugene Hernandez caught it at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (where it won best feature length doc) and noted its “stunning” cinematography, which bodes well: unlike their US counterparts, Chinese docs (the few I’ve seen, anyway) tend to have a formalist jones that serves them well.

“The Red Chapel” (Mads Brügger)
This is just nutty, and sounds like a joke: “a documentarian and two comedians walk into North Korea…” But it’s not. If nothing else, this will be some extremely rare footage of one of the world’s most tightly sealed countries. But — by all accounts — this is also one seriously twisty piece of work, where the original agenda of making hay devolves into an ethical query about what’s happening, not just a travelogue. Like, is it OK to use a comedian with a speech impediment to confuse the authorities? Is this brave or just grandstanding? I can’t wait.

“Secrets of the Tribe” (José Padilha)
Padilha’s 2002’s “Bus 174” was a super-rigorous piece of cultural and media analysis, working through a one-day bus hostage situation in Rio de Janeiro. 2007’s “Elite Squad” won the Golden Bear at Berlin, but a lot of people I know accused it of being fascist, and for 2009’s documentary “Garapa” Padilha admitted he’d let his impoverished, malnutritioned subjects starve from the camera before turning it off and throwing them some cash, which is ethically shaky, to say the least. But he’s fearless in the face of controversy, which is what makes him perfect to do a documentary about academic anthropologists arguing about potential exploitation of Amazon Basin Indians. No, seriously: this is a big deal (anyone who’s had to take an intro to anthropology class knows this), and his instincts will surely be for the visceral and passionately argued rather than the academic.

WORLD CINEMA NARRATIVE COMPETITION
“Four Lions” (Christopher Morris)
Strictly because it’s directed by Christopher Morris, who’s a huge deal in the UK for his work on shows like “The IT Crowd,” writing one of Steve Coogan’s first big hits (“The Day Today”), etc. Armando Iannucci’s leap from small-screen comedy to features (“In The Loop”) rocked Sundance (and my world) last year. So I’ll take this one on faith.

[Photo: “The Red Chapel,” Zentropa Productions, 2009]

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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.