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Tim Rutili Makes the Indie Rock to Indie Film Leap

Tim Rutili Makes the Indie Rock to Indie Film Leap (photo)

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Tim Rutili’s band, Califone, may be at the peak of its powers on its recent album “All My Friends Are Funeral Singers” and, song after song, show no signs of waning. What’s more, Rutili, as a director, has leveraged Califone’s songcraft into a feature film of the same name that will premiere this January in a little town called Park City. It’s the product of Rutili’s decidedly cinematic songwriting process and love for surrealist films and the likes of Luis Buñuel.

In the movie, a fortune teller played by Angela Bettis (“May”) lives in an old house crowded with ghosts. When a light appears in the woods outside, the ghosts realize they are trapped, and insanity ensues, all to a score and soundtrack by, of course, Califone. I caught Rutili on the phone before we had the good news about Sundance. He was driving cross country in a remarkably quiet car, headed toward the Southwest, already doing research for his next film — a “road movie,” of which he gave me a little hint. I got a bigger hint of “All My Friends Are Funeral Singers” — an exclusive clip from the film is below.

I know you’ve made some shorts before, but this is your first feature… how long has it been brewing?

Not very long. I started writing last September, so basically a year from starting the script to finishing the film. I’m hearing from friends who make films that isn’t usually the case, so we got lucky. We have to do some more soundtrack work, but other than that — it’s done.

In the clip, the camera moves from a scene through someone’s ear into another scene with a stuttering old man. Maybe I’m a mean ageist, and I don’t know where it fits in, but I thought it was hysterical.

That doesn’t fit in at all. We have a couple other scenes where the camera goes into people’s ears and you get this non sequitur of what’s happening in their, you know, ghost brain. It’s just fucked up — all those things were just making us laugh. We had some footage of that old guy performing…

Wait a minute — that wasn’t really an old guy though? Was it!?

For the sake of interview, yeah, it was. The guy that does it won’t acknowledge to any of us that it’s a character. He would get mad.

12102009_califone4.jpgIt had a real David Lynch feel for me. Not just the insanity, but specifically the ear tunnel transition shot — I’ve seen him make similar moves. Is that something you drew upon?

I love David Lynch. The only thing that came from him out of this is the idea that things don’t have to make sense, and you don’t have to really explain yourself [laughs]. That scene is a perfect example of that.

There’s also the song “Buñuel” on the record, about the surrealist filmmaker. Have you been studying him?

I was watching his movies a lot, and I wrote that song in front of one of his films. We have a character in the film named Bunuel, too. He doesn’t play a Spanish filmmaker, just a guy named Bunuel with a Super 8 camera. We ended up putting film in the camera and using a lot of what he shot. So there was a camera within the scene.

There were some things I wanted to feel like [Buñuel] — “Exterminating Angel,” his film where people are trapped in this dinner party. As it goes on, the people cannot get out of the house. There’s nothing keeping them there, they just can’t leave. What happens when you get a bunch of rich people at a dinner party that can’t leave for days on end? It’s weird as fuck, and there are these things that happen that are so beautiful. In one scene, out of nowhere, a bear crosses in the background. A woman opens her purse and she’s looking through it and pulls out a dead bird. You don’t know why, but its happening and there’s no reason, but it’s beautiful.


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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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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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.