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“Avatar”‘s filthy habit.

“Avatar”‘s filthy habit. (photo)

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“Avatar” has Sigourney Weaver puffing up a storm front and center — “Where’s my cigarette?”, she demands in her introductory scene — prompting the New York Times to offer yet another scorecard on the year in tobacco (ab)use on-screen.

Stephen A. Glantz — director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UC-San Francisco — is more than displeased by Weaver’s post-jaunt smoke, which he says is “like someone just put a bunch of plutonium in the water supply.”

Personally, I’d like to imagine the scene is a cheeky nod to Weaver’s in-office smoking villainess from “Working Girl,” but I suppose that’s not what was intended. Per Cameron (who’s nothing if not consistently vigilant at deflecting all criticism):

I wanted Grace to be a character who is initially off-putting and even unpleasant. She’s rude, she swears, she drinks, she smokes. She is not meant to be an aspirational role model to teenagers… Also, from a character perspective, we were showing that Grace doesn’t care about her human body, only her avatar body, which again is a negative comment about people in our real world living too much in their avatars, meaning online and in videogames…

Smoking is a filthy habit which I don’t support, and neither, I believe, does Avatar.

The anti-smoking lobby’s persistent inability to establish correlation remains puzzling. Unlike the black-lung ’70s, your modern American cinematic smoker is invariably the villain — see Mr. Bean of “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” his beady face illuminated in the darkness by a glowing ember as he plots to make the countryside foxless. — the most humorless and vigilant of the bunch — has more of a case than usual this season, though apparently they can’t adjust for context. I know “Sherlock Holmes” is already plenty revisionist, but did he really have to ditch the pipe, too? How could (god help us) “Nine” function with a nicotine-less Guido? And aren’t we all pleased that the smokers are either in the past or the bad guys?

01062010_youthinrevolt.jpgIf I were working on this lobby, I wouldn’t waste my time on “Avatar.” This Friday’s release of “Youth In Revolt” is where I’d really be going into a frenzy, since Michael Cera’s solution for trying to win over a girl immune to his nerdy charms is to create an alter-ego who commits crime and — yes! — smokes to establish his bad-ass cred. It’s doubtful anyone could take this as anything but a joke about old noir archetypes, but maybe someone will.

The one filmmaker who really should be taking heat over this issue is Wes Anderson, of the aforementioned “Fox.” In “Rushmore,” Max Fisher takes up smoking after having his heart broken by Miss Cross; in “The Royal Tenenbaums,” Gwyneth Paltrow’s discovery of the pack of cigarettes she hid as a child is played for climactic catharsis, which, c’mon. And communal, fraternal smoking figures largely in “The Darjeeling Limited.”

In all of these, Anderson’s playing it as a joke — the smoking actually means something, which is unusual, but it’s arguably a bit feckless. Enjoyably so for me, but I could see someone having a legitimate beef with that. The rest? Not so much.

[Photos: “Avatar,” Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 2009; “Youth in Revolt,” Weinstein Co, 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.