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Color My Life With The Chaos of Trouble

Color My Life With The Chaos of Trouble (photo)

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Like the rest of us, critics like to be taken seriously, and so post-teen romantic comedies like Marc Webb’s “(500) Days of Summer” can have a tough time receiving top-shelf adjectives. It’s safer to hold high an austere import or socially-conscious “issue” drama. The problem is, for all of its borrowings, there hasn’t been a movie quite like Webb’s in a very long time, if ever.

“(500) Days of Summer” shimmies through a delicate life-passage terrain few movies have explored with intelligence — Joan Darling’s “First Love” (1977) comes to mind, and a great Korean film still to see the light of day here, Hur Jin-ho’s “One Fine Spring Day” (2001) — and does it with what seems to be an inexhaustible gas tank of invention, brio, naturalistic wit and love.

It’s this last thing, love, that fills the movie up like a zeppelin — love for its characters and for tale-telling and for what we dream of love stories to be and for what they really are. Plus, a love for The Smiths, “The Graduate,” bouncy small talk, karaoke, the parts of Los Angeles you never see in films (thank God), the ’60s, being young and heartbroken, and the way light shines through Zooey Deschanel’s baby-blue irises. Because the love is genuine and not three-dollar-bill fake as it is in most American movies, the experience is invigorating, like a B-complex injection on a warm spring day.

01042010_500Days2.jpgThe welter of details fire-hosing out of the movie would be enough to win us over: the conscientiously fable-like narration (which builds evidence for the very special “averageness” of Deschanel’s Summer by explaining how her yearbook quote of Belle & Sebastian spiked record sales in Michigan that year), the teeming animated detours (love the architectural sketches, but the cartoon songbirds might’ve been too much), the spray of specific cultural references, the now-famous post-coital dance number, the half-lit karaoke perfs that make the protagonists irresistible in each others’ eyes. And so on. (An offhand argument re: “Octopus’s Garden”: “I love Ringo,” “C’mon, nobody loves Ringo,” “That’s what I love about him.”)

It would’ve been easy to be happy with the film if it was just a mess of this stuff, but it’s a densely structured movie, a fugue between the romance’s early dizziness and its later terminal agonies, bouncing back and forth from early in the 500 days to late, and often revisiting the same moments over and over, corresponding them to others. And a case could be made that for all of its cleverness Webb’s film runs on old-fashioned movie star charm, located and nurtured like orchids — easy to kill, but beautiful when respected.

Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have lovely, self-conscious, secret-keeping, fast-talking characters to play and they play them like a thoroughbreds; I especially liked the degree to which both Summer and Levitt’s Tom did things without understanding why, and how the two actors let those moments crackle with mystery. You believe these kids, which makes their enjoyment of and amazement with each other heroically seductive.

01042010_500Days3.jpgBut you step back a bit, and “(500) Days” has a larger dialogue to have with us and the culture we’re in — specifically, about the mileage between now and the ’60s, and how for Summer and Tom’s generation an idealization of the supercool free-love past is a way to manage the empty-hearted present. Which is cinephilia, isn’t it? The catnip alt-rock soundtrack is contemporary, until the movie’s final suite, under Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bookends,” when the relationship is dying on-screen but no one says anything about it.

The film is saturated with movie-love, in an expressly Godardian way — why can’t I go through a week without dropping the G-bomb? — comically referencing “Breathless” as well as Anna Karina’s coif. But the key to the hidden levels is “The Graduate,” which is used wittily at first as a flashback riff: the narrator tells us that, as a child, Tom accrued a warped sense of cosmic romance from British pop songs and “a total misreading” of Mike Nichols’ 1967 classic. Hardy har, until the end, when Tom and Summer go to a revival of the movie, and at the climax, Summer is left weeping for the wrecked promise of perfect love she always knew was a lie, and Tom still holds on blindly to the dream.


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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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.