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DID YOU READ

Dustin Hoffman antagonizes Italy.

Dustin Hoffman antagonizes Italy. (photo)

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It’s a time-honored practice for actors to go abroad to get paid to appear in ads they be much too ashamed to support at home. And so it was, presumably, that Dustin Hoffman came to Italy in search of some hard-earned euros, his cameo in “Little Fockers” having fallen apart.

Like Bill Murray in “Lost In Translation” — and numerous real people — Hoffman arrived in pursuit of a paycheck more honest than most: he was to recite Giacomo Leopardi’s poem “The Infinite” and walk through Le Marche, the whole ordeal to be filmed as a tourist spot for the region.

“The Infinite” is a melancholy work, in which the speaker describes a beloved landscape that leads him to muse on mortality: “in this immensity / my thoughts are drowned, and shipwreck seems sweet / to me in this sea.” This, perhaps, is a gloomy way to promote tourism — come to Le Marche to experience despair in the vastness! — but one that seems oddly appropriate, at least if all the stereotypes about voluble and melancholy Italians are true.

You can watch Hoffman in a rough cut of the ad on YouTube. It doesn’t take an expert’s ear to hear that he’s butchering the language, causing considerable controversy in Italy. I’m not Italian, but I’ve seen their movies, and it’s clear that the commercial is the sound of an exceptionally conscientious actor not pretending to have mastered an accent but doing his best to say “pensiere” and “dolce” without drawing embarrassment to himself.

01042010_hoffman4.jpgHe did, and it was interesting to read that — in a presumably slow news week in Berlusconi’s Italy, which really should never be short on scandal — the populace (or at least their newspapers) were outraged. “The commitment is there,” Reuters reports one Corriere della Sera critic wrote, but said commitment “cannot fill up the astronomical distance from the Italian ear.” The mayor of the area had an admittedly imaginative response: “The difficulty that Hoffman finds in the recitation could symbolize the more universal one of coming closer to an unknown culture.”

I’ve always associated Hoffman with the ’70s Method wonder duo of De Niro and Pacino, even though he shot out of the gate earlier than either, lasted longer as a hitmaker and wasn’t Italian-American. Which begs the question of why he was invited to come out as the best spokesman for an Italian region being marketed to Italians.

One answer, I suppose, is that Hoffman’s no stranger to Italian advertising (see below). Another might be that the ad — in frankly perverse ways — dramatizes his struggle with the Italian language (“No no no!” he yells at one point), possibly as a way of emphasizing that once one struggles with Le Marche, then one achieves transcendence.

Foreign commercials with actors are a dime a dozen, but — at 72 — Hoffman doesn’t need this kind of pain and criticism (I hope, anyway). Does Hoffman have some kind of cult following left over from 1972’s “Alfredo, Alfredo” I don’t know about?

Here’s Dustin Hoffman shilling, self-deprecatingly, for Italian coffee, with his struggles with Italian culture once again foregrounded:

[Photos: Dustin Hoffman’s Italian ad, Marche Region Tourism Department, 2010]

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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.