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When the Honorary Oscar was cool.

When the Honorary Oscar was cool. (photo)

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Writing in appreciation of why Doris Day deserves to receive an honorary Oscar, the New York Times Douglas McGrath decides there are basically three kinds of honorary Oscars: those for inexplicably overlooked legends (Welles, Chaplin); those created by top-down friendship (Karl Malden lobbying for an honorary Oscar for Elia Kazan when he’d already won two); and those for people whose strengths were invaluable but hard to recognize within the existing categories (Fred Astaire’s dancing, Stanley Donen’s resilient musicals).

Looking through the Honorary Oscars list, though, it’s possible to see something much more interesting than just validations of Hollywood’s past. In the ’30s, the Honorary Oscars tended to be less pretentious than the actual Best Picture winners, better capturing what was popular and making waves.

Honorary Oscars were given out to people whose importance has outlasted their year’s actual winners: Shirley Temple, Walt Disney, Mack Sennett, MoMA’s Film Department and a group of then-ubiquitous, now-ephemeral celebrities (Edgar Bergen, reigning newsreel champs “March of Time”).

In 1938, an Honorary Oscar went to “Spawn of the North,” a movie about two lifelong fisherman buddies (played by Henry Fonda and George Raft) whose fortunes diverge in 1890s Alaska as a fight develops with Russian poachers. The salute was for effects, but it sounds far more promising than that year’s toxic Best Picture winner “You Can’t Take It With You.”

In the ’40s, the honorary awards took note of war efforts (like Colonel Nathan Levinson, who helped put together army training films), child actors and foreign films. The mix continued through the ’50s, when a still-vital Danny Kaye could get an Honorary Oscar at the height of his fame alongside already celebrated Greta Garbo. Current stars were being equated with past legends; Hollywood felt secure about the past and present.

01112010_corman1.jpgShortly after that, the Honorary Oscars starting become what they are today, almost exclusively the province of the soon-to-be-embalmed and no longer professionally viable, indicating a (correct) uneasy premonition that Hollywood would soon no longer be the universal center of American pop culture. Eddie Cantor, Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel: the ’30s and ’40s stars started filing through neatly.

And so it went on year after year, with a few pleasant anomalies — Henri Langlois, hero of the French New Wave, and a trio of foreign giants (Satyajit Ray, Antonioni and Fellini) — but largely recognizing former Hollywood stars of increasingly vintage legends.

This past year’s awardees — Day Lauren Bacall, cinematographer Gordon Willis and producer/director Roger Corman — were all unquestionably worthy, but they’re all also giants whose best work was done long ago. The Academy no longer seems to feel comfortable singling out someone of the present for contributions, because they’re not sure what will last. They’re predictable now, but they’re also safe.

[Photos: Doris Day in “Pillow Talk,” Universal Pictures, 1959; Roger Corman, courtesy of JaSunni at PicasaWeb]


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.