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Blitz hits the jackpot with “Lucky.”

Blitz hits the jackpot with “Lucky.” (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

Jeffrey Blitz walks a deceptively fine line in “Lucky,” a film that looks at the effects of winning the lottery on a variety of individuals and families. It would be easy – too easy — to screw this up. The lottery, with its false hope and promise of randomly granted affluence, makes an ideal bête noire for any filmmaker or artist extolling the value of hard work and the evils of capitalism; the temptation is probably too great to just show us the oft-repeated fact that a large percentage of these winners wind up losing all their money. Indeed, one fears the worst when the film’s early scenes show us a working-class African-American woman from Delaware obsessed with the lottery. As Blitz’s camera follows her buying tickets, spending around $100 a day, and dreaming about all the things she’ll do once she hits the jackpot, it’s hard not to think we’re about to be scolded again.

Luckily, Blitz isn’t too interested in preaching to us. He employs the same cross-sectional approach he employed in “Spellbound,” following people from all walks of life whose lives were changed by the lottery, but this time there’s little common purpose. They’ve all won already. What fascinates the filmmaker are the divergent paths they took after their victories. One Vietnamese immigrant from Lincoln, Neb., one of eight winners of a record-breaking, $300 million-plus jackpot, uses his newfound money to build a series of large homes right next to one another and bring his family closer to home; he then builds a massive mansion in Vietnam, so 50 or so members of his family back there can live together. A New Jersey couple, the sole winners of a staggering $110 million, give money to neighbors in need and a series of charities, before moving off to Sarasota, Fla. and buying one of the chintziest houses I’ve ever seen, including a pool with the letters “PB” (for Powerball) painted on the bottom. One winner — a troubled, suicidal loner who split his last $3 on food for his nine cats and a Powerball ticket — gets cleaned up, buys a nice suit and a big house — then realizes he wants to go back to living a simple life and checks into a motel.

01262010_Lucky2.jpgThere is a bit of disconnect here: “Lucky” is fascinating, but one might wonder what it’s actually about. There’s no real overarching philosophy to the director’s approach. He seems content to sit back and revel in the cosmic joke that seems to be at play whenever someone hits a jackpot. One subject, a brilliant Berkeley mathematician, fully aware of the insane odds against him, played the same numbers for years and eventually won $22 million: After using some of the money to finance a chair at his university in honor of his mentor, he found himself divorced, lonely, and looking for purpose in life. Another man, a local hero who saved a child from a burning building, won $16 million, and promptly found his life plunged into chaos when his siblings tried multiple times to try and kill him for the money; Blitz finds him destitute, sick, and living in the backroom of an auto body shop.

Extreme environments often reveal deep personality traits, and one on-camera interviewee likens winning the lottery to “throwing Miracle-Gro on all your character flaws.” “Lucky” effectively uses these life-changing events to explore its diverse characters. The lottery winds up being incidental to the tale: Blitz might as well be following a series of plane crash survivors. In the end, much like “Spellbound,” this is a film about the vast tapestry of human experience.

“Lucky” does not yet have U.S. distribution.

[Photos: “Lucky,” Big Beach Films, 2010]


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.