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The Good Book

The Good Book (photo)

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Sometimes it’s the small moments.

As in life, in a movie one little thing can have the power to send you into a bittersweet reverie of love lost, or fill your heart with enigmatic emotions. For me, it usually involves music.

There are too many music-in-movie moments throughout the history of cinema to discuss here, but often, even during the shortest bursts of soundtrack — shorter than say, Harold waiting for the fate of Maude and driving his car towards that cliff to the entire tune of Cat Stevens’ “Trouble” (one of the most heart-achingly beautiful and brilliantly edited mergings of song and image) — if set properly, I can get chills just watching a few moments of a musical interlude.

Last year, it occurred in Davis Guggenheim’s documentary “It Might Get Loud,” when Jimmy Page air-guitared to his own old 45 of Link Wray’s “Rumble.” How disarming, touching, oddly life-affirming it was to watch a master air-strum to the thick, evil, inspirational power chords of that other master, Wray, with the beaming smile of a little boy and a lifelong fan. Perfection.

This year (and it’s early yet), it happened in “The Book of Eli” in which directors Albert and Allen Hughes make the inspired decision to meld Denzel Washington with Al Green.

01132010_BookofEli3.jpgOf course, Al Green is easy. Easy in the way that you can’t insert an Al Green song in a movie and not make me feel something. You can’t play an Al Green song in a car without making me look at the world differently. So introducing Washington, after trudging through post-apocalyptic desolation, covered in scarves and layers and grime and dust, and then unwrapping all of this coating to reveal an older face, a scarred body and a mysterious, sadder demeanor, to the tune of “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” (written by the Gibb brothers — nice touch, Hughes brothers) was one of the most poignant movie moments I’ve seen this year (and I repeat, it’s early yet).

And then there’s the fact that Washington puts the song on himself, taking refuge in a bombed-out house, then grabbing his battered MP3 player with a dying battery to escape the world’s ugliness to the lyrics (and please, hear Green’s soulfully introspective falsetto as you read this): “I can think of younger days, when living for my life was everything a man could want to do. I could never see tomorrow, but I was never told about the sorrow.” Washington choosing that song makes it more affecting. Thank god he chose that song. And, of course he chose that song. This is what Denzel Washington would listen to. He’s not a young man. He’s a man. Further, he’s a god-damn man. And a movie star. He’s a dying breed.

As is the expressive resonance of Al Green. Now, if only the directors had allowed that song to play throughout the entire scene. And if only another Green tune closed the picture. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Choosing a singer who still resides as reverend at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis, TN works a dual purpose in that “The Book of Eli” is about The Book, as in the Good Book — the Bible, the book that Washington’s mysterious wanderer Eli has held in his possession, spending 30 years of his life braving a dangerous scorched landscape to protect the text. People want it. Why? Because the words written in that leatherette edition you pass over in your hotel bedside drawer are also contained in Eli’s much-loved locked copy, the only one left in the world.

01132010_bookofeli12.jpgBefore you go “Oh, no! The Hughes brothers (who haven’t made a feature film in nine years, since 2001’s “From Hell”) are getting all Jesus-y Christ-y, Tyler Perry’s Post-Apocalyptic Family Reunion, Kirk Cameron Explains The End Times on us!” — they’re not. Not in the preachy way you might imagine. Not that this would matter — if it works, it works (see “The Passion of the Christ” and leave me alone about it).

With some major nods to “A Boy and His Dog,” “Mad Max,” spaghetti westerns, samurai pictures, the Zatoichi series, “Fahrenheit 451” and even “Deadwood,” the potentially exceptional story (scripted by Gary Whitta) — though not developed to the extent that it could have, and weirdly, not as outlandish as it should have been — finds Eli up against a vicious dictator, Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who rules one of the few semi-working devastated towns. Carnegie holds power because, like Eli, he can actually read (part of world decimation has meant that most of the population is now illiterate) and, on top of this talent, he enjoys his books. He frequently dispatches his goons to gather him reading material, which he peruses with relish. (He’s reading a biography on Mussolini upon introduction, which seemed a bit on the nose. Why not Ayn Rand or Céline or Nicholas Sparks?)


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.