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DID YOU READ

The joys of Wikipedia plot synopses.

The joys of Wikipedia plot synopses. (photo)

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Sometimes I contribute reviews to “Sight & Sound,” a British film magazine that includes a complete synopsis before each review. This practice frees up valuable space for actual criticism (although some people — coughStephen Holden — who are under the delusion that “reviewing” is “summarizing” would probably not dig it). Because of this, and because I can be pretty bad with plot, I take a lot of scribbled notes in the dark.

Lately, though, I’ve discovered that, more often than not, a complete synopsis of even the dumbest movie is soon available on Wikipedia — sometimes before the damn thing even opens. I’m not sure who this group of synopsizers are and what drives them, but they’re very, very dedicated.

Sometimes, these admirably detailed synopses are laced with sly commentary. Whoever wrote up “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” was alert enough to notice that the bad guys “appear to know parkour.” And sometimes they make weird interventions. Whoever summarized “Obsessed” decided it was a two-act film, as they announce in bold headings.

Not all movies receive such treatment — the further back they recede in time, the less likely they are to have detailed information, no matter how important. So Max Ophuls’ “La Ronde” is noted as telling “a series of stories about love affairs or illicit meetings involving a prostitute, a soldier, a chambermaid, her employer’s son, a married woman, her husband, a young girl, a poet, an actress and a count. At the end of each encounter, one of the partners forms a liaison with another person, and so on.” Fair enough.

The best synopses combine a fastidious attention to detail with language only vaguely reminiscent of English. One of my favorite is actually for a TV series, the eternally banal “Everybody Loves Raymond.” It takes the show’s bland quirks with great seriousness: “Ray and Debra constantly have marital disagreements, with Debra frequently denying Ray sex and Ray preferring to watch sports television instead of talking to Debra about matters important to her.” Later, it notes that “a recurring theme on the show has them having a long interaction each night while in bed, just before going to sleep.” A theme!

But the monster epic of them all is the entry for “Garfield: The Movie.” One of those disapproving flags sits at the top of the page, warning that “This article is written like a personal reflection or essay and may require cleanup. Please help improve it by rewriting it in an encyclopedic style.” I disagree. This is the greatest synopsis in written history.

01182010_garfield.jpgThe opening sentence is as grammatically adventurous as Gertrude Stein: “It begins when Garfield is a fat lazy cat (voiced by Bill Murray) who lives with Jon Arbuckle, wakes up from a good night’s sleep and awaits a tasty breakfast.” Over the course of 12 paragraphs (!), we learn that Garfield is angry about his visit to the vet because he “previously thought he was going to Chuck E Cheese’s, Wendy’s, Taco Kitty or Olive Garden,” and that is he is “(needless to say) not very happy now that a dog is running amuck in the house.”

By film’s end, “Garfield learns friendship and love, and they live as a big happy family… But all that changes when he intentionally pushes Odie off his chair over and over again. The film closes with Garfield singing and dancing to James Brown’s ‘I Got You (I Feel Good)’. He does a split and can’t get up.”

Wikipedia is an invaluable reference updated by all manner of people — the knowledgable, the pedantic, the fans, the trolls. But entries like that — somewhere between stoned tour-de-force, ESL and the completely inexplicable — are the things that please me most.

[Photos: Wikipedia entry for “Obsessed”; “Garfield,” Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 2004]

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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.