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DID YOU READ

Bearing the brunt of “Bear Nation.”

Bearing the brunt of “Bear Nation.” (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

Amongst the tousled, too-hip-for-the-room Japanese punks and the deglammed hipster brunettes with Jackie O. shades, one of the more recognizable constituencies walking around this year’s SXSW would have to be the portly bearded male, so prominent in number that you’d think you were living in a wet dream of the men profiled in “Bear Nation,” Malcolm Ingram’s look at the fetish of a certain subset of gay men towards the hirsute and hefty. The film is a follow-up to Ingram’s first documentary “Small Town Gay Bar” and, like that film, you pretty much know what you’re getting into from the title, though “Bear Nation” doesn’t only refer to America, but apparently Canada and England, where Ingram films interviews, and the rest of the world, as the film shows through a series of posters and pictures in the end credits from bear conventions around the globe.

There are interviews with famous bears such as Hüsker Dü frontman Bob Mould and honorary bear Kevin Smith (the film’s executive producer), but mostly “Bear Nation” has average Joes telling their stories about having to first come out as homosexuals and then coming out once more as chubby chasers. All that’s well and good, but it’s not a 90-minute movie, and it might not even sustain the 44-minute version set to air on Logo later this year. (Ingram said during the Q & A that he’s taking the film on a 29-city tour of bear-related events this summer, where the film will find its most appreciative audience.) The trouble is “Bear Nation” is a film at war with itself, surely set into motion because the idea of being attracted to “bears” is intriguingly subversive, but presenting its subjects as normal, average guys with particular tastes like everyone else. And while the testimony of the men is heartfelt, their stories, as well as the many clubs and conventions Ingram takes us to, are too similar and mostly mundane to justify its feature length.

Dressed up in pop music and drizzled with campy clips from the ’50s, “Bear Nation” has energy to spare and Ingram continually spices up the film with his subjects’ tales of masturbating to “Smokey and the Bandit” and being sexually awakened by “Longtime Companion,” but there’s also pointless sequences of people on the street comparing gay bears to real bears and interviews where the t-shirts say more than the subject wearing them (one particularly amusing one reads “It’s okay that I eat meat because I eat all the gay animals”). Additionally, Ingram and cinematographer Andrew MacDonald make the distracting choice to shoot many of the interviews from an indirect angle that’s not quite a side profile, inadvertently undermining the integrity of what the men are saying since they’re always looking way off-screen.

Still, “Bear Nation” will likely resonate with bear lovers, and as many who are interviewed in the film suggest, take the stigma off of what one calls “a splinter group within a splinter group.” That much was evident from the film’s post-screening Q & A, where two separate audience members praised the film for documenting a part of the gay community that has existed for at least a decade-and-a-half, which is how long Bear magazine, which is featured prominently in the film, has been in business. (The hairy SXSW staffer who introduced the screening did his part to excite the crowd by asking where the “beardos” were and encouraged the audience to feel his beard, which he “sifted with coconut oil and sandalwood” earlier in the morning.) Ingram also took the opportunity to share how he personally finally felt comfortable when he was taken in by the bear community when he came out in his thirties, though he never includes his own story in the film. By leaving the story to be told by others, “Bear Nation” misses a key opportunity to rise above its attention-grabbing premise.

“Bear Nation” will be self-distributed and appear on Logo this year.

[Photo: “Bear Nation,” View Askew Productions, 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.