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From Monsters to Mothers

From Monsters to Mothers (photo)

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When Bong Joon-ho was in middle school, he accompanied his mother and a bus full of middle-aged women as they traveled the midlands of South Korea, passing the time by dancing in the aisles. Decades later, the memory would reverberate with the director of “The Host,” who found himself in the middle of a field asking lead actress Kim Hye-ja to dance for the hypnotic opening shot of his latest film “Mother.” (She refused until Bong and his assistant director would also start shaking their hips.)

It was the least Bong could do for his star, whose career of playing warm, attentive mothers has led to the iconic status of being considered a matriarch to all of Korea. But if Bong’s last film was a monster movie about a family who comes together in a time of crisis, his gutwrenching new one is about the monstrosities that people are capable of when a family is torn apart, as Kim joins a long line of movie moms who go to incredible lengths for their children. In this case that involves playing against her long-held screen persona as a woman hellbent on proving her son’s innocence in a murder case. Although Bong admitted he still doesn’t know what his own mother thinks of the film — she saw it around the time of its premiere at Cannes — he shared with me his thoughts on the eccentricities of Korean mothers, his high school love of Ed McBain novels and whether he considers himself to be a political filmmaker, with some, but not much help from a translator.

03092010_Mother3.jpgI’ve heard you say that Korean mothers are particularly peculiar — what sets them apart?

My own mother is the type to worry a lot. Sometimes she would worry about things that hadn’t even happened yet. Korean mothers have that quality of worrying a lot. A unique thing about Korean society is that children rely on their mothers much more than they do in Western society, where they leave home quite early. In Korea, children still live with their parents up to their 30s sometimes. There’s also kind of a subtle sexual tension between the mother and the son because even when the son gets married and brings in a new wife, there becomes a kind of weird love triangle between the mother and the son and the son’s wife that’s dramatic and intense.

Why did you want to tell this story now?

I’ve been thinking about it since 2004, but I wanted to make a film about a mother because “The Host” was about the relationship between a father and his children. As a director, I want to explore relationships between human beings — I thought, what’s the relationship that’s the stickiest, the most complex? At the same time, it’s very animalistic and instinctual and very strong — that’s the relationship between a mother and a son. We’re all sons of mothers.

So did the story idea for “Mother” evolve as you were making “The Host”?

Around 2004, I was writing the script of “The Host.” At the same time, I had the synopsis of “Mother” in my head, so maybe unconsciously, I compared those two stories. For example, in the story of “The Host,” there is a father and grandfather, but I purposefully didn’t want to create any mother-child relationship. There is no mother in those two generations. It makes the family more dysfunctional and more… stupid [laughs] — because I in my point of view, the mother is always the most realistic and strongest presence of the family.

03092010_Mother4.jpgWhen you make a large-scale film like “The Host,” does it change the way you approach a smaller-scale film?

Frankly, I love smaller movies. The reason I made “The Host” is I was fascinated with that story. I had no intention of making big movies, spectacular movies. I was fascinated by the characters and the story, but it cost quite a lot of money to realize the monsters and the digital effects scenes. But I don’t like big budget movies. So in this case with “Mother,” I wanted to dig a very deep hole.


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.