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DID YOU READ

Review: “Beware the Gonzo,” not your typical teen comedy.

Review: “Beware the Gonzo,” not your typical teen comedy. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.

There seems to be no end to interesting tales from high school. Take for instance, Bryan Goluboff, who, while attending Bellmore Kennedy off the shore of Long Island, started up an alternative to his high school newspaper when he was fed up with the leadership and was fired. With the gusto of your average New Yorker, Goluboff explained to the crowd gathered for his directorial debut: “First, I was righteous, then I was savage… and possibly psychotic.”

He described how he wanted to transfer his personal story to film, opening with a battered Ezra Miller confessing to the camera how he ruined all of his personal relationships by starting up a newspaper, just so the audience wouldn’t think this was your run-of-the-mill teen comedy. “I wanted to show the high school types and sort of explode them as I went,” said Goluboff.

Apropos of the high school milleu, Goluboff fills “Beware the Gonzo” with plenty of one-liners that detonate like cherry bombs. Alas, too few really explode. It doesn’t help that its star Miller was the face of the truly incendiary “Afterschool,” where his narrow eyes, high cheekbones and blank stare suggested a killer instinct that’s played for punchlines here. As a cub reporter reared on Hunter S. Thompson, Eddie “Gonzo” Gilman pushes a microcassette recorder in the faces of fellow students and wears a trenchcoat to signal he’s dogged. Supposedly, this has impressed the dean at Columbia’s School of Journalism, with whom we’re led to believe he has a running dialogue.

04232010_BewaretheGonzo2.jpgGonzo’s barely acknowledged by anyone at his own Parker Prep until he decides to create a tabloid named in his honor, the Gonzo, and relies on the work of his small group of outcast friends — a bob-haired Asian with constantly upturned lips, a wiry kid with a fetish for the fat and disabled, and a solemn target for bullies whose jet black-rimmed glasses quite pointedly offset his pale white flesh and tufts of red hair. (As Goluboff said of the actor playing him during the Q & A, “You can’t teach that complexion.”)

The Gonzo‘s first publication makes waves amongst the student body, but its sudden success is at the expense of the film’s, since it’s unimaginable that throngs of students would be lining up the following day to work at the paper, let alone read it. This is something Goluboff understands… to an extent. He inserts a conversation about the death of newspapers into the film early, having the devoted ink-stained wretch Gonzo defend the power of print against his future sex columnist Zoe Kravitz’s claims that they need to start a website. But allusions to Thompson and the McCarthy hearings may go over the head of the film’s intended audience, unless of course they mistake the latter as a relative of Jesse McCartney, who plays the film’s villain Gavin Riley, a rare editor-in-chief who doubles as a star athlete. (His introductory scene drew shrieks from a certain segment of the crowd.)

Unlike the worlds built in similar films of recent years, like “Assassination of a High School President” and “Brick,” “Beware the Gonzo” doesn’t strive for a heightened reality, but gets there anyway. Any time Riley enters the room with Gonzo, the room magically clears as if a “High Noon” duel was about to take place. Similarly, one of the film’s more intriguing confrontations, when Kravitz’s Evie Wallace executes her plan to out the guys who have lied about having sex with her in her sex column, is diffused quickly when the jerk in question challenges her in the middle of the school lunch hall and is taunted by the entirety of the cafeteria, as if on cue.

04232010_JesseMcCartneyBewaretheGonzo.jpgIf the tone were consistent, such scenes could make sense, but when a particularly ugly reveal happens late in the film, it feels out of step with a movie that’s primarily concerned with having a good time, something that’s at odds with Goluboff’s previous writing credits on “In Treatment” and “The Basketball Diaries.”

It should be said that “Beware the Gonzo” might not be entirely finished yet — when an audience member asked about a story point at the end of the film, Goluboff realized a line of dialogue went by too fast and suggested he would go back and tinker. This feels like a film that could be improved in the editing room.

“Beware the Gonzo” is currently without U.S. distribution.

[Photos: “Beware the Gonzo,” Cornerstore Entertainment, 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.