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Danny Huston Does the Boogie Woogie

Danny Huston Does the Boogie Woogie (photo)

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You might imagine there’s a lot to live up to in a showbiz career when your half-sister, father and grandfather have each won at least one Academy Award, but one peek at Danny Huston’s acting résumé (“The Proposition,” “Birth,” “The Aviator,” “Children of Men”) illustrates he’s primed to take over the family business. (And for those wondering, the aforementioned relatives are Angelica, John and Walter.)

Armed with his sharp ear for dialects and a bigger-than-life screen presence, Huston commands the room in director Duncan Ward’s star-studded “Boogie Woogie,” an art-world satire adapted by Danny Moynihan from his own novel. Huston stars as London gallery kingpin Art Spindle, whose over-the-top laughter infects several storylines involving rabid collectors, opportunistic assistants, oversexed conceptual artists and the titular Mondrian painting, prized among the scenesters. Sipping on Arnold Palmers in the lobby of Manhattan’s Bowery Hotel, Huston and I discussed Art — both with a capital “A” and the lowercase kind — and filmmaking advice given to him by his legendary pop.

Even with a stellar cast that includes Stellan Skarsgård, Alan Cumming and Amanda Seyfried, your performance is the ensemble’s most comically mannered. How did you develop him?

First is the laugh. That was very much written: H-A, H-A, H-A. It was something I saw on the page that could potentially trip me up, which I had to overcome. I found this laugh, which is, as you say, close to being pantomime. [laughs] Second were these Jay Jopling glasses, which are a signature. Combined with his avid appetite for art, you’re dealing with three broad strokes that define the character. So I tried to give him some humanity, but it is a little bit of a masquerade. He does, in a way, hide behind these characteristics, but underneath is a man who truly loves art. It’s not something that he’s doing for greed alone. He has a keen sense of what is beautiful, a taste that others rely on, but he can probably see further than that. That’s what makes him buoyant. [laughs]

04212010_DannyHustonBoogieWoogie4.jpgHow would you describe your own taste for art?

Well, I went to art school. I resisted the film business as long as I could, because of the big circus act and the amount of money that it costs to make films — I saw my father suffer through that. I loved painting and drawing for many reasons. One of them was that all it really required was me, a pencil and a pad. It was something I was passionate about, and still am. But then I went to these gallery openings, drank too much warm white wine, and realized that there was just as much bullshit involved as in the film business. I finally relented and went to film school.

I was around during the Tracey Emin times, and I know Damien Hirst, so I understand that scene. Danny [Moynihan’s] book was originally set in New York and the script translated it to London, so I thought it possibly gave a fresher look because the New York scene had been so investigated, opened up with a scalpel, and prodded to just about every area. Danny Moynihan and Duncan Ward both live in London, so it hopefully had a genuine quality, even though it is a satire.

But to answer your original question, I like anything where I see vigor and life, and where I feel there’s something that I connect with, that’s speaking to me in whatever form may come.

Why is the ridiculousness of modern art and its surrounding scene still such a ripe target since, as you say, it has already been done from so many angles?

I suppose, primarily, it’s the amount of money spent. Want those butterflies or dots that Damien Hirst produces so eloquently — you better have a couple million to spare. Especially in this day and age, it immediately makes you reevaluate what it all means. The status of owning a piece like this is, at times, comparable to the grotesque. [laughs] I don’t think it’s difficult to observe it with humor, but also a certain amount of horror.

04212010_DannyHustonBoogieWoogie7.jpgHaving said that, what’s been invested in producing these works as far as where the artist has come from and how he’s got there is also what you’re buying. There’s the famous Tracey Emin bed, which has condoms and whiskey bottles and stains. It’s certainly something that, if not one’s mother, one’s grandmother would immediately want to get out of the house and start to tidy up. When you start to observe these pieces with an educated eye and understand what these works mean, then it opens up a whole other world, not one to ridicule. There’s a point where art is not subjective, and my example for that is Picasso. If you don’t like Picasso, that’s your problem. [laughs]

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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.