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Mumblecore is dead. Long live mumblecore.

Mumblecore is dead. Long live mumblecore. (photo)

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Following the same principle that dictates that any band that jumps from the underground to the mainstream loses its street cred, it’s safe to say that “mumblecore” — an initially jokey tag subsequently attached to a series of movies that really did have something in common for a while — is all but dead.

The past few weeks have seen articles about everything from A.O. Scott’s claim that Greta Gerwig is the most representative actress of her generation to an odd rant in Slate about the concept of “mumblecore nudity.” If punk exploded into post-punk the moment anyone wanted to write about it, then it seems safe to say mumblecore’s historical moment is dead (not least because no one could clearly define it).

Mumblecore was both real (a group of twentysomething filmmakers recording the minute emotional dilemmas of twentysomethings with a near-pathlogical fearlessness that could be confused with narcissism) and unreal (i.e., many of the collaboratory directors had very different ways of going about it). That Jessica Grose could categorize a particular type of nudity as “mumblecore” (when many of the films involved were mostly sexless, and criticized for that) speaks to the confusion attendant in summarizing a whole genre that didn’t really exist.

Forgetting all that noise for a minute, what’s interesting about “mumblecore” is that it did focus around a certain age cohort — demographically slimmed down to the white, young and post-collegiate, to be sure, if that’s something to be apologetic about — in a way that hadn’t been done before. Independent films up to that point had treated youth in a somewhat abstract and/or self-ghettoizing fashion: Jim Jarmusch’s hipsters (by any other name, but what else to call someone striding through the neighborhood to the self-broadcasted tune of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins), Richard Linklater’s abstracted slackers, Kevin Smith’s self-aggrandizing men of low expectations. (Or, to go back even further, the proletarians of your average Cassavetes film — seemingly naturalistic, but always portrayed by self-conscious actors and self-consciously operatic.)

04092010_hannah.jpgWhat “mumblecore” insisted upon (quietly, of course) was that a whole new group of kids were out there who’d never been taught to socialize had the right to exist that way — not to learn to speak with assurance and ease, but to negotiate the terms of how they addressed each other, whether that looked sub-adult or not. Point being there’s a whole generational rift that still persists from the ’60s — not about “progressive politics” or so on, but about what it means to be an adult now, and at what point you can have a mature income/home and still conduct yourself in a way that isn’t putatively “adult.”

That’s what mattered: to have people telling stories about others their own age without pathologizing it or insisting upon a generational crisis. The most unnerving revelation? Passive-aggressive, evasive patterns of expression are normal now for whatever reason (Douglas Coupland will surely have an answer soon). The hostility towards mumblecore — one that will persist long after the term encompasses such a diffuse group of movies that it’s even more meaningless than it is now — has more to do with that revelation than the value of the movies themselves.

[Photos: “Mutual Appreciation,” Image Entertainment, 2005; “Hannah Takes The Stairs,” IFC, 2007]


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.