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DID YOU READ

Did Woody Allen ruin romantic comedies?

Did Woody Allen ruin romantic comedies? (photo)

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In a thoughtful appraisal better than “The Back-Up Plan” deserves, the New York Times‘ Manohla Dargis doesn’t so much review the movie as the entire landscape of the contemporary romantic comedy, one of her favorite topics. She observes a decline from the days of witty banter to “speeches about feelings”: “Freud might have hit Hollywood decades earlier, but Woody Allen and the generations of funnymen and women he inspired, have a lot to answer for.”

On that note, it’s fascinating to wonder about how “Annie Hall” might have lead to the mess we’re in now. The rom coms of the ’30s-’50s remain supremely watchable to both genders — you’d be a fool to label the Hepburn-Tracy movies “chick flicks.” While the power imbalances and assumptions are now definitively of their time, they still awarded parity to both sides when it comes time to make the rhetorical case.

Something happened in the 1970s, the decade when the public discovered sex. (Nope, it wasn’t the ’60s: the ’70s were when people had to reckon with what they’d learned.) Indeed, Woody Allen does have a lot to answer for: “Annie Hall” inverts the romantic comedy and reinvents it something born of disillusionment, a difficult movie to watch, acutely despairing as it is. ’70s cinema is fraught with loveless, despairing sex — 1977, the year “Annie Hall” hit theaters, also brought us Diane Keaton in “Looking For Mr. Goodbar,” in which she plays a schoolteacher who, for her pains in trawling the singles bars, ends up dead.

04232010_backupplan1.jpgThe effort to reconstitute movie romance is downright heroic if you look at it in a certain light — it had to be taken out of the realm of teen love, à la John Hughes, and restored to the world of adults. How else to explain Nora Ephron’s transition from bitter chronicler of divorce in “Heartburn” to shameless huckster of enduring romance in “When Harry Met Sally,” “Sleepless In Seattle” and beyond? It’s almost admirable, even if the ensuing movies aren’t — and, in the process, somehow got tagged as and made for women only, a lamentable shift.

The contemporary rom com is often an inadvertently angry thing, fighting for transcendent love (or at least a decent date) in a post-sexual lib, post-romance world, a fairly toxic combo. Jennifer Lopez didn’t ask for all this — she’s just fighting her way through it the best she can. We may return to banter someday; right now we’ll have to settle for angry misunderstandings, obscenely expensive evenings out, and a wariness of being hurt that’s unbelievable.

[Photos: “Annie Hall,” MGM/UA Home Entertainment, 1977; “The Back-up Plan,” CBS Films, 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.