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At the movies with David Foster Wallace.

At the movies with David Foster Wallace. (photo)

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Anyone interested in the late David Foster Wallace should think about reading excellent essay about David Lynch, there’s a lot of movie talk in the book, mostly centered around the Hollywood products he was most invested in. It’s 1996, so Lipsky and Wallace go to “Broken Arrow.” Wallace casually says things like “You ever see ‘Johnny Mnemonic’?” and suggests Pauline Kael would be a “a good model” for passionate criticism. He doesn’t like Woody Allen (“I don’t think his humor’s all that subtle, it seems like a schtick to me”) and thinks James L. Brooks “has the heart of a whore.” There are a lot more asides along those lines.

Beyond the fun of seeing Wallace kick around such specific ephemeral moments, there are a few bigger points worth noting. Regarding shows like “Love Boat” and “Baywatch,” he speculates that “the stuff that makes no attempt to surprise or do anything artistic, is so profoundly soothing… artwise maybe not the greatest art. But the function it provides is deep in a certain way.” Not, he adds, that “you should go around being some kind of scholar of pop culture,” but that some art “finds a way to take care of you […] kind of despite itself.” But four pages later, talking about predictability in mainstream movies, he notes to Lipsky that “we’re viewers where you know if you’ve got Tom Sizemore, that you’ve ruined the movie for us.” Because Sizemore always gets typecast as the psycho.

Wallace talks at multiple points about the need to find a way out of being buried by a cultural field of crap while also being completely conversant with it, completely aware (and predictably self-conscious) he feels at least a little guilty about that. But moreover he’s talking about watching stuff that’s supposed to be comfortingly predictable and playing games with it; he’s hypnotized once he destroys the very comforts that come with just sitting and letting the movie walk over you.

04272010_brazil.jpgIt’s clear that he found those experiences meaningful, discussing (and, more revealingly, quoting) them casually with great knowledge. Outside of “Blue Velvet” and “Brazil” (both of whose personal importance he discusses at length), it seems possible that his most enjoyable viewing experiences came engaging with the very stuff whose seductive powers he could both see right through and get totally sucked into.

This is a different beast from the argument that movies are “just movies” and should be enjoyed without guilt or thought, nor is it about fetishizing exceptionally bad ones. It’s about really enjoying mediocrity and diving into it, reveling in the tiniest cracks between the formulaic and the odd surprise, treating every movie as something to toy with — an experience that’s maybe more exhilarating than watching something that actively challenges you, because you’re the one doing all the work. The movie’s just something to impose yourself on and figure out how this Sizemore appearance differs from all others (or doesn’t).

[Photos: “Broken Arrow,” 20th Century Fox, 1996; “Brazil,” Criterion, 1985]


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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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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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.