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DID YOU READ

Where our greatest actresses fit in at the multiplex and at the arthouse.

Where our greatest actresses fit in at the multiplex and at the arthouse. (photo)

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Shortly after the Cannes awards were over, the London Times‘ Kate Muir sat down with Best Actress winner Juliette Binoche to conduct an interesting interview.

Muir makes the observation that Binoche “is one of the few actors to cross, undamaged, from mainstream to arthouse and back.” That’s a select club — one whose female population might be argued to include Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Julianne Moore, Tilda Swinton and few others.

That cluster doesn’t have much in common, except that all were big stars of the past decade without big hits. Watts and Moore can be a little more hit-or-miss with the scripts they choose, while Swinton isn’t as well-known, which gives her more liberty to dip into both paycheck supporting roles (“The Chronicles of Narnia”) and hardcore arthouse exercises (“The Man From London”). Penelope Cruz has more charisma than chops, but she’s never boring to watch. Regardless, we have a lot of talented actresses distinguished by their dedication to small films, perhaps by necessity.

It’s considered smart for all but the most infallible stars to, from time to time, diversify their resumes with low-budget parts presumably designed to shore up their cred. Binoche, uniquely, seems to have almost never taken the paycheck in the first place. With the exceptions of “Chocolat” and, uh, “Dan In Real Life” (which I’ve heard is above average anyway), she’s managed to be One Of The Few French Actresses People Know By Name while barely coming anywhere near the multiplex. It’s an impressive trick.

05252010_flight.jpgPart of the reason Binoche seems not to belong anywhere near the multiplex is simple: aside from Swinton on the above list, few performers take so much trouble to actively alienate their audiences. Watching her is to see cerebrality in action.

Which is precisely why I like her. Binoche is a chilly actress. As a harridan in “Cache,” she rocked; as a self-absorbed thespian (making up most of her dialogue!) in “Flight of the Red Balloon,” she gave arguably the definitive portrait of what it means to try to be a good single mother while maintaining a career. She’s chilly, much more so than Kidman or her fellow arthouse standbyes, which makes her fascinating. She’s a crossover star best known for her possibly worst movie (“The English Patient”) well recognized without having a mainstream career.

Globally, our best female actors (such as Binoche, who rules) tend to be given parts that take out everything that made them interesting in the first place. If they’re safely famous outside the blockbuster circuit, that gives them the liberty to ignore their presumably star-making roles (never a safe bet there days) and cred to go back and forth. The franchise rarely rests on them: Gwyneth Paltrow gave both “Iron Man” movies some juice, but apparently that doesn’t matter no matter how much better she made the movies.

Sexism doesn’t exist in an overt form; it’s just there in the proof that talented female actors settle for indie films far more than they should. Binoche could’ve been a star (or at least starlet) in a previous age; now she just takes serious parts because, honestly, why not. Writers are plentiful; good female parts, not so much.

[Photos: “Certified Copy,” IFC Films, 2010; “Flight of the Red Balloon,” IFC Films, 2007]

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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.