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“California Dreamin'” and “Tetro” on DVD

“California Dreamin'” and “Tetro” on DVD (photo)

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New waves come and new waves go, but they can also linger on in the careers of filmmakeres as they spiral out and become individuals. The Romanian New Wave that began to break only five or so years ago seems to have already dissipated — only Corneliu Porumboiu’s “Police, Adjective” has emerged in the last two years. Maybe the Romanian vibe itself was just too dire to last, or maybe the economy kneecapped the movement. Perhaps momentum was lost when one of the Wave’s most vibrant and commercially orthodox voices, Cristian Nemescu, died in a car wreck in 2006, forever 27, amidst the post-production on his first feature, “California Dreamin'” (2007), which itself has taken three arduous years to finally be made available to American viewers.

The Romanian films we’ve seen in the last five years were all made by thirtysomethings, all of them still teenagers and film-school students when Romania became a “new democracy” in 1989, operating since like so much of the Third World on the outskirts of legality, poverty and social order. Somewhat organically, then, the films have all been similar in their style and approach — state-of-the-art hypernaturalism, natural underlighting, open-ended narratives and shallow-grave comedy. The settings are more often than not paradigmatic post-Communist Bloc villages of newly capitalist predators, their lives structured around black marketeering, bitter self-indulgence, and maddened dreams of either somehow scoring big or getting the hell out.

05112010_californiadreamin2.jpgNemescu’s featurette-length “Marilena de la P7” (2006) begins as a Bucharest “Los Olvidados,” before devolving into a street kid’s coming-of-age experience with a young hooker; the filmmaker apparently had an unquenched thirst for Elvis impersonators and electrically-charged women. “California Dreamin'” is a more traditional Eastern European social farce, less formally chilly than the other Romanians, and closest in uppity attitude to Catalin Mitulescu’s “The Way I Spent the End of the World” (2006). A kind of my-sour-little-village picaresque, the story centers on a destitute town in the muddy Carpathian basin during the Kosovo war visited upon by a NATO train carrying American Marines and munitions. Naturally, opportunism and corruption keep the train from going any further, and days pass as virtually everyone involved attempts to turn the American presence to their profit.

As Nemescu’s title says, America is both the promised land and the object of socioeconomic derision (“Fuck Bill Clinton!” is the crowning moment of defiance), personified by Armand Assante as a hawk-faced, get-it-done officer faced with the utter recalcitrance and carefree self-service of the Romanian trod-upon. Razvan Vasilescu, the ubiquitous Jack Nicholson of Romanian film, is the beady-eyed catalyst for the chaos, which mixes in striking workers and ass-covering bureaucrats, but ultimately focuses on village girls looking for handsome American husbands and a one-way ticket out of Dodge. Climaxing with the carnage of a heartbreaking riot, Nemescu’s epic comedy (a winner at Cannes) leaves virtually nothing out – which is its own irony, because it’s technically an unfinished film, left dangling after its director’s untimely demise. Cynical and grim as the movie is, this is not the grueling Romania of “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” or “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” — Nemescu was a satiric entertainer, and the film embraces a broad-stroke sensibility halfway between Harold Ramis and ascetic arthouse.


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.