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Jesse Eisenberg’s on a Roll

Jesse Eisenberg’s on a Roll (photo)

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Jesse Eisenberg has cultivated such a distinct onscreen persona over the years — across films as diverse as “Roger Dodger,” “Adventureland,” and “The Squid and the Whale” — that it’s tempting to view each film as the latest entry in a franchise. Yes, the young actor (who, despite often getting cast as a teen, is now 26 years old) might be playing a Hasidic Jew who gets duped into becoming a drug mule for an Israeli drug dealer in Kevin Asch’s “Holy Rollers,” but the character is still distinctly Eisenberg-ian, his intense gaze mixed with halting speech, his self-seriousness tempered by an odd gullibility. And, when you think about it, that’s basically the same character he played in last year’s “Zombieland,” too, sans the payots. Still, it comes as a bit of a surprise when the young actor confesses that the uniformity of these parts may have as much to do with his own anxiety-ridden nature as it does with the scripts he’s given. It’ll be curious to see if he brings that same demeanor to noted taskmaster David Fincher’s “The Social Network,” in which Eisenberg plays Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, just one of the things the young actor talked about when he sat down recently to discuss “Holy Rollers” and the challenges of playing real-life characters.

Were you wary of playing another anxiety-ridden young man yet again in “Holy Rollers”?

No. The characters that I play aren’t really written that way. I think I just have a lot of anxiety on movie sets, so my performances come out that way. It’s so nerve-wracking to be on a set. They’re the most stressful place in the world, because you’re making something permanent, and there are so many people relying on you in a lot of ways. That’s maybe a little facetious, I guess. But what is a character without inner turmoil? My character in “Holy Rollers,” for example — I don’t see how he could not have anxiety. The story just wouldn’t be interesting without that. I like playing that because it’s a clear emotional way into the character.

05202010_EisenbergHolyRollers5.jpgIs it fair to say that the anxiety in these characters is often coming directly from you?

You can’t not do that. As an actor, you try to bring as much of yourself to a part to try and create a feeling of authenticity and emotional truth and resonance. With “Holy Rollers,” the shoot was actually very similar to “Roger Dodger.” We were shooting in New York over about 20 days. I like those types of shoots because you’re constantly in an emotional place that you can access easily, as opposed to a six-month shoot where you’re sitting around in a Winnebago half the time.

Which creates more anxiety for you — the huge six-month studio production, or the small, intense four-week indie?

The bigger movies produce what I would call “unnecessary anxiety,” because there are so many people, and so much money — so many producers, so many people who have a lot invested in it. With the smaller films, it’s a kind of productive anxiety: You have so few people and so few resources to get something done. And it’s always a big deal — making a feature film takes a lot. But that’s a more positive feeling — I feel like I can feed off that in a good way and use it for the movie. Especially with a film like “Roger Dodger,” where it all takes place over one night, you want to sustain that same kind of energy. “Holy Rollers,” too, because it’s about this very turbulent period in this guy’s life, so you try to stay there.

05202010_EisenbergHolyRollers4.jpgThe film is based on a true story. Did you meet with the real people involved?

We fictionalized all the characters, so it was only very loosely based on real people. I did meet with some people who knew some of these guys, and they were involved with the movie. But I never met the actual guys. Basically, there were a few bad apples in this community, who were able for a brief period of time able to take control of some of these innocent kids — like my character Sam, who was duped into thinking he was smuggling medicine but was actually smuggling Ecstasy into the U.S. I have no idea what the actual people involved in this story think of the film. I’m very interested to know, though.


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.