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Oil spills into lawsuit over “Crude.”

Oil spills into lawsuit over “Crude.” (photo)

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Here’s the context for today: oil is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico with no apparent end in sight. One solution being tried out involves lowering a gigantic dome onto the gushing leak (shades of “The Simpsons Movie”), which BP chief executive Tony Hayward isn’t overly optimistic about. “It’s only one of the battle fronts,” he said. “This is like the Normandy landing. We know we are going to win. We just don’t know how quickly.”

Clearly, this would be the best possible time for another oil company to sue someone getting in their face, and sure enough Chevron has obtained a subpoena for outtakes from “Crude,” Joe Berlinger’s 2009 documentary about toxic oil and waste contamination in the Amazon. Specifically, they now have the right — pending appeal, natch — to run through all 600 hours of raw footage for evidence of misconduct by lawyers for the indigenous people. Charges of toxic damage? Not important. Procedural stuff? All important.

Admittedly, Berlinger is sometimes a difficult guy to root for. As he told last year, he had a falling out with his co-director and longtime partner on docs like “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” and “Paradise Lost” (though the two are still friends) and of course, outside of the documentary world, he bears some responsibility for the infamous “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2,” even if the studio recut it. In the same interview, he discussed why he was initially averse to entering into “Crude.”

“I am not an agitprop filmmaker,” Berlinger told the lawyer who approached him. “Most of my other films have social issues in them one way or another, but my style is to let the viewer make up his or her own mind, and not bang a single-minded message over your head — which is more the approach of the human rights kind of filmmaker.” But when he got down there, he was “horrified” by what he saw. “After leaving these people, this pollution,” he said, “and talking to mothers with a look of horror in their eyes at the knowledge that they’re giving their children poisoned water, but have no choice… I knew I had to point a camera and try to help these people. Otherwise, I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror.”

05072010_bananas.jpgThere’s something unnerving about the spectacle of a major corporation unleashing heavy-duty litigation and invoking specious legal concerns to crush a movie whose worldwide theatrical gross was under $200,000. Similarly, last year Dole sued the film “Bananas!*” for having the temerity to assert their practices in Nicaragua weren’t completely savory. In both cases, the number of people who see these movies and get outraged will be a minuscule dent against a huge corporate interest; nonetheless, the companies thought it was worth their time to preemptively shut them down. (Still, “Bananas*!” will be released later this year by Oscilloscope.)

Given the large number of American movies that proceed from the starting point that any monolithic corporation is unspeakably evil and not to be trusted, this is kind of surprising. After a screening of “Michael Clayton,” I overheard a man say “This kind of shit happens every day and we don’t even know about it.” Maybe it’s that hostile attitude that’s making corporations a little punchier about covering their legal options. With the image of corporate America under assault, making activist documentaries may have suddenly become a much more dangerous business.

[Photos: “Crude,” First Run Features, 2009; “Bananas!*,” Oscilloscope Laboratories, 2010.]


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.