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Scratching the Surface of the Seattle Film Festival

Scratching the Surface of the Seattle Film Festival (photo)

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When Seattle Film Festival programming manager Beth Barrett asked an audience Saturday, “Are you ready for 22 more days [of movies]?” I knew I was in trouble — I had little more than a weekend in the Pacific Northwest and I was barely going to make it into five percent of the 256 features they cram into three-and-a-half weeks.

There was some comfort in the fact that IFC.com has covered many of the films that will be playing Seattle in the weeks ahead — “Cyrus,” “Every Day,” “The Freebie,” “Get Low,” “Holy Rollers,” “Howl,” “I Am Love,” “Marwencol,” “Meet Monica Velour,” “Monogamy,” “Ondine,” “Nowhere Boy,” “Robogeisha,” “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll,” “Soul Kitchen,”, “Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil” and “Winter’s Bone” — to offer some direction. But the festival’s unparalleled collection of foreign films when combined with American festival hits that have found success elsewhere make it appear intimidating at first glance.

Leafing through the city’s alternative weekly The Stranger‘s “SIFF Notes” was a great deal of help, though it offered as much relief as when I used the yellow-covered study guides it emulated for “The Odyssey” in the ninth grade. The festival also has the nice touch of showing a trailer for another film at SIFF before every film, though that can only take you so far.

As far as previews were concerned, the best was not necessarily a guide, but Movie City News’ Kim Voynar’s love letter to her local film festival that accurately paints SIFF as, in a word that’s popular up here in the Pacific Northwest, sustainable, even if it can be overwhelming.

05242010_ExtraMan2.jpgObviously, the best place to start was the opening night film was “The Extra Man,” which seems to be the kickstarter of choice for the summer festivals (Nantucket will also screen it on June 17th). It’s not hard to understand why. “American Splendor” directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini return from their disastrous adaptation of “The Nanny Diaries” to play to their strengths with a starry cast (by indie standards) of Kevin Kline, Paul Dano, Katie Holmes and John C. Reilly for a comedy that’s light on its feet, if not without a few missteps along the way.

Since the directing duo has always shown an affection for nostalgia even in their documentary days (“Off the Menu: The Last Days at Chasen’s”), it was only a matter of time before they teamed up with Jonathan Ames, the author best known nowadays for creating HBO’s quirky detective series “Bored to Death.”

“The Extra Man” is based on Ames’ second novel and, like his TV series, finds its main source of tension in a protagonist (Dano) who yearns for a bygone era of gentility as the reality of the modern day rears its ugly head. Having dropped out of contemporary culture long ago, Dano’s Louis Ives skims alternative weeklies only for the sex ads in the backpages, not for perverse reasons, but to figure out who he is since he’s long questioned his sexual identity.

05242010_ExtraMan3.jpgIn spite of the confusion, Ives can fairly identify himself as a true gentleman first, and along with his desperation to find companionship in one form or another, he is an easy mark for those who want to take advantage of him. Left only with a Pontiac Granville by his father, he is taken under the wing of his roommate Henry Harrison (Kline), who loves nothing more than to make use of it for his work as an “extra man” escort of upper crust octogenarian widows as, despite his air of pretension, Harrison can only “afford one working door” on his own car.

In return, Ives learns the literal ins and outs of Manhattan high culture, as Harrison sneaks him into the opera without paying and educating him in the ways of pleasing the rich geriatric set. (When Harrison describes the full package for an extra man — wit, intelligence, and uncommon joie de vivre, Ives can only mutter to himself, “I wish I had joie de vivre.”)

Dano is quickly becoming the Bud Cort of his generation, a blank slate for auteurs to plunk down into a sea of eccentrics. Besides Kline’s Harrison, he must contend with a mousy co-worker at an environmental magazine (a perfectly cast Katie Holmes) who doesn’t reciprocate his affection for her and a shaggy neighbor played by John C. Reilly, nearly unrecognizable under a beard that puts Grizzly Adams to shame. Unfortunately, the underwritten character with an annoying falsetto proves to be one of the film’s glaring weak spots.

05242010_theextraman8.jpgHowever, Berman and Pulcini build a credible world of two New Yorks, where the high society haves are really have nots and the have nots have more than they know, even if both parties are blissfully unaware that their way of life seems to have no place in the here and now. It’s wistful, to be sure (there’s even a haughty narrator to punctuate the rather mundane details of Ives’ life), but just like the land of oddballs and eccentrics that Ames initially envisioned, it’s nice to think “The Extra Man” could carve out a little corner to call its own — Magnolia will be releasing the film on July 30th.

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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.