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Seven great moments in financial panic

Seven great moments in financial panic (photo)

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Last Thursday the Dow fell the most it’s ever fallen in a single day, 1000 points in 16 minutes. People were understandably alarmed. What caused it? Human error? A computer algorithm? In dubious honor of the fact that no one knows anything when it comes to money, here are seven great moments in cinematic financial panic, cutting across all levels of society:

05092010_madness.jpg“American Madness” (1932)
Directed by Frank Capra

The title screams Oliver Stone, but “American Madness,” when not indulging in moments of pure fantasy, is one of the most accurate looks at everyday economics in movie history. The fantasy part: Walter Huston’s small bank succeeds solely because Huston can judge the character of his customers to know who’ll repay their loans and who won’t. (You can totally sympathize with the board of directors for wanting him to resign.) The realistic part: when Huston’s bank is robbed it sparks a run on the bank that threatens to crash the entire financial system. Only when trustworthy souls make a big show out of depositing their cash does everything return to as it should be. But if you thought your bank was about to drag your savings down with you? “Holy Julias John,” indeed. Whatever its flaws, this is one of the few films that sympathetically (and plausibly) takes the side of the institution.

05092010_thieves.jpg“Thieves’ Highway” (1949)
Directed by Jules Dassin

There isn’t one key moment of panic in “Thieves’ Highway;” it’s more like the entire film sets about claustrophobically summing up what happens when every minute is money slipping away from you and the payment wasn’t very big to begin with. When World War II vet Richard Conte returns home, he finds out his dad was crippled (both literally and financial) by a bad business deal with a shady produce tycoon (Lee J. Cobb, natch). Out for revenge, Conte trucks a massive load of apples to San Francisco to put the financial squeeze on Cobb. But the drive is more difficult than he anticipates, and every time Conte has to make a hard decision, he’s torn between emotion and pragmatism, as if feelings of any kind automatically compromise a business plan. If you did have to single out one moment of pure panic, it would be when Conte’s presumable fiancé Polly sees Conte’s seedy San Francisco motel and realizes she’s not ready for life at that economic strata. The other woman in the room doesn’t help either.

05102010_boy.jpg“Boy” (1969)
Directed by Nagisa Oshima

Desperate times call for desperate measures. For one family in postwar Tokyo, that means throwing their young kid in front of cars, pretending he’s been hit and then negotiating a settlement. In line with his standard agenda of showing off Japan as a carnivorously self-devouring environment, director Nagisa Oshima uses the family’s deception as an indictment of the way an entire society forced their children to repeat their most blood-spilling mistakes. “Showing the beautiful natural scenery of Japan,” the trailer promised; “listening to a boy’s blood.” For Oshima, the predetermined response to economic disrepair was a capitalistic frenzy of exploitation and “Boy” — although a touch didactic — remains both one of Oshima’s most accessible movies and one of the more direct portraits of what happens when the extremes of economic despair hit and Darwinian instinct overrides morality.

05102010_panic.jpg“The Panic In Needle Park” (1971)
Directed by Jerry Schatzberg

Generally speaking, movies about down-and-out heroin addicts aren’t very funny. Nonetheless, “The Panic In Needle Park” is about as buoyant as movies about life-threatening, self-destructive habits get. That’s partly thanks to the energy of a young and still-unpredictable Al Pacino, whose tics and bellows of rage hadn’t yet begun to calcify and set. When his relationship with junkie Kitty Winn starts going downhill, they have a brief but memorable fight. When she asks “Can we talk about something other than money for once?” he screams “I DON’T HAVE ANY FUCKING MONEY.” This is the battle cry of every broke person, every day.

05102010_newleaf.jpg“A New Leaf” (1971)
Directed by Elaine May

Of course, junkies and dropouts weren’t the only ones with economic trouble back in 1971. In the opening minutes of “A New Leaf” — a scabrous comedy badly in need of a DVD release — Walter Matthau, spoiled trust-fund brat and unlikely upper-crust patrician (the counter-intuitive casting is brilliant) discovers he’s spent all of his money. What follows is a montage that never gets old: Matthau wanders through all of favorite haunts to get one last look at them. The restaurant, the social club, the tailor’s; Matthau comes to all of them in his Ferrari, repeating to himself over and over “I’m poor” in the most piteous voice imaginable. Then he decides to marry a rich woman and murder her for her money, so it all works out.

05102010_hudsucker.jpg“The Hudsucker Proxy” (1994)
Directed by Joel Coen

Forget “Wall Street.” For straight-up corporate malevolence you have to turn to Paul Newman in “The Hudsucker Proxy,” the most misunderstood and unappreciated film in the Coens’ catalogue. Terrified at the thought of vulgar plebeians buying a controlling interest in Hudsucker Industries after company founder Charles Durning gleefully jumps to his death, Newman proposes installing a complete idiot (Tim Robbins) as the new president in order to drive shares down and maintain his own power at Hudsucker. This is panic as sheer greed and cynicism; the Hudsucker board seems to have taken lessons in business strategy from Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder in “The Producers.” Their plan backfires for similar reasons, but it involves playing recklessly with a lot more people’s money.

05012010_ocean.jpg“Ocean’s Thirteen” (2007)
Directed by Steven Soderbergh

“Ocean’s Eleven” revels in the majestic faux-opulence of Las Vegas. “Ocean’s Twelve” is an ode to the joys of casual European travel and well-tailored suits. But in “Ocean’s Thirteen,” Steven Soderbergh seems fed up with all the money being flashed around. He opens on a surprisingly grim note, with Elliott Gould bedridden with a heart attack after a deal with Al Pacino — calcified tics and all — goes south. From there, “Ocean’s Thirteen” veers surprisingly close to Soderbergh’s other films about life at the bottom of the economic ladder (“Erin Brockovich,” “Bubble”) and implicit class warfare (“Che”). There’s an especially weird subplot where Scott Caan and Casey Affleck head down to Mexico and get so outraged by factory conditions they lead a strike for wages, complete with Molotov cocktails. It’s a pretty unusual statement for a franchise built on surface level thrills, and it helps make “Ocean’s Thirteen” a savage dismantling of the whole series.

[Photos: “Stock Ticker” board game manufactured by Copp-Clark Publishing; “American Madness,” Columbia, 1932; “Thieves’ Highway,” The Criterion Collection, 1949; “Boy,” Japanese New Wave Cinema Classics, 1969; “The Panic In Needle Park,” 20th Century Fox, 1971; “A New Leaf,” Paramount, 1971; “The Hudsucker Proxy,” Warner Bros., 1994; “Ocean’s Thirteen,” Warner Bros., 2007.]


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.