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“Edgar Wright Saves the World” at the L.A. Film Festival

“Edgar Wright Saves the World” at the L.A. Film Festival (photo)

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“I hope you guys aren’t frustrated that it’s J.J. interviewing me and not me interviewing J.J.,” joked Edgar Wright, sitting across from J.J. Abrams at the Los Angeles Film Festival for a two-hour plus conversation about his career. “And that at the end, you won’t get to ask him questions like ‘When the fuck is ‘Star Trek 2’ is coming out?'”

“We’re here for you, Edgar,” replied Abrams, without missing a beat. “It’s an intervention.”

Funny thing is it was the people in the audience who were the addicts, eager to see what proved to be nine minutes of footage from Wright’s latest “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World” and a thorough career retrospective for a director who is only 36. Wright’s already earned a legion of fans with his comedies, which include the TV show “Spaced,” “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.”

Count Abrams among them, as the “Alias”/”Star Trek” mastermind barely referenced his own experiences in the industry, instead firing off one burning question after another to Wright with a boyish, geeky enthusiasm. (One of the highlights of the night was Abrams interrupting the answer to an unrelated question just to ask Wright which was his favorite scene in “Evil Dead 2.” Answer: The 20-minute sequence of Bruce Campbell alone.)

While there were plenty of amusing stories and insights during the evening, from Wright’s dismay at a wrap party for “Spaced” where his cameraman told him “I don’t think there’s a single bit of this I’d put on my showreel” to the elation of having George Romero love “Shaun of the Dead” — (“He watched it on his own with a bodyguard from Universal. I love the idea that George Romero would pirate the film himself. He’s quite entitled to have the residuals from it.”), what follows is a recreation of some of the best bits in Wright’s own words for those who couldn’t make it to the sold out discussion, including thoughts on “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World.”

“Dead Right” (1993)

Wright won a video camera on the British TV show “Comic Relief” when he was 16 and “made a superhero film, a western, a video version of the film I then made on 16mm (‘Fistful of Fingers’) and then this, the last one, which might look familiar if you’re a ‘Hot Fuzz’ fan,” since it was shot using many of the same locations in Wright’s hometown of Somerset. While the full clip Wright showed isn’t online, here’s a taste of his first foray into the world of hard-boiled cops and criminals and an anecdote about shooting a violent film in public.

Wright: That playground you could only get in from 6:30 to 9 before the kids turned up and then like 6:30 till 9 after the kids are gone. And it was not dissimilar to shooting ‘Hot Fuzz,’ where we didn’t really have all the streets locked down, so three 18-year-olds with guns and fake blood and knives weren’t really supposed to be in a children’s playground. (laughs) I remember one shot where the cop is standing there with blood all over him and a gun. This old man came up to him, not seeing me or the camera, and he said, “you can’t play with guns in a children’s park!” [Wright and his actor explained,] “No, we’re making a film. No, it’s not real. It’s fake blood, it’s a fake gun. This is a water pistol.” [They pleaded with the man, explaining to him that it’s fake, before the man snorted,] “Well, grow up then.” And stormed off.

06222010_FistfulofFingers.jpg“Fistful of Fingers” (1995)

Wright was just three weeks out of art college when he decided to shoot his first proper feature on £11,000 and a 21-day schedule, inspired by the low-budget DIY style of Peter Jackson’s “Bad Taste” and Robert Rodriguez’s “El Mariachi.” Though one of his professors warned, “don’t do a spoof as your first film; do something original,” Wright made this Western send-up that was a remake of one of his earlier shorts shot on video. He realized during editing, “There was a lot of nice stuff in it, it wasn’t as funny as the Video 8 one and trying to reshoot the same gags with the same people in the same locations, just the spirit of it was lost along the way.” He didn’t bring a clip of the film to show, but he did speak about its critical reaction.

Wright: I guess it got released in a cinema, not in cinemas. The weird thing was it came out the same weekend as “GoldenEye.” Even though it was on one screen, as happens in the UK, it got reviewed everywhere and some people gave it a good review, like the Evening Standard and the Telegraph, but then Empire magazine, which I collected since issue one, gave it one star. Being a 21-year-old and reading that was just crushing — I thought ohhhhh noooo. Even being at the shop, looking at all the magazines and reading that, I still had to buy it. I threw out all my Empires except for that one. That’s my picture of Dorian Gray; I had to keep the one with the review of “Fistful of Fingers.”

I think if it ever got released on DVD, I’d like to do a lot of supplementary material as some kind of cautionary tale. I probably make too much of a meal of it being bad, as well as the one-star review… and this is the thing with the “GoldenEye” thing, you will be judged against other films. I kind of thought ‘well, “GoldenEye” cost like $100 million. You can’t be reviewed against that.’ No, that doesn’t happen.

There was a good review in a listings magazine. I was completely broke at the time and unemployed. After reading the Empire one seeing a good review is like finding the golden ticket inside the Wonka Bar. I found the magazine, I had no money and I stole the magazine.

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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.