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If you’re going to fail, you might as well fail big.

If you’re going to fail, you might as well fail big. (photo)

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It’s been 50 years now since “Psycho” horrified critics, and 13 since David Lynch decided to be a smart-ass and put Siskel & Ebert’s “Two thumbs down” verdict on the poster for “Lost Highway,” a gap which tells you everything you need to know about the present inability of a single film to destroy someone’s career.

Over at the Independent, Geoffrey Macnab provides a brief (if Brit-centric) overview of critically reviled (at the time) career-killers (“Peeping Tom,” “Heaven’s Gate”) — and, more tellingly, a list of the films that prospered anyway (“2001,” “Bonnie and Clyde”) or came in time to be hailed as masterpieces (“The Rules of the Game”).

Sometime shortly after “Heaven’s Gate,” it became seemingly impossible to torpedo your career with a single big-time flop — after Elaine May imploded with “Ishtar,” we presume, though her well-publicized neurotic perfectionism surely had something to do with that. Barry Levinson was a trailblazer in the field, following up the high-profile misfire of “Toys” with more disastrous movies (“Jimmy Hollywood,” “Sphere”) without ever missing a beat.

06222010_gigli.jpgRenny Harlin basically bankrupted Carolco Pictures with “Cutthroat Island,” but he was back the next year with “The Long Kiss Goodnight” and has worked at a steady clip ever since. Four years after “Lost Highway,” Lynch had “Mulholland Drive”; even Kevin Costner was able to follow up “The Postman” with “Open Range” a mere six years later, when he should’ve been dropped in purgatory as fast as possible.

This is not a perfect rule of thumb: Martin Brest, having made “Meet Joe Death,” unwisely followed it up with “Gigli,” and then watched his entire career go to hell. But Brest was never a brand-name like those directors, who always brought something obvious to the table (Levinson his pedigree as a long-respected writer-director, Harlin a reputation for shooting fast with an eye towards maximal box-office pandering)

Inexperienced foreigners, too, are advised not to push their luck, as French effects wizard Pitof found out after “Catwoman.” On the other hand, if you’re Roland Joffé, you can make terrible movies no one sees for fifteen years straight (“The Scarlet Letter,” “Goodbye Lover,” “Vatel,” “Captivity”) and still prosper.

06222010_miamiblues2.jpgThe really interesting thing is that the directors who suffer most tend to be the low-stakes guys, the ones whose failures are modest. It will always be a mystery why George Armitage took seven years to follow-up the cultishly beloved “Miami Blues” with the even cultier “Grosse Pointe Blank,” and why the troubled but relatively inexpensive “The Big Bounce” has seemingly terminated his career.

Nor is it clear why Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan — of the generationally beloved “Can’t Hardly Wait” and “Josie and the Pussycats” — haven’t made a movie in a decade, instead writing junk like “Leap Year” and “Made of Honor” to get by. The big offenders squeak by, the little guys get squashed. Lesson learned: if you’re going to fail, fail big. Even as we speak, Joe Johnston is prepping his follow-up to “Hidalgo” and “The Wolfman”: “Captain America,” coming your way 2011.

[Photos: “Peeping Tom,” The Criterion Collection, 1960; “Gigli,” Sony, 2003; “Miami Blues,” Orion Pictures Corporation, 1990]


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.