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Oliver Stone Heads “South of the Border”

Oliver Stone Heads “South of the Border” (photo)

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Before American audiences can get their greedy eyes on Oliver Stone’s long-anticipated sequel “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” this fall, the three-time Oscar winner will release an even more politically minded film, if you don’t mind Hugo Chávez standing in for Shia LaBeouf. As genial as it is revealing, “South of the Border” sees Stone on a road trip in the titular direction, conducting humanizing interviews with presidents who — as is the refuting point of Stone’s doc — have been unfairly maligned by the American government and media.

Stone gets up close and personal with the aforementioned Venezuelan leader, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Brazil’s Lula da Silva, Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner (and her husband, ex-President Nėstor Kirchner) and, most predictably from the director of “Comandante” and “Looking for Fidel,” Cuban top dog Raúl Castro.

Stone mentioned to me that the film was partly shot by legendary documentarian Albert Maysles (“Chávez loved him, they got along beautifully”), just one more colorful anecdote in a wide range of topics: his history with Central and South America, the illegal substance he smuggled back home, Michael Moore, and his reaction to my criticism about his new “Wall Street.”

Between “Salvador,” “Comandante” and “Looking for Fidel,” what keeps drawing you back to Central and South America?

It’s not that I have a particular attachment. I’ve done three or four films about Asia, my mother’s European, and [there are] my Native American films. But I do find myself bouncing back to it, it’s true. The “Salvador” experience opened my eyes to the abuse of the truth down there because I’d been in Vietnam and thought that was behind us. I went down in the mid-’80s and saw American soldiers back at it again, ready to invade Nicaragua.

06222010_OliverStoneSouthoftheBorder.jpgThe “Salvador” story was horrible [with the] death squads, some of them trained by American soldiers, who were killing people in the most brutal ways. There was a Guatemala genocide going on in 1982, unbelievable stories all over that region, and they got away with it. Reagan would’ve gone with war with Nicaragua, but the Oliver North episode derailed that.

That woke me up, and then I kept going. Years later, I interviewed Castro twice, and felt he’s getting a bum rap. It continues with Chávez, and frankly, they’ve done the same thing with Morales, Correa and Kirchner. It seems like the United States is always interested in delaying progress, reform and democracy in these countries, and for almost 200 years, supported dictators, oligarchs and corporations that own the countries. [laughs] This is the first time in history that I know of where six countries in South America have united with democratically elected leaders and are saying, “Look, we want to control our resources. We want the United States out. Stop trying to own us. We want to provide the profits to the people, not to the corporations.”

They’re having a hell of a fight because the United States keeps attacking them individually. They tried to pick off Chávez and Kirchner, and they go after them again and again. Never in the media have I seen one mention that they all like each other and they’re united. That’s what this film, in its modest little way, tries to do. Chávez said to me, “Don’t believe me. Go on, talk to my neighbors.” And I did.

06222010_OliverStoneEvoSouthoftheBorder.jpgIn your early interactions with Hugo Chávez, what was it about him that made you see a different man than the one portrayed in the U.S. media?

You know, he is what he is. He’s gruff, he’s bluff, he puts his foot in his mouth sometimes, and he doesn’t have the style that we’re used to in the West for our leaders, the slick Tony Blair types who know how to talk. [laughs] He’s a bear, no question. But I like the guy because he means and does what he says. He operates for the people. The guy is not getting rich, he’s living very austerely, and he busted his old friends who became corrupt. He’s delivered the goods, said he would give the oil profits back to the people, and no one I know has kept his word like he has. The country boomed for six or seven years. It’s going through some problems now with the recession, but nothing major compared to what the United States and Europe are going through.

I like how the film disarms our trained perceptions of these leaders through casual activities. Chávez rides a bicycle in his grandmother’s backyard, and Morales kicks around a soccer ball with you.

Exactly, it breaks the ice. I’m not going there as a prosecuting attorney like a lot of journalists who go after them. I’m there as a filmmaker, trying to say, “Hey, give me some face time. Let people see what you’re like.” Of course, with Evo Morales, who is an Indian, it’s hard to get a reaction. He’s got a stoic face. [laughs] He helped me through my altitude sickness there. I was really sick.

06222010_OliverStoneSouthoftheBorder2.jpgFor that ailment, you appear onscreen chewing coca leaves. Is that high much different than having caffeine?

No, it’s a mild, mild stimulus. You’re at 12,000 feet, so you’re nauseous and it’s really hard to breathe. This opens the cells, you get better oxygen and you feel more relaxed. I was nauseous, and then I ended up playing soccer, that was sort of the point. They’ve been doing it for centuries down there. It’s a normal thing to do. By the way, I brought coca leaves back. It’s illegal in this country to have a coca leaf, but put it in a cup of tea and it’s better for your health than coffee. But of course, there’s more money for us in coffee as well as tobacco, so we’d rather do that for stimulation.


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.