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“Agnosia,” Reviewed

“Agnosia,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at Fantastic Fest 2010.

“Agnosia,” like “Julia’s Eyes,” which screens at the festival today, is the product of a Guillermo del Toro protege — Eugenio Mira, whose first film, 2004’s “The Birthday,” caught the director/producer/force of nature’s attention, if few others’. And it looks like it — working off a screenplay by “The Devil’s Backbone” writer Antonio Trashorras, Mira adeptly assembles lush, gothic visuals of the type that have become del Toro’s signature. If only the film had the same amount of emotional impact. “Agnosia” is certainly the most lavishly beautiful film at Fantastic Fest, but it’s structured around a story that doesn’t seem to have enough to it to support a feature, either in what’s at stake or in the characters.

The film starts with a group of investors arriving in the countryside to try out a new telescopic rifle, the joint product of German weapon manufacturer Holbein (led by an efficiently sinister Martina Gedeck) and Spanish lensmaker Artur Prats (Sergi Mateu), who’s named his line after his young daughter, Joana. Just as the demonstration takes a turn toward the troubling, with the attendees demonstrating they shouldn’t be given access to better arms, Joana collapses. We skip forward a few years, to where Joana is grown woman (played by Bárbara Goenaga) now suffering from the titular disorder — a bout of childhood encephalitis has left her unable to distinguish voices and faces. Everyone in the manor has to wear colored ribbons so that Joana can determine who’s a servant, who’s her doctor, Meissner (Jack Taylor) and who’s her fiancé, her father’s right hand man Carles (Eduardo Noriega).

“Agnosia” takes on the form of a turn-of-the-century fairy tale, with Joana as the porcelain princess locked away in her castle, waiting for the right prince. Carles genuinely loves her, but is too closed-off to express his feelings. Vicent (Félix Gómez), who’s hired to infiltrate the house and, eventually, pretend to be Carles in order to lure a company secret from her, wins his way into her confidence by confessing to the adoration the man he’s posing as has never shared — though he, naturally, begins to develop feelings of his own for Joana. As the scheme creaks along, I kept waiting for the additional twist that would reveal what the movie was really about. That twist never arrived. One or two scenes hint at a supernatural thread that doesn’t come through — the film is, ultimately, a melodrama about historical industrial espionage, focused on a scheme that seems ludicrously complicated for the potential payoff.

But the real problem is Joana, an extreme version of your standard saintly blind character with additional sensory handicaps. Pretty, delicate and in her very existence desperately needy, she’s not a terribly charismatic or sympathetic center for the film — vulnerability seems her primary appeal and the biggest draw for the two men in her life. “Agnosia” sometimes tries to show things from her point of view, but the best it can manage is a funhouse mirror effect and vocal distortion that don’t give a good sense of how disorienting her disorder can be. Because of that, her Victorian-style hysterical attacks, caused by, say, a towel falling off a bar when she’s along in the bathtub, seem ridiculous rather than suspenseful. Her fate, confined to room swathed in black material to minimalize the stress of too much outside stimulation, isn’t one in which it’s easy, or perhaps even possible, to be invested.

“Agnosia” does not yet have U.S. distribution.


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.