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Will Gluck Makes Comedy Look “Easy,” Eh?

Will Gluck Makes Comedy Look “Easy,” Eh? (photo)

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For a comedy about rumors and innuendo, it is all too appropriate that “Easy A” has raised eyebrows as a selection at the Toronto Film Festival, a place not known for celebrating high-school-set satires. But it shouldn’t take long for cynics to discover the truth of why it belongs more in the festival than the genre: it’s exceptional.

Of course, the reasons for this have been hiding in plain sight. “Easy A” is driven in no small part by a starmaking turn from Emma Stone (“Zombieland”) who finally finds a character as rich and complex as her distinctively raspy voice in the perpetually misunderstood Olive Pendergast, a high schooler in the desert town of Ojai that, emboldened by an English class assignment of “The Scarlet Letter,” becomes a savior of her fellow virgins and outcasts when she decides to embrace hallway chatter that she’s a harlot. Collecting gift cards from her pretend conquests who just want to fit in, along with the dirty looks from the school’s religious sect, Olive is quick-witted yet still can’t stay ahead of the speed of gossip and keenly aware that this screenplay is not to her liking, she longs for her “life to be like an ’80s movie.”

09022010_WillGluckEasyA.jpgEnter the film’s other secret weapon, writer/director Will Gluck, who has openly professed to wanting to make a film that “John Hughes wouldn’t be embarrassed to watch.” Which the “Breakfast Club” mastermind likely would, appreciating both “Easy A”‘s invocation of his early-career irreverence and “Brat Pack”-era sincerity (not to mention the “Ferris Bueller” references, of which there are no fewer than 10). Yet Gluck has his own unique perspective, a style rare among modern comic directors that places equal value on visual panache as punchlines and veers between rude non-sequiturs and gently subversive skewering of pop culture. It’s a mix of the silly and the sweet that’s perhaps kept his fan club a little exclusive — go ahead and be shocked how funny his first film “Fired Up” actually is — but that’s about to change.

In the middle of preparing for a crazy week that will have Gluck shuttling between the set of his next film, the Justin Timberlake-Mila Kunis romantic comedy “Friends With Benefits” and the film’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, the director talked about hatching the next Julia Roberts, having friends “pay for sex,” and his one regret about the film.

09022010_EasyA5.jpgWhat’s incredible about your career thus far is that you’ve been able to translate the off-kilter tone of your TV work [“Andy Richter Controls the Universe” and “The Loop”] into films, even if they weren’t necessarily commercially successful. How is it that you’ve been allowed to be so independent within the studio system under Sony?

I met a guardian angel in [Screen Gems president] Clint Culpepper. “Fired Up” was his idea…not his, it was the studio’s idea, but his title and he let me make the movie. And I had some success in television, but for some reason, he took a leap of faith and one thing Clint does is once he trusts someone’s tone…comedy is all about tone, it’s subjective – good or not, who knows? Once he picks someone’s tone, he just let me go. He just didn’t interfere. He knew what I did and accepted it and then “Easy A,” he was just like “Here, see you later, buddy.”

There’s a reason why I continue to do movies at Sony for Amy [Pascal], Michael [Lynton] and Clint. As a filmmaker, it’s the best situation in the world to be in because they give me everything I want, all the support they want, all the ideas they want… I mean they’re great ideas. There’s such an adversarial relationship with studio executives, but when you find someone who is as passionate and as smart as the people at Sony and Clint, it’s the best. So I’m never going to leave unless they kick me out, which might happen. [slight laugh]

Are you excited about playing the Toronto Film Festival? It’s not the type of film that normally goes.

I know, right? I am excited about Toronto. I’m in the middle of shooting my movie, but I’m thrilled and ridiculously humbled. I’m shocked at the response this is getting. I really believe a lot of the response is because of Emma Stone. I think that people are watching Julia Roberts about to be hatched and they want to get onboard.

Did you know you had something special with “Easy A,” particularly with Emma Stone?

Like the old adage, no one ever sets out to make a bad movie. I just pour myself into everything I do, failure, success. I did know Emma was special from the very beginning and I’ve had the same crew forever, they’ve seen a lot. They do four movies a year, right? They knew. And when she came back yesterday [on “Friends With Benefits”], they were like, “oh my God, we’d forgotten.” There’s something about her, yeah.

09022010_EasyA2.jpgYou’ve talked about having an unusual high school experience, which was split between schools in New York and Tokyo. How do you think that perspective shaped the film?

The high schools I went to were big city high schools, which are much different than a lot of schools in America because in New York City when you leave the high school at three o’clock and you slip off into the subway, you’re gone. No one cares on the subway that you looked at a girl that didn’t like you in math class. You completely become your own person. But in small-town schools like most of America, you can’t escape it because you go into town and everyone knows who you are and it’s suffocating.

So I’ve always been kind of intrigued and idolized normal high schools, especially because my view of a high school has always been John Hughes’ high school. That’s what I thought high school was. So I really tried to in “Easy A” make that high school and it’s interesting that Emma, who also left high school very early, also didn’t have a normal high school experience, so this movie was made by two people whose whole view of high school was kind of through a cinematic lens.

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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.