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DID YOU READ

Michel Gondry’s Different Shade of “Green”

Michel Gondry’s Different Shade of “Green” (photo)

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At Comic-Con, usually the last place one would go for personal confessions, Michel Gondry told an aside about the stereoscopic club in France that his grandfather was president of, clearly not realizing the audience really only wanted to hear how badass the 3D in “The Green Hornet” would be. Those same people may not be all that interested in how the film is a culmination of personal quirks and professional craftsmanship for the director of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Be Kind Rewind,” but they should know it’s the reason why “The Green Hornet” is special.

From the opening frame of a child with a suspiciously Gondry-like mop of hair thrusting his arm out the car window with a superhero doll in hand to an anarchic montage that details the film’s central conspiracy near the end, it’s Gondry’s childlike wonder (and mischief), clearly shared by screenwriters Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, that lets “The Green Hornet” glide where so many superhero stories have trudged before. The fascination with how things work give particular oomph to the mechanics of the action sequences and the joy of discovering one’s strengths resonate because Gondry and Rogen are finding new muscles of their own. And so far, whereas Gondry’s films have often had innocence undone by reality, here reality is no match for the fun to be had with masked crimefighters who have no use for laws.

01132011_GreenHornet1.jpgIt’s almost a dark joke that this is all done in the service of a coming-of-age story – “The Green Hornet” follows the origin story of Britt Reid, a spoiled scion of a newspaper empire who must learn responsibility fast in the wake of his father’s death — and it wouldn’t be the only one in the film. But it’s pure unbridled glee that powers Gondry’s latest film forward, which is remarkable considering for the past few years this has been one of the most scrutinized and slow-simmering productions around, so much so Gondry was attached to direct the film in 1997 before a succession of other permutations involving Jet Li, Kevin Smith and Stephen Chow came and went. But for a man who once solved a Rubik’s cube with his nose, it was just one more puzzle to figure out and he recently spoke to me about controlling chaos, why there’s no crazy dream sequence in his biggest-budget film to date and what makes The Green Hornet so malleable.

01132011_GreenHornet2.jpgThematically, a lot of your films have dealt with characters trying to keep their innocence as they’re becoming adults, so was it freeing for you to finally have characters that have to embrace being able to discover things for the first time?

It’s a very good point you’re making. I think creativity is really connected to being a kid because if you look at young cats, how they learn life is by playing. If you take kitties, you see them playing 75 percent of the day of waking time and it’s how they learn. And sometimes it’s cruel because they play with mice and kill it and they don’t realize because they don’t think the way we do about death and stuff. But it’s how you train yourself to learn – it’s by being playful. And I think humans share that. If you want to be creative, you have to put yourself in this frame of mind and that’s theoretically connected to your childhood. And as an adult, you’re sort of encouraged to lose that. And I think it’s important to see what it is you might lose or keep because you want to be an adult.

You don’t want to be a kid for everything. I have a child – he’s an adult now, but I had to make decisions for his good and to be able to become an adult, but then when I’m directing a film and I want to create something, I have to remember how it was to discover the world. This joy I had when I saw the forest for the first time or I saw the street or the city for the first time and I want to be back in this place of wonder, so I taught my mind to switch from one side to another because when I’m a director, I have to be leading a lot of people and give them orders, otherwise you don’t move forward, but then when it’s time to be creative, I need to switch back to this frame of mind which you have as a kid, so it’s a balance between both states.

01132011_GreenHornet6.jpgOne of the things you’ve been able to maintain throughout your career is a real handmade quality to your films. With such a large crew for “The Green Hornet,” were you comfortable giving up more control than you had in the past?

It’s not necessarily control, you know, Sometimes I get this effect by making sure there’s a little bit of chaos that’s maintained. Not that I want things to explode or collapse all the time, but when I say chaos, it’s just a texture in life that you counterproduce if you control everything because life is so complex. If you look somewhere in the street, you have so many cars or people or animals and things that cross the frame and when you do a movie, you sort of have to wipe everything out and recreate it under the control of what you’re allowed to do. If you want to make the audience feel they are watching real life, you have to recreate this chaotic aspect. It’s introducing a level of uncertainty that nobody really can put their hands on and it’s losing control over things in the way you desire.

The handmade quality is because I’m going to ask somebody to do something at the last minute before I can analyze it too much and it goes to the art direction. There is something when Seth goes into his mind and trying to piece things together [in the film’s climax], we made that all practical, so we had so little time and so little money to do this extra piece of work that nobody could argue or really understand what was going on. They just went for it. Then it goes to the acting where people are challenged at the last second to change or try something different and then they don’t know exactly why they’re doing it, so they become more themselves. To me, the handmade quality could apply to the acting as much as the props.

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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.