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DID YOU READ

Three Great Musical Long Takes From 2010

Three Great Musical Long Takes From 2010 (photo)

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We got a lot of listener feedback about our two podcasts on the best of 2010 in film. Many listeners offered their own suggestions in our eclectic categories like Best Performance in the Worst Movie. Listener Patrick Fisackerly submitted a nominee in a category of his own devising: Best Scene in the Worst Movie. His pick was the following scene from “Step Up 3D,” a duet to Fred Astaire’s “I Won’t Dance.”

I didn’t get a chance to see “Step Up 3D” in its entirety yet, but this is a very charming scene. And the use of long take certainly amplifies its charms. It shows off the real New York locations and the skill of the dancers, not only physically (they have to perform an entire dance’s choreography perfectly, with no mistakes) but mentally as well (they have to remember all of the steps, as well as all of the ways in which they must interact with their environment).

Watching that scene from “Step Up 3D” reminded me that several dance films in 2010 used similarly impressive long takes, all deployed to similar effect. For example, there was the hauntingly beautiful “Passage For Two” dance atop the High Line in “NY Export: Opus Jazz.” (NOTE: Though this clip intercuts the scene with title cards, the scene in the finished film is one long take for almost all of a five minute dance routine).

Long takes accentuate the passage of time. No cuts means creates a documentary-like connection between a shot and time: for this period of the film, this happened and this much time elapsed. Here the lack of cuts makes us hyperaware of that gorgeous sunset sweeping through the background of the scene. That sky, slowly shifting from orange to purple, lends the dance a magical quality; for this shot to exist, everything had to go right. The dancers had to perform correctly while the notoriously difficult-to-direct Sun had to hit its mark exactly. The lack of cuts also brings us deeper into the atmosphere of the scene and the dancer’s slow, sensual movements. I don’t know what each individual movement of Jerome Robbins’ choreography is meant to suggest, but to me their cumulative impact evokes the fleeting and impossible love: the dancers sway together in perfect sync but their faces remain blank and emotionless, surrounded by the decay of the High Line. To cut during “Passage For Two” (a title that also refers to the passage of time) would be to break the scene’s spell. The long take makes the dance almost hypnotic.

My personal favorite musical long take of 2010, though, was the one in “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench.” It spans the entirety of the number “Love in the Fall.”

Here we see how long takes can also accentuate a film’s sense of realism. The scene is a crowded house party jam session and the camera appropriates the perspective of a guy in the room just trying to get the best view of the action, angling around the other spectators and whipping back and forth between the tap dancers and star Jason Palmer’s trumpet solos. Instead of presenting a pristine, omniscient representation of this event, the camera gives us the opportunity to feel like someone actually in the room with the performers, witnessing it as anyone else there would. The whole film values emotion over perfection (which would make it the ideal second half of a double bill with Darren Aronofsky “Black Swan”), and so does the long take: the camera sometimes misses the hoofers’ steps because it’s late panning into position, but it never misses their infectious enthusiasm for their art.

And maybe that is what all of these shots have in common: passion. There are much easier ways to film all of these dance numbers, and if done skillfully, the results wouldn’t be that much less satisfying. But the long takes are difficult. They require so much planning and demand pinpoint execution. In a world of half-assed movies, they say “I care.”

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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.