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DID YOU READ

“Blank City,” Reviewed

“Blank City,” Reviewed (photo)

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Although it’s an unfortunate turn of phrase given the era, the best way to describe the documentary “Blank City” is still as something of a gateway drug when it comes to the late ’70s, early ’80s underground film scene in New York. It’s easy to tell this since it’s obvious French director Celine Danhier recreates her own experience of discovering the no-budget avant garde movement known as “No Wave” cinema in her documentary, presenting one snippet of rare footage after another, teasing the audience with clips of Michael Holman’s self-descriptive “Vincent Gallo as Flying Christ” and Charlie Ahearn’s groundbreaking hip-hop flick “Wild Style” and having such personalities as Deborah Harry and Steve Buscemi talk about what a wild and crazy time it was.

It’s the shortcoming of “Blank City” that it isn’t as adventurous in mirroring the era the film documents, settling into a style where the era’s survivors talk about the crazy things that happened in the usual talking head format at a remove in new interviews, but when you have alternative culture iconoclasts like Richard Hell, Nick Zedd and Jim Jarmusch onhand, it’s still enough to keep things lively, especially when they’re placed next to clips of a woman pounding a nail into her head in Vivienne Dick’s “Guerillere Talks” or “The Long Island Four,” the late Anders Grafstrom’s film about Nazis who make their way to America.

The title, of course, is a reference to Hell’s punk band The Voidoids’ song “Blank Generation” and the film of the same name that inspired in 1980. As it’s repurposed by Dahnier, it suggests the bombed out Lower East Side of Manhattan as a canvas on which filmmakers, locked arm in arm with the vibrant music and art scenes that were simultaneously going on, were allowed to express themselves freely and created a body of work that would ultimately prove influential as well as unusually important anthropologically, as films like the Jean-Michel Basquiat starrer “Downtown 81” and Richard Kern’s walking tour “Goodbye 42nd Street” captured the economically plagued area gave way to artistic experimentation.

At first, “Blank City” feels as though it’s going to chronicle everything, which would be unnecessary since recently there’s been a wave of documentaries about the era such as “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child” and “Burning Down the House: The Story of CBGB” that have covered similar territory while concentrating on one medium, though ultimately “Blank City” wisely does the same. Out of the clips and interviews emerges a fascinating history of how a group of radical filmmakers were able to beg, borrow and steal equipment and film stock to create content and distribute it themselves through the New Cinema on St. Marks, director Becky Johnston’s makeshift video theater that would show the films nearly moments after they were shot. And though the films were tossed off quickly after being produced, they were thought through as reactions to what the filmmakers saw in mainstream cinema, rectifying gender and racial imbalance and not afraid to be overtly political.

There’s no doubt it was difficult for Dahnier to track down many of the films today, which is part of “Blank City”‘s great appeal, as much if not more so than tales of how Jarmusch dragged houseguest Basquiat under the frame to keep him out of “Permanent Vacation” or Zedd making an autobiographical film about his ex-girlfriend Lydia Lunch dumping him starring the actress as herself. While that may be frustrating for those who want to delve deeper into “No Wave” cinema, it’s almost appropriate that even in a history of such a transient cinematic movement, you’re only treated to brief glimpses.

“Blank City” is now open in New York before opening on May 6th in Denver and Chicago.

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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.