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Celebrate Summer With Our Favorite “Summer Movies”

Celebrate Summer With Our Favorite “Summer Movies” (photo)

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Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer and the unofficial start of summer movie season. And when we say “summer movies” we typically mean the sort of stuff released during the summer: big, noisy, expensive blockbusters. But earlier today on his blog, Roger Ebert posted a great old episode of “Siskel and Ebert,” where the guys, dressed in their wackiest Hawaiian shirts, celebrated what they called “the movies of summer.” In other words, movies set in summer, or evocative of our own personal memories of summer.

True to form, many of their choices are deeply personal and highly eclectic: for example, instead of picking one of their classic beach movies, Siskel goes for Frankie and Annette’s reunion movie “Back to the Beach.” With my mind already on the warm weather, I thought I would chime in with a few more favorite “movies of summer.” And following their lead, these picks are completely subjective. When I think of “summer movies,” I think of these admittedly off-beat choices.


1. “Die Hard With a Vengeance” (1995)
Directed by John McTiernan

It’s all about those opening credits and that first scene, which rocked me back in my seat when I saw this film for the first time sixteen years summers ago. The Lovin Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” plays over steamy shots of Manhattan, culminating with the sudden explosion of bomb in a department store. “Die Hard With a Vengeance” is probably the third best “Die Hard” film, and I couldn’t possibly defend it as an objectively “good” movie. But my memories of going to see it and loving it as a kid back in May of 1995 are so strong. It’s the very first movie that came to mind when I began thinking about this piece. And it’s a great summer movie in both senses of the term —
all the frantic chases, fight scenes, and high-energy stunts leave you just as frazzled and overheated as John McClane.


2. “Body Heat” (1981)
Directed by Lawrence Kasdan

Maybe because of my overactive sudoriferous glands, summer makes me think of sweat. And in the context of movies, sweat makes me think of “Body Heat,” one of the few movies where the characters wear sweat stains loudly and proudly, like badges of honor. Clearly, Lawrence Kasdan didn’t work out any kind of product placement deal with an anti-persperant company for this movie; William Hurt spends half the movie with his shirt slick with perspiration and Florida humidity. He spends the other half naked Kathleen Turner, while the two plot to kill Turner’s wealthy husband in the middle of a brutal summer heatwave. “Body Heat” captures the way high temperatures can make any of us go a little crazy, with lust or with hatred. And it makes sweat, something I typically assign negative connotations, genuinely sexy.


3. “Before Sunset” (2004)
Directed by Richard Linklater

I’m not honestly sure when during the year “Before Sunset” takes place. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, and looking at the trailer as Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy stroll through the streets of Paris, we see fallen leaves at their feet, suggesting it’s probably September or October. But regardless of when “Before Sunset” is actually set, it feels like it’s set on one of those perfect summer days, when the air is warm but crisp and there’s a light breeze in the air. Thinking about that movie always evokes summer for me: I saw it for the first time on a broiling summer day with the woman who’d eventually become my wife and the imagery the movie calls to mind — those beautiful strolls through Paris, that amazing late afternoon light — gives me flashes of sense memory from my own life, back to meeting strange and exciting new people in my own travels, playing the guitar at friends’ apartments, nighttime walks in the city, and falling in love over a good conversation.


4. “Wet Hot American Summer” (2001)
Directed by David Wain

I never went to sleepaway camp, and I was sheltered from all the slasher movies and raunchy comedies set around sleepaways until I was older. So the phrase “sleep away camp” harkens to my mind the images from a film that makes fun of all those other movies, 2001’s “Wet Hot American Summer.” The movie was actually filmed during a real sleepaway camp’s off-season, when it was plenty wet (you can see rain falling outside cabin windows on several occasions) but not especially hot. Still, even if David Wain and his crew don’t really capture the literal atmosphere of New England summer, they do manage to capture the emotional atmosphere of those bygone days, capturing through their absurd humor and deadpan non-sequitors some of the sparkle of young love, or at least the dumb first crushes that feel like the end of the world when they don’t pan out. Even though “Wet Hot” features some really dark jokes, it’s tone is still sweetly innocent. Though they make fun of camp movies, Wain and the rest also seem to wish they could go back and relive their youths (even though the cast is all far too old for their roles, they all play them anyway, probably to get a little taste of fulfilling that wish). Also: for a silly movie, the opening credits, set around a campfire to Jefferson Starship’s “Jane,” sure are legitimately cool.


5. “The Sandlot” (1993)
Directed by David Mickey Evans

One of the interesting observations Siskel and Ebert make on their “Movies of Summer” show is that summer movies almost always seem to be set in the past, and tap into our feelings of nostalgia for the innocence of our childhoods. Summers as an adult never mean as much as summers as a kid. As an adult, summer basically means one week vacation and more uncomfortable commute to work. But for a kid, summer represents a brief taste of genuine freedom. All of that’s true certainly about “The Sandlot,” a movie so fond of the past that it’s structured as a warm remembrance in the mind of one of the main characters, who flashes back to the summer of 1962 — “the best summer of my life,” he says — the year when he moved to a neighborhood near Los Angeles and fell in with a group of kids who play a daily game of baseball on a local sandlot field. As a kid, this charming story entertained me to no end. Of course, now I realize it is nostalgic in the comical extreme: the entire flashback occurs in the midst of the most critical game in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ season. The narrator is the radio announcer for the Dodgers and his best friend plays for the team. Instead of basking in the fact that they’ve both wound their way through life to get to this incredible spot, he spends the entire movie looking back at their childhoods. And as a kid, I thought this was just about the coolest movie ever.


Well, how about it? Those are my five; what are your favorite “movies of summer?”

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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.