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DID YOU READ

“Amigo,” reviewed

“Amigo,” reviewed (photo)

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Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, and from the looks of the Philippine-American War film “Amigo,” the United States forgot a lot of that conflict. I only wish the director of “Amigo,” the fine filmmaker John Sayles, hadn’t forgotten recent cinematic history and made the choice to favor didactic political statements over human drama like so many of the movies that came out in the first few years of the War in Iraq.

The evidence of our folly in the Philippines, and its obvious similarities to our repeated follies around the globe in the decades since, would have been clear in “Amigo” without cardboard cutout characters like Chris Cooper‘s Colonel Hardacre, a military man who drops none too subtle bits of dialogue about needing to win the “hearts and minds” of the locals or letting the “bleeding hearts figure out” the mess they’ve made of the place at some point down the line. It’s pretty clear from the cartoonishly hawkish characterization of Hardacre that Sayles is one of those bleeding hearts looking to do exactly that. But even audiences who agree with the film’s politics (like, y’know, me) will feel more lectured to than entertained.

That’s a shame, because when the politics get out of the way of the story, there’s a moving one here. Its primary subject is Raphael (Joel Torre) the mayor of the small village occupied by Hardacre’s men, who are lead by the stern but compassionate Lt. Compton (Garret Dillahunt). His soldiers, an occupying force in a land whose language they can’t speak and whose culture they don’t understand, can’t tell the “amigos” from the “insurrectos” and even take to a crude form of waterboarding to extract information from a prisoner. Raphael is caught between the Americans and those insurrectos, a position complicated by the fact that his brother is the leader of the rebels, and his son has recently left home to join him in the fight. The film has empathy for all parties (except Hardacre): the U.S. soldiers who just want to do their job and get back home, and the rebels who just want their home back so they can get back to their jobs (Raphael’s brother trained to be a priest).

When Sayles focuses on Raphael and the other residents of the town “Amigo” begins to come to life. Torre is a very good actor and he delivers a moving performance as a man desperately fighting for his modest dreams in a no-win situation. Though the film shouts its points so loudly at times, it’s the quietest and simplest moments that resonate most clearly: a shy girl putting on a necklace given to her by a suitor or a man playing Spanish guitar accompanied by the song of a thousand crickets. But one too many Chris Cooper monologues and a weirdly tacky ending that feels like something out a airport novel overpower “Amigo”‘s admirable qualities.

The tragedies that ultimately echo through the lives of these characters as a result of the United States’ actions in the Philippines say all that needs to be said. If only they were all that was said. I have a great deal of respect for Sayles; seeing his movie “Lone Star” in 1996 literally changed the way I looked at film as a teenager. But in this case, in terms that Raphael’s town would surely have understood, he put the cart before the horse. The result, sadly, is a noble but forgettable film.

“Amigo” opens in limited release on Friday, and expands to additional theaters next week. If you see it, we want to know what you think. Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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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.