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“Senna,” reviewed

“Senna,” reviewed (photo)

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I don’t know anything about Formula One racing but the superb documentary “Senna” about famous F1 driver Ayrton Senna is a reminder that the phrase “ignorance is bliss” applies to the world of documentaries, too. Not knowing what’s going to happen in this movie makes it a very suspenseful story, set in this fascinatingly unfamiliar world of intrigue and danger.

That world is the Formula One circuit of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the Brazilian Senna and his French arch-rival Alain Prost battled for supremacy of the sport, first as competitors and then as even more competitive teammates at McLaren Racing. Their styles were totally different: Senna, a devout Catholic, put his faith in God and his own intuition; Proust, nicknamed “The Professor,” outsmarted opponents with clever gamesmanship. Their wars are legendary in the racing world, but they’re fresh and exciting to a neophyte like me, and I was riveted by every new twist and turn.

“Senna,” directed by Asif Kapadia, depicts its subject life in unique fashion. The film is told entirely through archival footage of Senna both on and off the track. In old interviews, Senna tells us his life story: his early years on the go-kart circuit, his departure from Brazil at a young age to compete in Europe, his struggles against the political and possibly corrupt F1 brass, and his dream of becoming the world’s greatest racing driver. Family, friends, rivals, and journalists provide contemporary interviews about Senna but they’re only heard and never seen. Appropriately for a documentary about racing, the biggest effect that choice has on the film is pace; Kapadia never has to take time out from a race to pause for commentary, because the commentary is layered right on top of the action. The result is about as immersive as documentaries get. Senna’s own words put us inside his mind, and the thrilling cockpit point-of-view footage from the Monaco Grand Prix put us inside his car.

I’ve avoided discussing the end of Senna’s career and his rivalry with Prost even though they’re matters of historical record because, frankly I didn’t know them myself when I sat down to watch the film (if you’re curious before you see the documentary, just read the first paragraph of Senna’s Wikipedia page). Of course, Kapadia’s formal framework for the film suggests from the start a subject that cannot speak for himself and as “Senna” progresses, the director inserts more and more portends of doom: Prost threatening to drive his enemy off the track, Senna hopefully wondering what life has in store for him after he retires from racing. Slowly, the POV shots from inside Senna’s car feel less and less exhilarating, and more and more ominous. When the end comes, it is a devastating tragedy. The film reminds us that there is something beautiful about a man achieving his dream, and something so tragic when that dream ultimately destroys him.

“Senna” opens in limited release this Friday. 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.