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DID YOU READ

“A Separation,” reviewed

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So many movies let their characters off easy. They occupy universes of absurd moral clarity; good and bad, black and white. In contrast, nothing in the fascinating new Iranian movie “A Separation” is that simple. Every decision its characters are forced to make — and they’re forced to make a lot of them — is a difficult one. It’s not even a simple film to describe. Is it a legal thriller? A family drama? A character study? It’s all of those things and more.

The moral dilemmas begin in the very first scene, when married couple Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Naadi) appear in Islamic court. Simin wants to leave the country with their daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi) and find a better life elsewhere. Nader prefers to stay, particularly because his father has advanced Alzheimer’s and needs constant care. So Simin asks for a divorce. Nader is willing to grant it, but he refuses to let Termeh leave as well. Who is right here? Who the hell knows.

Simin moves out and Nader is forced to hire a caretaker for his father on short notice. He winds up with Razieh (Sareh Bayat), a devoutly religious woman. For Razieh, the commute to this job is too long and the pay is too low. But her husband is unemployed and owes some men money so she takes the position anyway. On her first day, Nader’s father wets himself, which forces Razieh to disrobe and clean him, a big no-no for a married Islamic woman. She wants to quit, but again, she needs the work. What should she do? Who the hell knows.

There are enough rock-and-a-hard-place choices in these early scenes to fill a month of Hollywood movies. But these early scenes are just the overture to writer/director Ashgar Farhadi‘s cinematic symphony of ethical complexity. One day, there is an accident at Nader’s home while Razieh is out. Is she to blame? Later Nader confronts Razieh and the two get into an argument. She falls and there are medical complications. Is he to blame? In a sense, the film is a modern day “Rashomon.” All these people witnessed this event, but no one can agree on exactly what happened. We were there too, and we might not agree either.

The acting is stunning, the screenplay is brilliant, and, as evidenced by the still above, Farhadi finds brilliant ways to visualize the growing rifts between all his various characters. Many later scenes take place back in Islamic court, a riveting place where there are no juries, trials sort of resemble high school debates, and the rule of law often seems to create more ambiguity, not less. Will you agree with the court’s ultimate decision? What do you think?

My advice would be to see “A Separation” as soon as you can, and with a big group of people. Just be prepared for a lot of different opinions after it’s over. Still that’s preferable to walking out of this movie with no one to talk to. That would not be easy.

“A Separation” opens in New York and Los Angeles this Friday. If you see it, let us know what you think in the comments below or write to us 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.