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DID YOU READ

The outstanding independent films of 2011

The outstanding independent films of 2011 (photo)

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It is impossible to argue against the fact that 2011, though not terribly good for Hollywood, was a particularly smashing year for smaller, specialty films. “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” “Midnight in Paris” – Woody’s biggest hit to date — “Tree of Life,” “Shame,” “Melancholia,” “The Artist” and “We Need to Talk About Kevin” are just some of the standout films that were released this year.

“This is going to be one of those movie years like 1939 and 1968. It’ll take about 20 years, and people will look back and realize all of the little quiet revolutions that changed everything,” Patton Oswalt, a cineaste and the star of Young Adult, told the Village Voice. “If you look at movies like ‘Bellflower,’ ‘Septien,’ and ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene,’ this was the first year that people really started going: ‘Fuck it, I’m going to shoot a film. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it; I just want to make a movie.'”

“Bellflower” really is one of the most fascinating movies of the year, if not the top grossing specialty film.

Time ultimately will tell if Oswalt is correct. Indie actresses, however, like Elizabeth Olsen – hereafter, everyone’s favorite Olsen sister – as well as Tilda Swinton and Melissa Leo clearly put in what can only be properly construed as breathtaking performances. Olsen, generating a lot of Oscar buzz at the moment, is probably the biggest breakout star of the year. Michael Fassbender, who was named Best Actor by the LA Critics, was another winner (particularly for his intense portrayal of Jung in David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method”).

Though the year is not quite over, some clear winners and losers in specialty cinema have emerged. “Shame,” also starring the ubiquitous Fassbender, is already the 14th highest grossing NC-17 movie ever – and a something of late night cult favorite. “Jane Eyre,” released early in the year, was a winner, grossing over $11 million. Emilio Estevez’s “The Way,” starring his dad Martin Sheen, has been a modest success, already grossing nearly $4 million. Finally, the tiny indie Bill Cunningham’s New York garnered a lot of buzz among the chattering classes, and healthily grossed $1.5 million.

There were, of course, losers in 2011. “American: The Bill Hicks Story,” grossed under $100,000 domestically, proving JFK’s quote “life’s not fair.” Max Winkler’s “Ceremony” – ever heard of it? me neither – starring Uma Thurman had a total domestic gross of just over $22,000. Yikes!

The most recently released and most memorable specialty cinema film is, IMHO, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” which had the third largest opening average of 2011 on the weekend of December 10. That same weekend, we cannot fail to note, was Hollywood’s worst opening for grosses since 2008, with the god-awful Gary Marshall storyline mishmash “New Year’s Eve” as the “winner.” Not the best year for big Hollywood, but 2011 – especially for Elizabeth Olsen, future Oscar winner – was a pretty good year.

Did we miss any of your favorite films? Let us know below or on Facebook or 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.