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Tim Grierson on the Teen Movie You Really Need to See (that isn’t “Project X”)


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Whether you loved or hated “Project X,” the one thing everyone can agree on is that it’s not like anybody’s actual high school experience. That’s sorta the point, of course: The movie’s party-to-end-all-parties storyline is meant to be a giddy, unhinged exaggeration of every young man’s fantasy of what it would be like to have the hottest girls at his place while his parents are out of town. But the film’s wish-fulfillment plot eventually gets old when you realize there’s not a soul in the movie who’s remotely relatable. Nobody in real life is that cool or that nerdy as is depicted in “Project X,” so while watching the movie I was trying to think of recent films in which teen life are portrayed realistically — or at least realistic to my own experience. As luck would have it, one just came out on DVD and is definitely worth a look.

It’s called “The Myth of the American Sleepover,” and if you haven’t heard of it, fear not: It only made a whopping $41,000 in the theater. (“Project X” probably made more than that on midnight screenings alone.) “Myth” is a small indie that, like “Project X,” doesn’t star anyone you’d recognize and looks at a group of young people dealing with peer pressure and love over a short span of time. But unlike “Project X,” the film gets so much of teen life right that, no matter how old you are, you may recognize yourself in one of its characters. That realization can be a little scary — like looking at awkward childhood pictures — but, hey, we’ve all gone through those growing pains.

“Myth,” which was written and directed by first-timer David Robert Mitchell, came out in July, about a month after another teen period film, “Super 8” opened. What’s interesting about “Myth,” though, is that the time period is never nailed down. In the film, there are no cellphones, and characters use VCRs, but Mitchell said he wanted to keep specifics out of it. “By hinting at different time periods, or blending them, we can get at a different kind of truth,” he explained last year. “I see the film as sort of its own myth. It’s like an impression or a memory that we remember and maybe not even that accurately.”

“Myth” feels like a memory, but one any of us can share in. Set in and around Detroit, the drama follows a group of teens as they enjoy their final weekend of summer freedom before having to go back to school. As with all teen movies, “Myth” has its character types, but they tend to be much more subtly drawn in this film than you normally see. There’s the tough girl with the nose ring (Claire Sloma), and the shy virgin (Marlon Morton), and the college senior (Brett Jacobsen) going through a bad breakup. But having established these characters, Mitchell sends them on unexpected paths, often subverting our expectations of what we’d assume these types of characters would be like. Whereas the dudes in “Project X” don’t really change from the first scene to the last, the young people in “Myth” act like the young people we remember from our own lives, still morphing and trying to figure out who they are and where they’re going.

I don’t want to set up “The Myth of the American Sleepover” as some sort of “antidote” to “Project X,” but as raucous and edgy as “Project X” wants to be, it’s not a movie that seems to understand a thing about how teenagers actually are. Sure, young guys really want to get laid — that was true in “Porky’s” and “American Pie” and dozens of other teen comedies — but it’s not the only thing they want, and it tends not to work out as easily as it seems to in “Project X.” (Also, unlike “Project X,” “Myth” actually seems interested in women beyond their physical features.) By following his characters as they gather for one-last-hurrah parties, Mitchell deemphasizes the titillating for a pretty honest examination of how uncomfortable hormones can be. Working with a largely inexperienced cast, the writer-director lets his characters’ insecurities and naivety rule the day, although you wouldn’t confuse “Myth” with one of those cringe-comedies where you wince more than laugh at the awkwardness on display. If “Project X” sells a fantasy of teen life, “The Myth of the American Sleepover” shows us who we were with an alarming, inspiring clarity. Put it this way: The film’s most potentially salacious scenario — involving a guy and two gorgeous college twins — leads to the story’s most poignant moment. The bros in “Project X” would not approve — but you might.


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.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

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:


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.


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!


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.


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.



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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GIFs via Giphy

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.”


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. 


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.