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“The Outsider.”

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"He's a genius and a retard."
For anyone who’s ever felt a bit bemused by the continuing career of director/writer/sometime-actor James Toback, "The Outsider" will be an illumination. Toback, whose finest hour was when his screenplay for "Bugsy" was nominated for an Oscar in 1992, feverishly churns out a new film every few years, each a variation on the same themes. Only his first, 1978’s "Fingers," which starred Harvey Keitel and football Hall of Famer Jim Brown, and which was remade as last year’s "The Beat That My Heart Skipped," has earned any kind of consistent critical regard. The Harvard-educated Toback is at least as famous for his one-time appetites for sex, drugs, and gambling (along with his outsized personality) as he is for his filmmaking, which makes him a prime subject for a documentary.

"The Outsider," the debut film from Nicholas Jarecki, follows Toback through the filming of 2004’s "When Will I Be Loved," interspersing that footage with interviews of fondly disposed Toback acquaintances, including Woody Allen, Brett Ratner, Roger Ebert and Norman Mailer. We get a look at Toback’s free-form filmmaking technique, which rests heavily on improvised scenes, use of a Steadicam and occasional cameos from his famous friends: Bridget Hall, Lori Singer, Damon Dash and Mike Tyson (who also had a role in "Black and White") all make appearances.

Toback is a fiercesome spinner of his own personal mythology — one character observes that he has "an amicable hustler’s energy about him," and indeed, he has a near-miraculous gift of gab, pulling out a combination of personal philosophies, Dostoevsky references, raunchy anecdotes from the 70s and gossip to exercise a soothing control over and inspire total confidence in all those involved in what should have been a ridiculous project: shooting a feature-length film, without a script, in 12 days. Toback’s self-regard is staggering, but also compelling: you couldn’t help but wish his films were as good as he believes they are. There’s something charming in the way he attempts to will the world around him to be as he wishes — in one scene, he and Mike Tyson both address the camera and attempt to talk over each other: Toback rambles on and on about how much he enjoys casting Tyson because he’s so articulate, while beside him Tyson confides about all of the "sexual injuendos" Toback’s always trying to get him to say. Having wrapped his film, Toback discusses the bidding war between distributors he’s sure is imminent, which, as time passes, becomes simply finding a distributor, period — there are downsides to buying into your own bullshit after all.

Aside from some jarring and odd soundtrack choices, Jarecki’s direction is unobtrusive, making for an affectionate if slender film that never deeper or asks any difficult questions, even when we wish it did — particularly regarding the $2 million offered to Toback by British investors at the beginning of the film, apparently unsolicited and out of the blue. "Outsider" being a relative term, always.

"The Outsider" opens in the New York on June 16.

+ "The Outsider" (Official site)


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…


A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.