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The brothers who brought you “Bad Lieutenant.”

The brothers who brought you “Bad Lieutenant.” (photo)

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Alan Polsky wanted to tell me a story about how Werner Herzog held a gun to his head and shattered his brother Gabe’s eye socket with the butt of the pistol in the middle of shooting “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,” but that was just wishful thinking. “We wanted things to go crazy so that we could tell great on-set stories like [the ones] in Herzog’s history,” Alan said. “But unfortunately, we don’t have any ones like that.”

If true, the actual production would be the dullest part of “Bad Lieutenant,” one of the weirdest and most indelible films of the year. (My review from Toronto is here.) And the smooth sailing would be a tribute to the Polsky brothers, two first-time producers in their 30s who saw the potential in updating Abel Ferrara’s 1992 cult classic into a surreal and shockingly funny character study with Nicolas Cage as a crackpipe-carrying cop.

The sons of Chicago art dealer Maya Polsky, Alan and Gabe have quite the slate of heady projects in the works, including adaptations of “Flowers for Algernon” (rumored to star Will Smith) and the western “Butcher’s Crossing” with Sam Mendes attached to direct, but they’ve already made waves with their first project, which proved to be an unexpected hit with critics and audiences alike during its recent festival run, and which hits theaters next week.

How did you get involved in the project, and how did Herzog?

Alan Polsky: [Producer] Ed Pressman had made the original and was looking to remake it or do a television show. Gabe and I really liked the original movie, so we said look, let us develop a screenplay based on this character, kind of like James Bond.

Gabe Polsky: We wanted to make something that we were going to be proud of. “Bad Lieutenant” has become a cult classic and we really wanted to reinvent this whole thing and turn it on its head. Everyone was trying to think outside of the box [for] different kinds of filmmakers — I was a fan of [Herzog’s]. In his past, he’s dealt with a lot of demented and strange characters that are unforgettable on the screen, and “Bad Lieutenant” is one of these characters. I thought his voice would totally reinvent this and he’s the Bad Lieutenant of filmmakers.

Did you guys ever reach out to Abel Ferrara?

AP: We actually did reach out to Abel originally. We tried to get him on the phone with a couple of writers, it didn’t go anywhere and we just wanted to move forward. It’s unfortunate, because I know that Werner would’ve loved to have cast Abel in the movie. He wouldn’t have cast Harvey [Keitel], but he would’ve loved to cast Abel, but Abel was really not cool with what was going on.

The Abel-Werner tiff was part of what drove interest during the summer, but there was also the leak of the international trailer that became an online sensation. Were you happy that became public?

AP: Gabe and I are mixed. I personally liked it and thought it captured great things in the movie.

GP: I just don’t know if it was put together in the most exciting way. I felt it wasn’t necessarily the best thing we could put out there. However, it seemed like people absolutely loved it. I heard a lot of people describe it as batshit crazy. The original one shows more that this is an insane comedy type of thing and the trailer we have now is a little ambiguous whether it’s a thriller or [not]. But that’s part of the movie — you’re not quite sure exactly what kind of movie it is, which is the beauty of it.

11132009_BadLieutenant2.jpgAP: What genre. even, it is — that was an argument we were having at the studio for a while. When Herzog came out of the editing room, he was talking about how funny it was.

GP: The most interesting thing for us is probably how we first saw the movie in our office and did not know at all how audiences would respond.

AP: When we saw it with an audience in Venice, we realized that people would definitely get the dark comedy and the subtlety of it — because that was a concern. Nic is on the edge — he plays it straight and that’s why it works so well.

Since First Look is owned by “Bad Lieutenant”‘s co-producer Millennium Films, you knew the film would get distribution, but after the positive response on the festival circuit, were you disappointed that a deal with one of the major distributors didn’t manifest?

GP: It’s a good example of the industry right now, because we did have a major star, we had a director with a pretty big following. We have a great title, we had good critical response and with all those things, it still was extremely difficult.

Do you have any Werner anecdotes?

AP: A few days before we started shooting, in order to get to know Herzog a bit more, we took him on an alligator tour through the bayou, also to get a better feel for New Orleans. So we’re feeding alligators marshmallows — who knows if the idea for the alligators and iguanas [in the film] came from there? It was fun.

“Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” opens in limited release on November 20th.

[Photos: Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner and Nicolas Cage; Werner Herzog, Nicolas Cage and Eva Mendes on the set of “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,” First Look Studios, 2009]


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.