DID YOU READ

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]

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.