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DID YOU READ

“The Ghost Writer,” McGregor, Desplat, Polanski.

“The Ghost Writer,” McGregor, Desplat, Polanski. (photo)

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Expectations are as important as any other factor in whether I will enjoy a film or not. I think this holds true for most. When we expect the careful craft and many-layered mystery of film like “Chinatown” when going into a film like “The Ninth Gate,” we tend to be disappointed. I adore both of those films by the rogue director, Roman Polanski, but it was only after I cleared my palate and watched “The Ninth Gate” for what it was (a comical fantasy-mystery, not a serious thriller-mystery) that I saw it’s merits.

[Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor in “The Ghost Writer,” Summit Entertainment]

“The Ghost Writer” has all the usual pros and cons of expectation: marketing efforts (which can lead you completely astray), prejudice of well known actors, the director’s prior films, but also the added baggage of the director himself. He was even in the news again in September when he was arrested by Swiss police while trying to attend the Zurich Film Festival (at the bequest of US authorities) for his 1977 crime.

To review, Polanski, the genius who gave us “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Chinatown,” and “The Pianist,” escaped the Nazi established, Kraków Jewish ghetto in 1943 and managed to survive the holocaust, though his mother was killed in Auschwitz. He moved to the US, began making films, and in 1969 the Manson family butchered his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, to death. Then, he drugged and had sex with a 13 year old girl at Jack Nicholson’s house and fled to France to avoid harsh jail time.

Later, he settled with the girl (monetarily) who, now a married woman wanting to move on, has since publicly requested for his charges to be dropped. Back to the present Zurich debacle, Polanski was released by the Swiss on $4.5 million bail though he is on house arrest and still “pending extradition” to the United States for trial.

It’s amazing you can make films under such conditions. And gladly, due to a brain fart, though I knew a favorite composer Alexandre Desplat (“A Prophet,” “The Beat That My Heart Skipped”) was scoring, and that Ewan McGregor was staring, I’d forgotten all about “The Ghost Writer” being a Polanski film until half way through when the signs had become too glaring for even a total flake to ignore.

Not only stylistically, but as Manohla Darghis points out in her NY Times review, “Fingers are pointed, though sometimes it seems not only at Lang but also at Mr. Polanski, who is under house arrest in Switzerland awaiting word on whether he will be sent back to Los Angeles to face sentencing…. Certainly the shots of Lang’s detractors, with their furiously distorted faces and accusatory placards (“guilty,” “wanted”), gives the film an extra-cinematic tang, though as with so much here, it’s also evident that Mr. Polanski is having his fun.”

Surely he is having his fun. And still superbly directing actors too. Ewan McGregor is fine as ever as the patsy ghost writer. Tom Wilkinson’s Paul Emmett is awkwardly menacing observing his professorial niceties, anxious fingers tapping and lying like a Lord. Pierce Brosnan shines in subtle maneuvers, his British accent cranked up like a caricature for the camera’s, what a fraud, such an American puppet. A shot of Kim Cattrall’s ass, then a leering Brosnan, legs spread on the couch, celery stalk firmly planted in his fresh squeezed juice is brilliant, his smile in that moment worth a thousand words out of the memoirs the ghost writer plans to pen for him.

From the night time opening, with Desplat’s high strung orchestration leading into the mystery of a murder at sea, it was clear to me I would enjoy this film. Though, it could benefit from a good deal of trimming, and I didn’t come in with all those decades of expectation.

Check out the IFC interview with Ewan McGregor where he talks about Polanski’s perfectionism, how corrupt modern politics are, and he clears the record on a comment he made about his penis.

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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.