“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.


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…


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. 


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


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


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

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.


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.


Forget Public Wifi

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



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.


Self Defense

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


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