Jim Thompson looms “Large” from beyond the grave.

Jim Thompson looms “Large” from beyond the grave. (photo)

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One of the more intriguing items in today’s round of development and production updates is the laconic Twitter update from Production Weekly noting that “Lunatic at Large” — a story written by Jim Thompson and Stanley Kubrick in the ’50s, the manuscript lost for decades, then rediscovered in 1999 — is moving forward into production, with Scarlett Johansson (vamping for her femme fatale role in “Match Point” and now presumably arriving at her logical showcase) and Sam Rockwell, who is, if nothing else, a good default choice for the role of “lunatic,” although the central mystery of the film is determining which one is a former axe murderer recently released from a mental institution. It’s surely the least expensive unrealized Kubrick project to make (less so than, say, the Napoleon movie).

Jim Thompson is commonly slotted as a pulp noir writer, which is slightly off the mark: it’d be fairer to say that he’s the first neo-noir author. Thompson started writing a little later than the writers that defined noir — Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, Cornell Woolrich, Raymond Chandler et al. — and his defining moments spread from the ’50s to the ’70s. The great adaptations of those other writers were all done by the early ’50s, henceforth only to be revisited in strikingly revisionist ways — Bob Rafelson’s sexually explicit redux of Cain’s “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” Robert Altman’s faithful-in-spirit but defiantly postmodern subversion of Chandler’s “The Long Goodbye,” Truffaut’s jokey reworking of Cornell Woolrich in “Mississippi Mermaid” and so on. But you could argue that Thompson — who didn’t make it to the screen until his 1956 adaptation of Lionel White’s “The Killing” — is only now being served with the brutality and tenseness his work deserves.

04142010_coup.jpgConsider that despite the fact Thompson wrote screenplays and TV episodes through the ’60s, he didn’t get adapted until 1972’s “The Getaway” (which he felt was bowdlerized). The truly major Thompson films followed: Bertrand Tavernier’s 1981 “Coup de Torchon” (a truly mindblowing piece of goods, with Philippe Noiret running around a French Senegalese colony killing people for pragmatic reasons), the 1990 version of “The Grifters” (one of the few plausible retro-noirs, but with non-self-congratulatory female nudity), and the reportedly brutal “The Killer Inside Me.” that’s hitting the U.S. in June. More so than the writers he’s lumped in with, Thompson’s main focus is frequently violence and action rather than paranoia and atmosphere.

That’s not a knock on the other writers (I’m a Chandler partisan myself). But it’s finally Thompson’s time to shine. Other noir writers are so steeped in their time that filming them is a question of revisiting, revising and subversion, while Thompson’s work can be filmed straight-up. Only now are we catching up to the true grimness of his work.

[Photos: “The Killing,” MGM/UA Home Entertainment, 1956; “Coup de torchon,” Criterion Collection, 1981.]


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.