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Brian Koppelman and David Levien Together Again For “Solitary Man”

Brian Koppelman and David Levien Together Again For “Solitary Man” (photo)

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After penning the scripts for “Ocean’s 13” and “Rounders,” Brian Koppelman and David Levien have turned their attention to the worst con of all – self-deception. In “Solitary Man,” the duo’s second directorial effort following 2001’s “Knockaround Guys,” Michael Douglas stars as Ben Kalmen, a used car baron who has seen his charms and fortune stall out like a Chevy Vega when a bad business deal and a divorce (from Susan Sarandon) leave him adrift in his 60s, with his opportunities for redemption limited to taking the teenage daughter of his girlfriend (Mary-Louise Parker) for a weekend college visit and repairing his relationship with his own daughter (Jenna Fischer) and her son. Likened to a “white-collar ‘Wrestler'” by Levien, Douglas trades heavily on his well-established iconography to play the irrepressible ladies’ man who finds that time is a crueler mistress than his several women on the side.

While Douglas is in rare form as the deeply disagreeable Kalmen, it’s Koppelman and Levien’s film as a whole that’s something of an endangered species these days – the finely tuned dramedy made for adults. As such, I didn’t ask them about “Rounders 2” or working with Brian DePalma on an “Untouchables” prequel, but instead about the difficulty of making an indie film now, as well as their fascination with macho men and New York.

How did this film come about?

Brian Koppelman: It was a screenplay I started writing three or four years before we started shooting, but it took me that whole time because normally we write as a team. I had seen a guy tell his grown daughter not to call him dad in public because it made it hard for him to pick up girls and just wrote that scene right away and wrote about 15 more pages. When Dave read it, he immediately said,” look, you have the voice of this thing and the tone. Why don’t you write it?” It took me years to finish, but once I did, Dave read it and just said “alright, well, this is done. Let’s go make it.” And then we decided to go and try to put it together to direct.

05182010_SolitaryMan2.jpgWas it different for each of you to work on something where only Brian had written the script?

BK: One of the big differences is that normally if I’m stuck, Dave is right there. It’s a rare day that both of us don’t have some idea of how to move a screenplay forward, but on this, because I was writing it myself, there definitely were days when I would go down a blind alley and not really have the way back on my own. Another difference was I think I was more critical of my own contributions when I was writing on my own because normally I can put something out there and Dave will make it better.

David Levien: I think since this thing was written totally on spec [without a contract], it was, in certain ways, an unconventional movie, as far as Hollywood would view a piece of material and Brian took a very organic approach to telling the story as opposed to getting hired by a studio to write a script and just delivering a draft in three months. There’s something about that kind of a timetable that is difficult to make an entire story really organic and by taking the time, I think it really paid dividends.

When I got the script, I hadn’t envisioned directing something that I hadn’t written because before this — we had always written stuff we directed [together] — but it was really a cool experience because I felt very objective about the material. Usually, there’s like a sense of attachment to all the effort you put in as a writer, so on this one, I didn’t have to contend with that. I could look at the material very clear-eyed and just think about how to make it the best movie that we could.

05182010_SolitaryMan3.jpgAnd David just alluded to it – is making movies for adults a tough business to be in these days?

BK: I guess it is a difficult business and I think that is exactly what David was alluding to, which is that no part of this seemed or felt or was business. This was a story that we just wanted to tell. I saw that thing happen in a park in New York, but David and I had long been thinking about and talking about characters like Ben Kalmen, guys who hold themselves out as kings of the world and what happens to men who have relied upon some kind of combination of charisma, charm, ambition, feral intelligence to achieve a position of success and what happens to them when their virility starts to diminish just a little bit and how do they make peace with that?

As far as the time in the business, it doesn’t feel like that many years ago when a movie like “Michael Clayton,” which granted had a few more like thriller-ish elements to it, but was really about a guy reckoning with an inner emptiness and questions of his own integrity and stuff like that, you know a movie like that came out to critical and commercial success, so our hope and belief is that these things are sort of cyclical and there will always be a place for dramas for adults in the marketplace.


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.