DID YOU READ

Alex Gibney Speaks Up for “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer”

Alex Gibney Speaks Up for “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer” (photo)

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“This year was kind of a fluke and a freak,” Alex Gibney said of 2010, the first 11 months of which have seen the release of three of his documentaries — “Casino Jack and the United States of Money,” “My Trip to Al-Qaeda” and his portion of “Freakonomics” — and will usher in another this week with “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer,” an investigation into the New York governor whose triumphs as a public official were quickly erased by his private indiscretions. If that description of Gibney’s latest sounds vague when nearly every American could recount some of the most sordid details of Spitzer’s sex life by heart, it’s because “Client 9” unfurls a narrative that barely resembles the one laid out by the mass media in their rush to make a star out of prostitute Ashley Dupré and a goat out of the man some predicted would become “the first Jewish president” after building his reputation as a dogged attorney general who took on the powers on Wall Street.

It took considerably longer for Gibney to get Spitzer’s shocked allies, giddy enemies and the former governor himself to speak on the record, but as the Oscar-winning director of “Taxi to the Dark Side” admits, the two years Gibney spent after the scandal broke was in the best interest of the final product, allowing for the discovery of the real relationships Spitzer had with prostitutes (hint: it wasn’t necessarily with Dupré) and the time to piece together how financial titans such as AIG’s Hank Greenberg and Home Depot founder Ken Langone engineered Spitzer’s disgraceful ouster from government. (My full review of the film from the Toronto Film Fest is here.) Recently, Gibney sat down with me to discuss taking the side of the defense for a change, how “Client 9” reminds him of “The Big Sleep” and his friendly competition with “Inside Job” director [and “No End in Sight” collaborator] Charles Ferguson.

What originally got you interested in this?

This was one that was offered to me, ironically by my producers who had been approached by some hedge fund guys and I think they felt it was fun to do something about Spitzer’s downfall. My deal was after thinking about it for a week, it just seemed to be about a lot of things, but there wasn’t any particular theme. It seemed like such a rich story and a story that had a mystery at its heart, so I dug in and then to the hedge fund people, I said, “Look, I don’t want to be beholden to anybody on this story, so put the money in an account, give me total editorial control and I’ll do it.”

11042010_AlexGibney.jpgLike “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” this film is based on a book by Peter Elkind (“Rough Justice”). Do you and he have a collaborative relationship?

It was on this one. It was on “Enron” too, but they had written their book [already], so they helped me, they advised me – he and Bethany [McLean, the co-author], but on this one, I knew Peter had gone to school with Spitzer and I knew he had done some big profiles of him for Fortune magazine, so it seemed like if we had teamed up that we might get something done together. The deal was each one of us — and we had enjoyed working together on “Enron” — would do whatever we wanted to do in terms of the final result. He’d write his book the way he wanted. I’d do my film the way I wanted, but along the way, we’d help each other. Maybe we’d dig out different pieces of the puzzle. And that’s what ended up happening. Also for me, it was key because Peter was a key entrée into Spitzer himself.

This film appears to sympathize with Spitzer to some degree when many of your other films have been takedowns, like “Enron” or “Casino Jack.” Was it different approaching a film from the defense rather than the prosecution?

That’s a good way of putting it. In a funny way, I think I’m a little bit of both in this movie, but yeah, I am sympathetic to Spitzer. Generally speaking, the film is sympathetic to Spitzer. At the same time, I hope I was tough and one of the things that we did was to find out some uncomfortable things that he may have wished we hadn’t found out about the escort world and his role in it.

So it was a little bit of both, but it’s funny in this one. I think this one was a little different for a number of reasons and the key reason I think is I didn’t approach it like a prosecutor would approach. It wasn’t kind of a legal brief like “Taxi to the Dark Side” was. It was a story and I tried to understand the parameters of the story and in telling the story learn some things that I might not have heard otherwise. But it was all about telling the story.

11042010_AshleyDupre.jpgThere’s a lot of misdirection in the film, which I imagine might’ve reflected your own struggles to get at the truth. How much did being misled personally enter the actual structure of the film?

It’s a very perceptive question because I think the structure is all about that. It’s all about setting up the audience for one expectation and then undermining it. Or really, not trying to trick them, but basically saying this is what we think we know, because that’s very much the situation I was in as I approached the story. I would come across stuff and say, “oh, I think I know this – Ashley Dupre’s the person.” Turns out it wasn’t Ashley Dupré. When we first showed that guy Hubert Waldrop, the painter, you think well, what’s this painter doing? And then it’s revealed slowly but surely that he’s not a painter really…he’s a booker for one of the escort agencies.

Same thing – you think well, it’s obvious Spitzer just did something that was terrible, so what more is there to know? But in fact, there was a lot more to know, particularly in terms of how he was taken down. And Spitzer himself says, “I took myself down,” which is true, but he has to say that. From the standpoint of us as citizens, we have to wonder what other abuses of power were involved in the way he was taken down, which in my view, was utterly inappropriate. I thought about “The Big Sleep” a lot when I was making the movie. The deeper you get into the movie, the more at sea you are until you come to the end. And at the end of the day, it’s not so important who killed the chauffeur as the kind of mood and character of the people in the story.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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