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“The Outsider.”

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"He's a genius and a retard."
For anyone who’s ever felt a bit bemused by the continuing career of director/writer/sometime-actor James Toback, "The Outsider" will be an illumination. Toback, whose finest hour was when his screenplay for "Bugsy" was nominated for an Oscar in 1992, feverishly churns out a new film every few years, each a variation on the same themes. Only his first, 1978’s "Fingers," which starred Harvey Keitel and football Hall of Famer Jim Brown, and which was remade as last year’s "The Beat That My Heart Skipped," has earned any kind of consistent critical regard. The Harvard-educated Toback is at least as famous for his one-time appetites for sex, drugs, and gambling (along with his outsized personality) as he is for his filmmaking, which makes him a prime subject for a documentary.

"The Outsider," the debut film from Nicholas Jarecki, follows Toback through the filming of 2004’s "When Will I Be Loved," interspersing that footage with interviews of fondly disposed Toback acquaintances, including Woody Allen, Brett Ratner, Roger Ebert and Norman Mailer. We get a look at Toback’s free-form filmmaking technique, which rests heavily on improvised scenes, use of a Steadicam and occasional cameos from his famous friends: Bridget Hall, Lori Singer, Damon Dash and Mike Tyson (who also had a role in "Black and White") all make appearances.

Toback is a fiercesome spinner of his own personal mythology — one character observes that he has "an amicable hustler’s energy about him," and indeed, he has a near-miraculous gift of gab, pulling out a combination of personal philosophies, Dostoevsky references, raunchy anecdotes from the 70s and gossip to exercise a soothing control over and inspire total confidence in all those involved in what should have been a ridiculous project: shooting a feature-length film, without a script, in 12 days. Toback’s self-regard is staggering, but also compelling: you couldn’t help but wish his films were as good as he believes they are. There’s something charming in the way he attempts to will the world around him to be as he wishes — in one scene, he and Mike Tyson both address the camera and attempt to talk over each other: Toback rambles on and on about how much he enjoys casting Tyson because he’s so articulate, while beside him Tyson confides about all of the "sexual injuendos" Toback’s always trying to get him to say. Having wrapped his film, Toback discusses the bidding war between distributors he’s sure is imminent, which, as time passes, becomes simply finding a distributor, period — there are downsides to buying into your own bullshit after all.

Aside from some jarring and odd soundtrack choices, Jarecki’s direction is unobtrusive, making for an affectionate if slender film that never deeper or asks any difficult questions, even when we wish it did — particularly regarding the $2 million offered to Toback by British investors at the beginning of the film, apparently unsolicited and out of the blue. "Outsider" being a relative term, always.

"The Outsider" opens in the New York on June 16.

+ "The Outsider" (Official site)

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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