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Reaching the End of the New Line

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By Stephen Saito

Less than five months ago, New Line Cinema co-chairmen Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne were celebrating the 40th anniversary of the company that Shaye founded out of an apartment on East 14th Street in New York at the New York Film Festival. Needless to say, four decades in the movie business deserved a trip uptown, to the Lincoln Center’s tony Fredrick P. Rose Hall, where no less than Nicole Kidman glided down the red carpet and a full gospel choir accompanied Ricki Lake and Marissa Jaret Winokur in a rendition of the “Hairspray” number “Come So Far.” Days later, the duo would get an hour on Charlie Rose en route to releasing one of the biggest budgeted films in their history, the $200 million-plus fantasy “The Golden Compass.” Now those days seem like a different age, after word came down yesterday that Warner Bros. will absorb the studio without the participation of Shaye and Lynne. It looks like the house that Freddy Krueger built and Gandalf retrofitted is about to undergo an extreme makeover.

It’s possible the result will look like the Disney subsidiary Miramax, which has thrived in recent years without its famous/infamous co-founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein. Then again, the Weinsteins might never have come up with the idea for Miramax (and Bob’s genre label Dimension) if there hadn’t first been a New Line, which Shaye built on college tours of cult films like “Reefer Madness” and Jean-Luc Godard’s Rolling Stones doc “Sympathy for the Devil” and theatrical runs of early John Waters films and low-budget horror flicks, including the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “The Evil Dead.” Naturally, Shaye segued from distribution to production, which paid off when “Nightmare on Elm Street” became a studio-defining hit in 1984. Besides the financial rewards reaped by what would become the Freddy franchise, it also introduced the world to Johnny Depp, and, over the course of six more films, future “L.A. Confidential” scribe Brian Helgeland (“Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Master”), future “Shawshank Redemption” director Frank Darabont and indie stalwart Bruce Wagner (“Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”) and. most importantly, future New Line production exec Michael De Luca, who penned “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.”

After all, that’s what New Line did — exploit new talent, much in the same way that Roger Corman had done before, but on a larger level. When “Nightmare” became a success, New Line moved into the ’90s with aspirations of becoming a full-fledged studio and when Shaye sold the company in 1993 to Ted Turner, it paved the way for more films and bigger films. But there always remained room for the smaller ones. New Line was one of the first studios to form a specialty label with Fine Line in 1990, which countered the larger studio’s output of easy sells like “House Party 2” with Gus Van Sant’s “My Own Private Idaho.” Fine Line also reintroduced Robert Altman to a larger audience with “The Player” and “Short Cuts” back to back in 1992 and 1993. But New Line remained primarily in the business of introductions and, thanks to the keen eye of writer-turned-exec De Luca, they would shepherd in the director who would be Altman’s heir, Paul Thomas Anderson, as well as the breakthroughs of a host of other visionaries including Albert and Allen Hughes (“Menace II Society”), David Fincher (“Se7en”), Alex Proyas (“Dark City”), Tarsem (“The Cell”) and the late Ted Demme (“Blow”).


However, talking about New Line as some sort of bastion of artistry would be doing it a disservice. While the studio had a penchant for investing in both edgy indie-minded fare like “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and prestige projects like Alexander Payne’s “About Schmidt,” New Line’s heart was always in pure entertainments like “Final Destination” and “Austin Powers.” Maybe that’s why Anderson’s “Boogie Nights” or more recently, Todd Field’s heavily lauded “Little Children” failed to get much award consideration, but why every moment of a New Line programmer like “Snakes on a Plane” feels as though someone at the studio is letting loose a joyous “wheeeeee” in the background. (In fact, after New Line bumped the Samuel L. Jackson starrer to a R rating from a PG-13, production chief Toby Emmerich started suggesting body parts for the snakes to bite.) The studio was also never shy about nepotism, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering that the always watchable character actors Lin Shaye (sister of Bob) and Noah Emmerich (brother of Toby) got a leg up in New Line fare.

Now, the fun is over for New Line, at least in its era with Shaye and Lynne at the helm. Some would consider that a good thing, especially since the steely reserve and aggressiveness that led the two men to great success has also been cited as a cause of their professional downfall, with that very public dispute between Shaye and “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson over the bookkeeping of his J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy, not to mention the pair’s questionable personal behavior, which was detailed in a July 1998 article by John Connolly in Premiere. (As for the “LOTR” suit, Jackson ultimately settled with the studio, but only after New Line’s costly “Golden Compass” failed to ignite at the U.S. box office.)

Incidentally, Shaye and Lynne will likely go out on top — New Line’s “Semi-Pro” is expected to top this weekend’s box office chart. And although making money was always at the forefront of New Line’s operation, more than enough truly innovative and quality films made it into the pipeline to call it an accident that it was also a bastion of independence.

[Photo: “The house that Freddy Krueger built and Gandalf retrofitted”: New Line’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984) and “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001); “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” Fine Line, 2001]



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.


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.