DID YOU READ

Gary Winick, 1961-2011

Gary Winick, 1961-2011 (photo)

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As Cinetic’s Matt Dentler sadly noted in his tweet announcing the passing of Gary Winick last night, the timing was “too late to make the Oscar [in memorium] tribute, but way too early.” In a cruel twist of fate, it wasn’t unusual for the writer/director, who was set to turn 50 next month, to be ahead of his time.

Winick was of course a filmmaker first, leaving behind a dozen films that grew from small-scale indie dramas to crowdpleasers such as “Charlotte’s Web” and “Letters to Juliet” that charmed audiences by the millions. Yet his most enduring legacy is likely the one he left on a smaller community, the thousands of filmmakers who have and will continue to benefit from his work as a digital pioneer at the turn of the century as the founder of InDigEnt, the collective he created with Cinetic’s John Sloss and IFC Films [our corporate sibling] to make films for under $100,000 on digital video.

Nowadays, what Winick was proposing hardly sounds revolutionary, but then again, the results of the biggest revolutions often don’t in retrospect. Inspired by the Dogme 95 movement out of Denmark, and especially Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Celebration,” Winick saw a similar opportunity in America, knowing the depth (and underutilization) of New York’s indie filmmaking community, observing much of it firsthand as a teacher at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts for nearly a decade. By luring the likes of Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and then-budding auteurs like Rodrigo Garcia and Rebecca Miller, Winick gave digital filmmaking credibility at a time when it didn’t seem like the inevitability it is today and, better yet, produced 19 films between 2001 to 2007 that included gems such as Linklater’s “Tape,” Miller’s “Personal Velocity,” Peter Hedges’ “Pieces of April” and Steve Buscemi’s “Lonesome Jim” and Andrew Wagner’s “Starting Out in the Evening.”

While the limitations of budget and camera definition was clearly set on InDigEnt productions, there were none placed on what could be accomplished with the films, which is why no less an esteemed cast than John Slattery, Ron Rifkin, Annabella Sciorra and Fisher Stevens found themselves sitting around a table in the opening scene of “Sam the Man,” Winick’s first contribution as a director to the company. His second, “Tadpole,” that brought Sigourney Weaver and Bebe Neuwirth into the fold, was the one that really put the company on the map after selling to Miramax for a reported $6 million at Sundance in 2002, a mixed blessing for InDigEnt as a whole since Hollywood discovered that he was as good at nurturing character-driven comedies as he was with burgeoning technological movements.

02282011_GaryWinick13Goingon30.jpgIn fact, there is a common link between the two since Winick’s general lack of cynicism towards the process and what could be achieved, in regards to the digital format in particular, extended to his work as a director, a quality that made him so compassionate to his characters and a natural choice for the studios to deliver their closest approximations of fairy tales in recent years. Skeptics (myself included, admittedly) wondered why Winick would abandon his role as a leader in the indie film world to become just another journeyman director of big-budget romantic comedies. But for the director, it was just one more proving ground as he pulled the magic out of Jennifer Garner (“13 Going on 30”) and Amanda Seyfried (“Letters to Juliet”) in the roles that established each as movie stars as easily as he found the humanity in Michael Imperioli’s drug-addicted father just trying to make ends meet in 1995’s “Sweet Nothing” and Aaron Stanford’s overeducated, Voltaire-spouting teen whose main goal in life is to bed his stepmother in “Tadpole.”

Winick once told the BBC his favorite quote from a film was from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” when Jack Nicholson’s Randall McMurphy attempts to move a concrete sink to his fellow patients’ disbelief, concluding in frustration, “At least I tried!” There’s no question Winick could say the same thing throughout his career, though he had considerably less trouble with moving either audiences emotionally or the state of independent film forward.

[Additional photo: Gary Winick, Judy Greer and Jennifer Garner on the set of “13 Going on 30,” Columbia Pictures, 2004]

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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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