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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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…

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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.

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.