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Mourning the End of an Era at Cinematical

Mourning the End of an Era at Cinematical (photo)

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While it isn’t fair to those still working there to pronounce Cinematical dead, this week has seen a steady stream of writers and editors leave the site in recent days, all but leaving it for dead, and without sounding too grandiose, taking a little bit of film culture along with it.

Of course, there are thousands of film sites now covering every crevice of the industry and artform. Whether you’re into the films of Paul Thomas Anderson, title sequences, films of the ’60s and ’70s, or a podcast devoted strictly to the Criterion Collection, there’s a place where nearly every cinematic interest can be satisfied. But that wasn’t the case back in 2005 when Cinematical debuted with the drive to cover them all. At the time the site was launched under the stewardship of Weblogs founder Jason Calacanis, Mark Rabinowitz and Karina Longworth, film writing on the Web was mostly fragmented because it had to be, which in turn made it harder for writers with considerable passion but little experience to find a forum.

For the most part in 2005, legitimacy was still hard to come by if you weren’t a part of the traditional media and the sites gaining traction were built around geek culture like Ain’t It Cool News and JoBlo.com and often had their writers shrouded in pseudonyms, which allowed for anonymity to challenge mainstream sites with news scoops, but often made it easy to attack their credibility.

Cinematical would benefit from their timing as one of the first major film sites to launch on the blog platform, making it easier for writers to publish their work online. (It’s hilarious to see that one of Cinematical’s first posts, “Who’s Blogging at Sundance 2005?” rounds up just four sites, all of which redirect elsewhere now.) But the site also capitalized on the fact the successful Web-only film sites, while catering to a large, previously underserved audience, still felt exclusive to a crowd that loved science fiction, action and fantasy and as a result, Cinematical sought to serve film geeks of every stripe, seamlessly mixing reviews of the latest films with ample consideration of the older ones, pioneering festival coverage in a way that had been previously the domain of the trades like Variety since writers were based everywhere, and creating a mix of voices that was unusual for any film site then or now where the only common trait was an obvious love of film and the ability to dissect them in an interesting way.

That passion and analytical thinking could define any number of film sites – and sadly be considered the antithesis of so many others – but it was Cinematical‘s greatest achievement that it offered a sense of discovery (and rediscovery) on such a large scale, not only to the wide variety of films they covered, but the writers the site introduced to a larger audience. Longworth had been working in a pasta factory before writing full-time for Cinematical and now she’s revitalizing the L.A. Weekly‘s film section. The writers/editors that followed included Kim Voynar, who’s expertly covered the site’s demise from her essential blog Film Essent on Movie City News, Ryan Stewart, who moved onto Moviemaker magazine, Scott Weinberg, who is now the North American editor for TwitchFilm, and Erik Davis, who resigned Tuesday, but will be continuing to file stories for Movies.com. (Even Peter Sciretta, who launched arguably the most successful movie site in recent years with /Film, got his start at Cinematical.)

If you notice a trend, they’re all now shaping the discussion about film on other sites and following the first takeover of Cinematical when AOL bought Weblogs in the fall of 2005 and eventually attempted to fold it into their more commercially-minded Moviefone brand and culminating in the recent merger of the Huffington Post and AOL, it’s been the tragedy of Cinematical that after breeding a generation of talented writers, they haven’t been able to keep them under one roof.

Even though there is (and should be) palpable outrage over the events that led to the mass exodus of the Cinematical staff, there is some comfort to be taken that many more current and former staff have found homes elsewhere. You can find other hall of fame members of the site like Eric D. Snider at his personal site, Peter Martin at Twitch, Christopher Campbell at IndieWIRE‘s Spout, Jette Kernion’s coverage of film in Austin for Slackerwood, James Rocchi’s silver-tongued criticism at MSN Movies, while emerging writers such as Peter S. Hall and William Goss have decamped for Hollywood.com and Film.com, respectively.

Still, the loss of Cinematical, or at least as we know it now, stings because in a world of niche sites online, it was gloriously mainstream without aiming to be, existing as a collection of personal voices that covered minutiae that can be the foundation of an entire site nowadays, and yet taken as a whole, it covered a spectrum of film that most resembled our movie culture in America — or at least, what we’d like it to be with the spectacle of blockbusters and the thought-provoking films, fiction and nonfiction, that deserve further discussion. Perhaps there’s a replacement, and it could even come from within Cinematical‘s next incarnation, whatever that may be, but there’s no doubt that this week’s news has made the end of an era official and those of us who love talking about movies are poorer for it.

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SO EXCITED!!!

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.”

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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. 

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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.

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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.