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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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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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