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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 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 (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 and, 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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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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