Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Looking for Alternatives to Cinematical

I wish I could say something insightful about the unfortunate demise of my favorite movie blog, Cinematical, but all I can really offer by way of commentary is that I think the situation sucks, AOL and the Huffington Post are run by reprehensible twits, and I feel awful for all the writers who have been drop-kicked out the door. This also leaves me without a primary movie blog to follow, and on the lookout for potential replacements. What I liked about Cinematical was that it pulled together so many different types of content:

News - Deadline Hollywood Daily gives me the basics on deal reports and production announcements, though the commentary and the context provided aren't great. What Cinematical did so well was filter and condense the disparate bits of information into a much quicker and easier read, occasionally expanding on some of the bigger stories. They were also very good about pointing out trailers for smaller films, interesting shorts, and special screenings that that the big shots would often ignore.

Reviews - I follow several reviewers individually, including Roger Ebert and A.O. Scott, but Cinematical was great for general reviews because it covered a broad range of titles, including the occasional indie and foreign film. The early festival reviews were especially nice to have. I first heard about films like "Slumdog Millionaire" and the upcoming "Meek's Cutoff" through Cinematical's early reviews, and I often built "to watch" lists around their festival coverage. I know that Eric Snider and Todd Gilchrist and the rest are still out there and easily followable, but it's just not going to be the same.

Columns - Like everyone else, they did box office predictions and DVD release roundups, but Cinematical also had "Criterion Corner," "Scenes We Love," "Their Best Role," "Stars in Rewind," and "Actors We Miss," which I don't think need any explanation. There was also "Framed," devoted to favorite single frames in films, "Doc Talk" for documentaries, "Shelf Life" to reevaluate older films, "400 Screens, 400 Blows" to spotlight limited releases, and many more I know I'm forgetting. My favorite was Monika Bartyzel's "Girls on Film," which was always good for some Monday night girl power. And I'm going to miss following along with Jacob Hall as he tackled cinema classics he hadn't seen yet in "Where Everyone Has Gone Before."

Features - Festival reporting, interviews, editorials, set reports - we got everything from in-depth interviews with Mike Leigh to a visit to the set of "Bridesmaids" in the last few months. Again, what I loved about Cinematical was the breadth of their coverage. They couldn't afford to send people off to Cannes or Venice, but they could cover the hell out of Sundance, SXSW, and Comic-Con. And they would interview everyone from B-movie directors to Hollywood stars to documentarians to the guy who runs the Alamo Drafthouse. Nowhere was it more evident that the editors understood and loved films and the creative culture around them.

Geekbait - Occasionally there would be random posts linked to fanart, humorous Youtube videos, really cool movie-related T-shirts, a pizza cutter shaped like the Starship Enterprise, and other things that only a movie fan would geek out over. I probably enjoyed these posts more than I should have, but these offhand oddities were like getting best of Reddit without actually having to wade through Reddit.

And the Rest - The commenting system was a royal pain to use since AOL took over the blog over a year ago, but it was nice to see some actual discussion in the comments of many posts, some of which could get pretty heated. Sure, there were the bots and the trolls, but there were also some good regulars who stuck with Cinematical over the years, and as much as I'm going to miss the writers, I'm going to miss some of the readers too.

I visit several other film sites daily that cover many of these categories, but not all of them and not as well. I've still got the LA Times' entertainment blogs, Aint it Cool News, The Vulture, the Wrap, HitFlix, Deadline, Roger Ebert, and a couple of others, but there are no easy substitutes to be found. What I'm really going to miss are those Cinematical columns, that let the individual writers explore their own interests and further develop their own voices. I hope they all manage to land somewhere that lets them keep doing what they love.

And I want something suitably nasty to happen to whoever fired everyone, possibly involving Kate Hudson rom-coms and the "Clockwork Orange" eyeball machine.

Thanks for everything Cinematical.

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