Ain't It Cool: Hollywood's Redheaded Stepchild Speaks Out
April 11, 2002 8:05 PM   Subscribe

Ain't It Cool: Hollywood's Redheaded Stepchild Speaks Out is the title of Harry Knowles' recently published book. Written with Paul Cullum and Mark Ebner, the book is a biting, dead-on critique of the film industry. "If smart audiences can't find the smart movies that are out there, then it's only because they have been systematically alientated from movies over a hard-fought twenty years. Films didn't get stupid all on their own; they were beaten and bloodied into submission in the mistaken belief that it would generate greater profits."
posted by Mo Nickels (38 comments total)
Also of interest in this book, which admittedly, is irregular in quality throughout but has moments of brilliance, are those that deal with his childhood and early life. Here he describes the death of his hated grandfather: "I'm named for the cocksucker, and I stood over him one Sunday in 1990, after he'd fallen in his kitchen and cracked open his head, and I watched him die. They had rushed him to Dallas's Parkland Hospital, the same place they took Kennedy with his brains brocaded on his waistcoat, and I caught him half in and half out of consciousness. I whispered, "Die," and he flatlined seconds later. It was like he'd been waiting for that to leave this world behind. I can't say enough against the man."
posted by Mo Nickels at 8:09 PM on April 11, 2002

Thanks for reminding me - I have to buy this book. I just mentioned Harry Knowles on my weblog last week - I had heard him being interviewed on a local radio station and was really intrigued by his attitude and his comments.

He said during the interview that he started up his infamous website because he was bored and laid up - he was partially paralyzed after having 1200 lbs. of merchandise fall on him at a movie memorabilia trade show.
posted by iconomy at 8:36 PM on April 11, 2002

I'm sorry, Mo Nickels, but what's brilliant about the excerpt you chose? It's badly written and cliché-ridden. The "I'm glad the bastard died" is a commonplace in every kind of literature, popular or otherwise, but this version is particularly bereft of any originality. The syntax, the punctuation and the similes("brocaded", "flatlined")are bad enough but the inability to transmit any real emotion is, in my opinion, proof of lack of talent - or motivation even.

It's bland to an extreme. So he didn't like his grandfather. Neither the hate or any possible ambiguity come through. It's flat and unconvincing. It's no wonder he wrote it "with" two other people. It all sounds like less than a single person.

Perhaps Knowles's love-hate relationship with the film industry - wanting to have his cake and eat it too; going to junkets and then biting the hand that fed him - has influenced my judgement. I prefer real critics and real writers. Sure, it would be nice if amateurs like him were any good - but HK definitely isn't one of them.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:40 PM on April 11, 2002

He appears very briefly in Bruce Campbell's documentary
"Fanalysis" on the Evil Dead special edition dvd. The dvd is wicked and comes in a book covered with a faux human face (as opposed to a real human face).
posted by tcobretti at 8:50 PM on April 11, 2002

I like him. I'm tired of jackass critics who think they know everything about movies cause they worked for Roger Corman one summer during the 70s. I like his enthusiasm. Also, AICN is at least as much about news as it is criticism.
posted by tcobretti at 8:54 PM on April 11, 2002

What Miguel said--"brocaded" in particular just reeks of nudge-nudge-I'm-a-writer. And the whole passage to me seems to be an effort to manufacture a dramatic life for the story of, basically, a guy with a website.

That doesn't mean Harry himself is a bad person, though. He wouldn't be the first person to get his balls caught in the publishing machine.

I'm tired of jackass critics who think they know everything about movies cause they worked for Roger Corman one summer during the 70s.

Such as?
posted by rodii at 8:58 PM on April 11, 2002

Enthusiasm? Harry Knowles? WHERE DID YOU EVER GET THAT IDEA?!?!?!?!?!?!
posted by tomorama at 9:14 PM on April 11, 2002

This reminds me of Oliver Willis' thesis on turning succesfull websites into book opportunities.

The book doesn't interest me though, the points I have heard in summary of the work seem fairly self evident to me.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:14 PM on April 11, 2002

Yea Miguel! I'm glad someone pointed that out. I think he's everything that he hates. That he's a guy who failed as a script writer and decided to start an amateur review site. He wants so badly to be accepted by Hollywood. Kind of like a geeky kid who wants to hang out with the popular kids, but doesn't want to leave his geeky friends behind so he tries to take the best of both worlds. Plus everytime he's on TV he just perpetuates the Internet nerd stereotype. Whew, I'm done.
posted by geoff. at 9:46 PM on April 11, 2002

The specific critic I was referring to is Roger Ebert. In his own ridiculously hyperbolic language:

I hate, hate, hate movie critics.

How could anyone not like Cobra?

Eberts is the disease; Harry Knowles is the cure.
posted by tcobretti at 9:56 PM on April 11, 2002

In his own ridiculously hyperbolic language

Mmm? Knowles is the Hyperbolic Rex of reviewers...

So did George Lucas drop the ball? Did he rape our childhood? Has he turned into nothing more than flannel wearing toy salesman without a soul or an eye for storytelling anymore? Was I disappointed to such a state that I wanted to yell and scream and break my original 12 inch Boba Fett and defecate upon it in a ritualistic purging of all that was once sacred to my childhood?
posted by nikzhowz at 10:14 PM on April 11, 2002

I dont trust Harry's reviews one bit, and his writing is downright painful (if anyone had the misfortune of reading his blade 2 review, I'm sorry, we need a support group), ...but... I agree about his enthusiasm, theres something nice about how much he loves movies, pretty much any movies. He is consistently WAY over the top with praise and incredibly restrained with criticism.

A good thing in a critic? Not so much, but it does make me like him.

If I want to find some opinions about a movie, I'll look elsewhere, but he can't be beat for getting yourself overly worked up about the next nerd movie (spiderman, anyone?).
posted by malphigian at 10:57 PM on April 11, 2002

Mmm? Knowles is the Hyperbolic Rex of reviewers...

Wouldn't that be Hyperbolic Rex Reed? ;-)
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:04 PM on April 11, 2002

Four things Taco hates about Knowles.

1. Blade 2's review reveals the frustrations of a 14 yr old.

2. He's comma happy and constantly says 'noone' instead of 'no one.' That and 'loose' for 'lose' drives me nuts. But I'm not a published author like he is, so what do I know?

3. That whole blowup between him and Film Threat two years ago was a hoot.

3. The guy liked Flintstones 2: Viva Rock Vegas.

4. Goto 3.
posted by Tacodog at 11:58 PM on April 11, 2002

Ah, but which 3. do we go to Taco?

More importantly, no one click the link to that blade 2 review, under any circumstances... after reading that, you can wash and wash, but you'll never feel clean again.

Curse you, tacodog, for unleashing that on poor unsuspecting mefiers.
posted by malphigian at 12:09 AM on April 12, 2002

Ack. malphigian's right, it's seriously fucked up. Harry should've jerked off before he wrote that one.
posted by nikzhowz at 12:15 AM on April 12, 2002

heh, I kept coming up with new things and forgot to renumber. And re: the NC-17 review. No naughty pictures but if your company filters your websurfing and monitors text, you'll be setting off all sorts of alarms in the IT basement.

Hope I've offended noone as it was not my intent. Hate to loose what little friends I have.
posted by Tacodog at 12:18 AM on April 12, 2002

Malphigian, your warning came a little too late. I need to shower with a Detol type disinfectant now.
posted by riffola at 12:18 AM on April 12, 2002


Goddamn, I should have listened to everyone. WHY DIDN'T YOU STOP ME?!?!?!?
posted by solistrato at 8:07 AM on April 12, 2002

Wow, that really was bad. Wow.
posted by jennyb at 8:07 AM on April 12, 2002

Was there a review of the film anywhere in that godawful mess?

Now I remember why I stopped visiting AICN. And hell, I liked Blade II.
posted by UnReality at 8:25 AM on April 12, 2002

Harry Knowles is a fortunate boy with an unfortunate history, but I'm not reading his book. And though I visit his site, I avoid his reviews because I just don't trust his judgement. He might've been credible at one time, but these days he ravenously salivates over some the most unappetizing cinematic tripe. I prefer the critiques from his compatriots like Moriarty and Quint, as well as the "phoned in" reviews from the general vox populi. Those are usually more interesting and less self-congratulatory.

Oh, and if a website can ever "jump the shark" then the Blade 2 review sounds just like Fonzie's flying motorbike to me.
posted by grabbingsand at 8:30 AM on April 12, 2002

After all those warning comments, guess what I had to do...

and after...aayyaiyaiyaiyai
posted by bittennails at 8:38 AM on April 12, 2002

I don't pay any attention to Knowles for two reasons:

1. He basically comes across as an over eager fanboy who doesn't have any critical eye or integrity (this goes all the way back to his "Armageddon" junket).

2. I don't trust any website where all of the article links end with multiple exclamation points. !!!!!!!!!!!

AICN now has gigantic pop-up ads too. That isn't going to win me over either.
posted by mark13 at 8:40 AM on April 12, 2002

Now might be a good time to plug the local talent. If you're tired of the Austin fanboy, try Atlanta's own CHUD. You'll be glad you did...
posted by grabbingsand at 8:51 AM on April 12, 2002

reading that i was just thinking blade v highlander would be really cool! like forget aliens v predator, snipes and lambert :)
posted by kliuless at 9:03 AM on April 12, 2002

That Blade 2 review was so bad it made me never want to go to that site glad to see I wasnt the only one :)
posted by ejoey at 9:04 AM on April 12, 2002

Though I appreciate Harry's unabashed enthusiasm (and love for such wonders as Iron Giant and Toy Story), I vastly prefer the reviews by "Moriarty" and "Alexandra DuPont". That is why I keep coming back to AICN.
posted by Marquis at 9:09 AM on April 12, 2002

Well, for Christ's sake, don't judge the book's writing style by my two extracts. I suspect the other two writers influenced the writerly-sounding passages of the book with their magazine-style dreck. Like I said, the book's variable. Harry himself writes like an imbecile, but his message is worth reading for its clarity and vision.

Miguel, that excerpt was chosen because of what happened, not how it was written. And I seriously doubt many of us have actually stood over a hated family member and whispered, "Die."

I don't much like Harry's reviews, either. I go to his site for the scoop on new films. That's it. He writes what his fan-base seems to enjoy, however. I've been in a position twice to submit a couple of scoops to AICN and got roundly pummeled in the forums because people were like, "Well? Who cares about any of that? Did she show her tits?" All I wanted to do was describe the film, talk about what it had and didn't have, and let the readers decide whether it was a worthy film. Harry's readers are an odd bunch, and maybe he panders to them a little bit too much.

Marquis, be careful when you say you like somebody else's reviews better than Harry's. He admits that he writes some of those other reviews under pseudonyms, so you might find that you agree with him after all.

Also, Miguel, not that it's important that Harry bites the hand that sends him on junkets—I'd say, "Bite away!", but he hides almost nothing. We *always* know he's been on a junket, because he tells us. How many other reviewers do that? Thus, we can make up our own minds as to if or what degree he was influenced.
posted by Mo Nickels at 11:44 AM on April 12, 2002

The specific critic I was referring to is Roger Ebert.

Thought so. Though I thought Ebert did more than "work for Roger Corman one summer during the '70s". Not so?

I don't have any particular feelings about Ebert, but I don't really understand the bile you direct towards him. He seems like a good guy and a decent critic who, like Harry Knowles, genuinely likes movies. And unlike Harry, doesn't make my brain bleed when I read him.
posted by rodii at 11:46 AM on April 12, 2002

And I seriously doubt many of us have actually stood over a hated family member and whispered, "Die.

I agree. In fact, I don't believe Harry did that either. The whole episode struck me as fake.
posted by rodii at 11:47 AM on April 12, 2002

I still maintain this is going to be one good beach book.
posted by iconomy at 11:58 AM on April 12, 2002

Harry Knowles is an idiot. A boring, trite, pathetic goon. I'd sooner stick a hot poker in my eye than read his book. He is yesterday's news.

Also: All critics are complete morons at least half of the time. Flipping a coin is as accurate a determination as any regarding whether or not you'll like a particular movie. In other words, movie critics are useless. Including me.
posted by woodge at 12:14 PM on April 12, 2002

If all critics are complete morons half the time, then that implies they are right 75% of the time.
posted by NortonDC at 12:55 PM on April 12, 2002

"no one click the link to that blade 2 review, under any circumstances... after reading that, you can wash and wash, but you'll never feel clean again."

I got as far as "audience as the clit" before I covered myself in wave after wave of glorious, glistening strands of milky-white semen.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:28 PM on April 12, 2002

I quite like AICN, but that blade 2 review was seriously evil. They may get a bit fanboyist, but over LOTR it's the only appropriate response!

Oh, and he's seriously better than any tabloid newspaper reviewer I've ever read.
posted by nedrichards at 10:51 AM on April 13, 2002

Ugh. From now I'll just stick to reading The Brunching Shuttlecock's Selfmade Critic.
posted by Hackworth at 12:46 PM on April 13, 2002

I find AICN to be amusing, but I can't say I have any interest in reading a book by the guy. But what I have to wonder is, why would anybody characterize Harry Knowles as a 'movie critic'? He is anything but. He's a gossip columnist and a media whore, but he is not a movie critic. If you've ever looked at the site, you'd see that he maybe reviews one movie a month at the most, and then it just an over-the-top stream of concious ramble that usually has more to do with his childhood than anything actually on the screen. And that's fine, if that's what he wants to do.... but to call him a film critic or in any way compare him to Roger Ebert, well, that's just asinine.
posted by spilon at 9:13 PM on April 13, 2002

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