Harry Knowles

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Harry Knowles
Harry Knowles by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Knowles at the San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2010.
Born Harry Jay Knowles
(1971-12-11) December 11, 1971 (age 42)
Austin, Texas
Occupation Writer, critic
Spouse(s) Patricia Cho Jones
(July 15, 2007 – present)

Harry Jay Knowles (born December 11, 1971) is a film critic and writer known for his website called Ain't It Cool News. Knowles is a member of the Austin Film Critics Association.[1]

Early life[edit]

Harry Jay Knowles was born in Austin, Texas, the son of Jarrell Jay Knowles and Helen Jane (Harrison) Knowles, who married September 19, 1970, in Austin. His early years were spent traveling the Southwest and Mexico with his parents who did light shows for touring rock bands. His parents then settled in Austin and began trading comic books and movie memorabilia from the upstairs floor of their Victorian era house at 4526 Red River, as well as from Austin's first comic and movie memorabilia store, the N.E. Mercantile Company, Inc. (N.E. was short for "New Economics"), which they founded in 1970 and ran until 1984. Knowles's parents also produced the Austin Fantasy Film Fest in 1976, one of the first science fiction conventions in Austin. Knowles spent many hours watching B-grade horror movies as well as other genres from mostly bootlegged 16 mm prints.[citation needed]

Knowles's parents separated in 1983 and divorced March 12, 1984; his mother received custody of him and his younger sister Dannie. The children subsequently lived with their mother on her family's ranch, the Portwood Ranch in Seymour, Texas. His mother took possession of the comics, films, and related ephemera, and placed their ownership in the names of Harry and Dannie. With nothing better to do on the ranch, Knowles spent more time immersed in reading comics and watching movies. Knowles's other activities included the Boy Scouts of America and he attained the rank of Eagle Scout.[2] In 1989, at age 17, Knowles moved back in with his father. His mother died in a fire on December 5, 1992, on the Portwood Ranch, and Dannie moved back to Austin shortly thereafter.[citation needed]

Following his divorce from Helen, Knowles' father founded Jay's 20th Century Esoterica in Austin in 1985, and was later joined by Harry after he graduated from high school and moved back to Austin in 1989, and by Dannie in 1992. In 1994, Harry Knowles fell while pushing a cart up a ramp at a convention, and was subsequently run over by the cart with its 1,200-pound load of memorabilia. The accident injured his back and left him virtually bedridden. With an unexpected bequest of $5,000 from his mother's life insurance, he purchased a top-of-the-line computer and a friend arranged for Internet service so they could play Doom online together. Jay, Harry and Dannie ran Jay's 20th Century Esoterica until Ain't It Cool News "took off" in 1996, and the family went out of the memorabilia business, but retained their extensive collections and continue to add to them.[citation needed]


After purchasing a computer in 1994, Knowles taught himself how to navigate the Internet and began frequenting newsgroups to exchange gossip and rumors with other fans about upcoming films. After being chastised by future film critic Mike D'Angelo for posting binary image files to the newsgroups, Knowles launched the website that would become Ain't It Cool News in February 1996.

Due to the popularity of the website, Knowles was sought out by the mainstream media, including magazines, newspapers, and television news programs. In 2000, he was ranked #95 in the Forbes Celebrity 100.[3] Knowles has made guest appearances on the television shows Siskel & Ebert & the Movies and Politically Incorrect.[4]

Harry Knowles is featured in the documentary For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism as an advocate of film criticism on the Internet; he articulates the divide between older and younger critics and advocates for the films of Michael Bay as well as being one of the first major critics to champion genre favorite Adam Green.[5]

He was played by Ethan Suplee in the 2009 movie Fanboys.

Film events[edit]

Harry Knowles along with Tim League and Cole Dabney at the 2010 Fantastic Fest.

Every year since 1999, on the weekend closest to his birthday (December 11), Knowles hosts an event called Butt-Numb-A-Thon (BNAT). The event, also known as Geek Christmas, is a 24-hour celebration of film, featuring un-official premieres, and vintage films- from classics reprinted for the big-screen, to the rare, weird and unheard of. Film fans and professionals alike travel from all over the United States and the world to attend the event, which is hosted in the critic's hometown of Austin, Texas at the South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse. BNAT has been called "the world's most exclusive and mysteriously secretive film celebration" and "the hardest film event to get into in the country".

Fantastic Fest[edit]

Additionally, Knowles is a co-founder of Austin's Fantastic Fest, along with Tim League. Fantastic Fest is an annual film festival in Austin, Texas. It was founded in 2005 by Tim League of Alamo Drafthouse, Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News, Paul Alvarado-Dykstra, and Tim McCanlies, writer of The Iron Giant and Secondhand Lions. The festival focuses on genre films such as horror, science fiction, fantasy, action, Asian, and cult. The festival takes place in September at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, filling three screens for eight days and hosting many writers, directors and actors, both well established and unknown. A notable feature of this festival is the inclusion of "special screenings" by Knowles. For these screenings, the audience often does not know what the film will be until seated, moments before it begins.[citation needed] It also features many themed parties, outings, food/film "feasts", and other events that are signature hallmarks of the original Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. In 2007, Variety publisher Charles Koones included Fantastic Fest as one of "ten festivals we love".[6] In 2008, Moviemaker named Fantastic Fest "one of the 25 film festivals worth the entry fee".[7]


Knowles attends events offered to the press, paid for by the movie studios, including visits to movie sets and premieres. Questions have sometimes emerged about the resulting impartiality of his articles and reviews.[8] For example, he was flown to the premiere of Godzilla, and gave the movie a wildly positive review,[9] while a vast majority of critics disliked the film.[10] Knowles later reversed himself and panned the film after the ensuing outcry. Knowles and his defenders, however, have noted that he has given mixed reviews to movies for which he has been sent to junkets and premieres, and in any case is often out of step with mainstream critics. Knowles also gave a negative review to the film Monkeybone, in which he made a cameo appearance.[11]

In 1999, Knowles praised script by Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan, though he did not mention, that McWeeny was a contributor to the site, writing under the pseudonym "Moriarty." This and other alleged lapses were reported in a series of articles in Film Threat magazine.[12]

In early 2000, Knowles posted materials stolen from an ABC staffer's home computer, which Knowles took at face value to be the Oscar nominees for the Academy Awards—a day before the official announcement. When the actual nominees were announced the following day, it was discovered that his finalists in almost every category were incorrect. Knowles acknowledged his error when it became clear he was wrong, but then disclosed the IP address of the person whose computer had been hacked, compounding the error. The Academy considered suing Knowles for trademark and copyright infringement, but ultimately decided against it.[13]

Knowles became the subject of more controversy in the TalkBack section of his Drive review, due to the belief that he had pirated the film. Many AICN "talkbackers" pointed out that the film's composer, Cliff Martinez, had been replaced in the pirated versions of the film with Angelo Badalamenti. Knowles managed to name the wrong composer and upon realizing his error quickly changed the review to reflect Cliff Martinez as the original composer.[14]

On April 5, 2012, Knowles posted the first episode of a new YouTube series based on the website. In the video Knowles receives a copy of the script to the upcoming science-fiction film Prometheus. The following day, Knowles reviewed the script on the website. Talkbackers immediately suspected it was nothing more than an example of fan fiction due to poor grammar and structuring. One of the writers on the film, Damon Lindelof, later stated that an element present in the script Harry reviewed was not present in the actual script and surmised by Knowles had "been duped".[15]

In August 2013 Knowles, who was at the time on the brink of financial ruin due to severe mismanagement of funds according to an article from The Hollywood Reporter,[16] launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign in order to fund a second season of a YouTube web series he had starred in. The show was initially supported and funded by The Nerdist website[17] but was cancelled presumably due to lack of viewers. Despite a movement of a group of talkbackers trying to derail the project, "Future Filmgeekdom" was successfully funded on September 5, 2013. The project earned a total of $128,029.00, exceeding the project goal by more than $28,000.[18]

Personal life[edit]

In his book, Knowles states: "I was skinny up until about the second grade, when I started to bulk up. Then I was the big kid. I was tall, stocky, and they wanted me on the football team. Also, I was never ostracized as weird just because I was a film geek, because my parents would come to school and show 16mm films, or teach leatherworking and jewelry classes, which all the kids thought was cool. . . . It never occurred to me that I was fat until the fifth grade, when a new kid at school started causing problems. That's when Dad showed me José Ferrer as Cyrano de Bergerac; when someone hurls an insult at him, he says, 'Is that all? Ah, no, young sir, you're too simple. You might have said a great many things. Why waste your opportunity?' And then he names a score better than himself. Or Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast). Or Charles Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. You don't have to feel bad about yourself just because you're different (boiling oil notwithstanding)."[19]

Knowles married Patricia Cho Jones on July 15, 2007 at Green Pastures in Austin.[20]

On April 4, 2008, Knowles announced that he was diagnosed as a Type-2 diabetic.[21] On May 20, 2008, Knowles underwent lapband surgery to help alleviate his diabetes and to help lose much of the weight that has contributed to his health issues. In January 2011, Knowles underwent emergency spinal surgery to his T-10 vertebrae. According to Knowles, the surgery restored sensation in his legs for the first time in over 15 years, and he would be undergoing physical therapy to learn to walk again.[22]

Film credits[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Harry Knowles, Paul Cullum, Mark Ebner. (March 5, 2002). Ain't It Cool? Hollywood's Redheaded Stepchild Speaks Out (1st edition). Warner Books. ISBN 0-446-52597-9.


  1. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (November 16, 2007). "The Two Hollywoods; Harry Knowles Is Always Listening". The New York Times
  2. ^ Knowles, Harry; Cullum, Paul; Ebner, Mark (2003). Ain't It Cool?: Hollywood's Redheaded Stepchild Speaks Out. Warner Books. p. 214. ISBN 0-446-67991-7. Retrieved 2010-08-17. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Hollywood.com
  5. ^ For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism at the TCM Movie Database
  6. ^ Brown, Todd (December 5, 2007). "Variety Publisher Names Fantastic Fest One of Top Ten". Twitch. Retrieved 2010-06-27. 
  7. ^ MovieMaker, Spring 2008.
  8. ^ The Trouble with Harry
  9. ^ Attack of the Fans
  10. ^ Godzilla (1998). Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
  11. ^ Knowles, Harry (February 20, 2001). "MONKEY BONE Review". Ain't it Cool News. 
  12. ^ Wells, Ron (July 17, 2000). "Ain't It Criminal: Deconstructing Harry (part 3)". Film Threat. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  13. ^ Wells, Ron (July 17, 2000). "Deconstructing Harry: Ain't It Unethical? (part one)". Film Threat. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  14. ^ Wells, Ron. "At a loss at what to see in a theater this weekend... Harry says take a DRIVE!!!". 
  15. ^ Lindelof, Damon (April 6, 2012). "Hate to break it to you, @headgeek666, but there's no "Planet Zeus" in my draft... Or in @jonspaihts' work. I think you've been duped!". Twitter.
  16. ^ http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/aint-cools-harry-knowles-cash-430734 "He had discovered that Ain't It Cool News – the website Knowles started in his Texas bedroom that grew to be the scourge of Hollywood, redefined the nature and pace of entertainment journalism and turned an overweight, ginger-haired self-diagnosed movie nerd into the face of a geek nation on the rise – owed about $300,000 in unpaid taxes." Espen, Hal, March 2013.
  17. ^ http://www.nerdist.com/2012/04/the-nerdist-channel-presents-aint-it-cool-with-harry-knowles-1/"The Nerdist Channel Presents “Ain’t it Cool with Harry Knowles” " Simon, Perry Michael. April, 2012.
  18. ^ "Future Filmgeekdom: Ain't It Cool With Harry Knowles" Kickstarter, August 2013. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  19. ^ Harry Knowles, Paul Cullum and Mark Ebner. Ain't It Cool? New York: Warner Books, 2002, pages 34–45.
  20. ^ Knowles, Harry (July 15, 2007). "Dum Duh Da Dummmmmm". Ain't It Cool News.
  21. ^ Ain't It Cool News
  22. ^ Knowles, Harry (January 15, 2011). "What's happening with Harry...". Ain't It Cool News.

External links[edit]