It-Ain’t-Cool Anymore

I suppose I’m a little late to the party, but I thought I’d take the opportunity to mourn the death of Ain’t It Cool News. As a reader of the site since well before it became ubiquitous — not only in the limited sphere of the ’net community, but in the film industry at large — I’ve been loath to write it off definitively, but there comes a time when even we die-hards must acknowledge the unmistakable. Innumerable digiterati have tried to select a moment at which the site stopped being relevant, the definitive juncture at which founder Harry Knowles “sold out,” but I don’t think there was any singular turning point. This wasn’t death by sudden stroke, but long, slow deterioration.

To be sure, there were visible signals of impending mortality. The addition of “talkback,” which served no purpose other than to allow bored adolescents to rail against each other in relative anonymity (a point accurately satirized in the otherwise hit-or-miss Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back). Harry’s varied television guest appearances. His book. His all-expenses-paid flight to New Zealand to visit the set of The Lord of the Rings. His short-lived ranking (101st) on Premiere magazine’s list of Hollywood’s top 100 power brokers.

But frankly, what killed the site was the same thing that kills many successful businesses: growth. As a shoestring, labor-of-love effort, it was acceptable — perhaps even beneficial — to dispense with such journalistic necessities as fact-checking, editorial oversight, even basic proofreading. But as the site grew into a bona fide industry news source, it tried to maintain the same loose style it had always proffered. Unfortunately, it was, fundamentally, no longer the “red-headed stepchild” of its initial inception, and it failed utterly to adjust. It could no longer straddle the fence between gossip sheet and legitimate industry publication.

I remember way back in the early days (1998, positively ancient history), I submitted a little “scoop” to the site — I’d had a (brief) conversation with author/artist Frank Miller at a book signing, and he mentioned that, despite rumors to the contrary, there would be no movie based on his popular Sin City series. At the time I remember how excited I was to have something (at least marginally) substantive to contribute. Sure, the sources were unverified, the stories were largely rumor, but the contributors were a (relatively) small cadre of dedicated fans who wanted to share with others, and the less-than-certain nature was par for the course. Now, with stories coming from all angles, the lack of any editorial “filter” is glaringly detrimental; not just in terms of content selection, but in simple professionalism.

Today I received another e-mail from Mil Millington (you did all go out and buy — or at least read — his book, right?), in which he expounded on some of the difficulties in adapting his novel into a screenplay, and some of the conflicts with the studio “suits.” I won’t go into detail (he asked me not to), but in thinking of who I’d like to tell about it, Ain’t-It-Cool never even crossed my mind. Now there doesn’t seem to be any point; I know I neither believe much of what I see there nor trust in the tastes of the majority of the contributors — why should I expect anyone else to take me seriously?

Goodbye, AICN. It was fun while it lasted.


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