I started writing for Defamer one year ago tomorrow. I am relieved of my duties today. Reflecting on the roughly 1,400 intervening posts — and looking ahead to the future — something occurred to me.
In a nutshell, it is OK to like things. It's really, really important to like things. Let's forget for a moment how elementary and maybe even stupid that sounds, and instead defer to our obituary by from reliably hatey Fox gossip Roger Friedman:
As for snarkiness-well, there's always a place for it. A little bit goes a long way. But in the last four or five years, that's all it's been. And the snarkers-the people who live off the crumbs of the ones who take the creative leap-simply got out of hand. They've crossed a line. Now it's time to go get a real job, and pay the bills that have been piling up. A little cynicism is always a good thing. But it can become a self fulfilling prophecy. It's one thing to comment and observe-just be careful you don't destroy the object of your snarkiness. Like Defamer, you can put yourself out of business.
This from a man who last year eviscerated Valkyrie without even having seen it, purely for evisceration's sake. But in a way, that's a kind of intellectual dishonesty I relate to. Sure there's a value and, if I've done my job right, a necessity to clawing at unspeakable behavior, be it Alan Ball's, Harvey Weinstein's, George Lucas's, Sarah Jessica Parker's, Sam Mendes's, Ben Lyons's, and that of who knows how many more hundreds among Hollywood's elite, all feeling unduly "snarked" within an inch of their vanity. And showing your work while deconstructing some of the industry's ugliest calculus won't make you any friends anyway. Which is fine, of course, because nobody wants to be the runner-up to Roger Friedman in a blow-job contest.
Still, look at what just happened. I didn't really get any elevation from pushing Friedman down. The only thing left to do is acknowledge his skill at accurately reporting what we already announced last weekend: Defamer is indeed going out of business. Well, sort of. The brand is folded into Gawker, which, too, apparently thought we had crossed a line — one of the bottom variety, far below where our sister blogs' own irreverence has found and sustained viability. There are many reasons for that, not the least of which is their ability to corner niche markets on wit, cynicism, insight and disdain.
Behind Mark Lisanti and Seth Abramovitch, Defamer had also refined most of those qualities as elementally as it could long before Mark Graham, Molly Friedman, Kyle Buchanan and I showed up in 2008. But speaking for myself, I think I brought kind of a dumb moral entitlement with me to a job that was like getting to play with one of my favorite bands. Coming out of three years of film reporting, the chance to write critically about Miley Cyrus or Josh Groban was liberating, even exhilarating. (What? I'm serious.)
It also made me lazy. "If I talk to you," John Cusack began an interview last May, "will you stop writing nasty shit about me?" I didn't know what the fuck he was talking about, but I learned soon enough, rediscovering some tossed-off, machine-feeding item about his upcoming film 2012. Just stupid. And there were others like it — maybe even hundreds of them, too embarrassing to exhume now, but apparently not too awful to stop, you know, doing. They continued unabated, in fact, until a couple weeks ago, when one of the less egregious examples prompted a commenter to ask sincerely, "Do you like anything?"
My first instinct was to impugn this person's readership. No question that facile could withstand a closer, more loyal scrutiny of the published record, and I still believe that. Nevertheless, the heat gave way, and I simmered over another question: What is the published record? What do I like? That any answer at all took longer than a few seconds to conjure was my first clue that I might require some adjustment. I don't know if I made them in time, or if the last year of my career will be remembered for staffing a tollbooth on the path of least resistance. Probably something in between, and I guess that's fair.
The same can be said of Defamer's actual legacy, hovering on the spectrum between Roger Friedman's dank opprobrium and Mark and Seth's wry, singular equilibrium, the latter of which I so cherish and which influences me to this day. Yet: "Do you like anything?" Holy Christ, yes. Yes. I like Synecdoche, New York. I like An Education. Actually, the whole Sundance Film Festival was pretty great this year. I like Man on Wire. I like Tyler Perry. I like Iron Man. I like Harvey Weinstein, even if he'll never believe me. I like Manoj, even if he'll really never believe me.
I like Clint Eastwood and Mickey Rourke. I like The Spirit — in a backhanded sort of way, but still. I like Josh Groban, at least for one performance. I like Hunger. The Dark Knight was pretty good. Frozen River was solid. Did you ever hear of Able Danger or Toots? They were impressive. And surprisingly — happily, even, after all that digging — I could go on.
And I hope to do exactly that over in the new Movieline digs I'll soon share with Seth and Kyle. Here, meanwhile, I hope our successors like things as well, even while continuing to creatively defuse this town's loudest, loosest cannons. Thanks to them for upholding the good fight, and thanks to you for making Defamer the dynamic, essential resource I've been lucky and proud to call home for these 365 days. It was a good year — I liked it a lot.