Harry Knowles

Harry Knowles

Knowles at the San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2010.
Born Harry Jay Knowles
(1971-12-11) December 11, 1971
Austin, Texas, U.S.
Occupation Film critic, writer
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

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 parents then settled in Austin.

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. Knowles's other activities included the Boy Scouts of America and he attained the rank of Eagle Scout.[2]


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.[6]

Film events

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 unofficial 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

Additionally, Knowles is a co-founder of the annual Fantastic Fest, held in Austin, Texas. It was founded in 2005 by Knowles, Tim League of Alamo Drafthouse, 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. In 2007, Variety publisher Charles Koones included Fantastic Fest as one of "ten festivals we love".[7] In 2008, Moviemaker named Fantastic Fest "one of the 25 film festivals worth the entry fee".[8]


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.[9] For example, he was flown to the premiere of Godzilla, and gave the movie a wildly positive review,[10] while a vast majority of critics disliked the film.[11] 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.[12]

In 1999, Knowles praised a script by Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan, but 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.[13]

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.[14]

Personal life

Knowles claims that at his third birthday party, he was treated to a visit from the entire cast of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Knowles retains extremely detailed, happy memories of the event, including being given a basket full of dismembered body part props from Gunnar Hansen (the actor who played Leatherface), as well as cutting his birthday cake with the actual chainsaw used in the film. Hansen, however, adamantly denied that any of this ever occurred.[15]

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)."[16]

Knowles married Patricia Cho Jones on July 15, 2007, at Green Pastures in Austin.[17]

On April 4, 2008, Knowles announced that he was diagnosed as a Type-2 diabetic.[18] 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.[19]

Film credits


  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. Am I Annoying.com
  4. Hollywood.com
  5. For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism at the TCM Movie Database
  6. "Fanboys Acting Credits". The New York Times.
  7. Brown, Todd (December 5, 2007). "Variety Publisher Names Fantastic Fest One of Top Ten". Twitch. Retrieved 2010-06-27.
  8. MovieMaker, Spring 2008.
  9. The Trouble with Harry
  10. Attack of the Fans
  11. Godzilla (1998). Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
  12. Knowles, Harry (February 20, 2001). "MONKEY BONE Review". Ain't it Cool News.
  13. Wells, Ron (July 17, 2000). "Ain't It Criminal: Deconstructing Harry (part 3)". Film Threat. Retrieved 2007-04-13.
  14. Wells, Ron (July 17, 2000). "Deconstructing Harry: Ain't It Unethical? (part one)". Film Threat. Retrieved 2007-04-13.
  15. Hansen, Gunnar. Chain Saw Confidential: How We Made the World's Most Notorious Horror Movie (Chronicle Books, 2013), pp. 207-208.
  16. Harry Knowles, Paul Cullum and Mark Ebner. Ain't It Cool? New York: Warner Books, 2002, pages 34–45.
  17. Knowles, Harry (July 15, 2007). "Dum Duh Da Dummmmmm". Ain't It Cool News.
  18. Ain't It Cool News
  19. Knowles, Harry (January 15, 2011). "What's happening with Harry...". Ain't It Cool News.

Further reading

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