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Gary Cooper died on May 13, 1961, at the age of 60.

May 13, 2017

Way back in December 2008, five months after I’d stopped running Deadspin but when I was still writing a weekly column for the site, I penned a piece called “Grierson & Leitch, At the Movies.” It was half-nostalgic, half-aspirational; it was basically how all I ever wanted to do as a kid was to be a film critic, and how a large part of that was because of my friend Tim Grierson, whom I have been close with since the seventh grade. This was a silly notion in December 2008, that I could live out my dream of being a film critic; I was firmly Deadspin Guy back then, the supposed sports innovator (rather than just a guy typing in boxes and hitting SAVE, like I really was).

I was still in my early days at New York magazine, still figuring out my schedule, and truth be told, I was struggling with it. I obsessed over Deadspin when I ran the place, spending nearly every waking moment thinking about the site, about what people liked and what they didn’t, about how I was going to schedule the site the next day, about whether I was doing enough to make sure people saw the site as a place for good rather than ill. It was my whole life, and that obsessiveness was one of the main reasons I felt I needed to leave. All I cared about in the world was that site, and when all you care about on the planet is your job, that’s a big huge blinking sign that you need to do something else before it’s too late. But the transition to New York was tough. I had been used to waking up at 6 a.m. to hundreds of thousands of readers waiting for me to say something. At a weekly magazine, as a feature writer, I would sometimes go a month, or more, in between stories. It drove me nuts at first. I found myself waking up with nothing to do, which, for me, is like waking up to a nightmare.

So I started writing movie reviews. They were just for me. Like the old Life as a Loser columns that helped start my career, the movie reviews were exercises. They were practice. They were just a way to keep busy. I wasn’t getting paid for them, and I was pretty sure no one was actually reading them. I just decided that because I’d always wanted to write about movies, and because now, for the first time in my life, I seemed to have a steady (well, “steady”) career getting paid to write, I’d be an idiot not to write some movie reviews. It’s something I always wanted to do. Why not just do it? What am I waiting around for?

I just put them on my Tumblr at first — my Girlfriend Experience review got really popular, though I suspect only because Tumblr people are into porn stars, or at least were in 2009 — but then in 2010, my friend Mark Lisanti (now of MTV News, formerly of Defamer) was hired to run a series of entertainment blogs for Yahoo. He knew I loved writing about movies (and that I knew a big about blogging), and asked if I’d have interest in doing a movies blog for them. I told him I would, but only if:

a: I didn’t have to quit NY mag. (I loved Mark, but I didn’t trust Yahoo one bit. I was right to be wary.)
b: Grierson could do the site with me.


(Art by the genius Jim Cooke.)

They all agreed, including Grierson, and we started The Projector. It ran for about nine months (without Yahoo ever really knowing it had launched), and then we all got laid off (this Chris Lehmann piece sums up the fiasco well) roughly 10 days after William was born. If you ever have to get laid off, 10 days after your first child is born is an excellent time. I had no concept of space or time, or any idea what the world was like outside our home, at that moment: You could have told me that someone just nuked Kansas and I would have nodded blankly at you, blinked, and then gone back to sleep. Children are wonderful, but good lord, those first three months are a nightmare.

Worth it, though.


Anyway, once I crawled out of the cave, I decided I wanted to keep working with Grierson; being Siskel & Ebert had been the dream since high school anyway. So we moved over to Deadspin and reviewed movies for four years. Then we moved to The New Republic — a publication I’ve long adored — where we’ve had a blast until ... well, until yesterday. Yesterday we moved from TNR to Paste Magazine, where we’ll be starting in June.

And we also do a podcast which has honestly become maybe my favorite thing to do every week. (I even produce it myself now.) Please subscribe to it.

So, if you can believe it, I have been paid to review movies — paid to review movies with my lifelong friend, whom I always imagined doing this with — for almost nine years now. The world of journalism is a wild, unpredictable one: You don’t get into the field for stability. But every day, I get to write about sports I care about, in a way that I think is fair and right and thorough and important, and I also get to write about movies with my lifelong friend. Who knows what will happen in the future. Life could end in the next six months. (I mean, seriously: It might end in the next six months.) But right now: I’m a lucky guy. I get to live out my high school dream and write about sports all day. I’ve been able to have a second career while keeping my first one. It will never stop feeling like I am getting away with something.

[Knocks on every piece of wood within a five-mile radius]


(more Cooke genius there)

Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. (This is an attempt to have an objective look at the value of my work in a way that I suspect will be difficult to sustain.)

1. Pushing Back Against Baseball Extra Innings Overreaction, Sports On Earth. I never thought of myself as much of a baseball traditionalist, but man, some of these ideas are plum crazy.

2. Cardinals-Cubs Rivalry Reaching Exciting New Heights, Sports On Earth. Now, if only I could figure out a third career, just writing about the Cardinals ...

3. Review: “Snatched,” The New Republic. Not exactly the movie I would have liked to go out on, but hey, it was a fun one to write about, which is all that matters, one supposes.

4. Bryce Harper Is Just Getting Started. That’s Scary, Sports On Earth. I wrote a feature about Harper for GQ five years ago on Monday. Speaking of things that feel like they happened a century ago.

5. How We’ll Remember the Career of Ryan Howard, Sports On Earth. I thought this piece was relatively friendly to Howard. Readers disagreed. I never know how people will read anything, to be honest.

6. We’re Going to Paste! Grierson & Leitch. Did I tell you we have an “official” site? We do! Here you can find every movie we’ve ever talked about on the podcast.

7. Separating Baseball’s Contenders From Pretenders, Sports On Earth. I’m a sucker for a Playoff Odds column, as you’ve surely noticed by now.

8. Dive Into Five, Sports On Earth. My favorite old NYC dive bar was Welcome to the Johnson’s. Anyone remember that place?

As I say every week: If you are the sort to subscribe to a weekly newsletter, I would have to think it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle to subscribe to one of the three podcasts I do. You don’t even have to listen to them! Just download them. Here they are:

Grierson & Leitch, last show at TNR! Discussing Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, Cast Away and Streets of Fire.

The Will Leitch Experience, Alyson Footer, back in the house.

Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, no show this week. We’re taping one Monday night, though.

Also, the Cardinals series at SunTrust Park last weekend was as much fun as I’ve had at a baseball stadium in a long, long time. Plus: We have a brick there!


I tried to put “Go Cardinals” on the brick, but they wouldn’t let me.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Or, considering what’s happening out there, do your best.


Best,
Will