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August 31st, 2011

Well, this is the hardest article I’ll ever have to write, but it has to be done. Next month, Gordon and the Whale will be closing its digital doors as a daily website. You will be able to access our archived articles, but come August 31st, there will no longer be fresh content.

I know this may come as a shock, so let’s take a look back and celebrate how far GATW has come and discuss the future. I’m going to give you the abridged version because, well, hopefully most of you reading this have been following us for a long time.

Back in 2007, Rusty Gordon and I had an idea to start a website that would be based solely on us filming ourselves arguing over whatever movie we just saw. If you’ve ever been around Rusty and I together, you know our humor towards each other is both loving and morbid. I pitched this idea to my cousin, who went to school for web design, and he told me he’d build us a site if we were truly serious about the idea. All we needed was a name. Thus, GordonandtheWhale.com was born - a website that sounded like a children’s book but read like two guys who hated each other. It was all out of love, really.

Once the site got rolling, we’d see every film that opened on that Friday and would have our video or written reviews up by Sunday. It was expensive, but we did it because we loved it.

Then everything changed. We were discovered by a well-respected publicist in Dallas, TX. She enjoyed our wit, humor, and style and brought us on as press, meaning we'd get to see movies for free and before they opened. This allowed us to actually get our reviews up in a timely fashion. To add icing to that cake, we also started getting invited to do interviews with actors and directors coming to town - GATW’s very first was William Fichtner.

A few months later, studios started adding us to their press lists, and we eventually began sponsoring advance screenings, giving away passes. More interview opportunities with bigger talent started coming our way. It was pretty kick-ass and I thought that was what “making it” as a movie website was all about.


THE VERY FIRST RESERVED SEATING SIGN FOR GATW

Around Christmas of 2008, we brought on James Wallace; he was a bright and persistent young man and, to this day, I’ve never met anyone more passionate about film than him. When we brought on James, well, that’s when things started to really happen for us. Because of him, GATW eventually became studios' largest sponsor for the Dallas-Fort Worth area - James gave us a visual presence behind all that wit and humor. He is the guy who loves being in front of a large crowd and can handle both hecklers and eager movie geeks.

We eventually attended our first film festival together - SXSW - and that’s when we discovered a whole other world of movie blogging.


GATW'S FIRST FESTIVAL TOGETHER

In April 2009, we brought on Kate Erbland (you can read Kate's very first review HERE), who forever changed the way GATW would write. Since that April, Kate has copy edited almost every piece of work posted on GATW, making sure our grammar was correct and that we didn’t sound like complete idiots (half-idiots is okay by Internet standards). You see, Kate’s really smart and has a degree in English - I dropped out of college to chase this whole movie blogging dream and didn’t pay too much attention in school about grammar and punctuation, which was now a crucial part of my life.

Kate began writing reviews for us and eventually became our head film critic. Anyone who has steadily followed Kate's film criticism career will agree that she can hold her own against any other online film critic working today. It was through her writing that I learned how to capture the feeling of fun in film criticism, whether it be positive or negative. Go ahead and take this time to read one of her reviews and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about - you'll have as much fun reading it as she did writing. I suggest either STAR TREK or CLASH OF THE TITANS.

In 2010, I applied and got accepted into the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association, I then later moved to Austin's Austin Film Critics Association. By asking for advice and criticism on my work, I became a real writer. At the 2010 Austin Film Festival, I was on a film criticism panel with Dallas Morning News' Chris Vognar, Film School Rejects' Neil Miller, The New Yorker's David Denby, and the Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan. I was beyond honored to be a part of this - it was one of the greatest moments of my life.

It wasn’t until James attended CineVegas (RIP) that the Internet started to pay attention to us. It was there that we got our first official EXCLUSIVE which major sites picked up. Soon after that, other news stories and original content began to show up on other websites.

In September 2009, James, Rusty, and I attended Fantastic Fest. We stayed in a tiny one bedroom hotel room with four other guys, and we had the best time of our lives. Life was pretty easy then. We'd use vacation time for festivals, see movies months before they were released, and dream about the day we could do this full-time.

And then another huge turning point happened in GATW’s career - we got accepted into the Sundance Film Festival. As nerdy as it was, I couldn’t decide which I was more excited about: getting accepted or being asked by Film School Rejects' Neil Miller, Slash Film's Peter Sciretta, and First Showing's Alex Billington to room with them during the festival. Kate had covered the LA Film Festival before, but tail-ended Sundance with us. It was no longer just three misfit boys going together to festivals, but one damn talented girl was now fully a part of the bunch.

Kate eventually became a very integral part of GATW, helping James and I make huge decisions on how we would structure our site. We started getting people from all over the world wanting to write for us and finally had a large staff. Life got pretty awesome - through GATW I was able to cover the Toronto International Film Festival and Cannes (with News Editor Joshua Brunsting). GATW even had a sponsor who paid for Josh and my trip to cover Cannes. Holy shit. Where do you go after that?

One thing I haven’t mentioned yet about our site - mainly because it’s not my primary focus of this article - is our financial success, how we ran as a business and paid for festivals. You see, a large number of people see the cool things we get to do and immediately assume there’s a lot of money involved. Let me be the first to tell you - there’s not. With the exception of two festivals, we paid everything out of pocket. Hotels, plane tickets, and food money all came out of our personal bank accounts. At first it was okay - we had faith that one day GATW would be able to pay for it - but it eventually took a toll on everyone.

We did sign with a large ad revenue company, Gorilla Nation, but that financial success never came. We did make a little bit of money off the site, but not enough to pay the writers, or even the editors. Our money went to our server and that was that. After four years of doing some of the biggest and best things with GATW, James, Kate, and I decided it’s best to leave at its peak and pursue other career opportunities. Kind of like what Jerry Seinfeld did with Seinfeld - quit while we're on top.

Trust me, this isn’t easy for anyone here. Letting go of this site is the hardest thing any of us could do, but if there’s a good time to let go, it’s right now.

Thank you all of the people who were consistent in their support of us throughout all of our trials and tribulations, the ones who believed in us, and the ones who helped carry us to the places we end up post-GATW life. I could name everyone individually, but the Academy would turn up the music and I wouldn’t be able to finish. The ones who I am speaking of, you know exactly who you are - I love you with all of my heart and you will forever be a large impact on my life. Thank you.

I will continue working in the film industry; look for that announcement soon. If you've been paying any attention to James Wallace on Twitter, you'll notice he's started his own site, IHeartCinema.net, which will fill the void of advance screenings and other sponsored film events that GATW hosted. As for Kate Erbland, well, I'm told she has a pretty groovy announcement coming soon. Check out the comments to see the rest of GATW's staff members discussing where you can find their work.

This last paragraph is dedicated to my mother, who, since day one, believed I could take my idea of writing about movies online and turn it into something great, and everyone who was ever a part of GATW. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for shedding tears with me and fighting so diligently until the very end. You are the reason I got a taste of hope. Go forth and conquer, my friends.

GATW’s fearless leader and your friendly neighborhood movie geek,

Chase Whale

Below are some of my favorite photos captured in GATW's career, quotes pulled from one of our reviews, and wonderful articles written about us. I am super-proud of everyone who helped me make this site possible.

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August 7th, 2011

First-time co-writers Brit Marling and Mike Cahill have been getting a lot of buzz recently for their new film ANOTHER EARTH. A story of a young girl, played by Marling, whose life changes the night a duplicate earth is discovered in the night skies. What follows is a year of sadness and self-awareness as Rhoda attempts to atone for her past. Marling and Cahill sat down with me to talk about the anticipation of meeting oneself, creating a strong yet flawed heroine, and why they chose to make ANOTHER EARTH themselves.

ANOTHER EARTH is out in select theaters Friday, August 5th. Check out the video interview after the break. (more...)

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August 6th, 2011

Hans Zimmer is one of the definitive composers of the past four decades having composed the scores for such films as CRIMSON TIDE, THE LION KING, GLADIATOR and more recently THE DARK KNIGHT, INCEPTION and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES. Zimmer’s name is practically synonymous with film scoring having also created his own company, Remote Control Productions, in which he works with a variety of composers from Steve Jablonsky (TRANSFORMERS: DARK SIDE OF THE MOON) to Harry Gregson-Williams (COWBOYS & ALIENS) and John Powell (KUNG FU PANDA 2). Zimmer’s ability to infuse electronic elements into the more traditional orchestrations expected of film scores has given him a distinct sound and made his music an integral part of the films he has been a part of. Even out of context, one only needs to hear the “bong” sound Zimmer created for INCEPTION to know what film it belongs or the string elements of SHERLOCK HOLMES let audiences know that those two madcap detectives are at it again. (more...)

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August 5th, 2011

Editor's note: this review was originally published on January, 2011 as a Sundance Film Festival review.

Writer/Director: Evan Glodell
Cast: Evan Glodell, Jessie Wiseman, Tyler Dawson

When I first walked out of BELLFLOWER, I was transformed into that cranky film critic you've once read about. A Sundance film about a young hipster who gets his heart broken over a girl? I saw that last year when it was called BLUE VALENTINE, and I even saw it the year before that when it was called (500) DAYS OF SUMMER. I've even seen it on VHS, because I wasn't born when ANNIE HALL was released in theaters. But what hit me over my big, stubborn head is this: BELLFLOWER is a visual spectacle of real independent cinema. Sure, the story isn't original, but my job is to report if I like what I saw, and dear reader, I'm here to tell you this: BELLFLOWER has blossomed into one of my favorite flicks of Sundance 2011. (more...)

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August 2nd, 2011

Trailers are a fantastic way to get an audience excited or intrigued about an upcoming film release. I used to love watching trailers and would frequently go online to view them in handfuls at the beginning of each month. This led me to some movies that I ended up enjoying as much as I thought I would, but it also tricked me into seeing some movies that I did not end up liking at all.

Obviously the goal of a trailer is to paint the film in the best light possible – whether that means pulling together only the funniest clips, most heartfelt speeches and charming moments, or picking a certain song that will grab people’s attention upon hearing it alone. This latter move is what irks me the most about film trailers and its manipulative use of music. Time and time again a song that people fall in love with as it relates to the film’s trailer does not end up in the film (see: Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” from the WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE trailer or Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know” from the WINNIE THE POOH trailer). In instances such as the Keane song, its use gives a very distinct impression of the tone of the film and had audiences going to see WINNIE with tissues boxes clutched firmly in hand only to find that it was simply a joyful trip to the Hundred Acre Wood. (more...)

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July 31st, 2011

So I was thinking about my parents. Thinking, more specifically, about the era they grew up. Both my mom and dad were born in the early 1960s, a time I often think would tragically appeal to some hipster tendencies I wear proudly today. Everyone's got to have a clique to call their own, right? Well, the thing that really messes with my mind is that for upwards of 40 years, my parents lived in an age without the Internet. I know this makes me sound juvenile, but it's really fucking hard for me to imagine living without the Internet. The only memories I have of non-Internet life involve sandboxes and Ahh! Real Monsters. I tend to get overwhelmed by this; by how integral the Internet and social networking are in my understand of day-to-day life. Though recently, I wonder if it's not such a terrible thing after all.

My parents didn't have DMs and "pokes," they didn't send thousands of text messages to communicate with each other when apart. I like to think that romance, in its purest sense, can be found just about anywhere regardless of the era you grow up in. However, there is something much more romantic about falling in love in a time when privacy existed. It's hard not to believe there was a lot more romance in society before the internet came into existence. People knew their neighbors and in-person conversation was less antiquated. My parents fell in love this way, face-to-face.The world was a place for them to share together, the real world and not AOL. I often wonder if I could handle that kind of pressure nowadays. (more...)

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July 30th, 2011

Attack the Block review

Editor's note: this review was originally published on March 16, 2011 as a SXSW Film Festival review.

Writer: Joe Cornish
Director: Joe Cornish
Cast: Jodie Whittaker, John Boyega, Nick Frost, Luke Treadaway

Making a good creature feature is similar to baking a cake - the absence or excess of a few key ingredients can lead to a decidedly unpleasant experience. Necessities include good creature design, characters that an audience cares about (until they get eaten, of course), a deliberate pace (including exciting chases in addition to well-timed moments of suspense), and a good story. I was hoping that ATTACK THE BLOCK would be a good creature feature, but was instead treated to a great one.

The film takes place in South London and the story begins when a nurse named Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is jumped by a hooded gang of youths and their leader Moses (John Boyega). An alien invasion interrupts the mugging, and from this point forward, ATTACK THE BLOCK keeps its foot on the throttle, letting up only for laughs and character development. One of the film's many strengths is how sure of itself it is; ATTACK never waits for the audience to catch up with it. It's refreshing to see ideas and thrills explode from the screen at such a furious pace, with barely enough time to catch a breath. The film utilizes practical creature effects (as opposed to the rampant use of CGI found in most recent works), which work well with the old school feel that the film wears proudly on its sleeve. (more...)

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July 29th, 2011

After talking about it endlessly, and praying to the gods of Asgard for the CAPTAIN AMERICA movie to come out, it has finally hit the big screen. This may not be Marvel's first attempt at bringing THE FIRST AVENGER to the big screen, but this is easily the quintessential version. We've all seen it, and we were very happy to dig right in.

We also dig into the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN trailer, and Captain Planet even showed up for a bit.

You can check out the episode after the break! (more...)

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July 27th, 2011

After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago, Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas, and Chicago. GATW’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!

VHS cover for VIDEO VIOLENCE 2

Another week was all set to go and I got the word from Horror Movie Night’s daddy, Brian Kelley, saying that the Austin clan would not be meeting. What to do? I had options. We could just skip a week or I could say “fuck it,” and watch DEADLINE as planned. Instead I chose option C. Since I my last BYE week pick was so much fun I had been salivating over the thought of getting to its sequel, so that’s what we did. Could VIDEO VIOLENCE 2 live up to the hype and low-budget pressures of its predecessor? Would there be some great shot-on-video gore? How many hats would Eli wear? All questions would be answered in a very quick 75 minutes. (more...)

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July 26th, 2011

When it comes to directors that one would assume would be well represented in the Criterion Collection, Todd Solondz is one of those filmmakers. However, despite Solondz being a highly influential auteur within the indie film world, it’s taken over 570 releases for the director to finally hit the collection. And it’s a sequel no less (well, kind of a sequel, at least).

A neo-sequel to his beloved masterpiece HAPPINESS, LIFE DURING WARTIME is Solondz’s first entry in the Criterion Collection, and finds a new cast taking on characters introduced over a decade prior. Starring Shirley Henderson, Allison Janney, Ally Sheedy, and Ciaran Hinds, the film follows a collection of stories of people with major existential issues. A recently released pedophile, a woman dealing with the return of a true blue ghost out of her past, a mother trying to deal with her son, and a burgeoning relationship are just some of the characters one meets during the film. (more...)

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