Rest In Peace, James Carey (1976–2015)

We’ve lost a friend. And a damn good writer.

That I can call James Carey a friend is a testament to the very best miracles the internet can bring about. None of the Cinapse team had ever met James in the flesh; he was always that Limey Bastard from across the pond. Our “foreign correspondent” brought us countless exciting pieces, often advanced reviews of films that dropped in England before they hit the States. But even more often than that, he brought us film-loving pieces filled with a caustic and biting sense of humor, loaded with gut busting photo captions that only James ever even attempted at Cinapse, much less wildly succeeded at. We got to know James through his work. We got to know James through his humor and his dead-on insight into the films he watched and wrote about. We got to know him post by post, the way any of you Cinapse readers might have if you followed his work.

We didn’t get to know him as a cancer patient. We didn’t get to know him as someone struggling with an illness. In fact, he never even QUITE got around to telling me about his personal struggles. And you know what? That’s wonderful. I got to know a smart, witty, insightful film fan, whose professionalism was appreciated and whose picks often inspired me to seek out or revisit a film he took to writing about. He was able to dictate the way we got to know him because of the miracle of internet communication. He was able to ensure that he was known for his work and not for his illness. And it worked.

Friend of the site John Ary first introduced me to James. Cinapse started among a group of friends in Austin, TX. We knew one another and took the first steps together as a fledgling website. John was writing at Ain’t It Cool News when a friend of James took it upon himself to submit James’ work to a film site. James had done a ton of writing over at Rotten Tomatoes (on a “member” page which seems to be sadly deactivated now. But you can see more of his “extra-Cinapse” work on his Letterboxd page), and was able to display a strong body of work when expressing interest to John in writing for AICN. I’m thankful that John introduced James to me, and that we took a chance on a stranger joining the Cinapse team. It was a small leap of faith, to be totally honest. His work was biting and stylish. It was… unfiltered. Which is great, and came to be something I loved. But not knowing James personally made bringing him on a little bit of a risk. The risk paid off.

I’d like to honor James’ memory in the best way I can think of, as his Editor In Chief: I’d like to share some of his best work with you. We plan to honor him with a few posts over the next couple of weeks, choosing some films he was a big fan of to write about. And we’ve put together an opportunity to donate to the British Film Institute in his honor if you are interested. Those details are below.

So thanks, internet, for being a miraculous global connector that allowed James to become an essential part of our largely Austin-based website. Thanks for giving James an outlet to be completely himself, expressing his unfiltered opinions on a medium (film), which he dearly loved, all while never having to be known as “poor, sick James”. Thanks for providing a way for James and myself, nay James and the whole Cinapse team, to become friends across the pond.

And thanks, James, for a few years of friendship, countless great reads, and many a belly laugh. Thanks for your camaraderie and for becoming a vital part of this little film loving community that is Cinapse. You are already missed and will continue to be so.

How To Donate To The British Film Institute In James’ Honor

The BFI helped me to set up a JustGiving page which will make donating easy. Please simply head here to make a contribution!

These funds will be directed towards the BFI’s “Film Is Fragile” campaign, which works to preserve the incredible film archive which is in their care.

James’ wife Karen has confirmed that indeed James would have been quite “chuffed” at the prospect of this gift, so here’s to you, James, and your passionate love of film!

And now, a few choice James Carey posts as suggested by our Cinapse team. Our top picks, if you will, of what the Cinapse team consider to be some of James’ finest work.

– Austin Vashaw suggests James’ take on Why Don’t You Play In Hell, as well as his various “Pick Of The Week” selections, as these get to the heart of what he loved:
 A Town Called Panic
Dead Man’s Shoes
Four Lions
The Wages Of Fear
Big Trouble In Little China

– Elizabeth Stoddard recommends James’ takedown of The Fantastic Four.

– Frank Calvillo calls attention to his piece on Predestination.

– Victor Pryor wants to make sure you’re aware of James’ 3-part Does It Offend You, Yeah? series as well as his Michael Bay editorial.

– I’d like to recommend his piece about the Ugandan action movie / low budget viral cult sensation Who Killed Captain Alex? James’ wife told me he was quite thrilled to be engaged by the filmmakers’ social media accounts after posting his review, in which they promised to “kill him last” thanks to his positive review.

– And because James specifically collaborated with me on Cinapse’s Action/Adventure Section column, I’d be remiss to not include a favorite pick from among his contributions to that column. That James would pick and wax eloquently about Mark Dacascos and Kadeem Hardison’s 1997 buddy action comedy Drive told me all I really needed to know about the true caliber of James Carey.

And I’m Out.

Some other parting thoughts from the Cinapse Team:

Austin Vashaw

James was a really wonderful guy and obviously also a terrific asset to Cinapse, and we miss him terribly.

Part of the fun of having a UK member on the team was being introduced to British films like 71 and Superbob, and in some cases he could see big releases before we could, giving us an early boost. Such was the case in a little story I’d like to share, which I think highlights his often hilarious attitude.

I had noticed while doing some web/analytical research that Google had apparently fielded a takedown request for a Cinapse article. Exactly what form that took we have no idea, as we had never been notified, but I dug deeper and discovered that the article in question had been flagged by Columbia Pictures for “copyright violation”. Looking at the other similarly flagged sites that were linked, they were all obviously piracy-driven warez and torrent sites. What the hell was Sony upset about that would put us in that kind of company?

Turns out the article was James’ deservedly brutal evisceration of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which as a UK resident he had earlier access to. It was probably because the review was mis-identified as “early” that they fired off a frivolous complaint, but we kind of preferred to think they were just pouting about getting ravaged.

I posted about it in our staff chat and these were James’ responses:

JC: Really! Was that mine? ‘Cos if it was I’m framing that report. 😉 AV: Yes.

JC: I… I don’t know what to say. I’d just like to thank my agent, my beautiful family who’ve supported me from the beginning, Cinapse for giving me the opportunity, and Sony for showing that with great power comes a warped perspective on the world.

Rest In Peace, friend. You are greatly missed.

Jon Partridge

No offense to any of my fellow writers at Cinapse but James was always my favorite to read. Ed mentioned above how he was “unfiltered” but to me it was a refined, quintessential British humor that as an expat I sorely missed being away from the motherland. A writing that quirkily meandered around but never failed to drive the point being made home. I remember feeling mild irritation with James once, sat at my computer composing my “Pick of the Week” when Cinapse posted that week’s installment. James’ pick was the movie Four Lions, which also happened to be my exact pick for the following week. Frustration gave way to begrudging appreciation of his choice which further gave way to laughter as I read his piece, a recommendation which not only did the film justice but also made me shelve my article for many months to make it better. His was a voice that connected me to my home, that resonated with my sense of humor and never failed to be both incisive and entertaining. You will be missed, Sir.

Victor Pryor

As Ed mentioned, James was a contributor to Cinapse’s The Action Adventure Section column. What he’s leaving out out is that James essentially saved our asses by agreeing to do it in the first place. The Section started out as Ed’s baby, but when real life obligations started getting in the way and he found it increasingly difficult to find the time to devote to the column, he was nice enough to extend an offer to me to sub in for him in order to keep the momentum going. And when I utterly failed to manage that, James didn’t hesitate to step in and pick up the slack. Now, was I mad at first, to have some interloper coming in to OUR HOUSE and putting us to shame with his ability to write smart, funny reviews AND hit a deadline, like some kind of professional or something? Yes. Yes I was. But it is, strictly speaking, impossible to stay mad at somebody that skilled and that funny, who wrote with such charm and passion, and who could write this about Road House.

Thank you, James. We were lucky to have you, and we’re all poorer for your absence.

Previous post Austin Film Critics Association’s 2015 Awards + Ed Travis’ Top 10 Films of 2015 List
Next post “You Know, For Kids!” THE HUDSUCKER PROXY is Our Pick of the Week