16 April 2016

A few words about Jim Ridley.

     I've started and restarted this probably about twenty times. Ironically, it's the sort of situation I would have eMailed or called Jim about.

     I don't know how to qualify Jim Ridley in a way that does him justice. For almost the past twenty years, he's been my mentor and my friend, and my editor for the vast majority of them as well. But he was more than that. 
     A partner-in-crime in putting together the lineups for the Belcourt's Twelve Hours of Terror. A source of more confidence than I ever had in myself. And the best movie buddy anyone could ever have... 
     That time that Tilda Swinton touched my shoulder, Jim was who I called first.

     Truthfully, neither of my parents have ever met anyone I ever dated, but Jim met three of them.

A few random tidbits of Ridleyana I cherish deeply:
     Summarizing over the phone the Brian DePalma/Eamonn Bowles kerfuffle at the NYFF press conference for Redacted.
     Our Sam Peckinpah sojourn, when we roadtripped to Atlanta with Zack Hall, for a pre-deadline screening of Prometheus, and back one Thursday night.
     Having the Umbrellas of Cherbourg/Futurama discussion.
     Opening night of Femme Fatale at the Green Hills 16, the most ecstatic moviegoing experience I ever had.
     Those VHS tapes of the Alien3 workprint and The Ring.
     The Cornetto Trilogy (see below).

     The post-Out 1 discussion at the 12 South Taproom, with old friends and new friends just tripping out on the mad possibilities of cinema.
     Friday afternoons and Monday mornings, when we'd talk about whatever we'd seen over the weekend. 
     Any of the times we were on panels together for the news. 
     When my Grandmother was dying of Alzheimer's and we talked for an hour about Kore-eda's After Life.
     His annual tradition of running through the aisles of the Belcourt during 12 Hours of Terror, gleefully pelting the audience with candy.

     It's not an exaggeration when I say that I don't know how the city is going to get by without him. I really don't think a lot of businesses, collectives, cooperatives, bands, and teams in and around this town really realize how much work Jim did to fix the cracks and fissures that come from unresolved tension and anger. 
     He was like Santa Claus or Baretta, but with a specialty in crisis management and resolution. He had a superhuman ability to sense if you were in distress, and was always willing to perform a surgically precise intervention if he saw you cornered at some social event in an enervating conversation. He was a model of graciousness and sincerity when dealing with anybody, and I was and am in awe of it.

     As an editor, he was the best kind of improv partner, “Yes and”ing a lot of borderline sweaty pitches that somehow yielded fruit. Seeing the same film in multiple formats, Eva Green saving otherwise crappy movies through sheer force of will and artful deployment of the groceries, an epic appreciation of Pootie Tang, a pair of Elm Street thinkpieces, a Laura Gemser-style investigative piece about why it was so difficult to see that last 3D Paranormal Activity movie. 
     He was both cheerleader and civic engineer, keeping you hyped and encouraged but also able to fix the foolishness that wasn't absolutely necessary.

     I regret that we never went through with dressing as Statler and Waldorf for one of the 12 Hours events.

     There was no feeling in the world like being able to show Jim something he'd never seen before; it was no easy task. He was a fountain of enthusiasm, and an amplifier for joy. He could make a bad movie bearable, and a good one great.

     So how, in the end, do I qualify Jim Ridley? It's not just that he made me a better writer, because he did that with everybody. But I look at who I was back before that fateful VHS of the Sundance Cut of The Blair Witch Project brought Jim into my life as a friend and colleague, and I know he helped make me a better human being, and I miss him so much I don't even know how to put it in words. 
     So I guess I'll have to rely on a few lines from one of the greats; an artist who fueled a lot of the best conversations I ever had with Jim.

“Sometimes I wish that life was never ending/
But all good things, they say, never last/
And love, it isn't love until it's past.”