Springfield, Illinois-based filmmaker and online content creator Brad Jones is best known to movie enthusiasts for his comedic review show The Cinema Snob, where he plays a pretentious film critic who reviews Z-grade movies, exploitation flicks and pornos. Since its inception in 2007, the show has become a unique presence in the online review world, with its five-year anniversary highlighted in 2012’s The Cinema Snob Movie, written by and starring Jones in character as the Snob. This year, the series celebrated its tenth anniversary on May 29, 2017 with a whopping ten episodes released in one day.
In addition to The Cinema Snob, Jones regularly posts several unscripted shows, such as Midnight Screenings and Brad Tries, through his production company Stoned Gremlin Productions. He has also written and directed scripted projects, including the web series 80s Dan, The Reviewers and Lloyd, and the feature-length films The Hooker with a Heart of Gold, Cheap and Freak Out. His most recent movie is Jesus, Bro!, a spoof on modern Christian movies from Pure Flix and other religious studios, which he wrote, produced, and appears in.
I recently had the chance to speak with Jones over the phone, where we discussed the ten-year milestone, Christian movie tropes and the influence of a man nicknamed Spoony.
You’ve stated before that your primary inspiration for creating the Cinema Snob was the Siskel and Ebert review of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, where the two critics reviewed the slasher movie like they would an avant-garde art film. How much of the Snob came from that review, and how much came from you?
At the beginning of the show, there wasn’t a lot of myself put in there; it was very much a caricature of a mainstream or art critic reviewing exploitation movies and being angry about it and going on a spiel about some things that weren’t there or maybe taking things a little too seriously. And yeah, a direct inspiration could have been the Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter review, which is a very funny review because Roger Ebert gets really mad about the movie and seems to address a lot of symbolism that may not be there in the movie. So, the character was born out of overthinking things like that, and personality-wise, in terms of the character’s delivery and how he looks, that didn’t necessarily come from Roger Ebert, that came from a lot of really snooty, highbrow critics I’d met and crossed paths with personally. [The Snob] was a hybrid of a lot of those different personalities. Later, when the show contained episodes that maybe were a bit more analytical or maybe were a bit more review-driven or for my own personal taste, whether it was Wired or the religious movies, then you can certainly see my own thoughts in there. You can here and there in the episodes in general, but overall, even when I’m being very analytical about a movie, like Old Fashioned or God’s Not Dead, it is still through that character, so the personality may still be a little different. In real life, I am a little more relaxed and chill, and very much not cynical like the Cinema Snob.
What’s your selection process for what you choose to feature on the Snob?
Whatever I feel like doing that week [laughs]. There’s a lot of different shows that pick things well in advance. I don’t, really. At one point I kind of did, for a really brief period, around the times that I did reviews on, like, Riki-Oh and Alien 2: On Earth, I was picking stuff more so in advance. But I fell out of that because I would pick something in advance and then some weeks go by and we finally get to that episode, and maybe I’m just not feeling it as much as I would if I just spontaneously picked it. I do have a list of stuff to get through eventually, but it’s in no particular order, and I do have a document with a bunch of movies written down, mainly just so I don’t forget. But when it comes down to picking a movie, I’ll ask myself, “What genre do I feel like doing this week? Do I feel like doing one of the religious episodes? Do I feel like doing a slasher movie, a porno spoof? And then I go from there, I’ll look at my list that I need to get to and pick it. I’ll pick the movie a week before I do an episode on it, maybe even less than that. My new episodes go up on Mondays, and Shaun Millington, my title card artist – I just wrote to him yesterday, on Wednesday, to let him know what this coming Monday’s episode is going to be. Given that it’s the summer movie season, a lot of those episodes are tie-ins to whatever’s coming out in theaters, so in the case of Wonder Woman, I was looking at a list of Wonder Woman–themed movies, or something that could kind of tie into it. That’s what goes into the process, and I’ll do it when Spider-Man: Homecoming comes out, I’ll look at a list of Spider-Man related stuff and pick one from there, so it really is spontaneous.
You’ve seen so much gore and sex in the films you’ve reviewed that I have to ask: Are you capable of being shocked anymore?
Not really, no. But I grew up watching horror and exploitation movies, and sure, when a new movie comes out that’s legit disturbing or raw or stuff like that, I’ll still definitely be scared by a movie or disturbed if the movie does it effectively. It depends on what it is, I can wince when something gory happens in it. Everyone has that thing, you know? No matter how desensitized you get to violence and gore, there’s maybe that one thing that’ll happen in a movie that’ll really make you wince. Everyone has that, I certainly do too, about a couple of things.
Before you began reviewing online, you were a filmmaker yourself, something you continue to do today. What has that perspective given you when you sit down to evaluate a film, be it for the Snob or for Midnight Screenings?
I mean, it doesn’t, because I’ve been making movies since the late 90s. My first full length movie was 2003, it was a movie called Freak Out, and I’ve directed five or six movies and written seven or eight [since then]. That doesn’t really go into Midnight Screenings or The Cinema Snob. They’re totally different entities. I love making exploitation movies and just movies that I personally would find cool and would like to watch. As far as The Cinema Snob goes, it’s a riff show. There are certainly more episodes that are analytical than other ones, but it did start out as a riff series, and there are episodes that are primarily, you know, very joke-heavy. Just having a laugh-along with the movies, as opposed to really playing up the fake cynicism of the character. Different episodes are geared toward different things. There’s some that are just straight-up riff-heavy, and you’re just king of laughing along with the movies. There’s some that take more of an analytical approach, especially with the religious movies. And then there’s others that just really satirize the whole cynical, bitter critic angle like Mommie Dearest, Friday the 13th, The Stepfather, things like that. But as for when we review movies on Midnight Screenings, we don’t consider ourselves professional movie critics, I mean, we’re not. We’re people who just like shooting the breeze about movies, and that’s what we’ve done all our lives, well before we started making movies and long before we started doing stuff online. That’s what we did – we would just watch movies and we’d shoot the breeze about it afterwards. We all grew up together and we all grew up watching movies and talking about them, and that’s what Midnight Screenings is – it’s two people watching a movie and then talking about it in the car afterward. We’re not Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, we’re just friends who like talking about movies and really, everyone does that.
You celebrated ten years of the Snob with ten new episodes in one day. Why release ten episodes at once?
I had one idea originally, for a crossover that [fellow reviewer] Ed Glaser and I were planning on doing, there was a lot of things about that particular episode that I couldn’t do right away, so I had to hold that one off for another time. So then I was thinking, “What can I do for the tenth anniversary?” and since it was simultaneously the 400th episode and also the tenth anniversary of the show, I felt like, “Well, what if I do a giant episode dump? What episodes could I do?” And each one of the ten episodes was a sequel episode to one particular episode from each year of doing the show. One year I did an episode on a movie called The Devil with Hitler, and that has a sequel called That Nazty Nuisance. I did Caligula and Caligula II, so let’s do Caligula III. That’s where that came from. A lot of these were episodes that I either mentioned in those older episodes or had teased before and just never gotten around to it. This was a way to finally do all the episodes I had teased or mentioned before. And I thought it would be a nice treat to have ten episodes to binge-watch.
Now on to Jesus, Bro!, which is getting glowing reviews. You’ve been discussing recent religious films (God’s Not Dead, Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas, War Room, Do You Believe?) for years on most of your shows. When did you decide that this would be ripe for parody?
When I started seeing so much more of these movies, because after God’s Not Dead, a lot of them became a lot more mainstream. Not that they didn’t exist before, but God’s Not Dead was a big box office hit and there was a lot more that came after that, especially from Pure Flix. [On] Midnight Screenings, where we see all the new movies, we would go and see God’s Not Dead, War Room and Old Fashioned, things like that. And when you go and see a lot of these movies, especially the ones from Pure Flix, you really quickly pick up on the clichés and the tropes of that these movies do. Whether it’s little things like, there always seems to be a scene where [the characters] are playing basketball, or things like them all having a big persecution complex. Movies like God’s Not Dead and the movie Persecuted, they really have a big victim complex. Either you’re with them or you’re against them, and if you’re not the Christian protagonist, then you’re just evil and you verbally abuse your wife and beat your children and things like that. So, you notice all the similarities that these movies have, and when you have this now pretty popular genre of movie, that does make it ripe for parody. I think it was the Midnight Screenings for Do You Believe? where we passingly talked about making a parody of these films, and it stemmed from there. We thought it would be a really good idea, if we were going to make a parody of these movies, we might as well do it now, when these movies are doing fairly well and getting a mainstream release – War Room was number one at the box office one particular weekend. So it came from there; I wrote a script for it and we crowdfunded the movie, and when it got released it got really really really good reviews. The fans seemed to like it a lot too.
What’s the best piece of advice that someone has given you for your professional life?
When Noah Antwiler told me I should start my own website. I really owe all the success I had and the career I have right now, I really owe it all to him. I started doing The Cinema Snob on YouTube, did it for about a year or two, and it was just done as a hobby. There was no monetization, no ads at the time on YouTube, so it was just done as a lark and everything, and I was making movies while I was doing that. At one point, my attack got suspended on YouTube, because of some copyright issues, and it was then that Noah Antwiler, who people online know as Spoony, from TheSpoonyExperiment.com. He wrote to me and gave me the advice to start up my own website, move over to Blip.tv, which I was on for a few years. So that’s what I did; I wouldn’t have known where to go if it weren’t for him. He really is the person that I thank the most for all the success that I had, and even promoted some of my videos on his own site.
I promise I’m not trying to be pretentious with this question, but let’s say you find this interview ten years down the line. Do you have any questions for your future self?
So what did you do for your 1000th episode? [laughs]
You want to keep up the Snob for 1000 episodes?
Oh, of course! I still love doing it. I’ve not gotten burnt out on it at all. And if I feel tired and need a break, then I take a week or two off. Part of why I don’t like picking a lot of episodes well in advance is because I like the show to still feel spontaneous. That gives me more of a drive, like “I can’t wait to talk about this movie in a few days.” And I like watching crazy movies anyway. A lot of these are movies I would watch regardless of doing the show, so it’s not like I’m sitting there watching a lot of movies that are outside my wheelhouse. At this point, it’s an easy show for me to do, because I’ve been playing the character for ten years. The Snob is a character I can play in my sleep at this point. I still love finding crazy stuff to spotlight on the site, and I’m always adding new genres to the show, whether it’s the Christian movies or old Ed Wood stuff. I’m always adding new content to the show, so I have no plans to stop doing it. People still really dig watching the show, I still love doing it, and I can do the show while simultaneously doing other things as well, so I will most likely be doing this ten years from now.
Brad Jones’ work can be found on his YouTube channel, at ChannelAwesome.com and at TheCinemaSnob.com. Jesus, Bro! is currently available on DVD and for streaming through Vimeo. Interested parties can also donate to Jones through his Patreon page.