I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
James Cole Clay // Film Critic
The untimely death of Anton Yelchin hit me like a ton of bricks, and writing something like this last minute feels a bit frivolous.
At 27, Yelchin gave us many great moments in film, from his box office triumphs in STAR TREK to his string of heart wrenching independent roles as late as this year’s GREEN ROOM.
It was easy to see from the jump that Yelchin was a special talent that doesn’t come along that often. He didn’t possess the Disney charm, nor did he try to adhere to any sort of labels on screen. He was just your buddy, Anton, who popped up in a myriad of roles, one eclectic as the next.
It’s difficult not to make comparisons to other recent celebrity passings that have set the world’s heart into a tailspin of sadness and gratitude on social media.
Yelchin had an uncanny ability to connect with me as a film viewer. His infinite cool and sometimes geeky charm moved me in different ways and caused me to go to places emotionally that I never thought film could take me.
Think back to the decent, yet notable, 2006 film ALPHA DOG. Yelchin was 16 at the time of filming and had ran away from home only to be kidnapped by a group of teenage criminals. With that role, he navigated through the psyche of a teenager longing for freedom but was too scared to take the leap. He partied, had his first sexual encounter, experimented with drugs– all things that are morally questionable. Yet, Yelchin had a way of communicating to the audience through his eyes and emotions.
In that film, he had a scene where he’s helplessly held at gunpoint, and while we see this time and time again, Yelchin’s performance jumped off the screen and into reality. I felt for this kid, who was away from home and crying for his mother. It was one of many roles where he was able to transplant himself into the audience’s perspective, and the first viewing of that film is something I haven’t been able to shake, even 10 years later.
On the other hand, Yelchin is one hell of a charmer. In 2011’s LIKE CRAZY, alongside Felicity Jones (upcoming ROGUE ONE), he captures EXACTLY what it’s like to be young and drunk on love. The film has a way of imprinting on your memory, taking you back to that special moment that it happened for you.
Our editor Preston Barta reminded me of a pivotal scene in that film where Yelchin is six-thousand miles away from his lover (Jones) while partying in a club. He receives a call from her and through all the house music and other women dancing around him that love found a way to connect these people– no matter the setting, no matter the distance. And that’s what Anton Yelchin does best: he sells the moment while never feeling inauthentic, or overwrought.
He had a way of becoming my friend on screen. Maybe it’s because we are around the same age, or maybe it’s because of his charm. The guy was on a real roll lately, which makes writing this so difficult. He has so many more great stories to tell.
No matter how small the part, his presence was felt. And while he wasn’t nearly as high-profile as the departed Heath Ledger or Paul Walker, it’s hard not to reflect on how like those two actors, it feels like we’ve just lost a true friend.
Party hard up there, old friend. You will be severely missed.
List of notable works (listed chronologically)”
- HEARTS IN ATLANTIS (2001)
- ALPHA DOG (2006)
- CHARLIE BARTLETT (2007)
- STAR TREK (2009)
- TERMINATOR: SALVATION (2009)
- LIKE CRAZY (2011)
- THE BEAVER (2011)
- FRIGHT NIGHT (2011)
- ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013)
- RUDDERLESS (2014)
- GREEN ROOM (2016)