Getting you this week’s interview early because it’s A) with Hunter Harris, who you already know as Vulture’s extremely prolific staff writer.……which brings us to B) celebrating the launch of her **new publication** called Hung Up, which yes, just hit Substack today!
I chatted with Hunter about what prompted her to start her own publication, her personal movie-watching routine, and her next non-Uncut Gems obsession you should stream tonight.
First, the obvious question of course. Why Substack! And what excites you most about launching your own publication?
I'd been at Vulture and New York Magazine since I finished college, basically. I loved it there, but also felt ready for new challenges. The pandemic put a lot of other professional goals in focus, and one of them was having more control over my work. Substack made it possible for me to leave my job to build a publication that I can own and manage, and after a few months of conversations, they helped me find and pay for editors, which was really important to me.
The URL for my publication is my name because it's better for SEO, but it was important to me to give the publication a real name. It's a whole undertaking, not just a repository for random thoughts.
I was testing out a few names on my friends, and thought of "Hung Up" because I was listening to that Madonna song. I write mostly about movies and music, but I think the throughline in a lot of my work is that I'm curious about the pop culture we're hung up on, or art that's about awkward hangups.
As someone who’s been covering entertainment for years, what is your actual movie/TV-watching routine like?
My average is one movie every other day. I love Two Movie Days, when I wake up early and start watching something at like 10 a.m., get some work done, and then watch something long in the evening. (Two Movie Days make me feel pleasantly accomplished; Three Movie Days mean my laundry is absolutely in a pile at the foot of my bed.)
Over quarantine, I've been watching more TV than before. I didn't watch a ton of TV pre-pandemic, which I was fine with, but I've started (and since stopped, but probably will soon return tbh) watching Girls, and right now I'm obsessed with the Laura Dern-Mike White show Enlightened. Weekends are reserved for Real Housewives of Atlanta, which I restarted in the spring.
Because there are fewer new releases this time of year, I've been able to indulge in really random kicks. I've watched half of Michael Douglas's filmography over the past month or so, for no particular reason. It just blows my mind that he was really in his bag making those erotic thrillers in the ‘90s, and that there's no present-day equivalent for that kind of weirdness.
This is sort of related, but when you’re watching something, are you able to compartmentalize like “I’m watching this for work” from “I’m watching this for fun”?
Maybe this is bad, but I rarely distinguish between what I'm watching for pleasure versus what I'm watching for work. Watching everything, or a lot of things, informs the writing and the way you contextualize performances or direction as a viewer. (There are times when I have to marathon someone's movies because I'm writing about them, which feels sort of stressful when it comes to time management.)
I had a weird amount of fun watching Hillbilly Elegy — less a movie than a collection of truly puzzling wigs — but technically I watched it so I could write about it. I watched Michael Clayton this weekend not because I wanted to write about it, but because watching Michel Clayton just feels like a professional obligation.
What’s something about covering your beat that you wish more people — especially those early in their career — should know about?
I think sometimes there's a misconception that writing about pop culture/entertainment/celebrity means that you don't have to know how to report, but the best profiles and essays use that muscle.
What I’ve admired most about your career is how you have basically transcended being an entertainment writer to become a de facto pop culture tastemaker. Like I literally watched Uncut Gems because you were tweeting about it so passionately, and so did a bunch of my friends!
If you could recommend an underrated movie that everyone has to watch tonight, what would it be?
I honestly just will not shut the fuck up about the Jonathan Glazer movie Birth. (Nicole Kidman! Anne Heche! Lauren Bacall!) It is so weird and brilliant and moving, and I think we should all be talking about Birth all the time.
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