“I have some big news,” the Los Angeles Times lead film critic Kenneth Turan tweeted on Wednesday. “After close to 30 years in the most exciting and rewarding of jobs, I am stepping away from being a daily film critic for the Los Angeles Times. I will keep writing about film but at a different pace. To quote Ecclesiastes, ‘To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.’ Looking forward to what’s to come.”
The outpouring of praise for Turan, who is 73, was intense and immediate. “The maestro takes a bow,” responded The New York Times lead film critic A.O. Scott on Twitter, who himself stepped down from full-time daily criticism on March 15 for one year, leaving that task to his fellow lead critic Manohla Dargis. In his case, taking the title of Critic at Large as he writes “bigger, cross-topic essays,” per The NYT, was long-planned.
Congratulations, my friend, and thank you for guiding movie lovers for all these years and helping make film culture better. I’m greatly looking forward to spending some time with you, face to face (and outside a movie theater), when we’re no longer practicing social distancing. https://t.co/fwr1OaKHOR
— Manohla Darkness (@ManohlaDargis) March 25, 2020
But there was more to the response to Turan’s departure than one veteran hanging up his spurs. Before the pandemic, film critics were already struggling to survive in a fragile newspaper economy that whittled out hundreds of working critics. And since theaters closed down last week, critics are trying to figure out how to function in a post-theatrical world. Write essays about why movies matter? Recommend classic movies on TCM to watch at home? Review anniversary DVDs? Pivot to television and streaming?
Kenneth Turan and Justin Chang at Sundance.
Turan opted out as a daily critic after almost three decades on the film beat. After joining the paper in 1991, the Brooklyn-born former book editor became known for refusing to revel in screen violence, a humanistic approach to movies, a deep understanding of how movies are crafted, and most notoriously, for panning Oscar-winning blockbuster “Titanic,” driving James “King of the World” Cameron into attack mode. Turan kept his job for 22 more years, outlasting fellow critics Sheila Benson, Peter Rainer, Kevin Thomas and Michael Wilmington. His last review, on …read more