Friday December 14 is film critic Karina Longworth's last day at the LA Weekly. Three years ago she went to the Weekly, owned by Village Voice Media, to replace Scott Foundas when he split –overloaded and exhausted–to try his hand at programming at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. It is no coincidence that Longworth is now leaving as New York-based Foundas returns to film criticism to replace Jim Hoberman, although she does not say that Foundas has anything to do with her departure.
For a time after Hoberman left the Voice, Longworth was the senior critic for the national Voice Media alternate weekly newspaper chain. With Foundas back, that was no longer the case. Longworth and Foundas both figured out that being both film editor and critic was a losing battle–so both had managed to become writers only, to be able to put some time into their reviews. And Longworth has been enjoying trying her hand at longer form writing. She's planning to freelance and is writing a book on Meryl Streep for Cahiers du Cinema, for whom she wrote a book on George Lucas last year. "This one is longer/more in depth," writes Longworth in an email. "It's the story of her career and craft via critical analysis of ten performances."
When Foundas left the Weekly I was bummed, because I felt we were llosing a powerful critical voice. I feel the same way about Longworth, who I championed to replace him. The NYU Cinema Studies grad helped to build Cinematical, worked at Netscape and Spoutblog, and moved on to her first print job at the Weekly. She's leaving partly because it's hard to practice this craft now. She will, I am sure, find many opportunities to shine as a film and culture writer and will likely be snapped up in due time. I am always ambitious for strong women's voices in film criticism because there aren't enough of them.
Foundas's hire signals VMG's new commitment to film coverage. Besides Longworth, VMG relies on one full time staff writer, one full time editor, and countless freelancers. Let the push begin for Longworth's replacement. Last time round, Variety junior critic Peter Debruge went up for the spot, but was eventually rewarded by increased responsibility after Todd McCarthy was axed by the venerable trade. (McCarthy is happily ensconced at the thriving Hollywood Reporter. That worked out.) Debruge, Variety's senior critic Justin Chang, New York critic John Anderson, MSN's Glenn Kenny (my old colleague at Premiere) and THR's Tim Appelo, once critic at The Oregonian, would all be prime candidates for Longworth's slot. Many critics with strong voices have built cred in the online universe, as Longworth did, from Indiewire's own Eric Kohn to Austin up-and-comer William Goss.
Any other suggestions?