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Kenneth Turan, arguably the most widely read film critic in the town most associated with the making of movies, is stepping down. Turan, 73, has served as a Los Angeles Times film critic since 1991.
“I have some big news,” Turan tweeted 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.”
Turan, who grew up in an observant Jewish family in Brooklyn, received a B.A. from Swarthmore College and M.A. in journalism from Columbia University. His professional career began in the 1970s. Prior to coming to the Times, he was a staff writer for The Washington Post, TV Guide, California Magazine and GQ. When Turan moved to the Times in 1990, he initially served as its interim book editor, before shifting his focus to film criticism in 1991. He has also served as director of the Times‘ Book Prizes since 1993.
In recent years, Turan has served as an on-air film critic for NPR’s Morning Edition and a lecturer in the Master of Professional Writing Program at USC. A longtime member of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the 2000 recipient of the Local 600 International Cinematographers Guild’s Publicists Press Award, he is also the author or co-author of 10 books: The Future Is Now: George Allen, Pro Football’s Most Controversial Coach, With William Gildea (1972); I’d Rather Be Wright: Memoirs of an Itinerant Tackle (1974); Sinema: American Pornographic Films and the People Who Make Them (1975); Call Me ismale: The Autobiography of ismale (1987); Call Me Anna: The Autobiography of Patty Duke, With Patty Duke (1987); Sundance to Sarajevo: Film Festivals and the World They Made (2003); Never Coming to a Theater Near You (2004); Now in Theaters Everywhere (2007); Free for All: Joe Papp, The Public and the Greatest Theater Story Ever Told (2010), with Papp; and Not to Be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites From a Lifetime of Film (2016).
In a town filled with brash and attention-seeking people, Turan is known as a soft-spoken gentleman who has many admirers. One of Turan’s few detractors has been James Cameron, who called on the Times to fire Turan after he panned 1997’s Titanic.
Reactions to Turan’s announcement on Wednesday poured in from filmmakers and fellow journalists. “You will be missed sir,” tweeted the indie filmmaker Sean Baker. “Thank you for everything. The inclusion of Prince of Broadway on your top ten [of] 2010 helped us in so many ways.” Added doc filmmaker Alex Gibney, “Oh no! Sorry to see you go. Stay safe, Ken. And let us know what is next.”
Meanwhile, former New York Times film critic Janet Maslin tweeted, “Kenny, that’s huge news! And warrants huge congratulations. I think you’ll be amazed by how much happier you are without nonstop deadline pressure. You’re long overdue for that. But your voice will be eagerly awaited whenever you need to sound off.” And Justin Chang, who is now the Times‘ sole regular film critic, tweeted, “Can’t begin to express what Kenny Turan means to me — his words, his wit, his decency, his friendship. This is a loss for movie lovers, Los Angeles, journalism, and for me personally. I’m grieving. I’m also thrilled for him, and grateful to have had the very best of colleagues.”
At the time Turan became the Times‘ film critic, Charles Champlin was about to step down as the paper’s critic-at-large and the paper’s film critics were Sheila Benson, Peter Rainer, Kevin Thomas and Michael Wilmington (all of whom have since moved on). Turan’s first review for the paper was of the crime dramedy The Object of Beauty on April 12, 1991. His final review for the paper appears to have been of the German escape drama Balloon on March 12 of this year.
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Sterling K. Brown