Roger Ebert twittered a little while ago about Variety‘s decision to lay off its chief critic Todd McCarthy, to wit: “Variety fires McCarthy and I cancel my subscription. He was my reason to read the paper. RIP, schmucks.”
Update: Late Monday night Ebert filed a story about McCarthy’s dismissal. Here are the last few graphs:
“Todd always had reasons behind his reviews. They were clear and potentially helpful to filmmakers. His prose was considered. It began in the closing days of slangy Varietyese and evolved into a style fresh and witty. He didn’t miss a thing.
“What I’m saying is that Todd McCarthy is not a man Variety should have lightly dismissed. He is the longest-serving and best-known member of the paper’s staff, and if they made such a drastic decision, we are invited to wonder if Variety itself will long survive.
“Variety used to cover everything. I remember a magical night in Rome in 1967, when I sat late at night on the Via Veneto and gawked at the last remnants of la dole vita. I held a copy of Weekly Variety, all black and white on newsprint and easily more that 100 pages thick. I became fascinated by the back pages, the items two paragraphs long about cabaret performers in Boston, dancers in Miami, magicians in Philadelphia, lounge acts in Las Vegas, jazz clubs in London. Variety got its name from variety artists, and for decades they lived off a favorable notice in its pages. The paper then truly was ‘the showbiz Bible.’
“Well, those days over with. The glory days of the famous Variety critics are finished. I knew one of them, Gene Moskowitz, who signed his reviews Mosk., and was the Paris bureau chief who directed coverage at Cannes. In the 1970s, dying of cancer, he came to what he knew was his last Cannes, bringing along his wife and the young son he was so proud of. Under an umbrella on the beach, he looked toward the old Palais and said, ‘I saw a lot of good movies there.’
“About Todd McCarthy I am not very worried. He’s one of a kind. I can think of no better candidate as the director of a major film festival. Or as a professor, or of course as a film critic. What I lament is the carelessness with which his 31 years of dedication were discarded.
“Oh, the paper cites its reasons. ‘It’s economic reality,’ Variety President Neil Stiles said of the move. Some ‘downsizing’ is necessary cost-cutting. Some symbolizes the abandonment of a mission. If Variety no longer requires its chief film critic, it no longer requires me as a reader.”