Last Thursday’s announcement about Kent Jones and Robert Koehler being hired as dual replacements for outgoing Film Society of Lincoln Center senior programming hotshot Richard Pena can be taken two ways. One, as a resurgence of monk-dweeb power within the FSLC — a return to that somewhat insular, half-sleepy, curated, less-than-dynamic mode that Pena’s stewardship seemed to represent in years past. Or two, as an “exciting” new collaboration with nary a dweeb or monkish thought to be heard, least of all from Jones.
Jones will be the new director of programming of the NY Film Festival and Koehler will serve as year-round programmer for the Film Society of Lincoln Center. They’re both good fellows, extremely bright and knowledgable, etc. But it could be argued that they nonetheless represent a somewhat cloistered aesthetic. I could be wrong, but they seem to represent a return to the way things were before the Scott Foundas esprit de corps of the last two and a half to three years.
I asked a guy who is one of the high falutin’, vaguely crabby, vaguely know-it-all dweeb fraternity, a guy who’s in with the monastic “in” crowd (i.e., Jones, Gavin Smith, Amy Taubin, Koehler, Pena and their friend-supporter Manohla Dargis, film critic for the N.Y. Times). And I basically asked him if he could provide input into a working theory that after two and a half to three years, the cineastes in monk robes are back in power at the FSLC, and that the appearance, at least, of a Foundas flirtation or experiment, if you will, has been dealt a vote of “not yet” and “too soon” and “your time will come.”
I’ve written all pertinent parties about this and none of them are replying so take this with a grain.
Foundas was never that high on the totem pole — I get that — but he felt to me like the new way and Jones…well, I shouldn’t generalize, should I? Scott’s title is currently Associate Programming Director, but for myself Scott seemed like the most visible face and voice of things during NYFF of 2010, 2011 and 2012.
It seemed to me that it was Scott and NYFF programmer Todd McCarthy who landed The Social Network two years ago (although Jones, I’ve heard, had been nurturing a Fincher relationship beforehand) and in my view they seemed to energize the NYFF out of that cloistered 65th Street dweeb aesthetic — a mode that Pena’s stewardship seemed to nurture in years past.
You can’t deny Scott wasn’t at least highly visible. He introduced all the movies at public and press screenings and did many of the post-screening q & a’s, just as Richard Roud used to do in the old days. He was always at the ready when there was a question. (I never spoke to Pena.) He’s been, to me, the most visible and dynamic guy with FSLC, and now that Jones has the top NYFF job and Koehler has also been hired nobody has said “boo.” Scott’s name hasn’t even been mentioned in the announcement stories about Jones-Koehler.
I gather that Film Society of Lincoln Center executive director Rose Kuo felt she would be safer if she deferred to the established dweebs and in so doing sidestep the arguably risky move of giving the job to the youngish and untested Foundas. For the sake of her own political footing, she did the default thing.
The guy I asked about this basically said “not so fast.” He says things are a little more complicated than the way I understand them. But the well-liked Foundas is cool and in good shape, he said, and is going to keep plugging along in a vital way. And that he’s young and therefore time is on his side, etc. And secondly, he said, Jones is not so dweebish, really, and that he understands the basic drill about showmanship and putting a little rock ‘n’ roll into the NYFF lineup, particularly the opening and closing showcases. And lastly that Jones and Foundas working together is going to be a win-win. Fine.