Thirteen months after Chicago Tribune managing editor Jim Warren gave Michael Phillips the job of senior film critic and downgraded the venerated Michael Wilmington to a second-string position, Wilmington has apparently resigned. Some kind of contractual go-away, buy-out deal. I know not why.
Departures of major writers are always political, but was this a budgetary matter? Another sign of a weakened newspaper in the face of internet encroachment? Or a personal decision on Wilmington’s part to head for some greener pasture? I don’t know the particulars, but Wilmington is the latest addition to a growing list of credentialed boomer-generation film critics — sharp, highly knowledgable cineastes who got their start in the Pauline Kael-dominated ’70s and ’80s — who’ve left their positions at big-time papers. Wilmington’s a good man, knows his stuff, deserves a berth or a book deal.
“This is goodbye and thanks to the people with whom I’ve worked for the last 14 years,” Wilmington wrote his colleauges a few days ago. “I’m leaving the Tribune, and I’ll relax a little before starting some writing projects I’ve put off for too long. I’ve appreciated the privilege of using the Tribune‘s pages to tell people about movies good and bad. I’ve also appreciated the vibrant Chicago film culture and audience that always made my work a pleasure.”