Los Angeles Times - 03.04.2020

(C. Jardin) #1


Many might assume the
relationship between a critic
and filmmakers to be a con-
tentious one, even adversari-
al. Yet when asked to com-
ment on Times film critic
Kenneth Turan, who is step-
ping away from the position
after nearly 30 years, the re-
sponses from filmmakers he
had reviewed were warm,
generous and emotional. In
becoming a valued voice
guiding readers to new work,
Turan also touched the lives
of many filmmakers, provid-
ing vital encouragement to
young directors and sea-
soned veterans alike.
Below are tributes and
recollections from a handful
of notable filmmakers — who
count among them nearly ev-
ery top honor the film world
has to offer, from the Acade-
my Awards to the Cannes
Film Festival’s Palme d’Or —
on what Turan’s work has
meant to them professionally
and personally. Whether they
refer to him as Ken, Kenny,
Kenneth or Mr. Turan, their
respect and admiration
shines through.

“Unforgiven,” “American
Sniper,”“Mystic River”
“I have a lot of respect
and admiration for Kenny;
he’s one of the greats. He’s
kind and friendly, and his
enthusiasm for film has
always made him keen to
elevate the medium through
his work. We had a great
time together marking the
20th anniversary of ‘Unfor-
given’ in Cannes a few years
back. I will always consider
him a friend.”

“Ford v. Ferrari,”“Logan,”
“3:10 To Yuma,” “Cop Land”
“The first time I met
Kenny Turan was at Cannes
in 1996. He was sitting at the
end of a table at the Du Cap
with Roger Ebert, Janet
Maslin and a few other grand
luminaries of film criticism. I
was there with Sly Stallone
promoting ‘Cop Land’ ... and
terrified. Of course, I had
known Kenny long before
that, through his writings, as
a voice of clarity and ideal-
ism, a writer obviously in-
spired by a profound love of
all kinds of film. Since then,
almost 25 years ago, I have,
time and again, been re-
warded and challenged by
Kenny’s perspective on film,
touched by the abiding
decency and luminance of
his work and his ever-gentle
insistence on raising the
quality of our dreams. Kenny
has given the film communi-
ty of L.A. and the world so
very much, and I hope he is

rewarded with a beautiful
new act in a life without

“Nebraska,” “Election,”
“About Schimdt”
“Along with its virtuosity,
what I appreciate about
Kenny’s writing is that he’s
so clearly a film enthusiast.
He loves cinema and cinema
history and longs to see the
good in a film. When he pans
a movie, it comes from a
thoughtful place; you feel his
genuine disappointment,
and he never condemns.
Maybe because I used to
hear his boyish voice so often
on NPR, but even in his
writing one always detects
the joy in his work. Critics
have to slog through even the
worst new films, and if good-
hearted Kenny ever got
jaded, he never showed it.
“When my early movies
came out, I remember head-
ing out to the newsstand on
those Friday mornings to see
what the New York and L.A.

Times had to say, and I was
always so relieved when
Kenny liked them. We finally
met over a long, champagne-
filled interview in Cannes in
2002 when ‘About Schmidt’
was there, and a couple of
years later I asked him to be
my interlocutor at a public
dialogue in Minneapolis. On
both occasions, and each
time we’ve met up since, I
find him one of those fellow
film nerds you can’t get
enough of, one with whom
delightful conversation flows
and flows, and you wonder
where the time has gone.
“Like everyone else, I’ll
miss him very much in The
Times, but he’s assuring us
he’ll keep writing and getting
around. Thank the gods.”

“Naked,” “Topsy-Turvy,”
“Secrets & Lies”
“Back in the ’70s, when we
serious British filmmakers
could only make TV films,
more than one seasoned
movie producer told me,

‘Your films will never work in
the States — no one’ll under-
stand them, least of all in
“Wrong, of course. Apart
from umpteen academy
nominations and a few wins
for half a dozen of my films,
there has turned out to be an
intelligent L.A. audience
with an appreciative ap-
petite for my kind of stuff.
“And nowhere in the
world have I found a sharper,
more perceptive and sensi-
tive response than that of
the critic of the L.A.Times
itself, the great Kenny Tu-
“Of course, some might
argue that, although he
might work in L.A., his soul
and sensibilities are that of
the native New Yorker. True
as that may be on one level,
Kenny’s towering strength is
his world view. This, together
with his boundless knowl-
edge of movies, and his so-
phisticated understanding
of the filmmaking process,
makes him almost unique.

“To be reviewed by Kenny
is often a revelation and
always a joy, but to be inter-
viewed by this gentle, com-
mitted, quietly humorous
man never fails to offer ther-
apeutic relief from the medi-
evaltorture of the intermina-
ble press junket.
“Enjoy your retirement,
Kenny! (Glad to note it’s only
‘semi’!) You’re a mensch!”

“Hoop Dreams,” “Life Itself,”
“The Interrupters”
“The first encounter I
remember very distinctly
was when we went to Sun-
dance in 1994 with ‘Hoop
Dreams.’ The film had
played a couple of times by
the time we got to town, so
there was a screening of it at
the Egyptian and it was at
10:30 at night and it’s a three-
hour film. We jokingly re-
ferred to it as the red-eye
screening. After the screen-
ing, which went remarkably
well for how late it was, this
guy comes up to me, who I

don’t know, and he says, ‘Hi,
my name is Ken Turan, and
I’m a film critic for the L.A.
Times.’ And he goes, ‘I don’t
normally do this’ — go up
and talk to filmmakers right
after a screening — ‘but I just
want to say that was really
an amazing film and I just
really loved it.’ For him to
just voluntarily come up like
that was pretty great. And
then he wrote the [rave]
review ... It wasn’t until years
later I found out that he was
a former sports writer and a
sports guy. Though clearly
his tastes go way beyond
“Another quality he has
as a reviewer, is that he’s
demanding in the right ways,
in terms of he’s got strong
opinions about what works
and what doesn’t work in a
film. And whether a film is
good or not that good. But
he never has felt mean-
spirited. He’s always struck
me as one of those critics
that loves movies. That
doesn’t prevent him from
being critical in all the ways
you need a critic to be. But
you never get the sense that
he’s looking down his nose at
the film. Even when he
doesn’t like it. And there are
a lot of critics that I think a
lot of filmmakers feel like
when they don’t like some-
thing, they’re basically say-
ing, you’re some kind of an

“Enough Said,”“Friends
With Money,” “Please Give”
“Ken Turan has always
been able to articulate what
my movies are about better
than I can, and that has been
incredibly gratifying. I know
he has broken some hearts
out there and I feel very, very
lucky that he always got
what I’d been going for. He
supported me from the very
beginning, starting with a
sandwich at Fromin’s
(please tell me I was the only
one...) and it has meant so
much to me. I thank Kenny
for understanding my work
and being so kind. I will miss
his writing, his heart, his
intelligence, and his reviews!
Most importantly however, I
hope he doesn’t get replaced
by someone who will trash

“The Piano,” “Portrait of a
Lady,”“Bright Star”
“Reading Kenny’s com-
mentaries on films I’m really
moved by how gently and
amusingly he managed to lay
down a dead dog. Kenny is
really the Buddha of film
critics:kind, firm and enthu-
siastic in his likes and loves.
What a beauty of a man and
what an exceptional critic.
He’ll be missed!"


Ever thankful for Turan’s critiques

‘Ken Turan has always been able

to articulate what my movies are

about better than I can.’


Spencer WeinerLos Angeles Times

‘To be reviewed by Kenny is

often a revelation and always a

joy ... You’re a mensch!’


Robert MarquardtGetty Images

‘A voice of clarity and idealism,

a writer ... inspired by a profound

love of all kinds of film.’


Getty Images

‘Kenny is really the Buddha

of film critics: kind, firm and

enthusiastic in his ... loves.’


Beatrice de GeaLos Angeles Times

Directors praise the outgoing Times film critic for his writing, kindness and movie knowledge

By Mark Olsen

challenging as well as exhila-
rating, I am stepping away
from daily film reviewing and
leaving the heavy lifting to
Justin Chang, the best and
most gifted of colleagues.
Given that I started in
this business on a series of
manual typewriters and
ended by tweeting this news,
I’ve had a considerable run.
Never did the words in Eccle-
siastes, “To every thing there
is a season, and a time for
every purpose under heav-
en,” seem more fitting.
Because being useful as a
critic — being (to steal a title
from Maimonides) a guide
for the perplexed — has
always been one of my guid-
ing principles, it feels espe-
cially fitting that my final
piece is not ruminative or
filled with reminiscencesbut
very much in that pragmatic
So, in alphabetical order,
here are my free from fear 14:

‘The Adventures of

Robin Hood’

With Olivia de Havilland
and Errol Flynn making the
most of gorgeous three-strip
Technicolor (“Only a rain-
bow can duplicate its bril-
liance” said the ads), this is
the definition of Golden Age
studio entertainment.


I have a weakness for
inside Hollywood films, and
this smart and fearless item
starring Jean Harlow as an
amalgam of herself and
Clara Bow is not as well-
known as it should be.

‘Children of
When people ask me
what my favorite film is, this
epic French romantic melo-
drama is inevitably at the
top of the list.

‘Crouching Tiger,
Hidden Dragon’
Winner of four Oscars
(cinematography, score,
production design and for-
eign-language film), Ang
Lee’s glorious cultural fusion
joined emotional sophis-
tication to thrilling Hong
Kong-style acrobatic action.

‘The Lady Eve’
Preston Sturges was
arguably the most gifted
writer-director of sound
comedies Hollywood has
ever produced, and this
Barbara Stanwyck, Henry
Fonda standoff is his

‘Love Affair’
With a head-shaking plot
so foolproof it was remade
twice, this romantic fantasy
starring Irene Dunne and
Charles Boyer was so belov-
ed by Cary Grant he con-
vinced director Leo McCarey
to remake it with himself as
the star (as “An Affair to

‘My Neighbor
A charming and joyful
Japanese animated film,
so magical it’s almost
impossible to accurately
describe, that might be
master director Hayao

Miyazaki’s best work.

‘North by
Spy thrillers come and
go, but only Alfred Hitch-
cock had the audacity to
film Cary Grant and Eva

Marie Saint scampering
across Mt. Rushmore. The
prolific director at the very
top of his game.

‘Pride and
As the current “Emma”

testifies, Jane Austen
continues to knock them
dead but nothing beats the
high gloss of impeccable
studio craftsmanship that
elevates this Laurence
Olivier-Greer Garson

Who doesn’t love a good
amnesia movie, and this
one, starring Ronald Col-
man and Greer Garson,
pulls out more stops than
one would have thought

‘The Shop Around
the Corner’
The onscreen chemistry
between James Stewart
and Margaret Sullivan was
the stuff of legend, never
better displayed than in
this Ernst Lubitsch roman-
tic charmer. (Lubitsch’s “To
Be or Not to Be” is also well
worth a look.)

‘Singin’ in
the Rain’
Powered by the work of
Gene Kelly, Debbie Reyn-
olds and Donald O’Connor
and with the joy of perform-
ance as one of its themes,
this has proved to be the
most durable example of
the Hollywood musical, the
real tinsel underneath all
the fake stuff.

‘Swing Time’
When Fred Astaire and
Ginger Rogers go into their
dance, everything else

fades into insignificance.
The pair made 10 films
together, and, with
sequences like “Pick
Yourself Up” and “Never
Gonna Dance,” this is the
consensus pick for their

‘Yankee Doodle
No one, with the pos-
sible exception of Bruce
Lee, conveyed as much
onscreen energy as Jimmy
Cagney, and this musical
biopic of George M. Cohan
has that in spades, culmi-
nating in a dance down the
White House stairs that is
Finally, above all else,
what I want to say as I step
back is that having this job,
being trusted by readers as
a guide for all this time, has
been a great, great privi-
lege. I’ve never lost sight of
that and I never will.

Beloved classics to get through hard times

BARBARA STANWYCKstars as Jean in Preston
Sturges’ 1941 comedy masterpiece “The Lady Eve.”

UCLA Film & Television Archive

GREER GARSONand Laurence Olivier in Robert
Z. Leonard’s 1940 version of “Pride and Prejudice.”


[Turan,from E1]

The theatrical movies
“Never Rarely Sometimes
Always,” “Bad Boys for Life”
and “Sonic the Hedgehog”
were released digitally this
week. The reviews, plus
those for new releases
including “The Other
Lamb” and “Slay the Drag-
on” can be found online
at latimes.com/entertain-

Film reviews

are online

Free download pdf