Los Angeles Times - 03.04.2020

(C. Jardin) #1


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The COVID-19 pandemic
has brought a torrent of bad
news to cultural institutions,
which have had to close gal-
leries, cancel exhibitions
and lay off workers. But a
new relief fund could bring a
glimmer of hope — and the
possibility of survival — to
L.A.arts organizations.
The J. Paul Getty Trust
has announced a $10-million
COVID-19 relief fund for
small and midsize arts or-
ganizations in L.A. County.
In addition, the Fellow-
ship for the Visual Arts
grant, administered by the
California Community
Foundation from a Getty en-
dowment established in
1988, will be repurposed as
an emergency support grant
for individual visual artists.
“The Getty has an impor-
tant role in the cultural life of
the city,” says Jim Cuno,
president and chief execu-
tive of the Getty Trust. “The
idea is that we could work
with others and get some-
thing done to address the
needs of small and midsize
institutions, which have
fewer resources that can
sustain them over time.”
The organizationgrants
will be geared to visual arts
institutions based in Los An-
geles County and will range
from $25,000 to $200,000. The
funding is being drawn from
the Getty Trust’s strategic
initiatives fund.
“It’s a sum of money that
we put aside for unanticipat-
ed opportunities that are de-
serving,” Cuno says. The
hope is that other founda-
tions and individual donors
will also help. “We don’t want
to be doing it alone.”
The artist grants will be
part of a cycle of individual
CCF grants. The exact num-

ber and amount of these,
along with guidelines for eli-
gibility, are being worked
out, says Getty Foundation
director Joan Weinstein,
who has helped spearhead
the COVID-19 relief effort.
“We need to look and see
what funds are available,”
she says. “But we will work
with an intermediary to get
those grants out the door as
quickly as possible. We know
how much artists are suffer-
ing right now.”
Details about how to ap-
ply for the grants will be on
the websites of the CCF (cal-
fund.org) and the Getty
(getty.edu) in coming days.
The Getty began working
on a relief plan just five days
after the World Health Or-
ganization declared COVID-
19 a pandemic, and three
days after both the Getty
Center and the Getty Villa
(and a slew of other Los An-
geles institutions) were
closed to the public.
In 2005, after Hurricane
Katrina, the Getty Founda-
tion supported recovery and
conservation efforts in New
Orleans. “Part of it was
bringing together institu-
tions to figure out how to
share resources,” Weinstein
says. “Their staffs were dev-
Cuno says the new plan
was presented to the Getty’s
board of directors at an
emergency meeting on Sun-
day. On Wednesday, the
board voted to approve it.
The Getty will continue
to pay its 1,400 employees
through the immediate co-
ronavirus crisis. The Getty
Foundation also remains
committed to funding the
next wave of Pacific Stand-
ard Time exhibitions, which
will be devoted to art and
“It’s more than four years
away,” Weinstein says. “In
the first Pacific Standard
Time, a lot of the funding
came after the recession of
2008 and it was a real boost
— not just an economic
boost but a morale boost. We
hope this can provide the
same function.”

Getty relief

funds on way

A COVID-19 program

is created to help L.A.

County visual arts

groups persevere.

By Carolina A.

criticism grows out of an
all-consuming love for mov-
ies; for me, the two loves
evolved in tandem. I didn’t
go to the movies terribly
often as a kid growing up in
Orange County, but my
family did have a Times
subscription, and I became
an avid reader of film re-
views. I got to the paper too
late to read the great criti-
cism of Times veterans like
Charles Champlin, Sheila
Benson, Peter Rainer and
Michael Wilmington (that
would come later), though
not too late to appreciate
Kevin Thomas’ insightful
and voluminous work.
As for the Calendar sec-
tion’s other “K.T.” byline, it
soon became a weekly addic-

My first education

I read Kenneth Turan on
the movies I saw, but also on
the many, many more that I
didn’t. His reviews and es-
says were my first cinematic
education, and an education
of the most pleasurable kind;
they projected authority, to
be sure, but that authority
was always worn lightly, with
sly humor and easy, unfussy
grace. Kenneth — though to
those who know him, he will
always be simply, unforget-
tably “Kenny” — beckoned
his readers into a conversa-
tion. He helped me make
sense of what I loved, what I
didn’t love and why the
difference mattered.
I came to know what
Kenny loved in movies:
depth of emotion, complex-
ity of character, a mastery of
filmmaking that was both
audacious and unobtrusive.
I learned pretty quickly that
he was a writer who truly
loved words: the sparkling
wit of Preston Sturges and
Joseph Mankiewicz, yes, but
also Shakespeare plays, Jane
Austen novels and “the
passionate, yeasty language”
of Yiddish, whose long-
buried literary and cin-
ematic treasures were
among his deepest passions.
Naturally, I also became
familiar with Kenny’s cin-
ematic pet peeves and inevi-
tably adopted a few of them
myself: phoniness, archness,
empty formalism, nihilistic
violence, willfully irritating
characters. His pans were
wickedly funny, as you know
if you’ve read him on, say, “A
Time to Kill” (“[Joel] Schu-
macher directs as if nuance
were a capital offense”),
“Very Bad Things”(“about
as profound an experience as
stepping in a pile of road
kill”) or “In the Company of
Men”(“the celluloid equiva-
lent of a ’round-the-clock
news station that offers all
jerks, all the time”). And I’ll
never forget his litany of
complaints about Lars von
Trier’s polarizing “Dancer in
the Dark”: “awkward writing,
bungled acting, intentionally
ugly cinematography, costar
Catherine Deneuve dressed
in the kind of threadbare
shmattesmy old aunts used
to wear.”
Or his exquisite recom-
mendation to the motion
picture academy after it
failed to nominate “Red” for
foreign-language film and
“Hoop Dreams” for docu-
mentary feature: “If the
members of those branches
knew the meaning of the
word shamethey would now
be making arrangements for
group suicide.”
His impatience with
dramatic clichés and tin-
eared dialogue lay at the
heart of his intense dislike of
“Titanic,” leading to a leg-
endary dust-up that every
Turan tribute is obliged to
acknowledge — and why
not? James Cameron’s angry
letter to The Times, all but
calling for the paper to fire
him, remains the ultimate
badge of film-critic honor.
“Turan’s critical sensibility is
the worst kind of ego-driven
elitism,” Cameron seethed.
“Poor Kenny. He sees himself
as the lone voice crying in the
wilderness, righteous but
not heeded by the blind and
dumb ‘great unwashed’
around him.”
There’s no point in reliti-
gating this 23 years later;
Kenny didn’t need defending
then and hardly needs de-
fending now. But even as
someone who personally
loves “Titanic,” I have to say
that he judged the movie
much more fairly than Cam-
eron judged him. Lone voice
in the wilderness? You need
only read Kenny, or spend a
minute in his company, to
know that he sees himself as
no such thing. On the con-
trary, his companionability
as a critic is the very thing
that makes him so persua-
sive. He has always been

honest about the tightrope
walk that movie criticism
often requires, that deft
balance between the com-
monalities of audience expe-
rience and the idiosyncrasies
of individual taste.
He has often noted the
inherent loneliness of the
profession, but there’s no
arrogance or superiority in
that acknowledgment. When
he once wrote, “I am who I
am, what I like and dislike is
what I like and dislike” (in an
essay headlined “Film Critic,
Review Thyself“), he wasn’t
speaking just for himself, but
for all of us. We are alllone
voices, Kenny reminds us,
and our tastes, impressions
and insights will always be
more unique and compli-
cated than studio formulas
and box office grosses would
have us think.
But while Kenny has
never seen his words as
gospel, there is a touch of the
evangelist to him. The “Ti-
tanic” contretemps notwith-
standing, he fervently be-
lieves in Hollywood’s poten-
tial for greatness, for the
kind of thrillingly intelligent
popular filmmaking — “The
Fugitive,”“L.A. Confiden-
tial,”“The Lord of the
Rings,”“The Dark Knight”
or “Black Panther” — that
the studios at their best can
accomplish. His commit-
ment to the riches of inde-
pendent, non-industrial
cinema from all over the
world, and his staunch advo-
cacy for documentaries and
animated films in particular,
are no less impassioned. Like
all great critics, he is less
interesting for what he’s
hated than for what he’s
Those who have followed
his work for years will know
of what I speak. I’m thinking
of the many who were per-
suaded to see Jane Campi-
on’s “The Piano,”Atom
Egoyan’s “The Sweet
Hereafter”or Lynne Ram-
say’s “Ratcatcher” after
Kenny named them the best
films of their respective
years. Or those who, like me,
showed up at the Laemmle
Royal on opening weekend of
“The Best of Youth,”drawn
to this magnificent six-hour
Italian epic by Kenny’s tan-
talizing rave: “It is that satis-
fying, that engrossing, that
Maybe Kenny got you
hooked on Mike Leigh or
Errol Morrisor Hayao
Miyazaki. Maybe you discov-
ered your own love of classic
French cinema after his
glowing essays on “Casque
d’Or,” “The Earrings of Mad-
ame de ... ” and “Children of
Paradise.”Maybe you’ve
taken issue with his ambiva-
lence on Terrence Malick
and Quentin Tarantino, or
find his general aversion to
horror movies totally off-
base. That’s OK too. You
haven’t fallen in love with a
critic until you’ve disagreed
with him or her intensely —
and still find that you can’t
stop reading.

Happy to enroll
If I had never crossed
paths with Kenny personally
or professionally, his work
alone would have left a last-
ing impression. But the fates
were kinder. As a journalism
student at USC, I couldn’t
believe my good fortune at
being able to take Kenny’s
workshop in film criticism in
the spring of 2004. I still
recall the thrill and the in-
timidation of that first class,
and I tried to compensate for
my anxieties as any desper-
ate-to-impress amateur

would: by acting like I knew
more than I did. It didn’t
matter. Kenny was grateful
for engagement but immune
to bluster, and he treated his
students equally, whether
their interest in criticism was
casual or intense.
At the beginning of each
class Kenny would bang a
gavel and call roll — he was a
creature of habit and de-
lighted in these old-school
rituals, he would always tell
us — and then have us go
around and read our reviews
aloud. His feedback was
judicious and precise, his
compliments as sincere and
thoughtful as his correc-
tions. But even as he took us
through his own thought
process in shaping a review
week after week, he always
encouraged us to approach
the movie in our own voices,
and with our own ideas
firmly in hand. Agreement or
disagreement was beside the
point; the point was to go
deeper into the movie and
engage the mirror it held up
(or didn’t hold up) to the
world. That was the beauty
of writing about the movies,
Kenny liked to remind us:
You got to write about every-

Colleagues. Really?
Kenny never stopped
teaching me, even after I
stopped calling him Profes-
sor Turan. Shortly before I
graduated, he bought me
lunch at The Times’ old
offices downtown and helped
me consider my options in
the tough-to-crack world of
entertainment journalism.
He was always ready with a
warm word, invariably sign-
ing his emails with a sweetly
encouraging “hang in there.”
After I got a job as a copy
editor and film reviewer at
Variety, I found myself
bumping into Kenny and his
wife, Patty, at screening
rooms around L.A. I’d see
him at festivals too: riding a
shuttle at Sundance in his
familiar green parka or lining
up for a screening at Cannes
in a white blazer, always with
a hug and a smile at the
Sometimes I had to pinch
myself to acknowledge that
someone I’d read and ad-
mired since my teenage
years had become a mentor
and a comrade. I pinched
myself harder some 12 years
later, in 2016, when The
Times hired me as a movie
critic. I recall wondering
during those surreal early
days of having work lunches
with Kenny, poring over
review assignments to-
gether, mulling the logistics
of festivals and top-10 lists
and conversation pieces:
Was it weird, sharing a title
and sometimes a byline with
my old professor and long-
time hero? Was it weird for
him? It didn’t matter. From
Day One, Kenny made clear,
this was a working partner-
ship that fortunately also
happened to be a friendship.
We were in this together,
from beginning to end.
And now, four years later,
the end is here. I’m grateful
that Kenny is leaving on his
own terms, which is not
something that can be said
of the innumerable great
arts critics who have lost
their jobs over an extraordi-
narily tumultuous period in
American journalism and at
The Times in particular. But
neither Kenny nor anyone
could have anticipated that
his departure would coincide
with a coronavirus pandemic
that has so completely up-
ended the way we live. For

me, it’s wrenching — and
also sadly fitting — that the
writer who first taught me
about movies is leaving at a
moment when the movies
themselves have gone dark.
They will be back, of course,
and Kenny’s words will be
back as well. But things will
never be the same.
A couple of years ago a
reader emailed me, taking
issue with a self-deprecating
remark I’d made in an essay.
“Ken’s shoes are big,” he
wrote, “and shrinking your
footprint isn’t the best way
to fill them.” It was somehow
both harsh and kind, both
right and wrong. Kenny’s
shoes aren’t just big; he’s the
only one who could possibly
fill them. The shoes he
taught me and so many
others to fill were not his, but
our own.
Be blessed, Kenny. Never
stop writing or watching
movies (as if). Never stop
showing us all how it’s done.
Hang in there.


KENNETH TURANat the Cannes Film Festival in 2005. He has particularly
advocated emotional depth, complex characterization and masterful filmmaking.

Patricia Williams

Kenny and me: Encore

[Chang, from E1]

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