The Palisadian, a Movie Reviewer at the Newspaper Since 1991, Has Announced His Retirement
By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer
Prominent film critic and Palisadian Kenneth Turan, who had emerged as lead film critic at Los Angeles Times across a career with the newspaper that goes back to 1990, has announced that he was stepping down from his post.
On March 25, Turan tweeted: “I have some big news. After close to 30 years in the most exciting and rewarding of jobs, I am stepping away from being a daily film critic for the Los Angeles Times. I will keep writing about film but at a different pace. To quote Ecclesiastes, ‘To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.’ Looking forward to what’s to come.”
The Palisadian-Post reached out to Turan, who wrote the bulk of his reviews from an office near Sunset Boulevard and Monument Street, but the longtime local had no comment at this time.
Pacific Palisades resident and Turan’s friend Stephen Ujlaki, dean of Loyola Marymount School of Film and Television, told the Post that the key to Turan’s importance as a film critic is that fact that he’s an educator in the guise of a film critic.
“He contextualizes the films in his reviews within a wider cultural landscape so that in reading him you often learn something interesting—beyond the film he’s reviewing,” Ujlaki said. “He succeeds at this because he has a broad cultural background and the social-historical-literary-film context that he provides is not only educational, but often the basis for understanding his opinion of the film. You always come away richer after reading a Kenneth Turan review.”
Indeed, Turan, 73, has spent many years as a lecturer at University of Southern California through its Master of Professional Writing Program.
According to reports, Turan was raised in an observant Jewish family in Brooklyn. He received a B.A. from Swarthmore College and M.A. in journalism from Columbia University. Prior to joining the LA Times in 1990, when he initially worked as interim book editor, Turan served as a staff writer for such periodicals as The Washington Post, TV Guide and GQ.
Since 2000, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association member has become an on-air personality, such as for NPR’s “Morning Edition.”
Turan has also authored or co-authored nearly a dozen books, including “Sundance to Sarajevo: Film Festivals and the World They Made” (2003), “Free for All: Joe Papp, The Public and the Greatest Theater Story Ever Told” (2010) and “Not to Be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites From a Lifetime of Film” (2016).
Turan famously raised the ire of filmmaker James Cameron after he panned 1997’s “Titanic.”
In a 2010 interview, Turan told a reporter that his favorite films have often been French films, including “Children of Paradise” and “The Earrings of Madame de…”
In 2015, Turan identified the 1949 Carol Reed-directed, Orson Welles-starring film noir classic “The Third Man” as one of his favorite movies and one of the best shot pieces of cinema ever.
In his 2016 “Fifty-Four Favorites” book, Turan listed among his all-time favorite films: “Casablanca,” “The Godfather,” “Vertigo,” “Chinatown” and “Sunset Boulevard.”
Another epic, David Lean’s 1962 masterpiece “Lawrence of Arabia,” was a favorite he had omitted from his book.
Upon hearing of Turan’s retirement, Justin Chang, now LA Times successor as main film critic, tweeted, “Can’t begin to express what Kenny Turan means to me—his words, his wit, his decency, his friendship. This is a loss for movie lovers, Los Angeles, journalism and for me personally. I’m grieving. I’m also thrilled for him, and grateful to have had the very best of colleagues.”
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