Monday, June 28, 2004

Dargis poached by the NY Times

Ouch. And thus, the LA Times' edgier film coverage takes a step back, though I never thought Manohla was an especially good fit for them. Or rather the Times for Dargis, one of my favorite critics (though one with whom I disagree often). Dailies deprive her the chance to write nuggets like the following:

The actress has a slight, childlike body with tiny breasts and boyish hips, but she has a monumental bush that sits on her vulva like a throw rug. Her pubic hair is the most adult part of her anatomy, and it might not be worth commenting on if all that dark, luxuriant hair, so at odds with the vogue for neatly manicured, little-girl pubes, didn't give her sex a vaguely menacing quality -- it's like a small animal ready to jump up and bite the nearest appendage.

Though prone to overwriting, Dargis' LA Weekly pieces had a lot of bite. That sharp edge was necessarily dulled by the Times. Still, I had to applaud the paper for putting her reviews of such high art obscurities as Manoel de Oliveira's I'm Going Home and Godard's In Praise of Love on the front page of the Calendar section. After Dargis' addition, the paper paid more attention to the kind of demanding auteurist films that would otherwise slip through the cracks. With her departure, the LA Times is now left with the resolutely unexciting Ken Turan and plot-summary specialist Kevin Thomas, a non-entity. The company town paper desperately needs to add a strong critical voice to the mix ASAP.

Over in the Big Apple, Dargis, who's an ardent champion of difficult films, will provide a better balance to the more mainstream A.O. Scott than her predecessor, the overwrought stylist Elvis Mitchell. However, I think Keller and co. would have been better off hiring a younger, brasher voice, like Mike D'Angelo who recently parted ways with Time Out New York.

NB: The NY Times is evidently delighted with Dargis' addition. Check out this post from LA Observed, which posted an interoffice memo from the Times.