This means that:
1. Film criticism is a dying art. As one of the best critics working today, Foundas should be anticipating a long and happy career. He's giving it up to program movies. This should not happen. He's looking to survive. David Ansen had quite a few more years of criticism in him too, when he accepted a buyout from Newsweek and this week, the new role of artistic director at the Los Angeles Film Festival. The loss of both voices in the critical realm is severe.
2. Unless Foundas screws up (as one-time heir apparent Kent Jones did), down the line he could be in a position to run the New York Film Festival. (Why give up the gig as one of the country's most powerful film critics otherwise?) Eventually, 22-year NYFF veteran Richard Pena will move back to academia (he's an associate professor at Columbia University), depending on how long Film Society exec director Mara Manus wants him to stay. She respects Pena and leans on him a good deal. But she is also ambitious for all that the Film Society can be, as a festival, cultural institution and year-round exhibitor. "Scott's writing is an exhilarating dialogue with artists and audiences alike,” stated Manus. “It is this vibrancy, along with Scott’s deep film knowledge, that will contribute greatly to our growing organization, ensuring we continue to offer (audiences) a vital place of serious film culture."
3. The Film Society could make more changes. For example, Manus could alter the make-up of the selection committee, on which Foundas has served since 2007, which could effect the direction of the festival itself. While A.O. Scott's NYT story Wallowing in Misery criticized this year's NYFF selection, it was in line with what the festival has always done--pick the best intellectually-challenging films in the world without regard for playability. New York already has a more populist film festival geared toward star-studded galas: Tribeca. And what is in store for the circulation-challenged art-film journal Film Comment? While Foundas was courted for the editorship of the new Cahiers du Cinema, he will have his hands full as the Film Society will have more screens to program beyond the Walter Reade when their new film center opens in 2011. UPDATE: Film Comment editor Gavin Smith tells me that Foundas is now a contributing editor to the magazine, which publishes six issues a year.
4. Now New York-based Jim Hoberman becomes the surviving critic at Village Voice Media. And there's an opening for a younger cheaper film editor/critic at the LA Weekly. New editor Drex Heikes could bring back vet critic Ella Taylor. But he's more likely to anoint his own discovery of a fresh voice. Ex-Spout critic Karina Longworth should send her resume forthwith. She'll have plenty of competition from all the other critics who lost their jobs this year.
[Photo: Scott Foundas and Jean Simmons at the 2008 Telluride Film Festival.)