Welcome, one and all, old friends and ones not yet met, to my new home.
It's been a few weeks since my unceremonious departure from Variety, and I have spent that time getting rewired; indieWIRED, to be corny and specific, but, more generally, refitted from being an old print guy to one ready to jump into the deep end of all-electronic, all-the-time film commentary on my own site, "Todd McCarthy's Deep Focus."
In the wake of the surprising tempest that broke out when Variety cast me off along with my esteemed critical colleagues and close friends Derek Elley in London and David Rooney in New York, I was amazed and somewhat embarrassed by the attention it all received, but deeply gratified by the support that came from so many quarters.
I really was feeling the love in a way I hadn't in a long time. In some cases, particularly with what my old pal Roger Ebert wrote, I rather felt in the peculiar position of being privileged to read my own obituary, so detailed were the anecdotes and memories being conjured up.
Happily, along with all this came some intriguing proposals to venture out in new professional directions, offers I imagine would never have been advanced had I remained ensconced at Variety. Needless to say, there were no invitations to become a critic at what used to be called major metropolitan newspapers or national magazines; such jobs barely exist anymore and the few critics who have them know how lucky they are but still may find their minds wandering during boring movies to thoughts of alternate future careers.
No, the majority of possibilities lay in the electronic world, a domain I felt no need to embrace early on but which now clearly represents the only expanding arena for the written word. In crossing from the old world to the new, the horizon remained hazy, but I was reassured by longtime friends Anne Thompson and Leonard Maltin, both of whom preceded me in casting their lots here, that indieWIRE would be an ideal fit for me.
I quickly came to the same conclusion. For 30 years I enjoyed the "inside" aspect of the trade paper format at Variety and from the beginning tried in my reviews to merge the required commercial perspective with serious critical evaluation. With this new site, I will continue writing formal reviews of important new pictures, but the blog aspect will permit me to write about so many other things, from Hollywood personalities I encounter as a matter of course to observations about my son's progress as a blossoming film buff. In this welcoming column alone, I'm able to write in the first person as I rarely could at Variety, and the possibility to expand the way I write about films and the film world is enormously energizing.
After this hello, my coverage will start in earnest at the Cannes Film Festival, which begins May 12. Cannes and I go back a long way, to 1970 (when I was a wee kid, of course); I know the waterfront and, no matter the ebb and flow of the quality of the films and the festival itself, it remains the queen of all international film gatherings.
Festival chief Thierry Fremaux (I guess I can't say "fest topper" anymore) has admitted upfront that this is a "difficult" year, even as he simultaneously predicted that 2011 will be a brilliant year based on the directors he knows are already preparing pictures that will be ready 12 months from now. The sudden unavailability of Terrence Malick's much-anticipated "Tree of Life" was a crushing blow for Fremaux and everyone else. All the same, I have seen one major festival entry already and it's fantastic, an exhilarating rush (and not American--but no more hints). I have also reliably heard that two other pictures in the Official Selection are very good at the least, so there is some promise.
I will cover Cannes as I always have, with immediate reviews of as many of the significant titles as possible while allowing four or five hours of sleep a night, but with more, too, based on the encounters I have with people and films. I will attend with equal enthusiasm the new film by Bertrand Tavernier and the restoration of my great old friend Andre de Toth's 1939 Hungarian picture "Two Girls in the Street," which I've never seen and therefore counts as a new film for me.
Embarking on this new enterprise feels like taking off for a distant land I've never visited before, but where I at least speak the language. I'll be back with you from Cannes.