Ebert Gives Variety Downsizing the Old ‘Thumbs Down’

Many across the media and entertainment spectrum were shocked at this week’s announcement that Variety had laid off its chief film critic Todd McCarthy after 31 years at the paper. Roger Ebert summoned a more appropriate emotion — he was pissed.

I flew home from the Oscars to find half a dozen e-mails awaiting with the same unbelievable message: Variety had fired its chief film critic, Todd McCarthy. Its spokesman was hopeful Todd and its chief theater critic, David Rooney, who was also fired, could continue to review for the paper on a free lance basis. In other words, Variety was hopeful that without a regular pay check, McCarthy would put his life on hold to do a full-time job on a piecemeal basis.

Todd McCarthy reviewed films for Variety for 31 years. He was the ideal critic for the paper — better, we now realize, than it deserved.

Indeed, there’s nothing shocking about Variety’s decision at all. Ebert correctly identifies that, with the world of film criticism in the dumps, Variety is taking the calculated risk McCarthy will have nowhere else to go, and may be willing to do virtually the same job he used to do without the guaranteed salary or the health insurance.

Time will tell if Variety’s gambit pays off, or if someone like Sharon Waxman at The Wrap will call its bluff and offer McCarthy a job.

But anyone shocked at Variety’s decision should visit the city of Detroit sometime. This is the way American capitalism works.

Come to think of it, it might be worthwhile for the brass at Variety to take a visit to Detroit sometime too. Swing by General Motors headquarters and see how the whole layoff/part time-thing is working out for them.