Central Florida's media landscape underwent a momentous shift last Friday, Nov. 19, when Orlando Sentinel movie critic Jay Boyar confirmed in print a rumor that had been making the rounds for a week and a half: He's leaving his post after 22 years to become the paper's travel editor.
The changeover is reportedly part of a major, cost-conscious staff shakeup that Sentinel publisher Kathy Waltz announced in a Nov. 8 memo (Happytown™, Nov. 18). Unlike nine employees let go in the move, Boyar has transitioned into a differing editorial role. According to sources, the plan is for Roger Moore to act as the paper's sole movie critic a move that appears to spell an end to the tag-team, Ebert-and-Roeper-style approach the paper had been working hard to cultivate in recent years, via both its in-house promotion and the launch of the pair's WESH-TV program, The Big Screen.
It's an odd decision in a few other respects as well. In his more than two decades on the job, Boyar had become synonymous with the Sentinel's film coverage. Beyond the playful, borderline-persnickety persona he brought his omnipresent reviews, he used his frequent articles and columns to expand the choices available to the area's (as he called them) "movie-centrics." To a similar end, he co-founded and chaired the Florida Film Critics Circle, an organization that helps raise the prestige of cinema in the Sunshine State by issuing its own list of year-end accolades. He has also been tapped as a juror by the American Film Institute, helping AFI to select the 10 best films of the year in 2003, as well as the top 100 films of all time.
Boyar has likewise been an enthusiastic supporter of emerging writers, and has done much to instill a love of the filmic arts in younger people, particularly by teaching courses at Rollins College and the University of Central Florida.
As is perhaps unavoidable when a reviewer rises to such a position of primacy in his community, Boyar took his share of brickbats in some quarters. But his opinions were never as provincial nor as predictable as his detractors tended to claim, and he addressed his readers in a reliable, identifiable, Pulitzer Prize-nominated voice.
Speaking to Orlando Weekly on the day the change was made public, Boyar said that getting to field the comments and questions of those readers had been "one of the most fun parts of the job," and he thanked them for their ongoing support.
"Twenty-two years as movie critic has been a great ride, as they say," he reflected. "I wouldn't trade a minute of it. Well, maybe the minutes I spent watching that Blair Witch sequel."
What's that old saying about going out unbowed?