Film & TV

Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald's Last Full-Time Film Critic, Is Done Critiquing

The critic as a slightly younger man
Courtesy of Rene Rodriguez
The critic as a slightly younger man
Miami has a storied history in film. It's been the setting for movies such as Goldfinger, Scarface, The Birdcage, and War Dogs. The Miami Film Festival has repeatedly made history. Award-winning actors (Matt Damon, John Travolta) and directors (Michael Bay, Brett Ratner) have called the city home.

It was also the home of the great Miami Herald critic Bill Cosford, who brought deep thought to a notoriously shallow city. Rene Rodriguez, who was a desk clerk when I worked at the Herald two decades ago and became one of the nation's best film critics, took the mantle.

But today is Rodriguez's last day on the film beat. Beginning Monday, he'll cover real estate. This is a great blow to Miami's burgeoning film community. Rodriguez is taking it with good humor.

In his memo announcing the move, first published by Bill Cooke's Random Pixels, Herald managing editor Rick Hirsch wrote, "Rene's assignment obviously means that he will no longer be working as a film critic. That decision is one of several coverage shifts we've made to reflect what our audience is telling us about the news they value most."

Rodriguez began reading Cosford's work in the Herald when he was 12 years old. As a desk clerk a decade or so later, he wrote back-up reviews for Cosford. When the critic died suddenly in 1994, Rodriguez never asked for the job. But the Herald geniuses promoted him to full-time critic in 1995. "I never formally applied because I was too young and didn't feel ready," he said. "Plus I was so stunned by his death."

In the years that followed, Rodriguez wrote kick-ass reviews. He won Sunshine State and Green Eyeshade Awards for his work. And he penned pieces for the New York Times' Sunday magazine and Variety. He's smart and has a common touch. Miami New Times has hated competing with him. He was too good.

Now the Herald — like New Times — will largely rely on critics from other cities and local part-timers. Miami's Juan Barquin and Hans Morgenstern are damn good writers, and their work is solid. But Miami is poorer for the loss of Rodriguez's fine film work.