Remembering Jim Erickson, A Local Legend
Today I was going to tell you to go check out Tommaso, the new semi-autobiographical film from director Abel Ferrara, which stars Willem Dafoe as an aging filmmaker recovering from drug addiction and alcoholism while trying to manage his life with a much younger woman and their three-year-old daughter.
It’s a flawed but profound work, and I was excited to again loudly sing the praises of Dafoe. You can rent it through any of six dozen independent cinemas from around the country and support them in the process. Click here to choose which theater you’d like to support.
But I also found out yesterday that KMUW’s longtime movie reviewer Jim Erickson has passed away. You almost certainly know Jim as the one who occupied this slot before I did, and many of you may have had him as an English professor at Wichita State University. A whole lot of people knew Jim a lot better than I did, but I was his producer here at the station for quite a few years before he stepped aside and kindly let me try to fill his shoes, and so I did at least get to work with him closely as he talked about something we both dearly loved.
In no way will I pretend I always agreed with Jim (and neither did you, I’m sure of it), but there’s no doubt that he really cared about the movies. Working with him could be delightful, ridiculously frustrating, and often wonderfully surprising. When I least expected it, he’d pull out a review in which he heaped praise on a Fast and the Furious installment or some low-budget schlock horror movie. He made an effort to see movies outside his comfort zone, and while I gotta say that didn’t often result in a positive review, sometimes it did, and he found himself with one of the great delights of movie-going: discovering something you just never expected.
And that was sort of what it was like working with Jim each week: it was rarely what I expected, and pretty much always highly entertaining. As my colleague Jedd Beaudoin put it, Jim was a true character. And we’ll all miss him very much.