I don't get out to movies much. For the past few years, thanks to Sun film critic Ann Hornaday, at least I've known what I've been missing, and what's been a must-see. But there has always been more to Hornaday than her insightful and amusing reviews. Since she came to Baltimore not quite three years ago, she has recognized, written about, and involved herself in the frenetic local cinema scene, going to back-room screenings and home-grown film festivals, and apparently enjoying it all. And so she will be missed when she leaves Baltimore for greener, damper pastures about a month from now, having been "seduced," as she says, by a house in the tidewaters of Somerset County. Professionally, she's taking what she calls "a complete and total gamble" by writing a book. She declines to elaborate much. "I don't wanna jinx it," Hornaday says, but adds that it will be a nonfiction work "about a movie." She will continue to freelance for The Sun while communing with the bald eagles and otters but says, "There's no way I could write my book while holding down a full-time gig here. I had to get it out of my system."
Hornaday admits that leaving Baltimore is "bittersweet." "It's been a very gratifying community to be a part of," she says. "The film culture here is really strong, and not to notice that would be a dereliction of my duty. I was lucky to be here when a lot was going on . . . the first [Maryland] Film Festival and the reopening of the Charles [Theatre], the MicroCineFest." She also points to screenings mounted by the Fells Point Creative Alliance and at the Red Room at Normals Books and Records in Waverly.
Before coming to Baltimore, Hornaday did a lot of local-scene reporting while serving as film critic for theAustin American-Statesman in Texas. She sees it as part of the job. "Our first responsibility is to the readers," she says. "There is an audience for this [local film] stuff, and they deserve to be served. Plus, I enjoy that work a lot. It was really to keep from going crazy."
Shreds of gossip swirl around the fact of Hornaday's imminent departure (she plans to leave Sept. 29). One particularly ugly rumor is that The Sun is wooing its former film critic, the bombastic Stephen Hunter, now at The Washington Post, to come back to Calvert Street. Hornaday hadn't heard this one but says the search is on for her replacement.