V.A. Musetto weathered four decades of change during his longtime tenure as the NY Post’s film critic and headline writer (i.e. the tabloid’s infamous ‘Headless Body in Topless Bar’). On Thursday, Musetto became the latest print critic to get the axe because of what he blames is the Internet age. It was termination by email: “Dear Vincent, I’m sorry, but because of budget cutbacks we cannot give you any further reviewing assignments,” wrote film editor Lou Lumenick. Musetto responded by forwarding the message to the Post staff. “I got this email from Lumenick who said I was through,” Musetto confirmed to me the firing first reported by Capital New York. “Lumenick hates me and I don’t especially like him. We don’t get along. We never talked. After 40 years, to have some flunky just send me an email. But I did get a call from the woman in charge of entertainment who apologized for just sending an email.” His assignments of two reviews per month had dwindled at the going rate of $100 a pop, Musetto tells me. He took the freelance gig after retiring in 2011 (heralded in the Post with the headline “Can’t Top This”). But it wasn’t exactly voluntary.
“They wanted to demote me,” Musetto said. “Put me back on the copy desk, editing stories and being a copy editor. The movie reviews would be my second job. I didn’t want that after all those years. So I said, ‘I’ll retire.’” Like many old school print journalists he blames the internet for the Post newsroom layoffs earlier this summer in these tumultuous times for print media. “It’s sad. The newspaper business is bad in general. The internet messed everything up. I don’t see any positive gains for print journalism.” Musetto aims to keep writing freelance film reviews continuing to focus on indie, arthouse, and Asian cinema (“I go to movies anyway – might as well”). His final review for the Post, for The Grandmaster by his favorite filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai, will publish next week.
Musetto first joined the Post at its copy desk in the 1970s and earned a reputation for excelling at coining the tabloid’s snarky headlines (‘Khadafy Goes Daffy’, ‘I Slept With A Trumpet’). His “Headless Body” line from a 1983 Post cover wound up as the title of a 2008 compilation of NY Post headlines. “I think it’s overrated. But it endures. Some people are able to write them, some people aren’t. I think headlines do sell papers.” Musetto credits his knack for blurbing to a childhood spent reading multiple papers a day. “I still read a newspaper every day,” he added. “But not the Post.”