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January 04, 2012

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Nathan Duke

J. Hoberman was the only reason I continued to pick up the Village Voice for the past umpteen years. He is truly one of the greats. I hope to see his byline elsewhere soon.

Nick Ramsey

A shameful, infuriating, and, ultimately, disturbing day. End of an era.

Michael Sicinski

An excellent, apt tribute to a great writer. Well done.

Dave B (@BuckyKatt)

Glenn,
Sad to see Hoberman sacked, though after the Voice got rid of Robert Christgau I guess nothing would surprise me. Many publications, especially the NYTimes, have sacked or bought out many longtime, well-regarded writers.

Somehow I didn't know this blog existed (I found this article via a link on Twitter). Interesting that the first film mentioned is "Eraserhead" -- I remember you talking about it to me and the rest of the Beacon staff after you saw it.

lazarus

I've disagreed with him on too many occasions to count, but I try to judge critics on the great stuff they champion, not the great stuff they dismiss. And he's definitely opened a lot of doors over the years.

I'm also surprised you were able to write all this without a comment about Karina Longworth now moving up into Hoberman's "head critic" slot.

ZS

Thanks Glenn. Hoberman is probably my favorite critic (and a great writer too). Of course now there is no reason to read the Village Voice, especially not if Karina Longworth is now "head critic." Yuck.

mifpa

I have mixed feelings about Hoberman getting canned.
While I've always enjoyed reading him (he's consistently been one of the few American film critics genuinely worth reading), wasn't he instrumental in getting Andrew Sarris bumped from the Voice back in the '80s? At least that's the rumor I heard. If so, karma's a bitch.
I don't think we'll have to worry about Hoberman finding another venue. I'm sure he'll resurface somewhere else PDQ.

John Merrill
James Keepnews

Jesus, no! Mr. Hoberman is unquestionably my favorite film critic and basically the only reason to read the Voice anymore, Tom Hull's occasional jazz Consumer Guides (didn't someone else used to do less genre-specific ones there, once upon a time? It's so long ago now...) and the essential reportage on knitting flashmobs in Williamsburg or whatever the hell the editors that are left dedicate feature space to now notwithstanding. And your citations of his recent, astonishingly well-researched surveys of late 20th c. American sociopolitics clearly demonstrate the breadth of his talent beyond film criticism. Nice VV Media let him sweat one last year-end film poll before he had to hand over his executive washroom key.

Gee, you'd almost swear informed film criticism in print media that is not easily reduced to pullquotes was in danger, or something. Nice knowing you, Village Voice. Goodbye.

One JH's countless insights that would make my top 10 would be his description of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD as being the synthesis of cinéma vérité and EC comics. Although that said, he did maintain that LAND OF THE DEAD was GAR's strongest film in 20 years, an assertion I called damning with faint praise in my 40th anniversary piece on NIGHT.

Whatevs. I love him, I love him, I love him, and where he goes I'll follow, I'll follow, I'll follow.

David Ehrenstein

Critical thinking has been under attack from the corporate oligarchy for some time. Jim is its latest victim.

His shitcanning will not go unnoticed.

OCCUPY THE VILLAGE VOICE!

Brian

When the Voice canned Xgau and a few of the other great critics a while back, I remember saying to myself that if they canned Hoberman I would have no reason left to read the paper. In fact, any time I picked it up in a cafe I would usually just go to the back of the paper, read whatever Hoberman wrote and put it back on the table. Way to go New Times!

Petey

Hoberman is one of the few voices I INVARIABLY seek out after I see a movie. I certainly hope he rapidly finds a platform that does right by him and his readership.

But I'll depart from the Karina Longworth hate upthread. She's no Hoberman, but she's a solidly above average critic I've enjoyed for a while now.

And as to the Voice, current ownership has made it clear for a while that they're not committed to excellence. This is no great surprise. It's sad because they used to be such a great institution, but they are what they are now.

Finally, I'll second Michael Sicinski's praise upthread of Glenn's post. Well done, indeed. (And, of course, Hoberman's 2011 Top Ten corrected Glenn's minor error in the proper placement of Melancholia and Tree of Life...)

That Fuzzy Bastard

Well there goes the very last reason to read The Voice. Hoberman's writing has been absolutely invaluable on a hundred fronts---if he'd never written another word, his piece on THE LAST MOVIE would guarantee him a seat in Heaven---so here's hoping he comes back strong.

On a happier note, reading the Tarkovsky quote above makes me reflect that *every* Tarkovsky showing I've been to in NYC has been packed. When I first moved to the city, and saw the Anthology was showing STALKER, I went with only minutes to spare, figuring there wouldn't exactly be a sellout crowd for a slow, three-hour Russian sci-fi flick from the 70s. When I squeezed into the one remaining back corner seat, I knew I was in the right town.

Paul

I've never met Hoberman, read plenty of his stuff, and when I once spotted a factual inaccuracy in his review of a film written by a friend of mine, and emailed him about it, I got a very pleasant and un-egotistical reply/retraction from him. He's the real deal, and I hope he has another excellent book in the works. Fuck the Voice.

Michael Adams

Six years ago Hoberman wrote an essay about what the Voice had meant to him: http://www.villagevoice.com/2005-10-18/specials/get-reel/

Petey

@Michael Adams. The final paragraph of that essay reads poignantly now. He hoped the commitment remained, and it did, but only for five years...

Petey

Speaking of movie critics and New York dead tree publishers, am I the only one who finds it odd and perverse that:

1) The New Yorker hasn't had an adequate movie critic in its pages since Pauline Kael.
2) The New Yorker employs Richard Brody, who is an adequate movie critic.
3) Yet The New Yorker doesn't have Richard Brody write in their movie review section.

I mean, what's the risk? Not middlebrow enough?

lipranzer

Add me to those who will no longer read the Voice because of this; even if I disagreed with him - and that was quite often - he always wrote intelligently and rationally, and within the (sometimes limited) space he had, always tried to back up his opinions. You get the same impression from reading his books. I hope he ends up somewhere that appreciates him. And yes, nice write-up, Glenn.

MW

Not surprising, given what's happening in print media/journalism. (What's happening with film criticism really stems out of that.) But considering the audience of an alternative weekly like the Voice, rolling back film criticism doesn't make as much sense, especially with a writer like Hoberman. I'd like to see a good on-line publication (maybe IndieWire?) hire him, assuming he's still interested in being a weekly film critic.

Stephen Winer

For some time now, The Voice seems to have adopted a management policy of looking through the paper, finding the most gifted writer in each department and firing them. What can the thinking possibly be? "Hey, the paper's free! You want quality too?" This is truly appalling. Let's hope for more Hoberman at some more enlightened place, or at least more fine Hoberman books.

Petey

"For some time now, The Voice seems to have adopted a management policy of looking through the paper, finding the most gifted writer in each department and firing them."

This is true.

Brian

I first encountered Hoberman's writing in the PRODUCED AND ABANDONED collection (a really wonderful book of anti-conventional wisdom that does what great criticism should by making you look again at seemingly "settled" issues and films). Of all movies, he was writing about the much-maligned Prince vehicle UNDER THE CHERRY MOON. Nearly everything I've ever read about this film (and certainly everything I'd read about it up until that point in the early 90s, when I was a very callow 17-year old) called it a bomb of epic proportions, a mess, a horrible experience, etc. And yeah, it was a massive bomb at the box office. But Hoberman's piece was a rave, and he so poetically drew all kinds of connections to high art, poetry, Surrealism, and classic 30s screwball that he made it sound like something extraordinary. He took a film I had no interest in (even with my very large interest in Prince) and suddenly made it a must-see, and when I finally caught up with and enjoyed it, I knew he hadn't oversold the film, but simply looked at it with a different and brilliant sensibility (and had the courage of his convictions to say "I like this" when everyone else said no). I've read him ever since, and I agree the Voice is deeply stupid for letting him go, but I look forward to reading him wherever he goes next.

Petey

"Of all movies, he was writing about the much-maligned Prince vehicle UNDER THE CHERRY MOON."

That's part of what made Hoberman indispensable. I saw Under the Cherry Moon in initial release, was blown away, and saw it again years later to find it held up. But it got almost universal "bomb" reviews at the time.

But it was a kickass piece of cinema despite the widespread disgust, and you needed folks like Hoberman to understand.

(Very tangentially, I consider Roger Ebert to be Hoberman's only real peer over their common era, but when I would find an Ebert zero star review, I always knew there was something interesting to be viewed. Odd, but an oddly reliable guide. That rule didn't work with Hoberman...)

Brian

Petey, I'm totally with you on UNDER THE CHERRY MOON, and agree about Hoberman-- that's what I loved about the review. It was one of those great moments of reading and critical understanding for me, not just with that specific film, but with the whole notion of counter-intuitive readings; it was around that time (I guess it started a few years earlier) that I really started reading film criticism and film history and started catching up on classic films. And while that immersion in various canons of reading and viewing was really important for me, Hoberman's review was a breathtaking reminder of the value and the fun of being willing to go against the grain. For a teenager in the Midwest desperate to absorb movies and cultural capital, that was a great reminder.

Joel Bocko

The only surprise is that it took this long. I mean, he outlasted Nat Hentoff for Pete's sake - Nat Hentoff, who was old enough to write the copy for Bob Dylan's first album and call him "this kid" (or something to that effect).

I guess the big surprise is that the management hasn't run the paper completely into the ground just yet - though that would seem to be their goal. When I go out of your way NOT to pick up a free publication, I assume the writing's on the wall.

JP

No Hoberman, no Voice.

David Ehrenstein

"Under the Cherry Moon" is one of my very favorite bad movies. Michael Ballhaus shot it. Richard Sylbert was production designer. Claire Fisher arranged Prince's score and Kristen Scott Thomas made her debut in it -- and its every notion is totally thriftshow. Hilariously unintentionally funny and visually spectacular, it's Prince's "Cobra Woman."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkVc7ZCDN_w&feature=related

Kristen Scott Thomas refuses to discuss it with interviewers -- which is a shame. I've spoken to Mike Melvoin (father of Wendy of Wendy and Lisa) who was there throughout and it was quite insane. A true Baptism of Fire for an actress, yet she arose from the ruins of Prince's vanity unscathed.

Petey

It seems that Hoberman was fired for leading the Voice's writer's union during the last contract talks.

http://www.observer.com/2012/01/j-hoberman-village-voice-01042011/

Yet another reason to think an issue of the Voice is now worth somewhat less than the cover price...

MW

I'll give "Under the Cherry Moon" a chance. After all, the soundtrack is actually a great album. Granted, much of it's in the background, but they did feature "Girls & Boys" and I'm guessing "Love or $" as well since it 'won' a Raspberry Award. (Bollocks - it's one of Prince's best B-sides and should've been on 'Parade.')

Matt

Hoberman is my favorite critic so I do hope his reviews show up somewhere soon. His book "The Dream Life" is a terrific read. The connections he makes between film and society and politics is amazing. He also did an extra chapter for that book that was not in the hard cover [or paperback?] that included lengthy write-ups on Nashville and Jaws in relation to Watergate. This particular chapter can only be found in a book titled "The Last Great American Picture Show....". It is available for free at Scribd.com.

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