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J. Hoberman Fired by Village Voice
January 5, 2012 3:09 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday, the Village Voice fired J. Hoberman, long-time champion of independent and experimental film (and its senior film critic of 24 years). Hoberman promises that there's a blog in his future. The Voice has an archive of his writing for them since 1998. Here are his Top 10 lists for the years 1977 to 2006, and here they are for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. Here is a compilation of his advice for aspiring film critics. A critic who came of age in an era when the lines between "film critic" and "film scholar" were blurrier, Hoberman has also written books about American movies and the Cold War and the forgotton history of Yiddish cinema. Here are some interviews with him about his work.
posted by bubukaba (42 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Here's hoping for a safe transition to a more financially secure endevour.
posted by Artw at 3:13 PM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Voice is a shadow of a shadow of its former self.
posted by lalochezia at 3:17 PM on January 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


"Laid off" would probably be a better way of putting it than "fired". "Fired" has connotations.
posted by Artw at 3:18 PM on January 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


Wow, holy shit. That's a shock.

(I agree with Artw, by the way. While I hate sugar coating people being layed off from their jobs, usually "fired" means that it was done for reasons having to do with the individual rather than for systemic reasons.)
posted by OmieWise at 3:21 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


First Robert Christgau, now this. This isn't the Voice I grew up with.
posted by porn in the woods at 3:28 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The first-linked article's headline originally said "fired" but they changed it.
posted by zarq at 3:31 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hoberman and Rosenbaum's "Midnight movies" was a ton of fun to read when I was a teenager.
posted by goofyfoot at 3:37 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Laid off" would probably be a better way of putting it than "fired". "Fired" has connotations.

Agreed. I prefer to read it in a telegram

VILLAGE VOICE BLEEDING MONEY STOP WON'T PAY J HOBERMAN STOP HOBERMAN SAYS BLOG IN FUTURE STOP
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:44 PM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Or if you wanted to be cruelly reductive: NO MONEY IN LOCAL FREESHEETS, NEWS AT ELEVEN!
posted by Artw at 3:45 PM on January 5, 2012


The Voice has been among the walking dead for a long time.
posted by R. Mutt at 3:49 PM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


the decline of the village voice started with the firing of Pfeiffer in the 1996. i dont remember the details, all i remember how shocking it was they'd fire the guy who years earlier had earned the paper a Pulitzer Prize.

that to me was the beginning of the end of that paper.
posted by liza at 3:50 PM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Who needs film critics when you have Rotten Tomatoes? Oh, wait...
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:53 PM on January 5, 2012


Or if you wanted to be cruelly reductive: NO MONEY IN LOCAL FREESHEETS, NEWS AT ELEVEN!

The Voice used to be a thing people paid for, at least outside of NYC. It wasn't cheap, either. It was well worth it. But it is not that thing now and hasn't been for a very very long time.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:58 PM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


.

(for the Voice.)
i know - it's been a long time coming. but i was one of those people who paid good money to get that rag oustisde of NY, for almost a decade. now it's barely worth picking up for free when i visit the city. how sad. i hope Hioberman can make a good living blogging.
posted by lapolla at 4:02 PM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


The internets killed the Village Voice.

*Old enough to remember when apt hunting was all about the VV ads. One person would get the paper as soon as it came out - while the other waited in the target neighborhood - for the phone call with the leads. Pay phones were involved.
posted by R. Mutt at 4:03 PM on January 5, 2012 [22 favorites]


The Voice used to be a thing people paid for

Even more doomed!
posted by Artw at 4:05 PM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would occasionally buy the Veev, in the early nineties, either when they had a cover story that interested me (the Klingon branch of Trekkiedom (one of the earliest and most balanced mentions of them in the media) or the Kids in the Hall) or, a little bit later, when I was doing my own apartment-hunting in Brooklyn. Even then, though, it impressed me as being a combination of a few older and wiser heads (Hoberman, Christgau, et al.) with younger writers who seemed to have won some sort of j-school lottery and been allowed to extend their college newspaper careers without having to significantly elevate their game. I'm surprised that it's still around, in some form.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:30 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


.

In memory of journalism that was mostly written with integrity, and by someone who knew what the hell they were talking about.
posted by Vibrissae at 4:32 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


. What a Bummer. I was lucky enough to be in the guy's cold war cinema class when he was a visiting professor at my school, and it was by far one of the best, most enlightening classes I took there. Hearing him talk at length about the original Gojira after seeing a 35mm print of it was one of the coolest things ever.

I'm sure he'll find a far more worthy place to continue his work, but the Voice's actions here really speak volumes to how little they know what they're doing anymore. It's hardly even worth hoarding from the racks on the street to mutilate into papier-mâché anymore.
posted by DNAshwood at 4:34 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel less personally affected by this than when the New York Press ditched Armond White, which says everything you need to know about my abysmal taste.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:36 PM on January 5, 2012


His work in the last few years, much like xgau and marcus, has been attached to a dead avant gardism and a 70s belief in autuerism. Though it amuses me that Musto is know the only real name in the VV.
posted by PinkMoose at 4:46 PM on January 5, 2012


I'm hoping he'll be taken in to the New Yorker fold. I like their current reviewers just fine, but they could use with a bit of shaking up and a new voice in the rotation.
posted by hippybear at 4:52 PM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hoberman and Rosenbaum's "Midnight movies" was a ton of fun to read when I was a teenager.

That book opened up so much to me - Lynch, Jodorowsky, Rivette...

YOU BASTARDS!
posted by Trurl at 4:52 PM on January 5, 2012


I used to work for the New Times/ Village Voice chain. I left four or five years ago. I assumed the whole chain would be shuttered by now. The Internet offers so many other places to find movie times, sex workers and apartments (and that's not a slam to the chain) that their advertising revenue must be minuscule.

The pay scale for freelance writing has shrunk so much that older writers like Hoberman seem exorbitantly expensive these days. Among the other things the Internet has done, it has made opinions extremely cheap.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:27 PM on January 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Voice used to be a thing people paid for, at least outside of NYC. It wasn't cheap, either.

A classified ad to sublet a room cost $50 for two short lines, including phone #, and it ran only once.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:27 PM on January 5, 2012


I used to read the Village Voice late in college, and into my 20's. I lived in Northern California, and it was worth buying just to read the ads for the jazz shows I was missing, and would never show up in the bay area. Plus the articles were great. I remember an issue with a particularly scathing view of Al Sharpton. That was 25 years ago, and the fucker is still around doing the same shit. I remember at the time being appalled, and wondered how a guy like that could exist. I guess no one really read it for the articles then either, just like playboy.
posted by Eekacat at 6:04 PM on January 5, 2012


NO MONEY IN LOCAL FREESHEETS, NEWS AT ELEVEN!

WHICH YOU WON'T BOTHER TO WATCH BECAUSE YOU ALREADY READ ABOUT IT ON THE VERY SAME INTERNET THAT KILLED THE VILLAGE VOICE.
posted by yoink at 6:11 PM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sorry about the "fired" vs. "laid off" confusion. As zarq says, I was following the phrasing of the original article. I am embarrassed by my inaccuracy.

The biggest mystery to me is why David Thomson remains the most popular voice of film criticism in the major highbrow cultural publications. Maybe we'll see that change now that Hoberman has a little more free time in his schedule... probably not, though.
posted by bubukaba at 7:49 PM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was all ready to bemoan the Voice laying off one of the most influential film critics of all time, but then I realized it had been years since I read anything by him. Maybe I was part of the problem.
posted by Toby Dammit X at 8:48 PM on January 5, 2012


The biggest mystery to me is why David Thomson remains the most popular voice of film criticism in the major highbrow cultural publications.

Over Anthony Lane and David Denby? Hrm. Perhaps The New Yorker isn't a highbrow cultural publication.
posted by hippybear at 10:01 PM on January 5, 2012


"Fired" has connotations.

Let's say "was pushed out," then. It's no small secret that New Times gutted the editorial staff, and compelled a lot of renowned, long-time writers to leave. As the linked article notes, Hoberman isn't alone.

Which makes no sense, to me. Why rename your entire company after the a prestigious property that you went out of your way to acquire, and then strip that paper of everything that gave it prestige?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:45 PM on January 5, 2012


Dammit. Make that "after a prestigious."
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:45 PM on January 5, 2012


This guy's top 10 lists make me feel like I've missed a large chunk of culture. I'll do something about that.
posted by Theta States at 11:31 PM on January 5, 2012


I was a former Village Voice Media employee -- I worked for the Voice's sister paper City Pages in Minneapolis for three years. from 2000-2003. When New Times took it over, they forced out all the longtime writers, starting subbing in nationally syndicated material instead of locally generated material, and particularly their online presence became defined by link bait. They've gone from a vital alternative newsweekly to something much worse, and this seems to be New Times modus operandi. It's quite disturbing to watch the corporation buy and then gut the nation's newsweeklies.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:07 AM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Along with some of the writers at the AV Club, Hoberman is one of my favorite critics.

In high school I had a thing for devouring books about the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries, particularly anything to do with their popular culture. Hoberman's book "The Red Atlantis: Communist Culture in the Abscence of Communism" is a fantastic read and was my first introduction to scholarly film writing. He has a chapter in their that uses Communist and American films from different eras to reflect on the evolution of the Cold War, that's just a perfect example of holding up popular culture as reflector and amplifier of the times that produced it. Also, his reading of RED DAWN as fascist fantasy (only in a fascist fantasy would there exist a contemporary conflict with no nuclear bombs thereby allowing the individual to seek self-actualization through infantry combat) is still one of my favorite things ever.

I just realized he has a new book out too about Cold War cinema. If you're interested in that kind of thing, I'm guessing it goes above and beyond other histories.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 12:09 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


> the decline of the village voice started with the firing of Pfeiffer in the 1996.

Nonsense. Some would say it started in the '60s, but I'm not hip enough to say that; I can, however, say with confidence that the firing of Alexander Cockburn in 1983 was an unmistakeable milepost. Certainly once they started (unwisely) trying to compete with the New York Press it was all downhill.
posted by languagehat at 7:05 AM on January 6, 2012


Seconding all the "decline and fall of the VV" sentiment. I started reading the Voice back when R. Crumb had a weekly strip. A newly minted HS grad, I'd never encountered the ideas that were casually volleyed from columnist to reviewer to comic strip. After leaving the city for grad school and then overseas, I paid to get it delivered, just to read Christgau and Hoberman and Andrew Sarris and...

Now (and for a number of years), it's as if the sex lines and escort services are the content, and the snark-laden, for lack of a better word, "writing" by its cadre of interns and hipster doofuses (thank you, Elaine Benes) is the parsley on the plate.

aav, Village Voice.
posted by the sobsister at 7:10 AM on January 6, 2012


The Exile ain't gonna miss him.
posted by ph00dz at 10:20 AM on January 6, 2012


Certainly once they started (unwisely) trying to compete with the New York Press it was all downhill.

Definitely true, but their back was against the wall. Russ Smith more or less pulled a Rupert Murdoch, sinking a ton of his own cash into the Press to keep it free, which enabled him to steal both readership and classified advertisers. I wonder if the Voice could have started charging even a small amount again, as the Press was shrinking into nothingness.

As goes Cockburn, as great a writer as he can be, and as charming a motherfucker as he is, he definitely went through spells in his post-Voice career where he was phoning it in (or having an intern do so for him). Plus, he's had a nasty habit of getting his copy in on the night that everything is going to print.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 5:08 PM on January 6, 2012


The Exile ain't gonna miss him.

Though I do love me some rageful incoherence, that article is much too rageful and much too incoherent for my taste.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 12:15 AM on January 7, 2012


Yeah, Eileen Jones maintains what I've seen as Exile's salient feature, its ax-grindiness:
J. Hoberman is one of several dreary senior citizen critics who’ve been around for thirty or forty years, hogging the few paid gigs that still exist [emphasis mine]
Man, why don't those dudes just up and die already and give Eileen their paycheck. Sheesh.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:39 AM on January 7, 2012


Jones probably does want Hoberman's paycheck, but the larger point is that he is, nonetheless, a bit dreary.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:06 AM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


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