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Village Voice Lays Off Film Critic Jim Hoberman

Village Voice Lays Off Film Critic Jim Hoberman

As inured as we are to the ongoing crisis in newspaper publishing that leads to the seemingly inevitable layoffs of our best veteran film critics, I am upset that Village Voice Media, which has been shedding employees steadily for the past few years, has finally let go of Jim Hoberman. He has been an institution at the Village Voice for most of my adult life–he joined the staff in 1983 and became their senior critic in 1988–and has earned the respect of his peers. 

Hoberman is an independent voice. He doesn’t write like anyone else. (And I can testify, having edited him at Film Comment, that no one writes cleaner copy.) He’s sober, clear, discerning, and defines integrity. Hoberman told New York Vulture:

“I’ve seen a lot of people lose their jobs there in the last five years. I would be disingenuous to say I hadn’t considered the possibility that this would happen to me eventually. I was shocked, but not surprised. It’s not the same paper that I started working at.”

Picking up the slack will be LA Weekly critic Karina Longworth, who is adept at picking up readers online, and the remaining national film staff. Here’s Hoberman’s profile at Metacritic, which ranks his reviews from best to worst. Top five films are:

1. “The White Ribbon”: “Detailed yet oblique, leisurely but compelling, perfectly cast and irreproachably acted, the movie has a seductively novelistic texture complete with a less-than-omniscient narrator.”

2. “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”: “Romanian writer-director Cristian Mungiu’s brilliantly discomfiting second feature is one long premonition of disaster.”

3. “Killer of Sheep”:  “‘Killer of Sheep’ is an urban pastoral–an episodic series of scenes that are sweet, sardonic, deeply sad, and very funny.”

4. “Pan’s Labyrinth”: “Literally and figuratively marvelous, a rich, daring mix of fantasy and politics.”

5. “There Will Be Blood”: “This is truly a work of symphonic aspirations and masterful execution.”

There will be places for Hoberman to continue his writing about film. But an era is truly over.


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Didn't Hoberman start writing reviews for the Voice in the '70s? I seem to remember reading him that far back. If it wasn't the Voice, then it was another publication, but my memory bank says it was the Voice. He used to focus more on indie and avant-garde films, while Andrew Sarris did the mainstream stuff. Then, at some point when Sarris either started winding down or left entirely, Hoberman took the mainstream stuff. I remember Hoberman's review of TOP GUN in 1986. The great thing was that he treated the big-studio releases as if they were indies and avant-garde, finding stuff in them that no other critics did. Of course, over time, Hoberman's reviews started sounding more and more mainstream, although he continued to maintain an edge that no other major critics had (except, of course, for Armond White). To this day, Hoberman and White hold a special place in my heart from the time they both compared TITANIC unfavorably to POSEIDON ADVENTURE.

Lisa Nesselson

Let's see — entertaining style, clean copy, encyclopedic knowledge, regular following. Now why in the world would a publication want to hang on to somebody like THAT?


If you come to the Los Angeles area of California, you will find the Gottlieb/Walker families to welcome you and you will be invited to our homes. Especially my Daughter's home where we all gather regularly to watch movies. Your mother was a favorite. Sy Gottlieb

Steven Flores

I often don't agree with some of his reviews and at times, find his writing to be a bit pretentious. Still, he is a great critic with a true passion for film. Now, the Village Voice won't be as interesting.


Hoberman was a great critic–a rave from him, because he was so picky, meant I had to go out and see whatever he was giving a rave to. This is bad, bad judgement on the Voice's part, but then they've already dropped Tom Tomorrow and Nat Hentoff and Michael J. Atkinson and Dennis Lim. (And, I think, Tom Robbins?) Jesus. Are they just firing *everyone* with talent & a name?


The Village Voice has finally driven a stake through its own heart, what was left of it. There's no reason for anyone with half a brain to bother with this publication any longer, even for wrapping garbage.


This doesn't make sense to me. I suspect that there was something else going on behind the scenes, some friction between Hoberman and his bosses at the Voice.


May Jim land at a place that values him as much as his readers do.


This is one of the worst so far. Truly a great critic whose bosses were just plain stupid to let him go.

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