When Nick Pinkerton tweeted his essay in this week's issue of The Village Voice, he included an extra note: the piece, a preview of Anthology Film Archives' repertory series inspired by the work of late Voice critic Andrew Sarris, would be his last for the paper. Surprised by the news, I asked Pinkerton over Twitter whether he knew yet where he was headed next. When he said he didn't, I followed up via email to see if there was more to this story.
Sure enough, after a few more emails back and forth, Pinkerton sent me this comment, along with permission to print it in full on Criticwire. And here it is:
"I've parted company with The Village Voice and Voice Media Group papers of my own free will. Given the far-more-illustrious names that have had the honor of being fired by VVM/VMG, this is perhaps not something to boast of.
In fact I was never actually hired — probably why no-one ever thought to get rid of me — but I have contributed quite a lot to the paper over the last five-and-a-half years, to the point where it constituted a day job. During the ongoing process of reshuffling VV personnel and reorienting the priorities of the film section (more national and current, less local and repertory), it became increasingly clear that I would have fewer and fewer opportunities to meaningfully contribute to the section, or practice the kind of film criticism that I want to practice. Of course I will miss having a soapbox of that size; if another venue should want to lend me one, I'm around.
That VMG is, on the whole, a dumb, wanton, soulless, and wicked corporate entity is something that no-one could seriously question. Maybe I shouldn't have stuck around as long as I did; I thought I could harness its not-inconsiderable power for good, and generally think I succeeded. Those remaining likely have the same ambition, and I wish them the best of luck. I don't know anyone more steeped in film culture than staff critic Scott Foundas; film section editor Alan Scherstuhl is a man of boundless enthusiasm, and was very accommodating in letting me have my outro piece of choice, on the subject of Andrew Sarris. With the likes of Sarris and Mekas and Haskell and Lim and Hoberman and Tom Allen and Elliott Stein in the roster, the Voice film section's history is unbelievable, and its nice to have been able to participate, even as a footnote of a footnote."
Pinkerton's exit follows the (also voluntary) departure of Karina Longworth, former editor and critic for Voice Media Group at the chain's L.A. Weekly paper, who left to pursue other writing interests in December. Foundas, Longworth's predecessor at L.A. Weekly, was rehired as the Voice's new "principal film writer" last October after a stint with the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Longtime Voice chief film critic J. Hoberman was laid off in January of 2012; previous Voice film editor Allison Benedikt left to join Slate in May 2012.
I'm with Pinkerton about Foundas and Scherstuhl, who are both very good, very smart writers (I loved Scherstuhl's take on "A Good Day to Die Hard" last week — and I reached out to him for a comment on Pinkerton's departure and his remarks; I've yet to hear back). But if the opportunities for local, repertory criticism are dwindling at the Voice, then it's fitting that Pinkerton concludes his tenure at the paper with an article that simultaneously celebrates an exciting rep program in lower Manhattan and the work of a brilliant Village Voice critic who was often at his best writing about the undiscovered genius in overlooked films. Here are some of Pinkerton's thoughts on Sarris from his farewell piece.
"In re-reading Sarris, what shines through is his good faith — that art and commerce are not by nature antithetical, that talent and vision will always find a way. Rather than accepting the received wisdom that American directors were hapless pawns of the system, Sarris insisted that no artist worthy of the name could be bound by something so petty as a mere system — or, as [Sarris' 'The American Cinema'] puts it: 'No artist is ever completely free, and art does not necessarily thrive as it becomes less constrained.'"
One can only hope that the same applies to the work of film critics. As he mentions in his statement, Nick Pinkerton is still looking for a new home; interested parties can find him on Twitter or Facebook.
Read more of "Celebrating the Discernment of the Late Andrew Sarris."