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J. Hoberman on Criticism in Crisis

J. Hoberman on Criticism in Crisis

Cinema Scope‘s 50th issue includes an article entitled “Film Criticism After Film Criticism: The J. Hoberman Affair,” an interview with the (Hober)man himself, conducted by Mark Peranson. The affair, of course, refers to Hoberman’s termination by his longtime employer, The Village Voice, and what that termination suggests about the future of professional movie writing, in print or otherwise. If you’re curious at all about the state of film criticism, you’re going to want to read this interview. If you’re not interested in the state of film criticism, why are you reading a blog about the state of film criticism? This blog will probably be more to your liking.

The whole interview is littered with gems — Hoberman’s pick for “the best Obama movie” is right on the money and his assessment of Armond White is hilariously withering — but here’s the distilled bottom line if you want to understand what went wrong at The Voice and continues to go wrong at alternative weekly newspapers around the country:

“Print journalism is in trouble, criticism is in crisis, Hollywood sucks, but the decline of the Voice has been going on longer than the death of cinephilia. When I first began publishing there, my friends already thought it was passé. That said, the paper really began its decline when it went free in 1996 and a new ‘professional’ editor was brought in to regulate the anarchic staff. A new venture-capitalist ownership made things worse, even as the highly profitable classified ads migrated online. The quality suffered and there were some atrocious firings, but things became immeasurably worse once New Times took over in 2006 — that was like living under occupation, replete with periodic bloodbaths.”

If we look past the pervasive sense that we’re wasting our time in a dying industry, Hoberman’s words suggest that there might be a little light at the end of this tunnel (tunnel, all-consuming black hole that will someday devour the entire critical universe, whatever). Print is dying, criticism is dying, movies are dying, but as Hoberman notes, the movies were considered “over” way back in the days of “Star Wars.” Now we look at the late 1970s as another Golden Age; not quite as brilliant as the New Hollywood Era, but full of unusually creative blockbusters.  So it’s a nice reminder that in the world of cinema the sky is always falling. The only thing that changes is the frame rate.

Read More of Mark Peranson’s “Film Criticism After Film Criticism: The J. Hoberman Affair.”

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