Why the Destruction of the Voice Film Section Matters

There is an excellent rundown on the gutting of the Village Voice film section at The Reeler, a blog on NY film that I hadn't seen before Ira Hozinsky brought it to my attention. As I wrote in the comments section there, if there were other publications that covered the indie/alternative/avant-garde film scene in NY with the same thoroughness and the same clout, the fact that the assholes from New Times chose to wreck the section wouldn't be as significant -- it would be unfortunate because they dumped some good writers (and a few I won't miss), but not potentially tragic.

J.Hoberman remains, albeit with much less space in which to write, a problem for most print journalism today, thanks to TV and the success of the USA Toady (and that's NOT a typo). I don't know Nathan Lee personally, but found his Friday work in the NY Times to be pretty smart, and I'm delighted that he has a full-time job now. (No one should have to be without health insurance in this country, which is one of the reasons I won't be voting for Hillary Clinton for president unless she runs against Satan himself, always a possibility with the Republicans, of course; she and her husband dropped the ball bigtime on that one.) My good friend Mark Sprecher, a native Angeleno and current resident of that great sun-baked metropolis of the West, tells me that Scott Foundas is a smart, gifted critic and I generally find Mark's judgment reliable. I didn't stop reading the Voice when Andrew Sarris left, and I had a lot more emotional and professional investment in his work than I do in the people who got tossed out this time.

So what's the problem?

The problem is, clearly, that the dullards from New Times have deliberately dumbed down the section, are deliberately shifting its focus towards the mountain of crap being released by the studios, to the detriment -- and on occasion, downright exclusion -- of important work being done by filmmakers outside the mainstream. And there is no New York publication that can take the place of the Voice when it comes to those filmmakers and venues. I make it my business to cover those films and venues whenever I can in Jewish Week but, obviously my reach there is limited. (I don't have a problem with that; in fact, I really enjoy the notion that by writing on Anthology, for instance, in JWeek, I might be convincing somebody's zayde to go to 2nd and 2nd.) Look, I'm a good Jew, I feel the weight of the entire world on my shoulders and the guilt that accompanies my not saving it every day is excruciating. And that's only partially a joke.

What is even more disturbing is that the changes in the film section are merely the tip of the iceberg, as far as I can tell from the front page of the NT'ed Voice. The Voice was as important for its muckraking coverage of local politics as it was for its spiky arts reporting. No matter how good Scott Foundas is -- and I mean him no offense -- he can't take on that mantle from Los Angeles. Neither can some smartass schmuck editor in Cleveland. I wouldn't expect smartass schmuck editor in New York to spearhead enterprise reporting about Cleveland politics either.

And this, finally, is the part of this story that is missing from the discussion at The Reeler, through no fault of the author there, who did an excellent job. When local alternative papers are bought up by would-be media magnates like New Times who, in the interests of increasing their profits, cut back on local coverage, the only people who gain -- besides the would-be media magnates -- are the local pols, slumlords and other scum who no longer have to face the possibility of seeing their behavior analyzed in public. I had the unfortunate experience several years ago of taking a 7-1/2 hour-long train ride from Rochester, NY, to New York City; before I boarded the train that morning, I bought a large stack of daily papers from across Central New York. That was a stupid mistake on my part, because almost all those papers were owned by the Gannett chain (the lovely people who gave us the Toady), and except for stories about local traffic accidents and police blotter crap, the newspapers were virtually identical.

And that, dear readers, is what the problem is with the emasculation of the Village Voice.

Here endeth the sermon. Amen.

Comments

I never really read the Village Voice, being a right-wing anti-intellectual. I saw Dreamgirls last night. What do I know from Climates? And frankly, it was the wrap-around leftist politics that kept me away from the arts section, not the 2000 word reviews of obscure Anthology Archive films. The changes seem pretty disastrous and you showed great restraint in only referring to the idiotic decision to put Constantine of American Idol on the cover AGES after his 2 minutes of fame had passed. It was the most deliberate "we are gonna be mainstream and dumb" bit of offensive propaganda I have ever seen. And I like mainstream and dumb. (You should rent Harold & Kumar.) But it truly is a pity the many tiny films that will literally be reviewed nowhere else and can actually be championed and seen every once in a while given a postive VV review simply won't be reviewed at all. With 8000 reviews of Eragon and We Are Marshall sure to appear in every other media outlet in the world, why would the VV new owners think they need to include one too? Original, unique content is always better, even about something obscure. And I must admit it chilled me when Christgau was fired. My God, if he doesn't have tenure and can't expect to have a cushy job his entire career, what the hell can I expect? Has he gone anywhere.

And now my purpose for commenting:
Do you really hold a bitter, hateful grudge against Hillary Clinton because she TRIED to get universal health care for every American but was blocked and pilloried at every turn? Your anger isn't against the people who blocked her but at the person who has the same goals as you but wasn't able to overcome 220 years of apathy on this issue? Really? That's like getting angry at Hoberman for the changes at the VV. Has he quit in protest? How dare he keep that job while others are slaughtered. Has he no honor, no sense of decency? And finally:

Hillary Vs. McCain
Who ya gonna vote for?
Hillary Vs Rudy
Who ya gonna vote for?
Hillary Vs. Mitt Romney
Who ya gonna vote for?

What likely Republican nominee WOULD you vote for over Hillary and if you say you'll stay home then don't blame me when Jeb Bush is your next President.