In my last post, I lambasted the Village Voice for its review of Little Miss Sunshine and contrasted it to the excellent review written by Nathan Rabin and published in The Onion. After finishing the post, I was feelin’ good about my bad self, and I decided to re-post my post over at The Onion’s website, in the place where they let you comment on their articles.
I assumed, naturally, that they’d read my brilliance, decide they couldn’t live without my fresh new voice, and hire me away from the Advocate with triple the salary and double the prostitute allotment. Fame and riches and more pussy than one pop culturist can handle would follow.
Instead I got this response from Noel Murray, one of the other critics who writes for The Onion:
I haven’t seen LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, so I can’t speak to its quality or lack thereof, but I feel I need to speak up for this review, which:
1. Was written by one of my best friends,
2. I helped critique in an early draft, and
3. Was written in Nashville, far from the heavy hand of any "editorial decision to pre-emptively" do anything.
It’s true that Jim doesn’t have much use for twee Sundance fodder, by and large. But it’s also true that he goes into every movie he reviews with an open mind, hoping to be entertained/delighted/etc. He’s got incredibly broad tastes, and is just as likely to get a big kick out of TALLADEGA NIGHTS as WERCKMEISTER HARMONIES.
Aw snap, I done shit on the friend of the dude from the Onion. Oh well. There goes that fantasy. All that was left to me was to have the last word, which I assume I’ll have because I don’t think anyone’s heading back to that thread, which is now about four days old. So I wrote in defense of one of my personal axioms: Never let an inconvenient exception get in the way of a good generalization.
Eh, didn’t mean to knock one of your friends, so without getting too much deeper into the woods on the particular review, and reviewer, I just want to make the case that it’s fair for me to knock the Voice for "their editorial decision to pre-emptively, pretentiously dislike all of these movies," even if it’s known for a fact, as apparently it is, that no such decision was made.
Newspapers and magazines have editorial voices. In some cases, those voices are imposed through editorial control — editors tell writers what they can and can’t say about certain things. Sometimes the voice emerges from the particular critical or political discourse that circulates around an office, or from the decisions made about who to hire.
I don’t doubt your testimony that Jim Ridley goes into every movie he watches with an open mind. I don’t even know that Ridley has the kind of critical temperament that I find typical of the Voice. I just think the Voice tends to produce a certain kind of film criticism, one that I don’t like, and Ridley’s review of Little Miss Sunshine fits the pattern.
I guess I could have said, "Though I don’t know Jim Ridley’s criticism well, and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, I have to assume he was reviewing the film in good faith, I find that this particular review of his — which, again, may or may not be typical of him — exhibits certain characteristics that, from my observation over the years, are characteristics shared by enough movie reviews published by the Village Voice that I feel comfortable making a generalization, and that generalization is …"
That’s not nearly as much fun, though, and it provides no opportunity to get the word "pre-emptive" into play.
Your turn, Mr. Onion Man…
p.s. I find it mildly guilt-inducing to have put Mr. Murray in the position of defending his friend Mr. Ridley, who, let’s be honest, isn’t nearly as talented a film critic as Mr. Murray is. Then again, such is life as a talented writer — most of your friends who are writers, if you’re talented, are less talented than you are, because there just ain’t that much talent to go around.