There’s been one more response, from the esteemed Mr. Noel Murray –friend and ally of the not-so-esteemed Jim Ridley — to my argument in defense of generalization and in opposition to the film criticism of the Village Voice.
Murray responds not to me but to one "Juan Borras, International Man of Mystery," who threw him one of the oldest softballs in the film critic-bashing book when he complained, of Village Voice critic J. Hoberman, that his "best-of lists… are not only full of movies I haven’t seen; they’re full of movies I’ve never even heard of."
To which Murray writes, inarguably, "the critical community also needs those pioneers who go find the things that the rest of us don’t have time to look for."
No duh. He then goes on to write:
I should add that I’m not really a big defender of the VOICE film section in general. I like Hoberman, and Jim Ridley (who’s really a a NASHVILLE SCENE writer whose work gets reprinted in the VOICE) and Rob Nelson (a thorny critic but a sharp writer) and some other people who write semi-occasionally. But there are a few people there whose work I strongly dislike.
No, I won’t name names.
Pussy. Name names. Otherwise what fun is any of this.
More to the point, though, J. Hoberman is the defining voice of the Village Voice film section, so if you like him, as Murray does, you like the Voice. If youdon’t like Hoberman, which I don’t, then you don’t like the Voice.
More to the more to the point, it’s all an evasion of my meta-questions about the nature of generalizing and the existence, or lack thereof, of such a thing as an editorial voice in a publication where there isn’t an editor imposing a party line.
More to the more to the more to the point, I went back and read a few of Mr. Murray’s reviews, and I don’t find him all that exciting either, though he’s much better than Ridley. He seems to have a way with the opening paragraph — he summarizes careers and trends well.Like this, in a review of Ed Burns’ new movie:
Give Edward Burns at least a little credit for perseverance, because just about any other writer-director-actor who released a movie every couple of years to critical shrugs and audience indifference would’ve long since hung up his megaphone. But propelled by his over-praised 1995 indie hit The Brothers McMullen, Burns has continued to cram one-dimensional characters into thinly plotted comedy-dramas, hoping to re-impress moviegoers with his aloof leading-man charm and faux-natural, trying-too-hard-to-be-funny dialogue.
Or this, from his review of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby:
The recent run of hit comedies from the Will Ferrell/Ben Stiller/Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson axis have been funny but sloppy, stringing together killer comic setpieces with weak stories and random nonsense.
The problem with Murray is that his writing, like the movies of Ferrell/Stiller/Vaughn/Wilson axis he so aptly essentializes, tends to fill in the spaces between the killer setpieces withworkmanlike filler. Ah well. He needs a better editor.
[p.s. I couldn’t find a picture of Noel Murray, film critic for the Onion’s A/V Club, so that picture above is of a random dude named Noel Murray]