The Movie Club

About That Voice Poll …

(Dennis Lim is film editor of the Village Voice.)

David has invited me to respond to the anti-Voice pileup that the Movie Club has turned into, and I’m happy to take up his offer.

I should first clear up some apparent misconceptions about the Voice poll, a nationwide survey of critics drawn mainly from the alternative press, film journals, and online publications. Despite having been characterized here as a forum for elitist hipster liberals, the poll was conceived as a humble alternative to the lockstep tedium of year-end critics’ lists. Our objective is to champion films that tend to otherwise go unnoticed by most critics’ groups and, in Armond’s phrasing, “drop out of the marketplace.” The published comments are simply a sample of the most interesting responses we get—the two or three remarks about Dogville that have so riled Charley and Stephanie are hardly representative of the cross-section of opinions that we printed (including comments by David, Armond, and Charley). The idea that 50-word observations, rants, and witticisms could somehow serve as a barometer of the state of film criticism is patently absurd, not to mention unfair. I should add too that the majority of the comments we published were motivated by genuine movie love.

I won’t attempt a point-by-point rebuttal of Armond’s screed, but I do feel that I have to address his rather stunning assertion that, save for the one instance when we printed his thoughts on Fahrenheit 9/11, the Voice’s arts pages engaged all year in “propagandistic (anti-Bush) pseudojournalism.” “Lack of objectivity” is a curious charge to level at critics—it’s stranger still when the charge is leveled against a publication that has never pretended to practice anything other than advocacy journalism, and it’s truly a mindfuck when that j’accuse comes from Armond White, whose inimitable style seems to me entertainingly predicated on a bullying, unpredictable subjectivity.

Sure, there’s an element of “youthful posturing” in some of the poll comments and in a lot of the alternative press, but there’s something disturbing about established film critics spending an entire day ripping to shreds the kind of thing that, though they may not want to admit it, they might have written 20 or 30 years ago.