Letter: Requiem for the former Movies section

Graphic by Lori Deaton

After scholar Cranky Hanke died, y’all carried on with professionals Scott Douglas and Francis X. Friel.

Recently, in my opinion, each week the reviews contain less content and depth.

Mountain Xpress stated on Feb. 20 that it will change to “short takes” [“Reviews Hosted by the Asheville Movie Guys”]. No longer will movie reviews focus on detailed writing, as evidenced with Edwin Arnaudin and Bruce Steele’s recent summaries in print and Xpress’ website. So now we would need to go elsewhere for an actual review.

With great respect of Mountain Xpress but regret with the Movies section.

— George Hunker

Editor’s response: Featuring one or two authoritative reviewers has limited our ability to give voice to others in the community in general, and in particular, has not included women and people of color. So we decided to try a new format that includes new voices, while still providing solid information about the local film scene.

We plan to have a sizable list of guest reviewers. The shorter reviews are intended as an aggregation of local film expertise, pointing to longer versions online when they are available. The new section is a work in progress. For its second installment, we added two new voices, and the reviews were longer. The following week, we had two additional new reviewers. We hope you’ll stick with us and keep the feedback coming as we explore this more inclusive approach to promoting a community conversation around movies.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

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9 thoughts on “Letter: Requiem for the former Movies section

  1. sally oakley

    it’s just another move by Express to water down content and coddle readers who feel left out. intelligent conversation has fallen prey to a population that demands a prize every time they show up. i’ve watched the deterioration of this once-astute weekly over the last 6 years or so. i rarely grab a copy now. the loss of good movie reviews is just another kick down the stairs. (personally, i mourn the loss of brilliant writers, hard-hitting articles, and what you call fluff: news of the weird and its companions- .. especially the removal of an almost full-page NYT Sunday puzzle in favor of the skimpy daily.)
    a dumbing- down and many don’t even notice it. at least i know where i can get drunk easily, that’s of the utmost importance! the gauge of a great paper, imo, is how long it lingers in a household. i’ll take the milquetoast Gray Lady now, thanks. sorry for your loss.

    • ashevillain7

      When was there ever a crossword other than the NYT daily Wed. puzzle?

  2. Big Al

    “Featuring one or two authoritative reviewers… has not included women and people of color.”

    Does this mean that the era of Ken Hanke and Co. should now be remembered as one of racist misogyny?

    PC strikes again.

    • Marcianne Miller

      Ken Hanke was not a racist or a misogynist. For his first 5 years as a reviewer, starting in 1999 , there was another reviewer, a woman. She was criticized sometimes, by others, when her reviews pointed out the less than equitable image of women in the films she reviewed. That reviewer was named Marcianne Miller. She worked in production in Hollywood for many years and reviewed film for 20+ years in Los Angeles and Asheville. She recently did a guest review, of Gloria Bell, for Xpress.

      • Big Al

        No one was calling Ken a racist or misogynist. My comment was directed at Mountain Xpress’ politically correct demand for non-white, non-male representation in its’ movie reviewers. This demand implies that having only white and male reviewers was somehow evil and that only enforced diversity will purge said evil from its’ pages.

        Stop being such a snowflake.

        • Virginia Daffron

          I took your meaning, Big Al. The decision to shift our format to showcase a wider variety of community voices and views on movies isn’t, and shouldn’t be interpreted as, any sort of repudiation of the tremendous work of Ken Hanke and other reviewers over the years.

  3. Francis X. Friel

    Long story short, much more went into the paper’s decision than is being let on in their response. But the most troubling part is that I am one of the “authoritative reviewers” no longer with the column, and I am a mixed-race “person of color.” They have met me and they know this, so that particular route to take by way of explaining their actions is both baffling and insulting. It shows that the paper has an eye towards performative diversity and inclusion (not surprising) but has specific ideas about how they think those voices should sound to their readers. I can only assume, based on this explanation, that my particular voice, though authoritative, wasn’t colorful enough. Taken a step further, I only met the publisher in the month leading up to this change being made, after contributing reviews for close to two years. So they simply assumed I was white and later, upon meeting me and learning that wasn’t the case, decided I wasn’t brown enough? I’d love to understand the thought process behind this since I have been struggling to figure it out since first reading this response.

    • Jeff Fobes

      Francis: As I communicated by an email last month, we invite you to contribute to the Movie section. We would be delighted to have your views reflected in the section. And yes, a great deal of thought went into Xpress’ recent change to its Movie section.

      • Francis X. Friel

        You did, and that was the last I heard from anyone. Nothing further was explained. Would the pay be the same? How do I know which films are being assigned and to whom and which are available? I can guess who is handing out assignments, but it was never directly stated to me, nor was it stated that Scott Douglas would no longer be that person but, sure enough, a full slate of reviews ran the following week that we weren’t a part of. So what happened there? To be clear, I’m not asking you to answer any of this in this forum. I’m pointing out how this all looked, and continues to look, from this side of things. And what does that have to do with the fact that you (or someone with your approval) stated that the column has not included people of color? It did. It included me.

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