The Armond White Thread

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tenia
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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1226 Post by tenia » Sun Sep 07, 2014 12:37 pm

Armond White wrote:The Dark Knight (2008) used the Batman myth to undermine heroism
Wut ? With its ending "Look son, here is a true hero, one that can get his hands dirty to save us all", that's the complete opposite.

The same goes for
The Social Network (2010) — David Fincher’s new Horatio Alger tale glorified technocrat Mark Zuckerberg with chic, digital-era arrogance.
Which repeats quite a lot how Zuckerberg "might not be one, but definitely does his best to look like an asshole".

White does get one right though (well, half right) :
The Hangover (2009) infantilized privileged adulthood, a celebration of chaos and irresponsibility.
But my favourite WTF might be :
Inglourious Basterds (2009) — Quentin Tarantino’s answer to Abu Ghraib
If anyone's around here can tell me who is White's dealer and what's he's taking, it would be marvelous. Because either he should really stop watching movies at all since he doesn't seem to get 10% of them, or he's really having the trip of the century.

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1227 Post by The Narrator Returns » Sun Sep 07, 2014 12:47 pm

I am interested to see which critics "fawned" over Manderlay, if they exist outside of Armond White's head.

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1228 Post by domino harvey » Sun Sep 07, 2014 12:48 pm

He clearly wanted to do Dogville but it wasn't released during his 10 year discussion period

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1229 Post by Gregory » Sun Sep 07, 2014 7:27 pm

Armond White wrote:The Hangover (2009) infantilized privileged adulthood, a celebration of chaos and irresponsibility.
Clearly, it should have been a comedy all about the importance of responsibility and stability, featuring characters who recognize their social privilege and use it to further important social purposes. They could help the strippers and drug dealers to be upstanding citizens, and show their friend the groom how to be a husband who's a role model of decency. It would have been hilarious—and educational!

To me, these little blurbs have an unsettling "propaganda ministry"/"state board of censors" quality, as they show White's inability to deal with films as creative works, in terms of how well crafted they are or how effectively they tell a story, and instead treats them as if their purpose was to instruct viewers about some rigid set of vague principles that he holds above reproach and will not reveal in any detail (or cannot do so because he writes with the skill of the average ranting reviewer at Amazon).
Plus, he seems to think in polarizing terms that reach almost paranoid levels (e.g., our culture is ruined because vengeful leftists created controversy about The Passion of the Christ and ostracized Mel Gibson). No wonder he hated Good Night and Good Luck—he probably took it almost personally, as a kindred spirit of McCarthy.

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1230 Post by jbeall » Mon Sep 08, 2014 9:02 am

domino harvey wrote:
13) Slumdog Millionaire (2008) — an Oscar-winning tale of game-show greed as an answer to systemic poverty.
Man, I hate the film and all but what?
And what, I wonder, would be the conservative answer to systemic poverty? <coughAtlasShruggedcough>

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1231 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Sep 08, 2014 10:17 am

Isn't the conservative answer The Full Monty? Who cares that you have lost an entire industry and way of being - get on your bike and take a service sector job such as stripping for a living! It's only slightly less demeaning than signing on for benefits!

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1232 Post by RobertAltman » Mon Sep 08, 2014 11:02 am

But Slimdog Millionaire and The Full Monty are written by the same guy. When did he become a - in the words of David Mamet - braindead liberal? And how did it happen? And why hasn't Armond White written anything on this particular subject?

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1233 Post by Numero Trois » Mon Sep 08, 2014 11:02 am

Armond White wrote:Judd Apatow’s comedy of bad manners attacked maturity and propriety.
Guess he's not too big a fan of Harpo.
Armond White wrote:A History of Violence (2005) — David Cronenberg’s new take on Ugly Americans blamed patriotic sadism
What?? Everytime I think I'm Armond-jaded he comes up with a new one to take my breath away.

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1234 Post by dx23 » Mon Sep 08, 2014 11:22 pm

Gregory wrote: To me, these little blurbs have an unsettling "propaganda ministry"/"state board of censors" quality, as they show White's inability to deal with films as creative works, in terms of how well crafted they are or how effectively they tell a story, and instead treats them as if their purpose was to instruct viewers about some rigid set of vague principles that he holds above reproach and will not reveal in any detail (or cannot do so because he writes with the skill of the average ranting reviewer at Amazon).
That's true, but I think it's just part of Armond's crazy persona. I think this guy has gone far beyond trolling. He's simply batshit crazy based on his behavior in the past several years and this "column" where he sounds like an old fart blaming Hollywood for ruining the world.

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1235 Post by tenia » Tue Sep 09, 2014 2:54 am

Reading all this, White indeed really seems not to grasp anything close to what are these movies about.
I mean, as Gregory wrote, who thought The Hangover would carry any moral message or whatever ?
It seems as if White was looking for a drama about socially privileged people.

On the other end, this usual White's rant makes me wonder which movies he likes and why, but deep down, I know I don't really want to know.

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1236 Post by rrenault » Tue Sep 09, 2014 3:48 am

No, I think Armond just has a Grade-A infrared pretension detector, so he'll invariably rankle some, but he speaks the truth more often than not, even if you don't want to hear it. His review of Celine and Julie Go Boating is a perfect example. I disagree with his assessment of Celine and Julie itself, but I full sympathize with where he's coming from. He's not a right-winger, but more than anything, he despises postmodernism. Like Manny Farber, either you love him or you hate him as a film critic. There's no in-between like with Rosenbaum or Bazin.

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1237 Post by tenia » Tue Sep 09, 2014 4:47 am

I don't know, but I believe 90% of the texts I've read from him were looking as if he totally missed the point of the movie he was watching, and this list is just a best of of this.

I an understand him not liking this or that, and that's his right, but his arguments are most of the time quite debatable (to say the least). And in the case of such a list, since he doesn't give any argument...

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1238 Post by Gregory » Tue Sep 09, 2014 11:17 am

rrenault wrote:No, I think Armond just has a Grade-A infrared pretension detector, so he'll invariably rankle some, but he speaks the truth more often than not, even if you don't want to hear it.
Calling something out as "pretentious" is usually a pretty lazy route for a critic to take, because usually it's so much in the eye of the beholder that there's no such thing as having a finely tuned detector for it. Same with terms like "hipster self-righteousness" and "hipster nihilists" etc., which don't apply on the level of objective truth or accuracy and instead just give him a rhetorical target and allow him to argue that we're perpetually reaching the nadir of a "cultural abyss." I don't find what he says true or false in most of his writing; it lacks the clarity and specificity to even have truth value and instead ends up being bafflingly expressed opinions, which tend to use films to pound away at a jeremiad about how our society's moral values are in decline or actively under attack and then preaches about what we should value and what we need to get back on track. These tactics have great ideological and even emotional appeal, which is why so many politicians, religious officials, reactionary social crusaders and pundits have used them to increase their influence.
He's not a right-winger, but more than anything, he despises postmodernism.
He's not? I realize that "right" and "left" are often oversimplified, but he's writing for National Review, ranting about liberals (and "limousine liberals" in particular a favorite right-wing rhetorical target), criticizing a film because it supposedly "disparaged American foreign policy." He's lionized The Passion of the Christ while vilifying Michael Moore and blaming "the left" for criticisms of Mel Gibson (a polarizing tactic that seemed to deliberately announce his right-wing affinities and earn him a niche readership. And earlier he became the Armond we know and love when he was at New York Press, which often took a "conservative" or "politically incorrect" slant in order to set itself apart from its main competitor, the Voice. He can write about film calmly and competently as some of his Criterion booklet essays show, but he never would have made a name for himself with that mode of his writing. To do that he's had to play to a certain readership who likes to hear familiar talking points about how liberals and the films they love are destroying traditional American values, and lauds him for "telling it like it is," though honestly I rarely see much praise for him, which perhaps explains why many claim he must be intentionally trolling. He seems to have taken notions that I think many of us could agree on to some extent—that many films generally praised by critics aren't very original or good, and that the Academy fawns over a lot of feel-good shlock—and taken this to consistently ridiculous and incoherent extremes.

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1239 Post by rrenault » Tue Sep 09, 2014 11:58 am

Fair enough, but in today's world there's a tendency for the notion of "great art" to make people squirm, so they recoil by invoking things such as "it's in the eye of the beholder" or "greatness is subjective", etc.. Really? So it's subjective that Louis Malle isn't the equal of Robert Bresson or that Dan Brown isn't worthy of Flaubert? The line needs to be drawn somewhere. The issue is everyone wants to assert his or her own 'individuality' and/or 'eclecticism', and singing the praises of Shakespeare, Mozart, and Hitchcock doesn't make them feel 'unique' enough. Sometimes geniuses are born. Deal with it. The fact that most people aren't talented doesn't give them the right to use egalitarianism as a club with which to "put great art in its place". Just let the greats be.

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1240 Post by Gregory » Tue Sep 09, 2014 12:23 pm

There's probably an interesting discussion there, but I don't think it gets at what White is doing in his writing, or why he's able to stir up controversy. He does it using the means I describe in my previous post, and by generally shooting from the hip and making strong statements, but not backing them up with a deep knowledge or insight into film the way his first inspiration, Pauline Kael, was able to do.

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1241 Post by rrenault » Tue Sep 09, 2014 1:30 pm

It may seem unrelated to Armond, but whether or not he expresses it in such words I think he is alarmed by the way "anti-high brow" has become the new "high brow" so that the traditional "high brow" ethos of Freud, Dostoevsky, and modernism is dismissed as 'upper middlebrow', which leads to the conclusion that the intrinsic value of great works of art doesn't count for much in our current society but rather the way in which South Park, Breaking Bad, or The Daily Show is dissected is more important in determining someone's brow-level. Why can't reading Kafka, listening to Bach, and watching Antonioni or Bresson be enough? What use is it for one's intellectual growth and development to engage with South Park in the first place even if it's only to deconstruct it in a "media studies" in a kind of way? Does "sitting by the fire with The Brothers Karamazov" make someone a reactionary? Why did the traditional "high brow" ethos need to be scrapped?

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1242 Post by cdnchris » Tue Sep 09, 2014 1:31 pm

I think what gets me is all this discussion over an obvious click-bait article, complete with attention grabbing heading and then a list of shit. There's nothing of substance in there except for some verbs and adjectives thrown together to get people in a tizzy.

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1243 Post by Lemmy Caution » Tue Sep 09, 2014 1:35 pm

I'll take Louis Malle ....

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1244 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Sep 09, 2014 1:35 pm

rrenault -- you sure seem to be setting up lots of strawmen in your defense of the supposed perspicacity of White (who long ago had worthwhile things to say, but almost never does so today).

Want to actually give some examples of significant critics placing hacks or charlatans above certified "masters"?

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The Armond White Thread

#1245 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue Sep 09, 2014 1:40 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:rrenault -- you sure seem to be setting up lots of strawmen in your defense of the supposed perspicacity of White (who long ago had worthwhile things to say, but almost never does so today).

Want to actually give some examples of significant critics placing hacks or charlatans above certified "masters"?
That's his MO. He spends the majority of his time on this board refuting arguments no one is making. He's plainly a smart guy, but he's so possessed by this topic that real ideas and genuine debate can't break in.

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1246 Post by rrenault » Tue Sep 09, 2014 1:45 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Want to actually give some examples of significant critics placing hacks or charlatans above certified "masters"?
I often admire Rosenbaum, but his devaluing of Fellini and Bergman while he praises stuff like AI as well as people like Jarmusch I think is good example. At least to me, it's indicative of a crypto-antipathy and resentment towards "Great Artists". In other words I like art that isn't Art, or at the very least I'm going to "put Art in its place". So someone like Rosenbaum may be posturing as leftist and progressive, but he's ultimately serving a somewhat reactionary agenda, perhaps unbeknownst to himself, when he takes a reflexive or deconstructionist approach towards the appreciation of "high culture". A great work of literature like The Brothers Karamazov or Macbeth can't just be appreciated as a 'great work of literature'. It has to be dissected and policed and given the postmodern or PC stamp of approval, and in turn be appropriated by the left.
Last edited by rrenault on Tue Sep 09, 2014 1:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1247 Post by domino harvey » Tue Sep 09, 2014 1:52 pm

I went to college too, but I can make my arguments without obfuscating everything in a cloak of academic buzzwords. Deal with the comments we are making in this thread mocking White's incendiary and inflammatory leaps of logic with regards to the liberal peril inherent in his selections. That's what's under discussion, not a brave and noble attempt to paint White as savior of film criticism (a position almost as contrarian as White himself)

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1248 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Sep 09, 2014 3:41 pm

Has it ever dawned on you, rrenault, that educated and sophisticated people can have widely varied likes and dislikes? Idolizing Fellini and Bergman is not, in fact, a prerequisite for entry into either the ranks of film critics or film fans. And disagreeing with the relative ranking of folks enshrined in a canon is not reactionary -- except in the topsy-turvy world or right-wing ideologues.

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1249 Post by rrenault » Tue Sep 09, 2014 4:07 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:Has it ever dawned on you, rrenault, that educated and sophisticated people can have widely varied likes and dislikes? Idolizing Fellini and Bergman is not, in fact, a prerequisite for entry into either the ranks of film critics or film fans. And disagreeing with the relative ranking of folks enshrined in a canon is not reactionary -- except in the topsy-turvy world or right-wing ideologues.
But right-wing ideologues tend to be philistines and don't care about art or anything of an intellectual nature to begin with. And I don't disagree with your point about Bergman and Fellini. I was merely trying to be provocative, but I do often think certain filmmakers and artists, in the age of irony or in the postmodern era in general, are elevated above and revered over others on sociopolitical grounds rather than on aesthetic or intellectual ones.

But what I am railing against is the belief that idolizing Fellini and Bergman invariably entails a reactionary mindset. I'm not saying liking them is a prerequisite for entry into the ranks of cinephiles but rather that to consider someone a reactionary simply because they idolize Bergman is nonsense.

Bergman and Fellini are just as examples I'm using to make a wider point about what I perceive to be the "knock-them-white-elephants-of-their pedestal" school of criticism.

Sure, Roger Scruton and John Simon lie at one problematic extreme but someone like Manny Farber lies at the other problematic extreme in my view. Armond White is sort of independent of this continuum I think. Rosenbaum's not quite as extremist as Farber, but he's certainly influenced by that school of thought. I guess what I'm asking for is some sort of middle ground between Scruton/Simon at one end and unabashed postmodernism and "egalitarianism" at the other end.
Last edited by rrenault on Tue Sep 09, 2014 4:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Armond White Thread

#1250 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Sep 09, 2014 4:33 pm

Sorry, rrenault, I fear you are foisting more strawmen on us.

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