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Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge' 
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
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Taxi Driver (1976) (a look back)

Loneliness - a sore subject obviously too complex for hipster directors like the Martin Scorsese. In taxi driver, De Niro (who would later save his career and undo some of this damage with the profoundly sublime Meet the Fockers), plays the fashionable hipster version of a Vietnam vet, whose thousand yard stare not only abuses every cliched stereotype in the book, it completely overshadowed by the powerful post-war trauma so sensitively portrayed by Charlie Sheen, in the completely misunderstood modern conflict masterpiece, Hot Shots (part deux).

The Mohawk haircut Travis adopts hints at one's feeling of being invaded my hostile exterior forces, and a need to man-up to fend for oneself, but these themes were later explored in far deeper and more meaningful (and therefore rewarding) fashion in the masterful Jonah Hex. A work of art so timeless in its construction that quite literally I was the only person in the world to find it anything other than a shitty, insulting mess.

Essentially, Taxi Driver (like nearly all films, admittedly) is an inferior version of the Wayans' transcendent masterpiece, Little Man. The reasons for this are almost impossible to expain, but this is your fault for being too ill-educated to grasp, not mine for a failure to articulate. That being, even if I did explain it, you wouldn’t understand, let alone agree. But all this gets to the point of Obama-ification of our culture. One where nihilistic fantasies like Taxi Driver are fetishized, and instant classics like Grown Ups are derided by mainstream hipsters.


Here's where you're getting into a shady area though. White loves Taxi Driver. He always has and has never said anything different.


Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:02 am
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
I know he does.

But White's apparent love of any film is so arbitrary, that it effectively becomes meaningless.

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Last edited by NotHughGrant on Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:23 am, edited 2 times in total.



Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:06 am
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
NotHughGrant wrote:
I know he does.

But White's apparent love of any film is so arbitrary, that it effectively becomes meaningless.


Not quite arbitrary, though I'm not beyond thinking that White has probably enjoyed the attention from his reputation at times. But that can be said of any and all critics, from Kael to Roger Ebert to JB himself. But time has shown that White has remained loyal to his favorite directors, as much as any auteurist who ever wrote about film. Scorsese happens to be one he broke away from.

But people who consider 48 Hrs a classic and Bullet to the Head a tiresome work from an old man aren't called trolls. And if you analyze both of those films side by side on an aesthetic basis, the argument makes no sense whatsoever. Hate him or not, White does a pretty good job of tying his various opinions together. He does his best to explain what he means. If I tried, I could write just a short couple paragraphs on Armond White's point of view, and what it is that ties the films he likes together. With JB, that would be impossible. I dare someone to try to find just one commonality between Before Midnight and Gravity.

JB throws out a line like "Man of Steel feels more like sci-fi than superhero" and he doesn't care to explain that. Personally, I have no clue what the hell he's talking about. Which sci-fi does it feel like? Which movies is it similar to? How bout naming some examples? It'd be nice if he could actually explain. Because a lot of other critics felt that it was too "generic superhero."


Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:18 am
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
MGamesCook wrote:
NotHughGrant wrote:
I know he does.

But White's apparent love of any film is so arbitrary, that it effectively becomes meaningless.


Not quite arbitrary, though I'm not beyond thinking that White has probably enjoyed the attention from his reputation at times. But that can be said of any and all critics, from Kael to Roger Ebert to JB himself. But time has shown that White has remained loyal to his favorite directors, as much as any auteurist who ever wrote about film. Scorsese happens to be one he broke away from.

But people who consider 48 Hrs a classic and Bullet to the Head a tiresome work from an old man aren't called trolls. And if you analyze both of those films side by side on an aesthetic basis, the argument makes no sense whatsoever. Hate him or not, White does a pretty good job of tying his various opinions together. He does his best to explain what he means. If I tried, I could write just a short couple paragraphs on Armond White's point of view, and what it is that ties the films he likes together. With JB, that would be impossible. I dare someone to try to find just one commonality between Before Midnight and Gravity.

JB throws out a line like "Man of Steel feels more like sci-fi than superhero" and he doesn't care to explain that. Personally, I have no clue what the hell he's talking about. Which sci-fi does it feel like? Which movies is it similar to? How bout naming some examples? It'd be nice if he could actually explain. Because a lot of other critics felt that it was too "generic superhero."


White's problem isn't a lack of knowledge, or that he isn't a compelling essayist. It's a transparent lack of honesty. I am 99% certain that he decides whether he likes a film or not before he actually sees it. And this decision is reached on almost entirely objective ideas about the true path of film making as he sees it.

It's ironic that a man who sees himself as something of an artist would be so closed-minded to projects that don't conform almost entirely to his pre-conceived prejudices on how films should be made.

And when this is taken to its logical conclusions, you get the White that we all know. One who is perfectly willing to ignore the essential quality of a project in order to get his pre-packaged POV across.

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Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:25 am
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
NotHughGrant wrote:
MGamesCook wrote:
NotHughGrant wrote:
I know he does.

But White's apparent love of any film is so arbitrary, that it effectively becomes meaningless.


Not quite arbitrary, though I'm not beyond thinking that White has probably enjoyed the attention from his reputation at times. But that can be said of any and all critics, from Kael to Roger Ebert to JB himself. But time has shown that White has remained loyal to his favorite directors, as much as any auteurist who ever wrote about film. Scorsese happens to be one he broke away from.

But people who consider 48 Hrs a classic and Bullet to the Head a tiresome work from an old man aren't called trolls. And if you analyze both of those films side by side on an aesthetic basis, the argument makes no sense whatsoever. Hate him or not, White does a pretty good job of tying his various opinions together. He does his best to explain what he means. If I tried, I could write just a short couple paragraphs on Armond White's point of view, and what it is that ties the films he likes together. With JB, that would be impossible. I dare someone to try to find just one commonality between Before Midnight and Gravity.

JB throws out a line like "Man of Steel feels more like sci-fi than superhero" and he doesn't care to explain that. Personally, I have no clue what the hell he's talking about. Which sci-fi does it feel like? Which movies is it similar to? How bout naming some examples? It'd be nice if he could actually explain. Because a lot of other critics felt that it was too "generic superhero."


White's problem isn't a lack of knowledge, or that he isn't a compelling essayist. It's a transparent lack of honesty. I am 99% certain that he decides whether he likes a film or not before he actually sees it. And this decision is reached on almost entirely objective ideas about the true path of film making as he sees it.

It's ironic that a man who sees himself as something of an artist would be so closed-minded to projects that don't conform almost entirely to his pre-conceived prejudices on how films should be made.

And when this is taken to its logical conclusions, you get the White that we all know. One who is perfectly willing to ignore the essential quality of a project in order to get his pre-packaged POV across.


Agreed 100%. Vexer has weird opinions that often run counter to the established school of thought/our own opinions/common sense, but I always feel that they're truly his genuine interpretations of the films in question. Armond White, as you say, seems to form his opinions to back up his thesis, rather than the other way around

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Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:29 am
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
JamesKunz wrote:

Agreed 100%. Vexer has weird opinions that often run counter to the established school of thought/our own opinions/common sense, but I always feel that they're truly his genuine interpretations of the films in question. Armond White, as you say, seems to form his opinions to back up his thesis, rather than the other way around


Which is anti-scientific to say the least.

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Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:34 am
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
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Which is anti-scientific to say the least.


So he's both anti-scientific and forcefully objective? How do you reconcile that?

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I am 99% certain that he decides whether he likes a film or not before he actually sees it.


How can he be promoting a specific agenda if his opinions are arbitrary?

He does have his agenda to the extent that his agenda is to promote stylistic extremes (something almost no other critic does) and to remain conscious of how any given movie relates to other movies and to movie history as a whole.

No movie ever made can stand on its own. That's utter nonsense. You have to constantly compare/contrast, classify, categorize. To do otherwise is true reductionism.

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so closed-minded to projects that don't conform almost entirely to his pre-conceived prejudices on how films should be made.


Is it a crime to try to find an objective pattern across movie history? Is it a crime to THINK and develop theories as such? Look just be honest: have you ever done extensive reading on the theoretical essays by Kael, Farber, Bazin, and Godard? I'm just asking. All of them wrote almost as extensively about over-arching theories as they did about individual movies. That's what you're supposed to do.


Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:55 am
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
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So he's both anti-scientific and forcefully objective? How do you reconcile that?


My mistake, I put "objective" where I should have put "subjective".

Quite simply because White's reviews aren't about "the object". Or the film, in other words. They are about his pre-conceived notions on how the film (when he bothers to actuallyacknowledge it) conform to his overeaching ideas. This is where the anti-science comes in. It's like the Vatican commenting on quantum mechanics.

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How can he be promoting a specific agenda if his opinions are arbitrary?



Arbitrary in the sense that his reviews are entirely based on his personal agenda.

Quote:
He does have his agenda to the extent that his agenda is to promote stylistic extremes (something almost no other critic does) and to remain conscious of how any given movie relates to other movies and to movie history as a whole.


No other critic promotes shit flavoured soup either. Just because he takes an idea and dines out on it article after article, doesn't make him right.


Quote:
Is it a crime to try to find an objective pattern across movie history? Is it a crime to THINK and develop theories as such? Look just be honest: have you ever done extensive reading on the theoretical essays by Kael, Farber, Bazin, and Godard? I'm just asking. All of them wrote almost as extensively about over-arching theories as they did about individual movies. That's what you're supposed to do.


None of this changes the fact that White's reviews rarely deal with the film in question as a piece of art or technical construction. This is a deep flaw in his method. And one that quite logically produces ridiculous results.

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Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:11 am
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
I don't buy Armond White because half the shit he writes screams I DON'T REALLY BELIEVE THIS BUT I'M SAYING IT ANYWAY TO MAKE A POINT.

And, make no mistake, it is far easier to write Big Point-Making Stuff than it is to write unvarnished criticism that stems ineluctably from one's own instinctive response to a movie. Far, far easier. The easiest thing on the planet for a gifted writer to do is to bullshit the reader.

The funny thing is, he could turn it all around tomorrow and write as honestly as Roger Ebert and I still wouldn't buy him, because Ebert spent four decades rigorously adhering to a policy of honesty with his readers, and that's the kind of trust you can't abuse.

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Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:20 am
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
It depends on what you think a journalist is. Is a journalist a person who derives his opinions from the facts or evidence available, or is it someone who serves up a ready-meal to his loyal acolytes regardless of said facts and evidence?

I would argue that the latter falls within the remit of propaganda. What White serves up each week in CityArts is a formula of such. And we’d all be prone to this slight decent from grace, but most of are willing and able to admit to our own bias on certain films and themes within films without calling increasingly abstract and contrived justifications as to why our subjective opinion is objectively the correct one.

And more to the point - I bet Armond secretly enjoyed 21 Jump Street

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Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:29 am
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
Well, I can only analyze his method so much. I don't know the guy. But I do know one thing: if it hadn't been for him, I wouldn't have seen some of my favorite films of all time that I like to watch over and over again. Would never even know they existed. Films like Detention, Pawn Shop Chronicles, Resident Evil, Crank, Repo Man, Mission to Mars. I had no knowledge of Mission to Mars until maybe 3 years ago. I'm literally browsing around on the net one day and all of sudden...wait, Brian De Palma made a space movie?

I was serious when I said on a different thread that I had never heard of Walter Hill until a year and half ago. How would I have heard of him? Through Berardinelli? Nope, no dice. Through one of the two-dozen best movie lists on the web? For the most part, nope. Did Ebert emphasize him ever? Nope. Didn't like his work that much. Of course, he had the right not to like his work. But it's just that...there HAS to be a way to get the word out there to people who might be interested in the movie, whether or not you like it yourself.

My bottom line is: I would have lived my whole life and died perhaps without ever having heard of any of those movies. So would the handful of friends and family I've showed them to. And that disturbs me. It makes me think that the comprehensive knowledge that the internet is supposed to provide about movies was one big lie. But it shouldn't be a lie. It should be true. Part of a critic's job is straight journalism. If these crazy, off the wall movies exist, just tell me about them. Don't even tell me whether they're good or bad. I just want to know that they exist. And as an avid movie watcher, I feel that I have a right to that.

I'll continue to defend White of course, but frankly, at the end of the day...I would honestly take recommendations from the devil himself if it meant the possibility of seeing a great movie I didn't know about yet. Of course I don't agree with or care about everything he recommends. He overstates David Lean and Spielberg a bit, sure. And there are some that just don't interest me: Mike Leigh, Jan Troell, PJ Hogan, some of the later Bertolucci and Boorman stuff...just not my thing.

But somebody has to stick up for these perspectives. Why wait for some genre scholar to excavate them 30 years from now?


Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:47 am
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
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And, make no mistake, it is far easier to write Big Point-Making Stuff than it is to write unvarnished criticism that stems ineluctably from one's own instinctive response to a movie.


It's far easier to repeat what the consensus has deemed correct than it is to do either.

Quote:
Ebert spent four decades rigorously adhering to a policy of honesty with his readers


There were many times when I felt he was being quite dishonest. But that's beside the point really. The point is, I want to know what's out there. I already knew about Gravity. I don't need Berardinelli to tell me something I already know. What I really ask of a critic is to tell me something I DON'T know.


Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:50 am
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
MGamesCook wrote:
It's far easier to repeat what the consensus has deemed correct than it is to do either.

A non-sequitur response, since, as far as I know, this allegation is not even on the table.

As for telling you something you don't know, how about this: dogs can't look up. There are five lights. If you keep making that face, it will stick. You've always been the caretaker. We've always been at war with Eurasia.

If all you care about is that it's something you didn't know, with the only proviso being that it does not fall in line with what other people believe and irrespective of whether or not the person telling you is being honest, then I've just provided you with a treasure trove of knowledge.

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Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:02 am
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
I'm just talking about the existence of movies. That's it. If Steven Seagal movies are crap, I want to KNOW they're crap. But I want to know they exist and I want to know what they are.

Quote:
A non-sequitur response, since, as far as I know, this allegation is not even on the table.


Well, for a more direct response then, I disagree. I think the big picture things are harder to touch upon. It's a lot easier to spit out words like "three stars out of four" than it is to describe the difference between termite art and white elephant art, or the divides between classicism, realism, formalism.

But those are things I learned about outside of White. He's never written about them. He's never written about Anthony Mann, my favorite director, and neither did Pauline Kael. But Sarris did and Farber did, so reading them paid off as well. My philosophy: read everything and everybody, leave no stone unturned. Look for the hidden gems. Say something that hasn't been said. Your opinion may be genuine, but if it's already appeared 300 times on rottentomatoes, another 2000 on imdb, then it's just another drop in the ocean. Drops in the ocean don't interest me, however honest.


Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:18 am
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
But that wasn't the point.

I'd say most of us on here have opinions beyond the Rotten Tomatoes aggrometer.

The beef with White isn't that he's too deep, or even too contrarian. It's that his reviews seem, to a larger extent, reject reality and conform only to a highly abstract and (often even on its own terms) logically incoherent formula.

Let's look at objective reality, you have to question the motives of someone who thinks say, Jonah Hex is better than True Grit.

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Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:29 am
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
MGamesCook wrote:

Quote:
Ebert spent four decades rigorously adhering to a policy of honesty with his readers


There were many times when I felt he was being quite dishonest.


When exactly?

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Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:51 am
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
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you have to question the motives of someone who thinks say, Jonah Hex is better than True Grit.


With opinions like that, he is trying to provoke you to an extent. But I don't see what's wrong with being a provocateur. Many of the more interesting filmmakers are provocateurs themselves. They want a response. Not a positive one, necessarily, just a response. Really I think you have to try to understand this mentality on a deeper level than words like troll or contrarian or rabble-rouser. These words from Zack Snyder reflect what I'm trying to say:

Quote:
For me, a good movie has a pokey feel, and its surface has sharp edges. It’s hard to hold in your hand, but fascinating to look at. The ‘Hollywood committee,’ on the other hand, is always trying to get rid of those edges, to make it softer, lighter, more palatable. Those movies are easier to sit through and accept but once the lights come on you’ve forgotten all about it. It winds up not moving you, and the experience doesn’t stay. The best movies are the ones that cut you a little.


Perhaps the best reviews are also the ones that cut you a little. Part of the reality White rejects is not only technical and artistic, but also social am I right? Part of what he's violating is a social status quo. He's not a rabble-rouser even so much as a party-pooper. See for example how his most provocative opinion to date was a dismissal of Toy Story 3. How dare he poop on the party of my generation, who grew up with Toy Story. I think the attacks against White are not so different from the attacks on George Lucas in 1999 for ruining peoples' childhood.

The internet has done some great things for movies and some bad things. One of the bad things is that it threatens to make it too much into a social medium and a measurement of social sanity. In my experience, social circles hate, despise, loathe provocateurs. They dislike anyone who openly challenges them. I've grown up watching people force themselves to laugh about things they don't really find funny, just because they're so terrified of negativity.


Tue Oct 29, 2013 5:52 pm
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
My thoughts on contrarian critics have changed recently. I used to bash them just as much as most of us do, but then I got to thinking, you know, if a tiny percentage of people dislike universally liked movies like Toy Story 3, so what? They still have truckloads of support from the film-lover community. This is why hardly anything gets 100% on RT. Nobody's perfect.

I think there's at least a little insecurity within all of us (some more than others) that starts to wonder, "wait a minute.... what if the movie I loved so much really isn't that great after all?" whenever a loud voice rings in opposition.

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Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:46 pm
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
KWRoss wrote:
My thoughts on contrarian critics have changed recently. I used to bash them just as much as most of us do, but then I got to thinking, you know, if a tiny percentage of people dislike universally liked movies like Toy Story 3, so what? They still have truckloads of support from the film-lover community. This is why hardly anything gets 100% on RT. Nobody's perfect.

I think there's at least a little insecurity within all of us (some more than others) that starts to wonder, "wait a minute.... what if the movie I loved so much really isn't that great after all?" whenever a loud voice rings in opposition.


Guilty. My insecurity manifests itself in a fear that people will, somehow, scrutinize my list and say "YOU gave THIS FOUR stars?" and I'll be like "I know, I know, I was so wrong! It's not that good!"

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Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:54 pm
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Post Re: Nothugh's 'Armond White Challenge'
KWRoss wrote:
My thoughts on contrarian critics have changed recently. I used to bash them just as much as most of us do, but then I got to thinking, you know, if a tiny percentage of people dislike universally liked movies like Toy Story 3, so what? They still have truckloads of support from the film-lover community. This is why hardly anything gets 100% on RT. Nobody's perfect.

I think there's at least a little insecurity within all of us (some more than others) that starts to wonder, "wait a minute.... what if the movie I loved so much really isn't that great after all?" whenever a loud voice rings in opposition.


Good post. I appreciate this. Insecurity about which opinions you put out there should be pretty normal I think. The one thing no one can take away from anyone else and that is which movies you choose to watch and how often. For me, repeat viewings is what it's all about. A movie that doesn't hold up to repeat viewings just isn't a good movie. That's the mentality I come from. Whenever I speak with real life friends about movies we both find overrated, their mentality is almost always the same. Not "it sucked the first time" but rather, "it just doesn't hold up."


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