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August 20, 2009: "Black and White" 
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Post August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
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Thu Aug 20, 2009 10:01 pm
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Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
Why do you hate vampires?


Thu Aug 20, 2009 10:09 pm
Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
Ebert discrediting an article which implicitly attributes his success to the decay of criticism is not necessarily evidence of anything. Pauline Kael's refute would be far more powerful.


I like the way Armond White writes, and he has more than a few points about the state of film criticism. Is it possible that even educated, thoughtful films inspire the same moral ambiguity that blockbusters breed? Do film critics shape the public, and if so, have they failed? Where does the problem stem? Was Roger Ebert's methods of popularizing the critic in hindsight an intellectual property loss in the field of criticism (with few exceptions)? I'm not going to agree, or disagree. But these questions deserve to be asked, and meditated upon.


Thu Aug 20, 2009 10:29 pm
Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
According to his Serenity review James has not seen Buffy or Angel, but I would be curious to see what he thinks of those. Though honestly they aren't really "vampire" shows. They are much more about the human condition than vampires.


Thu Aug 20, 2009 11:49 pm
Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
Things are definitely not black and white here. I’ve seen the comments Armond White gets on Rotten Tomatoes. Some are pretty scary: they include death threats, racially tinged comments, personal insults, you name and it’s probably there. No doubt the internet is wonderfully conductive to this type of anonymous bullying, but a little heat goes a long way, and the sheer level of that vitriol has long since become appalling.

But like James mentions in this reelthought, White is part of the problem. He seems to invite this kind of attention. He’s half a good writer: his prose style is excellent; his reviews are entertaining; and if there’s a wittier film critic around, then I haven’t read him or her. That he’s controversial should be neither here nor there; all bald opinions are basically equal to one another. The problem is that he’s controversial in a deliberately inflammatory way. He makes very strong statements and then doesn’t put much effort behind persuading the reader about the validity of his point of view. Personally, I wish he’d spend more time supporting his points about cinema and, say, less time making personal attacks on filmmakers. By the same token, I find it pretty remarkable and very sad that people would care enough about what he writes to lobby for him to be fired from the periodical he writes for. If James is right, and that one of his goals is to provoke discussion, then he’s certainly doing a good job. I only wish it was a different kind of discussion.


Fri Aug 21, 2009 12:47 am
Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
I love Army, or rather, I love the shitstorms he creates on Rotten Tomatoes with his positive reviews of the G.I. Joes and negative reviews of the District 9s of the world. His smugness is irritating though, he definitely has that old-school New York City elitist critic vibe about him in his reviews. He has a strong tendency to make brash and bold statements and opinions with little explanation, just kind of like "yeah i hate this, I don't need a reason so you don't get one." However, this smugness is what makes him perfect for the internet, and for Generation-Y readers in general.


Fri Aug 21, 2009 12:52 am
Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
Find him disagreeable, so I don't read him.

Wonderful and balanced commentary on what's quickly becoming a rather hollow saga, James - cheers!


Fri Aug 21, 2009 5:14 am
Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
Well, I read the piece that James linked to. To me, White's approach to movies is that they be embraced by the general public (ie. don't knock John Q for it's traditional views). So he is pretty much against elitism. That elitism can be from the industry or the film critics' "liberalness" getting in the way.


Fri Aug 21, 2009 7:03 am
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Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
I'll admit I've never heard of this guy, but I'll read a couple of his articles this weekend just to find out what the hoopla is all about. Regardless, kudos to JB for standing up for the right of anyone to have a minority opinion.


Fri Aug 21, 2009 8:02 am
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Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
Regarding the statement by White about Ebert: Isn't it interesting that Ebert wrote a blog entry "in defence of Armond White" first and later changed it and came to the conclusion that White was a troll? Of course, Ebert claims to having changed it after he had read some more reviews by White, but I am wondering whether White's remark about a statement by Pauline Kael regarding the quality of Roger Ebert's criticism was the tipping point. Ebert sometimes comes across as rather prissy.


Fri Aug 21, 2009 8:10 am
Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
Unke wrote:
Regarding the statement by White about Ebert: Isn't it interesting that Ebert wrote a blog entry "in defence of Armond White" first and later changed it and came to the conclusion that White was a troll? Of course, Ebert claims to having changed it after he had read some more reviews by White, but I am wondering whether White's remark about a statement by Pauline Kael regarding the quality of Roger Ebert's criticism was the tipping point. Ebert sometimes comes across as rather prissy.


With considerations to timing, I would contend that it is a personal blog like you have, but the rest of the article following the opening paragraph gives equal weight to Mr. White's positive attributes. If he has overwhelmingly negative feelings about the Pauline Kael 'quote' (which I still feel is in purgatory for now), he is keeping it quite to himself.

However, Roger Ebert swaying his opinion of a critic who goes against the film grain - and for that reason alone - is an hypocrisy. Roger Ebert, by the same token, has said, via rating, that the Nicolas Cage blockbuster 'Knowing' is a better film, with four stars, than 'A Clockwork Orange', 'Fight Club', 'Die Hard', 'Blue Velvet', 'The Usual Suspects', 'Reservoir Dogs', and 'Deliverance' - which range from 2 1/2 stars to 1 star. That's a relatively large chunk of recent film history to be disputing. If you visit an IMDB page of any of these films, you will find a thread or two proclaiming Ebert a troll for disliking those films. The idea that Ebert is offended (oh golly gosh!) that Armond White likes 'Transformers 2' over 'There Will Be Blood' to the point of being a turncoat is a little silly. My opinion of Ebert hasn't changed, for good or bad, with this small saga, but nevertheless I am slightly disappointed with how flimsy his backbone seems to be in defending another critic.


P.S. - I am saying that Ebert's stand on Armond White is ridiculous for it's motivations, not that he has bad taste in film. Ebert dislikes alot of critically acclaimed films and has championed - recently and in the past - numerous films which have been negatively received. Armond White does this as well and suddenly Ebert is compelled to use the term 'troll' when describing him. This is what I find hypocritical.


Fri Aug 21, 2009 9:06 am
Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
Liberal wrote:
Well, I read the piece that James linked to. To me, White's approach to movies is that they be embraced by the general public (ie. don't knock John Q for it's traditional views). So he is pretty much against elitism. That elitism can be from the industry or the film critics' "liberalness" getting in the way.


I read this article too, and it further affirmed to me that the guy is a joke. He preaches on and on about how elitism has no place in film critcism - which is true. He then turns his nose up at the folks who don't enjoy the films he does and gives reasons as to what's wrong with them - albeit in a long-winded, sometimes eloquent manner - instead of defending the films. Sorry, but that's being an elitist. Defend a film on it's own merits. Don't resort to essentially calling people who disagree with you stupid, no matter how well-written and disguised you can make the insult.

Consider this statement he makes towards the end of the article:

Critics say nothing about movies that open up complex meaning or richer enjoyment. That’s why they disdained the beauty of The Darjeeling Limited: Wes Anderson’s confrontation with selfishness, hurt and love were too powerful, too humbling.

WHAT?!?!?! He's basically saying he's better than all other critics. No other critic could have possibly seen that in this film (which, if you read some reviews, is untrue) because all other critics are terrible. Those over-arching, broad generalizations are constantly used by this guy to put his opinions on a pedestal. That seems to me to be the definition of elitism - something he calls "one of the two worst tendencies of contemporay criticism." Those statements are the kinds of things I take issue with, and are the norm for him. His opinions on individual movies are irrelevant - he can like what he wants, and dislike what he wants. Those typical Armond White statements, however, come off as elitist and hypocritical. He loses all credibility with me.


Fri Aug 21, 2009 10:10 am
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Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
I have never heard of Armond White. It appears we have a professional film critic who does not want to join the chorus of critics who champion the critical darling movies or the hissing that critics reserve for (poorly made) commercial films. Sports writers do not have to dive into these difficult waters as an athlete like Tom Brady who wins championships clearly deserves credit, kudos, and stature. I recall a video review in Premiere magazine for the VHS release of Schlinder's List. The critic did not like the film; the only comment I remember was the film shouldn't have focused on a self-centered businessman. The review was noteworthy because the film had already won the Best Picture Oscar and was on its way to becoming a classic American film. I appreciated the critic's willingness to express his (or her) dislike for the film.


Fri Aug 21, 2009 11:17 am
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Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
I never heard of White until now, I just read a few of his reviews today, and despite his sometimes ocnfusing way of explaining things, I gotta say I like this guy, it's refreshing to have a mainstream critic who isn't afraid to champion widely hated films like Transformers 2 over critical darlings like 500 Days Of Summer.


Fri Aug 21, 2009 11:36 am
Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
I've read quite a few of White's reviews over the years, and I don't have any problem with the fact that he frequently disagrees with the critical consensus. Yeah, I love "There Will Be Blood" and "Wall-E" and "Sweeney Todd" and "Cache" (each of which appeared in my top ten in their respective year) - but I don't have any problem with someone who dislikes or hates those films. No, my main complaint with White is that what good points he has to make (and he occasionally does have some legitimate criticisms about a film) are far too often drowned in a sea of condescension and mindless non-sequiturs. He'll mention a title or director in a review of a completely unrelated work just to remind us how superior/inferior it is to the film under review, and how only "hipster nihilists" (his favorite insult) will disagree with him.

Once again, it's not that he disagrees with the majority, it's that he seems to think that everyone who disagrees with him must be deficient in some way.

Some choice White quotes:
Quote:
Most of these high-profile films insult one’s intelligence, while the year’s best movies vanish from the marketplace for lack of critical support. This tragedy is exemplified by the scary acclaim for the year’s worst: The atrocious Slumdog Millionaire and Pixar’s hideous Wall-E, the buzz-kill movie of all time. Trust no critic who endorses them.
Quote:
As for the “art” of criticism: No amount of fancy wordplay can excuse the destructive effect of praising offal like Before Sunset. (That’s not a personal attack, it’s a defense against the injury of bad criticism and poor taste.) I don’t read criticism for style (or jokes). I want information, erudition, judgment, and good taste. Too many snake-hipped word-slingers don’t know what they’re talking about—especially in this era of bloggers and pundits. That’s why a hack like Michael Mann gets canonized while a sterling pro and politically aware artist such as Walter Hill is marginalized. Let me be more blunt: I am not the least bit interested in reading the opinions of people who don’t know what they’re talking about. There, I’ve said it.
With that said, I find the Rotten Tomatoes furor to be incredibly stupid. Yeah, he disagrees with the majority a lot of the time - so what? Yeah he can be incredibly condescending - that's hardly a reason to be so vitriolic. I'm fairly confident in my opinions of the films that I like (and dislike), and I'll (somehow) get over a critic calling me a "hipster nihilist" or "dolt" or "snake-hipped wordslinger" or whatnot for having my opinion.

Plus he shares my opinion that "Vera Drake" and "Happy-Go-Lucky" (two highly acclaimed films, incidentally) were the best films of their year, so he can't be all bad.


Fri Aug 21, 2009 3:56 pm
Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
Evenflow8112 wrote:
Ebert discrediting an article which implicitly attributes his success to the decay of criticism is not necessarily evidence of anything. Pauline Kael's refute would be far more powerful.


You really think he might be lieing? So he also lied when he said "Here's an insider's story where you know the insider: She did once write me that I was writing the best film criticism in American newspapers, but that was a long time ago, in 1968, and besides. I have kept that note to myself for all of these years, but if there was ever a time to quote it, that time is now."

Give me a break evenflow.


Fri Aug 21, 2009 4:53 pm
Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
Unke wrote:
Regarding the statement by White about Ebert: Isn't it interesting that Ebert wrote a blog entry "in defence of Armond White" first and later changed it and came to the conclusion that White was a troll? Of course, Ebert claims to having changed it after he had read some more reviews by White, but I am wondering whether White's remark about a statement by Pauline Kael regarding the quality of Roger Ebert's criticism was the tipping point. Ebert sometimes comes across as rather prissy.


Well put. The "evidence" he used to change his opinion wasn't exactly damning.

Another thing: I've never been Ebert's #1 fan, but I think it's classy the way he replied to so many of the comments on his blog. He clearly values his readers.

Also I must commend him for writing the following:

I have never confused myself with the truly great critics, a mistake Armond White sometimes makes.


Fri Aug 21, 2009 5:12 pm
Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
Jim85 wrote:
Evenflow8112 wrote:
Ebert discrediting an article which implicitly attributes his success to the decay of criticism is not necessarily evidence of anything. Pauline Kael's refute would be far more powerful.


You really think he might be lieing? So he also lied when he said "Here's an insider's story where you know the insider: She did once write me that I was writing the best film criticism in American newspapers, but that was a long time ago, in 1968, and besides. I have kept that note to myself for all of these years, but if there was ever a time to quote it, that time is now."

Give me a break evenflow.



It's entirely possible. There's no way to be sure what she said to him or whether Ebert used the refute to discredit Mr. White other than one person's input. Did things change from 1968 to that point in time in terms of Kael and Ebert's professional relationship? Did Ebert's stature as celebrity engender sparks of bitterness? I'm not trying to dig up dirt on Ebert, but to accept his answer at face value without any kind of evidence to the contrary and then use it to disprove another argument would be a practice that even Ebert might have issues with. It's a brittle point.

I'm not necessarily saying Ebert lied, but the suggestion that he made an embellishment can exist quite comfortably. I'm also saying, much more simply, that using Ebert's denying of the report as evidence of it's falsehood when the other person in question on the other end of the conversation is dead could be construed as dubious. It's an inescapably circumstantial criticism.


Fri Aug 21, 2009 5:13 pm
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Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
The article of white's that JB links to confuses me in its intent: he blames Ebert for dumbing down American film criticism (I wonder why Siskel gets a pass) and then rails against elitism. So...he doesn't like the elitists or the middlebrow critics? Then who does he like?

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Fri Aug 21, 2009 5:15 pm
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Post Re: August 20, 2009: "Black and White"
However, Roger Ebert swaying his opinion of a critic who goes against the film grain - and for that reason alone - is an hypocrisy. Roger Ebert, by the same token, has said, via rating, that the Nicolas Cage blockbuster 'Knowing' is a better film, with four stars, than 'A Clockwork Orange', 'Fight Club', 'Die Hard', 'Blue Velvet', 'The Usual Suspects', 'Reservoir Dogs', and 'Deliverance' - which range from 2 1/2 stars to 1 star. That's a relatively large chunk of recent film history to be disputing. If you visit an IMDB page of any of these films, you will find a thread or two proclaiming Ebert a troll for disliking those films. The idea that Ebert is offended (oh golly gosh!) that Armond White likes 'Transformers 2' over 'There Will Be Blood' to the point of being a turncoat is a little silly. My opinion of Ebert hasn't changed, for good or bad, with this small saga, but nevertheless I am slightly disappointed with how flimsy his backbone seems to be in defending another critic.

Not the Mr. Ebert needs me to come to his defense, but here I go anyways...Your point is well taken, but I don't think it is really fair. With the exception of Blue Velvet and, arguably, Usual Suspects, Ebert didn't really eviscerate the films you listed. They just didnt get glowing reviews that they largely received from other critics. I admit, I havent read all the reviews that Mr. White has given the films on the flow chart that Ebert referenced, but my understanding is Mr. White is quite clear in his disdain of said films.

Besides, all critics have their examples of their opinion differing from the norm. This is to be expected, especially when a critic has been around as long as Ebert has. The listed films cover about three decades. However, the films in that flowchart are mainly from the past 3 years or so. To compare Ebert's "troll-like" tendencies to White's is rather ridiculous. Look at that chart! If you knew nothing about this person except his feelings on these films, would you really take anything this person had to say concerning movies seriously? Seriously?


Fri Aug 21, 2009 5:20 pm
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