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Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Return Of The Crazy Critic....

Okay, so there is a term that I came up with called "Obamatized", a play on words from a condition women sometimes have called being d*ckmatized. You see, after Obama was elected, folks got all infatuated and/or caught up and started throwing Black folks out there left and right, sometimes with epic "FAIL" results. Take ineffective goofball Republican Chairman Michael Steele for instance, or adulterer and head of Citigroup Dick Parsons. 10 years ago, a Black man in either one of these positions would have been as unthinkable as Obama being president. Just like this this dude being the president of the New York Film Critics Circle, at one time arguably the most powerful and influential critic organization on the planet, was unthinkable, and probably should have remained so.

My blog homie, pop culture writer Micheal A. Gonzales (do yourself a favor and check him out HERE) sent me an article from NY Magazine* on the latest shenanigans of Armond White, the aforementioned head of the NY Film Critics Circle. I wrote an article on this dude a couple of years ago, which you can read on the post after this one. I was bewildered at why he just seemed to be so contentious all the time, serving no real purpose or adding anything to the world of cinema except for his dissension.

There are those that just seem to have received zero love as a baby and child, and spend the rest of their lives trying to get it back through attention whoring or "look at me!" my opinion, Armond White seems to be one of them. How else do you explain these oddities taken from the article?

"In the category of $100 million–budget comic-book action-adventure films, White declared the “genre expertise” displayed by his great hero Steven Spielberg in the criminally ignored Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was “better than” the overpraised “dunglike banality” of Iron Man."

And this:

"White’s assertion that the “kinetic art” to be found in assumedly schlocky Transporter 3 was “better than” that favorite of “impressionable teenagers,” The Dark Knight and also said this of The Dark Knight: [it] “fabricates disaster simply to tease millennial death wish and psychosis.”"" (from IW-what the eff does that even mean?)

After the Dark Knight opine he was raked over the coals:

"This opinion generated a mini-firestorm of hate mail on Rotten Tomatoes, the widely skimmed Internet movie-review site currently featuring a forum titled “Armond White of the New York Press May Be the Worst Film Critic Ever.” Among the more than 300 postings—for other critics, two comments is a groundswell—White was described as “sad,” “crotchety,” a peddler of “Cold War platitudes,” a hater of the common people, a “Christian boy,” an abuser of affirmative action, and a mindless typist".

He also trashed "The Wrestler" only one of four major critics to do so. Everyone, especially a critic, is entitled to express their opinion, but from what I have seen, Armond White continuously goes against the grain, again and again, and his views and explanations don't seem to carry much weight. It seems that he does it for attention, and not because it's really what he holds in his heart. It all seems very disingenuous.

White says, “I don’t say these things to call attention to myself or to get a rise out of people. I say them because I believe them. We’re living in times when critics get fired if they don’t like enough movies. People don’t need to hear what mouthpieces for the movie industry tell them. They need to hear the truth.”

That may be true, but why are his "truths" always so different from absolutely everyone's, in addition to being extremely negative? Consider this:

"At the City Sun, the borderline-radical black weekly where he regularly slammed Spike Lee’s movies, referring to Clockers as “40 acres and a bunch of bull.”"

Or this head scratcher:

"White took a similarly purist stand when he railed against critics lobbying for free DVD screeners. “This is about the aesthetics of film reviewing,” he says. “We are obligated to see movies the way the public has to see them. If not, then become a DVD reviewer, don’t become a film critic.” Asking for product from the movie companies is a compromise of journalistic integrity, White says, declaring “the New York critics have been corrupted.”"

Or this quote:

In a post called “White Noise,” [Glenn] Kenny wrote, “White’s known for spewing bile at his peers in print, and then turning around and being quite affable to said peers in person—I’ve experienced it. And I’ve had it. So: Screw you, Armond.”

Or this bit of wisdom from White:

"The “comically humane” films of Wes Anderson, maker of Rushmore, are infinitely “better than” the “toothless Robert Altman gumming” of Paul Thomas Anderson, whose There Will Be Blood is a “symptom of everything wrong with the American experience.”

Or this:

"It is in this way that White can confidently tell you a film like Blade Runner is “effective for about fifteen minutes” and probably should have never been made, because there was no way it was ever going to surpass Fritz Lang’s Metropolis as a dystopic vision of the future. "


If Mr. White is married, or even has a pet I would be very surprised. What I am not surprised to find out, however, is that is he the youngest of seven children. Make of that what you will.



Lenox Ave said...

I always thought that dude was a crack pot. He was amusing for about 5 minutes, then I concluded he must be crazy. Contrarians have their place, but he's just off the charts with his "musings."

Sergio said...

Believe it or not there was a time long, long ago when White really was a good critic, but those days are long gone. I've tried to figure out what the deal with him was and the only answer I could come up with, (and this may be a far fetched notion at best), is that White is racked with a self conscious fear about being a black film critic.

Granted there aren't many of us around. Film criticism, is basically a white (yes, nerdy) thing. I go to film screenings all the time and there's only me and, by the way, only one woman critic. And all the years I've been doing it there's been only me. And usually the few black film critics that are around like that cheezing grinning "quote whore" Shawn Edwards who's never seen a film he didn't like (especially a black one no matter how awful)and whose knowledge of films doesn't extend beyond The Empire Strike Back just to see his quote in the ads for the film.

White is desparate to show that just because he's black no film, especilly a black film, gets a pass from him and that he's worthy to be sitting in a screening room filled with white critics. He's so deperate in fact that he goes towards the other extreme. If everyone loves a film he hates it, because, you see, he wants to show that even though he's black he's intellectually superior to everyone else. If all critics hate the film he'll defend it, like he does with Tyler Perry movies, because everyone else is too stupid to see the brillance of his films that only someone of his superior intellect can see.

And of course it goes without saying that White ain't getting any pussy and probably hasn't in a very very very very long time. I mean ladies...would YOU want to deal with him?

But, despite being long winded, let's go the the earlier point I made. Where are the female and black film critics? And I mean the serious, knowledgable ones not cooning "quote whores" like Edwards? In regards to women I agree with what Camille Pagula said when she was asked once why aren't any great female classical music composers. She said for the same reason why there aren't many female serial killers. The reason is because in order to be really good at something you have to be OBSESSED about it like how serial killers are obsessed about killing. It has to completely take over your life. We get obsessed over things. It's our nature. We get obessesed about sports, guns, cars, porn (OOPS...sorry I was thinking about ME) Women don't get obsessed about things like men do, unless as Pagula says, it about marriage and kids. To be a good serious film critic you need to be obsessed about movies. Every time I'm in the screening room and talking to the other critcs beofre the film begins we talk about movies. Not just what came out last week but MOVIES, from every period of every genre. We talk can about some of the most obscure movies you're never heard of made 60 or 70 years ago. Why? Because were obsessed insane about movies and we've seen them ALL.

As for the lack of black film critics. it can't be the lack of obssession. Men, black or white, gets obsessed about all kinds of things. But I really do believe it because seriously dealing with movies as an art form and not just as entertainment is seen as a "white nerdy" thing. And to go even father (HERE IT COMES...) any sort of intellectual persuit as seen as a exclusively "white nerdy" thing. I have always held the belief that deep down inside most black people believe that they're not as smart as white people. The scret deep down self hating feeling of inferiority. That, for example, learning about movies, it's history, it's shifts in development etc., is too complicated for us to understand. So therefore no black film critics

WHEW! That's it. I'm sure I've said enough for 500 angry responses ready to kick my ass for what I've just said.

Undercover Black Man said...

And there's his pop-music writing. I never understood why he was such a staunch champion of Morrissey. Just figured he was an odd duck.

But y'all got me wanting to thumb through his book "The Resistance," which is laying around here someplace...

Black Yoda said...

I remember Armond White from a book he did on 2pac Shakur and the so-called East Coast/West Coast feud. I could see the arbitrary opposition even back then. I think he just enjoys flouting convention (which can be good) and common sense (which is usually bad). Occasionally, he'll make a good point, but there are so many baseless or bizarre points that sometimes you're not sure what (or if) he's thinking.

To Sergio: There are black critics out there. I am one of them. I think you see relatively few of us out there for the same reason you'd see few of us writing the movie scripts. It's hard to get into the field. To be more accurate, it's hard to get recognition and a salary in the field. I write for free. This translates into "too much free time" for the people I know busting their ass on a daily basis.

I don't think it's about the perception of film critique as being nerdy or white. I'm sure that perception exists for some, but I guess the same could be said for reading and writing in general. There are plenty of black people who do both, but you may not see them at Barnes & Noble. My point is there's a certain level of exclusion and guardianship that one encounters when trying to enter this field. It's even worse when you're black. And so, we often toil in relative obscurity, but it's a labor of love.

The second obstacle is access. Sometimes it's hard to see these movies. Unless you live in a city that has well known film festivals, or you live in the NY or LA area, you're pretty much out of luck. I've had to use some very "unconventional means" to see films :-) I remember wanting to review "Trouble the Water" a while back. The film had already been at Sundance the previous year. After that, it eventually opened in select theaters in NY and LA. Several Months later it opened in D.C. By the time it opened in Baltimore, the film had been watched for 2 years. I like my new films new! :-) You can't feed a tiger some meat from a bucket and think he's satisfied :-) It was a great film to watch, but it wasn't an easy film to see because it costs money to travel to a neighboring city (or even to a neighboring burrough in NYC). I've had to rely more heavily on films released online (which requires a decent internet connection that isn't free) and screener copies. That's always a gamble though. I think there are a lot of issues to deal with. I'm not ready to put all or even most of the blame for the perceived lack of Black and female critics on the backs of Blacks and women.

Sergio said...


First of all most film critics, black or white, DON'T get paid or make any kind of real decent living. It's not that white film critics are making all the money. it's none of them are. Most are struggling and have been for most of their careers. A very few hit the "big time" as it were. Just today it was announced that my fellow film critic and friend Michael Phillips film critic for the Chicago Tribune, will be one of the two new film critics along with N.Y. Times film critic A.O. Scott for the TV show At The Movies replacing the two know nothing morons that everyone despised. I couldn't be happier for him. He's great guy and he really knows his movies. But alas only a few will ever get a shot like that. (And I've been on TV with Phillips taking about movies.)

As for it being hard to get into the field. You're joking right?
You're heard of the internet right? What's stopping anyone from creating their own blog and posting their reviews? If they're really good and clever and knowledgeable they'll attract readers and advertisers and will make money and gain major notice. (as several people I know have done like Erik Childress of who's become a major player among film critics or how about Harry Knowles down in Austin Texas who created Now all the studios come to him for his blessing and he makes big money. One of the critics on his sight who goes by the name Capone (I know him very well and wonlt reveal his real name) Is making a lot of money writing for AICN and studios have fly flown him to N.Y. L.A. and even to London for press junkets) And remember we're taking about internet film critics, who have have never written for a newspaper or magazine. Sorry I'm not buying this "Oh woe is me I'se black and da white man won't let in the front door" stuff. Maybe that was true in Alabama in 1961, but this is a new day and new age.

As for having access, well if the Mohammad won't come to the mountain, then the mountain must come to Mohammad, to quote that old line. If you're really serious about becoming a film critic then you have no choice than to move to New York or LA or Chicago or wherever to get get access to films. Somebody in Montana who wants to becomes recognized has a major artist has no choice than to go to New York or Paris to be noticed. They don't sit around in Montana wishing people would come to him.

Black Yoda said...

I don't think most film critics strike it rich or can even make a living solely from their writing. But the ones that do in this country are white more times than not. The opportunities available to them are generally greater. It's no different than acting. Most actors are never going to make 10 million a film. Many will be "acting" as the struggling waiter while they try to get their big break. Does that mean the playing field is level? It's dangerously naive to think so. I'm just making an observation here. I'm not using that observation as an excuse to do nothing. Save the Bill Cosby routine for your Wall Street Journal Op Ed or a guest spot on Fox and Friends. :-)

I have heard of the internet. It's the means through which I found your comments. It's how I review many films. It's how I stay in touch with the black film reviewers that you don't seem to recognize.

"If Mohammad won't come to the mountain, then the mountain must come to Mohammad."

Maybe you should consider your own words a little more carefully. You suggest a bootstrap work ethic as if I'm somehow opposed to that. Remember, a black film critic found your comments about not being able to find people like me. Which one of us isn't putting in the work again? And given your response to what I said, I can understand why you might prefer to consider us a rare find :-). All joking aside, you would find a lot more of us if bothered to search. We may not be as visible as we would be if we were working for the Chicago Tribune or the NY Times, but we are there. If you'd like, I could recommend some good sites, but I'd rather you do your own work. Hey, maybe I agree with you after all. :-)

Wow Jones said...

For those interested, Armond White is hosting a special presentation on the music videos of Michael Jackson.

It takes place in New York City over at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center. Here's the link.

Armond White made a similar presentation in January of 2008.

Wow Jones said...


For those interested, By the way,

Armond White made a similar presentation on Michael Jackson in January 2008.

Here's a review:

Here are two clips from that presentation

(Part 1)

(Part 2)

Here's to trying to get the word out...

Wow Jones

V-Knowledge said...

I've just read that New York Magazine article on the guy. I take umbrage at this particular passage:

"White says the difference between him and other movie critics—whether they write for The New Yorker or blog by the midnight oil, a practice he decried as little more than “a hobby” in a much fulminated-against recent piece—is that “they don’t see what I see. Where I’m coming from, they couldn’t.”"

First off, how dare he decry what we bloggers do as a mere "hobby". So even though Invisible Woman, myself, and many others with a passion for film and writing do what he does (with little to no financial gain, to boot), we are just wasting our precious time in his opinion. How quaint. I'll wager that we can't see where he is coming from because none of us could ever live with that much hate for cinema and pretentiousness in our bloodstreams.

I've read several of his reviews, and all I get from them is the image of a man who, for some reason, feels it is his duty to go against the grain of popular opinion just because he wants to prove how "different" (read: superior) he is to both his critic peers and us plebeian moviegoers.

Michael Philips, A.O. Scott, Roger Ebert - now those are film critics whose works I value. For them, film criticism isn't about gulping gallons of Haterade and pissing all over the movies that come their way. They provide sharp insight, informed opinions, and actually motivate readers to engage films beyond a surface leve;......things that Armond White has yet to do in all his years of "criticism".

Invisible Woman said...

That was an uber-fabulous comment, V-Knowledge, thanks. I think I'm gonna post it next week.