Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Armond White, a Worthless Idiot


Dude is sixty and wearing a ringer tee. Someone get Jim Jones on the line to record a diss track.

I don't even know if any of the ten people who read me care about movies, but I read White's review of that new "watch Brad digitally age backwards for three hours" flick and I had to comment on what a dangerous moron White is. Let me say that White occasionally is right about some things that most critics aren't because, after all, he shits on anything that (a) isn't some retarded fart jokes comedy or (b) isn't directed by Steven Spielberg. So, for instance, he got American Gangster, Million Dollar Baby, There Will Be Blood (all bad, bad movies) right, if only by accident, and for this reason, some people of good taste take him seriously. Unfortunately, White (a) shits on some really great stuff too, (b) likes some very bad stuff, (c) can't write, and (d) is a total retard.

Take White's review of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the Brad movie. Naturally, White hates it, because it (a) isn't a fart jokes comedy, and (b) wasn't directed by Steven Spielberg. Now I haven't even seen The Curious Case yet, it won't be out till Christmas, but do these sound like good reasons to hate on a movie to you?

1. "If Fincher [the director] was a socially responsive director," he wouldn't have even made this movie, he would've made another one. Specifically, instead of adapting the F. Scott Fitzie story that he did adapt, he would've adapted some other Fitzie story "appropriate to satirizing... materialism" through which "Fincher could have addressed contemporary economic/class divisions." But instead because he's a "technocrat fanboy" [does that even mean anything], he chose this material. So Armond's problem is that he didn't make a movie about class divisions and made a completely different movie instead. This is like saying that the problem with Jurassic Park is that Spielberg adapted Crichton's book about dinosaurs when he could've adapted this other one Crichton wrote about the dangers of illegalizing abortion. Seriously, if White wasn't so much on Spielberg's dick that he said the Jurassic Park sequel was the 7th best movie of 1997 (and Amistad, arguably a travesty of even greater proportions, was 1st), his Jurassic Park review might well have read "Jurassic Park: should have been about abortion."

2. It lacks "social or spiritual significance," "a philosophy about living and dying," and Fitzgerald's "ideas about society and ambition." It's hard to say what's dumber about these criticisms, the criticisms themselves or the braindead prose in which they're expressed ("ideas about society," hello). Apparently, a movie needs social significance and a philosophy about living and dying to pass muster with White. Or, of course, it can just really really suck like You Got Served, which White once said "expressed the sexual and political energy of a not-yet-calcified culture." Like, I agree that there's no great need to shit on movies made for teenage girls by people with the intellect of teenage girls, I'm sure there are lots of morbidly obese girls across the nation for whom masturbating to Omarion in that movie is their only form of sexual release, so at least it's doing some social good and shit, but at least admit that the thing was an insanely poorly written, acted, and directed movie. Don't B.S. me with "sexual and political energy" and then complain that a movie that's no doubt a thousand times smarter lacks a philosophy about living and dying.

3. "Pitt never ages into the sex god you expect. No homo." Oh wait, actually he forgot the no homo. Seriously, the interesting thing about Brad is that he doesn't play sex god characters, he plays blank colorless ones. Sort of like a Rock Hudson. Why White would prefer that the guy play to type, instead of, perhaps, playing a guy who's embarrassed or somewhat confounded by his looks, I don't know. Surely the latter's more interesting, right? Isn't that exactly why all the Paul Newman obits praised his late over his early work?

4. Too many "technological set piece[s]". Too much "process," which White bizarrely derides as "Fincher speaking in fanboy code." Yes, to all the little nerdy process-loving fanboys! See, Armond, process is a good thing. Brilliant technological set pieces are a big part of the reason why Lang's M was the first classic sound film ever made (and possibly still to this day the single best sound film ever made), or why Hitchcock was a great director or why the ending of The Usual Suspects is justly celebrated, etc. Technical facility's a big part of cinema. I would think a Spielberg fanboy would realize that.

5. Brad Pitt is "socially responsive," so he had Fincher fill the movie with Katrina references and supporting black roles... but they're not enough for Armond, who would prefer it if the blacks in the movie had "wakened [Brad's character's] awareness of Jim Crow." So let's get this straight. The movie would be better if it contained some no doubt completely extraneous scenes where Brad got all hot and bothered about segregation. Just what we need. More scenes in back-to-the-50s movies where characters conveniently and randomly start spouting liberal sentiments about race and gender. Isn't it a little more real to portray a Southerner who, while not being a bigot, didn't really care about segregation? Like what's better, an honest depiction of 50s New Orleans, or teaching the audience a moral lesson about the Evil of Jim Crow? Do we really even need to be reminded at this date that Jim Crow was wrong, and even if we do, doesn't a sympathetic character's not caring about it arguably do that better than his reciting some force-fed anachronistic speech about how bad it was? I also like how social responsiveness = black people.

6. Cate Blanchett, the female lead, is "unmagical," "heavy and graceless," a "deadweight art-movie icon," and "the perfect embodiment of Fincher's pretenses." Translation: White did not jack off to Cate after the advance screening the other night. Seriously, Armond's complaint here is that Cate isn't hot enough to play an "enchantress." What about the fact that she's a lot more interesting than virtually any really hot actress in Hollywood (although Theron has her moments), and that, also unlike any hot actress in Hollywood, she can act? And, can do a convincing Southern belle, which after all is what the role is? Doesn't all that count for something? Something tells me that Armond would actually like this movie better if it were directed by Chris Stokes and Meagan Good co-starred. That way you'd get a legit enchantress female lead (fuck whether she can act or anything), some way less "pretentious"/"technocrat fanboy" direction (read 'good'), AND, best of all, you've got the social responsiveness! Brad rejects Jim Crow by personally stepping over the color line - with Meagan Good! Plus, way hotter sex scenes for Armond to whack off to! Yeah, Armond's pretty stupid. I just hope that he isn't hiding something and I didn't just shit on an Alzheimer's patient. That wouldn't be very nice.

10 comments:

Jesus Shuttlesworth said...

The Lost World was on tv a couple days ago. every five minutes, i turned to my roommates and said "what the hell just happened?" it's one of the worst movies i have ever sat through. i've never seen Amistad, but having viewed the trailer, i know it would just piss me off. give us us break.

Specifically, instead of adapting the F. Scott Fitzie story that he did adapt, he would've adapted some other Fitzie story "appropriate to satirizing... materialism" through which "Fincher could have addressed contemporary economic/class divisions."

i'm not really concerned with whether Fincher was successful or not, but didn't he attempt to do that with Fight Club?

the quote from point #3 is maybe the dumbest thing ever. great post

Jordan said...

I'm still confused by what people find so interesting about Cate Blanchett. Is it a fetish for extreme whiteness? Not like there are other contemporary actresses that are especially interesting, but what's so special about her?

Anyway, I agree with points a, b and sometimes c at the end of the first paragraph but still find White worth reading (and so do you, unless it's just to prove your oh-so-controversial point that Armond White is full of shit sometimes) Anyway, the point of all the criticizing of the film's social message is that it's a movie with pretenses about saying something about the last century and living and dying, but actually doesn't say shit, so White calls it out. Not having seen the movie, I can't argue whether this is legit or not, but in theory, it's perfectly valid.

I believe Armond is homo. Anyway, I don't see what's so interesting about the blank characters Brad Pitt has been playing. Critics doing obits are weird. Fast Eddie Felson from The Hustler is as interesting a character as has ever been on film, and part of the reason is his attractiveness. Same with Brando in Streetcar or On The Waterfront. Don't front like Brad Pitt gives a more interesting performance in Babel than any of those. Actually Pitt strikes me more like Richard Gere, where after the Days of Heaven/American Gigalo era, he became blandly handsome and lost the only thing that was vaguely interesting about him.

Your concern about realism seems pretty dumb to me when the whole thing is supposed to be century-encompassing epic fantasy about a dude who ages backwards. The history of America, especially over the last hundred years, is a story of race and gender and Fincher is attempting to tell the story of a century of America while bypassing the important stuff. Whether a version with Megan Good would be better is debatable, but it would be a whole lot trickier to make and would have to delve into issues that this movie can conveniently ignore.

Jordan said...

Also I can't believe you forgot to bring up Armond calling Little Man a Tour De Force! That was the best part.

Jesus Shuttlesworth said...

Fast Eddie Felson from The Hustler is as interesting a character as has ever been on film, and part of the reason is his attractiveness. Same with Brando in Streetcar or On The Waterfront. Don't front like Brad Pitt gives a more interesting performance in Babel than any of those.

well, yeah that's totally true, but the comparison only works when you compare each actor's later to previous work. in that regard, brad pitt in babel is better than him in (just as an example) cool world.

yea, cate blanchett is way, way too pale and i've really never seen her appeal.

The history of America, especially over the last hundred years, is a story of race and gender and Fincher is attempting to tell the story of a century of America while bypassing the important stuff.


but, if some of those issues are addressed in the casting and where the story takes place, isn't that implicitly looking at those important aspects of american life? i don't know if i articulated that as well as i would like, but whatever.

Jordan said...

Yeah, ok that was a specious comparison, I still don't think Newman or Brando ever surpassed their early roles or become more interesting with age, at their best they equaled their great young roles later. (Also those roles set context for later stuff, The Verdict wouldn't work as well if Newman hadn't made The Hustler) By contrast, the only movie where Pitt doesn't completely bore me is Fight Club, where his looks are used to have him play the pinnacle of manliness. His performance in Babel is fine, but it isn't interesting or captivating in the same way or really at all. (Although I should see that Jesse James movie, that could change my opinion slightly.) Still the idea that sex symbols cast as sex symbols are inherently less interesting just rings false with me.

but, if some of those issues are addressed in the casting and where the story takes place, isn't that implicitly looking at those important aspects of american life?

That one's tough, and probably not really answerable without seeing the movie. In a movie like 'Being There' (which is kinda like Forest Gump except without the sentimentality or anyone realizing that he's retarded) there is a point to the use of peripheral black characters in a fucked up city-it implies that the protagonist's rise is at least partially a product of white male privilege. I have a tough time thinking of other examples where this is the case though, and until I see it in action, I'm hesitant to give the director credit for just throwing in a few black characters in the mid-century south.

brandon said...

The thing is Little Man is a tour-de-force. Any of you dopes actually watch it??

tray said...

Jordan, are you sure that it's a movie with pretenses of saying something about the last century? Like, why can't Fincher decide, "I'm going to set a movie that takes place over the course of the last century, unlike a P.T. Anderson I'm more interested in my actual characters than relaying the audience some stupid message like 'Big Oil: BAD' or 'Evangelical Religion: ALSO BAD' or 'Jim Crow: BAD' or 'Civil Rights: VERY VERY GOOD,' so I'm just going to make my movie that happens to take place over the course of the past century, and the past century will do nothing more than add some color to the film, like a sort of time-traveling travelogue"? Is there something wrong with that, per se, and do we know that that's not the idea? Like take Zodiac, I wouldn't necessarily say that anything in particular was said about the 70s there, but everyone who lived through them and saw the movie says he nailed what the 70s felt like, and I think that's quite enough of an achievement, just to represent one era to the moviegoers of another.

Pitt and blank characters - you know, I didn't even see Babel, I hate Inarritu way too much to even take a look at anything he does. 21 Grams was punishment enough. That said, in the same way that it's somewhat interesting that Rock in Sirk movies is this blank, passive cipher, even when he's supposed to be incredibly attractive, I'll take blank Brad over relishing his good looks Brad. Especially given the premise of the movie, this is a guy who's born a little ugly old man and then becomes Brad Pitt. Wouldn't you feel befuddled by your looks more than anything in that situation, and isn't that perhaps the idea of casting Brad, to emphasize the pure happenstance of freakishly good looks? And no, I really don't think Armond's worth reading. I know what he's going to say before he says it, I know whatever reasons he gives for what he says will be bad ones, and even when he gets something right - for ex., I'm sure he's right about Slumdog Millionaire - it's always for the wrong reasons. And I can't take a guy who's so wrong about absolutely everything. How could a film critic not like Army of Shadows? And give the totally bullshit reason that people just liked it because they were seeking the moral clarity of WWII? The moral clarity? The whole point of the film was the moral ambiguity of something so seemingly moral clear as the French Resistance. Did he miss when they kill Simone Signoret (who over the course of the movie saves everybody's lives) at the end so that she won't turn them all in so as to save her daughter from getting installed in a Nazi brothel? Totally morally clear situation!

As, brandon, for Little Man, I didn't say anything about it because I would never see it. Obviously I have my doubts but that wouldn't be fair. Though I have seen You Got Served and I'm not seeing the political energy there. And Amistad is point-blank a bad movie. It's kind of an index of how poor a director Spielberg is in a certain sense that, in the mid 90s, he attempts to make the Definitive Middle Passage Movie and the Definitive Holocaust Movie and comes so desperately, flailingly short. Both the fact that he failed miserably, but also, just the hubris and stupidity of trying.

tray said...

Oh, and about realism, I'm not saying that the Meagan Good story wouldn't be real, I'm just saying that, for all the 50s movies made in the past 10-15 years, there are way too many where some character has this big realization moment and realizes that segregation is wrong, or that the whole Leave It To Beaver family structure represses mothers, or flouts sexual conventions. Obviously there were dissenting voices in the 50s, but not that many, and I don't see why we have to be reminded for the millionth time which side won the Sexual Revolution. And to me, if these issues still are so damn relevant that any 50s movie must deal with them, I think it is more compelling to have a sympathetic character played by Brad who's oblivious to how wrong everything going on around him is than to have him wake up and realize that Jim Crow's wrong, just as, like, Valkyrie would be a more effective anti-Nazi film if Cruise played a Nazi instead of playing the guy trying to blow up Hitler.

tray said...

And lastly, Newman is pretty good in The Hustler, but, to my way of thinking, (a) Gleason steals the whole movie, (b) Newman wasn't too good in anything else early. I know because back at school the ex Netflixed every early movie he did after he died and I was stunned by how bad he is in most. The obituaries were really too kind. It's like early Brando if Brando hadn't been able to act and lacked charisma. In Hud, he saunters around in a stupid-looking cowboy hat, makes some laconic remarks in a fake Southern accent, and looks good. And that's probably an early Newman highlight. Most boring southern playboy movie ever.

Jason said...

White reeks of insincerity. If I ever read another review about how Jason Statham is some kinda acting God I'm send envelope of puke to the guy. And yes, I have seen 3 Statham movies, all of the retarted as fuck. White isn't a moron to me, he's a smart guy yet he profoundly insincere and writes what he does just to gain notoriety