another maniacal Armond White review, this time "Fahrenheit 9/11"

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There's probably a good point or two buried in here, but who can tell?

FILM OF THE FASCIST LIBERAL
Michael Moore mistakes image for message, panders, gloats.

By Armond White


Before Quentin Tarantino and his fellow Cannes jurors passed judgment on President Bush by awarding Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 the Palme d'Or (thus inflating the film's importance), they should have queried themselves: Have they done anything in their own films to tame the arrogance of a man, a moviegoer, like Bush? Not much in the careers of American jurors Tarantino, Kathleen Turner and Jerry Schatzberg encourages audiences to think or behave politically. American cinema in the Tarantino years has pandered to violence, racism, greed and self-satisfaction. It's not impossible that the torturers at Abu Ghraib—including even Saddam Hussein's own precedent-setting torturers—were inspired by the torture scene in Reservoir Dogs. QT made sadism hip and sent it 'round the world. Now we're stuck in the middle of a global crisis for which neither he, nor Michael Moore, have an answer.

To pretend that Fahrenheit 9/11 is a work of art is disingenuous. Moore himself is part of the punditocracy that, like unscrupulous politicians, solicits trite sentiment. His exploitative title doesn't measure temperature; it disgraces that sorrowful date just to inflame liberal guilt. For Moore, guilt covers everything that stemmed from Bush's election and is only eased by blame. Moore doesn't separate the election from the terrorists' attacks or from the war on Iraq. As in Bowling for Columbine, he lines up unrelated points for a domino effect of dissatisfaction. This is not historical context; it's a harangue.

But in the Tarantino era, film folk seldom look at movies intelligently—or politically. They become dupes for the sarcastic invective Moore offers in place of argument. His supposed "coup" of Bush visiting a Florida elementary school after being informed of the first World Trade tower hit turns out a dud. Moore times Bush's visit with a digital counter but clearly we're not watching Bush wallow in playtime or indecision. It's seven minutes of the most powerful man in the world suffering. He's miserably distracted. Moore's insensitivity—certain to the point of hostility that he alone is right—amounts to liberalism with a fascist face.

The orgy of self-congratulation at Cannes proved film culture has lost the imperative of humane understanding. The lunacy was repeated stateside with local acclaim for Jehane Noujaim's specious Control Room. Apparently, the double whammy of 9/11 and the Iraq War has so rattled modern moral conscience that American self-hatred is the new documentary mode. No one required Noujaim to trace the history of Al Jazeera or examine its standard content. Her celebration of Al Jazeera (as opposition to any media representing American interests) was carelessly praised as some kind of palliative: "The number one must-see film of the summer." "An essential movie [that] not only goes through the looking glass, but turns the mirror back on us."

As Kevin Costner worried in JFK, we are indeed through the looking glass now. Political paranoia has turned critics and festival jurors into small-minded esthetes who prize their own objection to the Iraq War over their obligation to truth. Through Noujaim's ineptitude (or is she just biased?) the propagandists of Al Jazeera are defended simply to please Bush's opponents, those willing to believe that Americans are always wrong, always to blame, never to be trusted. It's unbearable to sit in a Control Room audience full of masochistic Americans lapping up the calumny.

Of course, Noujaim heroizes journalists, the most duplicitous of modern professionals, on both sides of the war. She humors the U.S. military spokesman at Centcom in Baghdad as well as the very Westernized Al Jazeera employees. Her naive suggestion that journalists are apolitical matches Moore's disregard of journalistic accountability. (That's one way to guarantee good reviews.) She cannily keeps her distance from those Al Jazeera employees who wear robes and turbans. Noujaim wants to make Arab reporters seem just like ours—an elite class—so she refrains from asking about their politics. This ruse of journalistic fairness and impartiality links Control Room to Fahrenheit: They're sham docs for gullible viewers. Both films use non-inquiring "entertainment" devices (talking heads as celebrities) at precisely the moment we should be looking at the world more seriously, delving into personal motive.

The corruption of documentary with entertainment is at the heart of Michael Moore's style—it's also his failing. Cheap, easy laughs don't constitute an argument; like pity and self-righteous anger, it all stems from simplistic outrage. His best moment shows a phalanx of black congresspersons protesting the 2000 presidential election and being undermined by the Senate (Al Gore presiding). By targeting Bush, Moore absolves all those bad senators of their responsibilities.

But Moore neglects the real journalistic work of seeking out why this intramural betrayal happened. He's after an effect, not the facts. Difficult, gut-twisting and disillusioning as politics are, Moore never inquires into the human basis of political behavior. Such revelations once distinguished the documentary as an art form; now the genre is merde. There's no insight into the political process or why politicians routinely cheat their constituency—such as Democratic congressman John Conyers Jr. admitting, "We don't read most of the bills!" Thus Moore lets a soundbite explain why the Patriot Act passed.

As facile as the makers of The Blair Witch Project and Capturing the Friedmans, Moore's doc method avoids complexity. He makes trite points (Bush golfing, politicos putting on make-up) that vitiate his professed seriousness. Like Noujaim, Moore knows that his pseudo-serious audience doesn't want debate. Their mandate is for superficial provocation: Slam Bush and the war so we don't have to ponder our own capitalism or unwillingness to fight.

Neither Fahrenheit nor Control Room tell us what life is like now, in what the West knows as the Terrorist Millennium. Glossing the issues of "a staged war," emphasizing Bush's incompetence and the mendacity of his cabinet (even Noujaim offers distanced ridicule of Bush policies) is, essentially, an ad hominem attack, not ideological or moral reasoning. Merde. These filmmakers practice the lazy tactic of cutting from an inane Bush speech to screaming, injured Iraqi women or children. This obfuscates the war with sentimentality. (Not just morally offensive editing, it hides behind the notion that killing men is an acceptable consequence of war but only a monster would harm women and children.) Moore and Noujaim's "entertaining" sallies (gotcha shots of Bush père et fils shaking hands with Saudi business partners; grieving mothers of U.S. soldiers) might be enough to sway the inattentive, but both movies leave important questions unasked.

Moore would have audiences believe that the security alert codes are entirely a Pentagon hoax (although he doesn't investigate why the national media goes along with it). Noujaim suggests there's no bias in Al Jazeera's rhetoric of images and speeches. (She even accepts a reporter's disdain for the Kurds in Iraq). Each pompous filmmaker ignores the threat of fanaticism—and the reality of American panic—because Iraq is their only cause. They're incapable of substantive political discourse. Moore likes to put bigwigs on the spot (including Ricky Martin and a gum-smacking Britney Spears!) but he never interviews people who can articulate an opposing point of view. In his hypocrisy, he chides the corporate greed behind Halliburton and the Carlyle Group as if it were alien to American custom.

This obtuse journalism also occurs in Control Room. Most reviewers quoted an Al Jazeera exec saying he wanted his children to be educated in America, but none observed his snide, middle-class contempt. (Was it too much like their own?) A good example of the complication that these movies skirt is the same exec's anger over a U.S. missile strike that hit Al Jazeera headquarters killing a correspondent and cameraman. "This is a crime," he says. "It must be avenged!" Noujaim accepts his threat as understandable rage, rather than demand journalistic integrity. No American reviews noticed this.

These films play too loosely with the passions aroused by the war, pandering to liberal Americans' kick-me guilt. That partly explains the Cannes debacle—many liberals simply want their prejudices entertained. This reduces the Palm d'Or to the level of the MTV Movie Awards.

Good, because Cannes has been on an anti-American spree since lauding Gus Van Sant's Elephant. Such grandstanding political gestures don't address popular cinema's decline—proof that people no longer recognize quality or care that a documentary be sound and informative. Few connect the ideology of pop culture to real-world political activity.

Jean-Luc Godard once famously said, "Every edit is a political act." But Godard's denunciation of Fahrenheit 9/11 was ignored by a U.S. media fawning over its Cannes victory (the latest Harvey Weinstein promotional stunt, facilitated by stooge Quentin). No major American media outlets quoted Godard: "Moore doesn't distinguish between text and image. He doesn't know what he's doing."

This time, Jean-Luc is only half right. Moore very deliberately mixes tv drama and movie clips into his rhetorical hodge-podge (referencing Bonanza, Dragnet and song clips by REM). These tropes probably made Tarantino delirious. Fahrenheit seizes upon the mess of postmodern capitalist pop only to misread how pop trivia malnourishes the moral lives of audiences—those who are then sent off to war, as well as Beltway politicians and Wall Street bankers who have the privilege to dismiss pop as escapism.

That's what Godard meant about distinguishing text and image. In Moore's doc style, images have only superficial, convenient meaning and no historical resonance—unlike Peter Davis' 1974 Vietnam doc Hearts and Minds, which used Hollywood clips (Bataan) to show the ideological indoctrination of pop culture. Davis suggested that a generation was fooled into romanticizing war and xenophobia. That was part of how Vietnam protestors understood their experience. Moore, being culturally ignorant, stands on shaky ground when he ridicules GIs who listen to pop on bombing missions, never respecting their cultural conditioning or examining their sense of patriotism. He's as clueless as those critics who lambasted David O. Russell's Desert Storm satire Three Kings. (A neglect that helped condition the country to continue Bush Sr.'s war.)

Moore doesn't understand the link between the Entertainment Industrial Complex and the Military Industrial Complex, and his dumbed-down method of turning political tragedy into comedy is part of the problem. It's a class vice in which the media elite can exercise disdain while pitying the underclass who must pay the price. Fahrenheit 9/11 becomes infuriating every time Moore uses a poor or black person to symbolize Bush's homeland victims (the same arrogance the Coen brothers pointed out with the Mother Jones gag in The Ladykillers). He returns to Flint, MI (the setting for Roger & Me) for sociological cheap shots but misses the real story of the post-9/11 experience—such as life among Muslim immigrants in Detroit where suspicion and opportunism mix. Or even the middle-American discomfort explained in Neil Young's Greendale, a vastly more revealing film.

Propaganda like Fahrenheit 9/11 won't help today's moviegoers gain political insight. Moore's condescension settles on young GIs wounded in Iraq, now in a veterans' hospital (where they face lost funding and benefits). One vet gives Moore what he wants: "I'm going to be very active this year and make sure that the Democrats take power." We're not supposed to remember the opening sequence that showed Democrats complicit with Bush's ascension and the invasion of Iraq. Moore, as desultory as Jerry Bruckheimer, simply wants to get a rise out of us. Like Tarantino, he's uninterested in making movies that show how the world really works.

Fahrenheit 9/11 and Control Room leave viewers susceptible to the deceptions of politicians and media charlatans. Exploiting the Iraq invasion and American political distress is a form of war profiteering. Documentaries this poor are no better than pulp fiction.


(so not only are these films bad but they are partly responsible for murder and torture worldwide, etc....what a scumbag)

Gear! (Gear!), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 17:56 (sixteen years ago) link

Armond White mistakes ass for hole in ground, shits, giggles.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:00 (sixteen years ago) link

Oh, my. "The propagandists of al-Jazeera," etc.

Pretty standard right-wing fare overall, basically what I would expect Washington Times reviews to resemble. Maybe White's looking for a Golden Moonie Parachute?

miloauckerman (miloauckerman), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:03 (sixteen years ago) link

Was that elementary school actually in Florida?

J0hn Darn1elle (J0hn Darn1elle), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:04 (sixteen years ago) link

"Punditocracy"??!! I love it.

andy, Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:05 (sixteen years ago) link

I don't know what he's on about here, his POV is non-existent and completely arbitrary based on whatever the hell he had for breakfast.

Gear! (Gear!), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:05 (sixteen years ago) link

Does he actually refute any of the facts in Moore's film? I didn't see any examples. That says something, doesn't it?

scott seward (scott seward), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:13 (sixteen years ago) link

The headline is the worst thing: calling Moore a fascist is just loopy. The review is based on the premise that Moore oughtn't to make propaganda or op-ed, but rather mull for 90 minutes over 'complexities'. Well, why on earth should he? The weird thing is that White thinks Moore should really be pondering 'our own capitalism or our unwillingness to fight'. Well, what unwillingness to fight? Surely the anti-capitalistic, pro-militaristic film White seems to be advocating would fit much better with fascism that Moore's liberalism does? Perhaps the headline is referring to White rather than Moore.

Momus (Momus), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:18 (sixteen years ago) link

No one required Noujaim to trace the history of Al Jazeera or examine its standard content. Her celebration of Al Jazeera (as opposition to any media representing American interests) was carelessly praised as some kind of palliative: "The number one must-see film of the summer." "An essential movie [that] not only goes through the looking glass, but turns the mirror back on us."

wtf?!?!?

s1ocki (slutsky), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:19 (sixteen years ago) link

Oh no! Fahrenheit 9/11 incorporates morally bankrupt "pop culture"! Oh NO!

Sean Thomas (sgthomas), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:20 (sixteen years ago) link

Exploiting the Iraq invasion and American political distress is a form of war profiteering.

Yeah let's just not make any films about it, right? Fucking twat.

Gear! (Gear!), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:20 (sixteen years ago) link

Summary of this review: 'I am very annoyed by this film.'
Summary of our response: 'Good.'

Momus (Momus), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:21 (sixteen years ago) link

She cannily keeps her distance from those Al Jazeera employees who wear robes and turbans.

Ha ha christ

Gear! (Gear!), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:22 (sixteen years ago) link

As facile as the makers of The Blair Witch Project...

whoa whoa, what??!?!? Armond White thinks The Blair Witch Project was a DOCUMENTARY?!?!@?!@??!! SOOMEBODY PLEASE REVOKE HIS FILM CRITIC'S LICENSE ASAP!!!

(tho I think he's right about Tarentino)

hstencil (hstencil), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:22 (sixteen years ago) link

he's also obviously never watched three kings all the way through

s1ocki (slutsky), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:24 (sixteen years ago) link

It seems as though the film has been pretty effective at pissing off the people that it is meant to piss off. In that sense, it certainly is a success.

scott seward (scott seward), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:24 (sixteen years ago) link

Tarentino is being consistent. He's not advocating peace but administering a dose of the old ultraviolence to Bush.

Momus (Momus), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:24 (sixteen years ago) link

What do you lefties think about Godard's quote, "Moore doesn't distinguish between text and image. He doesn't know what he's doing." Agree/Somewhat Agree/Disagree?
I admire Moore's intention of bringing some of these connections, such as that between Bush and the Saudi royal family, to light. I just think he has a very heavy-handed style and his weakness is his completely overt subjectivity; which if he is a documentarist, it should be; otherwise, he is an entertainer, and the movie should not be passed off as fact. My biggest problem with it is that question - what is the intent of the movie, is it entertainment (Ricky Martin anyone?), or news?

The Devil's Triad (calstars), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:26 (sixteen years ago) link

"it disgraces that sorrowful date just to inflame liberal guilt."

He really should have replaced "guilt" with "anger".

scott seward (scott seward), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:26 (sixteen years ago) link

I meant he was right about Tarantino in this:

Tarantino, Kathleen Turner and Jerry Schatzberg encourages audiences to think or behave politically. American cinema in the Tarantino years has pandered to violence, racism, greed and self-satisfaction. It's not impossible that the torturers at Abu Ghraib—including even Saddam Hussein's own precedent-setting torturers—were inspired by the torture scene in Reservoir Dogs. QT made sadism hip and sent it 'round the world. Now we're stuck in the middle of a global crisis for which neither he, nor Michael Moore, have an answer.

Tarantino's production company is named after a Godard film but I'll be damned if I can find any Godard in what he does.

hstencil (hstencil), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:26 (sixteen years ago) link

what is the intent of the
movie, is it entertainment (Ricky Martin anyone?), or news?


It's infotainment!

scott seward (scott seward), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:27 (sixteen years ago) link

first frag should read: "Tarantino, Kathleen Turner and Jerry Schatzberg [don't encourage] audiences to think or behave politically" since I truncated it.

hstencil (hstencil), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:28 (sixteen years ago) link

I don't follow his writing closely, but my general impression of Armond White is that he's been slowly losing his mind since the mid-eighties -- every column or essay I've ever seen of his has him seriously blowing his gasket over something or other. CONFIRM OR DENY!

Michael Daddino (epicharmus), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:28 (sixteen years ago) link

Tarantino's production company is named after a Godard film but I'll be damned if I can find any Godard in what he does.

He's more of a Melville fan by way of Woo. But really, it's all in the snazzy suits.

scott seward (scott seward), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:28 (sixteen years ago) link

White is not wrong in that instance, but it's definitely unfair to lay all of the blame on Tarantino. In fact, by doing this, he's making himself as guilty as Moore by blowing things out of proportion.

deanomgwtf!!!p%3Fmsgid%3D4581997 (deangulberry), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:29 (sixteen years ago) link

Bungled that of course, should read: his weakness is his lack of objectivity, which if he is a documentarist, should be his focus.

The Devil's Triad (calstars), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:29 (sixteen years ago) link

Momus, did you ever get around to seeing Kill Bill? I would actually love to read a Kill Bill review by you.

scott seward (scott seward), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:30 (sixteen years ago) link

Bungled that of course, should read: his weakness is his lack of objectivity, which if he is a documentarist, should be his focus.

This is all brought up on that other Moore thread.

scott seward (scott seward), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:31 (sixteen years ago) link

I don't care of AW doesn't like Tarantino, but to let that dislike turn into saying "he could be responsible for prison torture from the U.S. and the Iraqis" is simplistic, pretentious bullshit from someone who doesn't understand that this sort of crap was going on in the world long before Quentin Tarantino.

Gear! (Gear!), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:32 (sixteen years ago) link

No, Scott, I didn't. I probably will see it one day, though, and if ILX still exists I'll tell you my thoughts.

What do you lefties think about Godard's quote, "Moore doesn't distinguish between text and image. He doesn't know what he's doing." Agree/Somewhat Agree/Disagree?

I think that's probably a fair point. Moore is working in a very different tradition than Godard. Considering he's such a corpulent man, it's interesting that his films don't tend to have a 'body' in the way Godard's do. I hear the editing in 'F9/11' is 'good', but I suspect the people saying that (I think it was some BBC critic covering Cannes) are not people who think Godard's Brechtian editing style is 'good'. It's like criticizing a newspaper op-ed column for not being James Joyce.

Momus (Momus), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:32 (sixteen years ago) link

"As Kevin Costner worried in JFK..." !!!!!!
Priceless. Armond White is a buffoon.

Neb Reyob (Ben Boyer), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:33 (sixteen years ago) link

Wait wait wait isn't Armond White the guy who creamed his pants about 3000 Miles to Graceland?!?!

Alex in SF (Alex in SF), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:34 (sixteen years ago) link

his weakness is his lack of objectivity, which if he is a documentarist, should be his focus.

Why shouldn't subjectivity and point-of-view be the focus of a documentarist?

Momus (Momus), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:35 (sixteen years ago) link

I dunno, Gear, although Reservoir Dogs does kinda fit in with the Peckinpah legacy, I'd say its depiction of torture doesn't fit any specific trope other than "huh huh this looks cool, esp. with old 1970s tunes." Big difference between that and the opening credits of Wild Bunch (okay I know its insects but THEY'RE STANDING IN FOR PEOPLE).

hstencil (hstencil), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:35 (sixteen years ago) link

Why shouldn't subjectivity and point-of-view be the focus of a documentarist?

Because people are lazy and want to accept the 'truths' that other present for them :)

deanomgwtf!!!p%3Fmsgid%3D4581997 (deangulberry), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:35 (sixteen years ago) link

And that's Michael Moore's fault, how?

Alex in SF (Alex in SF), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:36 (sixteen years ago) link

Right I understand that, but I think he's overstating the film's influence on the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Gear! (Gear!), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:38 (sixteen years ago) link

And that's Michael Moore's fault, how?

You may have to ask someone who thinks that it is his fault.

deanomgwtf!!!p%3Fmsgid%3D4581997 (deangulberry), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:40 (sixteen years ago) link

Al-Jazeera bashing = automatic idiotic review.

Alex in SF (Alex in SF), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:41 (sixteen years ago) link

Momus I think when a documentarist is reporting on a subject he should leave his bias or his favor at home. I guess we could debate whether the 'documentary' as a medium is inherently supposed to be objective or subjective, but the best ones I've seen ('One Day in September' comes to mind) leave polarizing issues like politics out of the story.

The Devil's Triad (calstars), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:42 (sixteen years ago) link

how could this movie leave politics out of the story?!!

s1ocki (slutsky), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:42 (sixteen years ago) link

"if only 'spellbound' stayed away from polarizing issues like spelling"

s1ocki (slutsky), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:43 (sixteen years ago) link

You are delusional. No movie can possibly be objective (and One Day in September certainly wasn't.) I'd rather have someone be upfront with his biases than pretend they don't exist.

Alex in SF (Alex in SF), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:44 (sixteen years ago) link

"why did marcel ophuls have to keep bringing up the nazis in 'the sorrow and the pity'?"

s1ocki (slutsky), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:44 (sixteen years ago) link

for another, perhaps more informed point of view:

http://slate.msn.com/id/2102723/

lovebug starski, Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:44 (sixteen years ago) link

"Why didn't we see more of the witch's POV in The Blair Witch Project?"

Alex in SF (Alex in SF), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:45 (sixteen years ago) link

The Fog of War had to talk about war, that was what killed it for me

Gear! (Gear!), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:45 (sixteen years ago) link

MAYBE WE SHOULD LET THE GOVERNMENT MAKE ALL OF THE DOCUMENTARIES

deanomgwtf!!!p%3Fmsgid%3D4581997 (deangulberry), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:45 (sixteen years ago) link

hahahaha alex

s1ocki (slutsky), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:46 (sixteen years ago) link

I don't consider Hitchen's particularly sane or well-informed.

Alex in SF (Alex in SF), Tuesday, 22 June 2004 18:47 (sixteen years ago) link

Bong Joon-ho flirts with creeping fascism

...what

hot nuts (small) (bizarro gazzara), Monday, 6 January 2020 10:40 (seven months ago) link

These always read like he just assembles them randomly, like mad libs. We should try to write our own next year and see how close we come. “Hellboy bravely met the moment with wit and elegance, while Atlantics traffics in the sour bootlicking of the Mueller-istas.”

warn me about a lurking rake (One Eye Open), Monday, 6 January 2020 12:57 (seven months ago) link

Uncut Gems diminishes one of the richest comic sensibilities in modern cinema. It turns Sandler, the smartass who always chooses family and friendship over streetwise selfishness, into an icon of grungy nihilism. The Safdie brothers have reinvented nice Jewish boy Sandler as Johnny Depp.

💠 (crüt), Sunday, 12 January 2020 15:06 (seven months ago) link

e smartass who always chooses family and friendship over streetwise selfishness,

this is a lie. Did he watch the film?

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 January 2020 15:20 (seven months ago) link

One of my favorite Armond-isms in recent years is when he cited “critic John Demetry” to buttress an argument (Demetry being not a critic but a blogger who works directly w/him and perhaps strategically shares his taste almost exactingly).

omar little, Sunday, 12 January 2020 23:37 (seven months ago) link

Ah yes, I remember that sycophantic Skeletor back from the heyday of the Brian De Palma forum.

temporarily embarrassed thousandaire (Eric H.), Monday, 13 January 2020 14:51 (six months ago) link

two months pass...

This is my kind of distraction from COVID news:

https://letterboxd.com/notarmondwhite/film/never-rarely-sometimes-always/

coronoshebettadontvirus (Eric H.), Friday, 13 March 2020 15:33 (four months ago) link

one month passes...

Good lord...

A photo worthy of Jean Genet. So is the story behind it (The Miracle of the Rose). @Gothamist pic.twitter.com/e8DKFiepBA

— armond white (@3xchair) May 5, 2020

Got my Rohmer Six Moral Tales BR box yesterday, saw he has an essay in it

flappy bird, Tuesday, 5 May 2020 19:55 (three months ago) link

one month passes...

Moments like this are what Arm0nd lives for...

https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/07/review-hamilton-lin-manuel-miranda-monument-political-egotism/

Disney’s presentation of the Broadway blockbuster Hamilton marks a curious cultural turning point: The most heralded production in recent Broadway history has not been adapted into a movie — it’s a digital video recording of a 2016 stage performance — because it has to live up to its hype as an exclusive Broadway event. Hamilton’s celebration by elite media cadres contradicts the essence of cinema as an emotionally intense, unifying popular art form. This version happens at, literally, an emotional and intellectual distance.

Lin-Manuel Miranda conceived a treatment of the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers and the first secretary of the Treasury of the United States, to be a showcase of Broadway theater diversity. He followed legendary impresario Joseph Papp’s idea of multicultural, non-traditional performance that broadened the Western theatrical canon by asserting America’s ethnic variety (Papp’s gimmicky casting of Shakespeare in the Park productions). Hamilton recast American history as a racial gimmick: The white Founding Fathers are portrayed by black and Latino actors — an obtuse means of reclaiming American history not for “everyone” but for us vs. them.

This literal narrowcasting is ideological. Miranda first presented his show in 2015, during the second term of Barack Obama’s presidency, in observance of that era’s arrogant sense of new social authority — and the vanity Miranda no doubt felt as a Puerto-Rican theater aspirant finally finding a niche. Miranda uses hip-hop musical idioms in Hamilton according to the same specious perception of Obama’s identity as African American, or black, rather than as bi-racial. (There are allusions to Hamilton’s own cloudy background.) This novelty pretended to speak for non-white America, and in Disney’s video intro Miranda says, “It’s about how history remembers and how that changes over time.” That’s a theater hustler’s demagoguery.

Hamilton’s topsy-turvy spectacle recalls the racial reversal Jean Genet originated in The Blacks (1959), only Genet’s overt political intent (his mockery of colonial racism) is subsumed by the energy of hip-hop and its superficial polemics. Musical-theater people are squares who, adept at their own rich traditions, never get the gist of such pop music as rhythm & blues, rock & roll, disco, or hip-hop. They don’t know the hip-hop genre’s great artists Public Enemy, Biggie Smalls, The Geto Boys, Son of Bazerk of De La Soul. What you hear in Miranda’s Hamilton is ersatz hip-hop, which easily won over critics and audiences already in denial that Obama was bi-racial and eager to accept Miranda’s blackface revision of American history.

Miranda’s cynicism automatically dismisses the idea of a show about Pan-African or Puerto-Rican history. (The Boriqueneers to match Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers?) Instead, the concept behind Hamilton — to make its squareness seem hip — is to sell the American Revolution in updated, anachronistic, slangy terms that will appeal to notions of revolution spouted by hip-hop’s most naive adherents. That would include the “fundamentally transform America” Obama admirers. (There’s even a pro-DACA song. Is there anyone waiting to see this show who is not a dyed-in-the-wool Obama liberal?)

Let’s include hip-hop haters who deplore the genre’s inherent youthful impudence, sensuality, and déclassé roots. Miranda’s music and lyrics most closely resemble the speed-rap of white rapper Eminem — a neurotic, distorted appropriation of hip-hop’s blues and reggae source. Miranda chooses a vernacular that betrays black expression every bit as much as a smoothly duplicitous, over-educated politician does. This linguistic jumble accounts for the play’s expository rather than dramatic nature. We watch Hamilton (played by Miranda) come to 18th-century America and enter the early political fray where he meets his ultimate nemesis Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom, Jr.) no differently than an episode of MTV’s Wild and Out.

The show alternates between battle-rap encounters and minstrel-style solos. Thankfully, the appearance of the Schuyler Sisters (Phillipa Soo, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Jasmine Cephus Jones), as women Hamilton and Burr engage on their journey toward historical destiny, offers vocal variety — always sung with genuine loveliness and persuasion. But even the Schuyler sisters, cast as three ethnically different, miscegenated phenotypes (Asian, black, Latin), perpetuate Miranda’s unceasing fake hip-hop and race-and-politics trickery. The show’s non-traditional casting obsession clashes with the limitations of today’s nutty progressivism that says actors can no longer pretend to be who they are not.

Hamilton’s race confusion hits unignorable dead-ends. Miranda’s unprepossessing lead performance depends on whiny hectoring, rather than brainy charisma; the role needs a star, and this film doesn’t have one. As England’s King George (Jonathan Groff), the single white performer diverts from hip-hop, reprising snide, Alanis Morissette-style pop as a foppish queer stereotype. Such trite characterization oversimplifies political history. Burr’s “Smile more/Don’t let them know what you’re against/Or what you’re for” flatters today’s cynicism about politics — politics has replaced movies as everyone’s expertise.

“No one really knows how the game is played,” Burr raps in “The Room Where It Happened,” the elites’ anthem that John Bolton chose as the title for his latest memoir. The song’s actually about deceit and disloyalty (the “Click—Boom!” line implying deadly threat). Something this odious also needs a star, a Sammy Davis, Jr., to pull it off but not sullen, grinning Odom. Odom’s Burr, who kills Hamilton in American history’s most famous duel, is another dark-skinned villain — like Taye Diggs’s evil landlord in Rent — who here personifies the insidious racism that even Broadway liberals keep hidden behind their public pandering.

By comparison, both Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell were modest about their subjects. Miranda’s ode to power pretends Hamilton’s drive is psychological insight and idolizes political chicanery the same as the Steven Spielberg–Tony Kushner Lincoln. Shameless Act Two features one song describing “a grace too powerful to name/We push away the unimaginable/Forgiveness. Can you imagine?” It proposes a humanism that is gone from the culture Hamilton represents; that’s why the scene and that song are weak. The show’s celebration of ruthlessness is seen as its justification — that 2008 idea of worshipping the purported political brilliance of an obnoxious individual.

Director Thomas Kail inserts a few bird’s-eye-views but never offers a single expressive image (Spike Lee’s film of the stage play Passing Strange was shot more effectively, and Julie Taymor’s visually wondrous A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the best unreleased American movie of the past ten years). This is not a film but an official preservation. It’s a great irony that Disney’s Hamilton streaming comes at a time of historical ignorance when institutional leaders, politicians, and media all condone the tearing down of history. Miranda’s vainglorious Hamilton edifice amounts to the same thing.

Get the point? Good, let's dance with nunchaku. (Eric H.), Friday, 3 July 2020 18:43 (one month ago) link

(Also, evidently, pretty much everyone I follow actively tweeting today, but I blame Twitter for that.)

Get the point? Good, let's dance with nunchaku. (Eric H.), Friday, 3 July 2020 18:44 (one month ago) link

I suppose it was inevitable that Armond would write something I agree with. (Not just about the repellent politics of the show but this, more than anything: "Musical-theater people are squares who, adept at their own rich traditions, never get the gist of such pop music as rhythm & blues, rock & roll, disco, or hip-hop.")

but also fuck you (unperson), Friday, 3 July 2020 19:13 (one month ago) link

I've never given a shit about Hamilton, sounds horrible -- and I read every shitty bio of the Framers.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 3 July 2020 19:40 (one month ago) link

It was annoying me how much I agree with what is otherwise just Armond's excuse for taking yet another tired shot at Obama.

A White, White Gay (cryptosicko), Friday, 3 July 2020 20:06 (one month ago) link

(let me be very clear in reiterating that Armond White is still a horrible piece of shit)

A White, White Gay (cryptosicko), Friday, 3 July 2020 20:08 (one month ago) link

That this was going to be the moment of massive backlash against Hamilton was written in the stars.

Get the point? Good, let's dance with nunchaku. (Eric H.), Friday, 3 July 2020 22:44 (one month ago) link

that Passing Strange show video'd by Spike is marvelous

brooklyn suicide cult (Dr Morbius), Friday, 3 July 2020 22:59 (one month ago) link

It was annoying me how much I agree with what is otherwise just Armond's excuse for taking yet another tired shot at Obama.

― A White, White Gay (cryptosicko), Friday, 3 July 2020 20:06 (yesterday) bookmarkflaglink

(let me be very clear in reiterating that Armond White is still a horrible piece of shit)

― A White, White Gay (cryptosicko), Friday, 3 July 2020 20:08 (yesterday) bookmarkflaglink

OTM although it interests me more than it annoys me. Regardless of several specious aspects that review is interesting, as someone who has never seen nor will ever see Hamilton.

Heavy Messages (jed_), Saturday, 4 July 2020 00:55 (one month ago) link

"the same specious perception of Obama’s identity as African American, or black, rather than as bi-racial"

he's trying to redefine someone else's identity?

Dan S, Saturday, 4 July 2020 01:16 (one month ago) link

don't like that review, or any other of his

Dan S, Saturday, 4 July 2020 01:23 (one month ago) link

“Agree” with Armond insomuch as I think Hamilton sucks but jfc that review is stupid.

turn the jawhatthefuckever on (One Eye Open), Saturday, 4 July 2020 02:24 (one month ago) link

Instead, the concept behind Hamilton — to make its squareness seem hip — is to sell the American Revolution in updated, anachronistic, slangy terms that will appeal to notions of revolution spouted by hip-hop’s most naive adherents.

They don’t know the hip-hop genre’s great artists Public Enemy, Biggie Smalls, The Geto Boys

Ah yes, two great groups famous for their belief in reasonable, incremental reforms from working within the system.

turn the jawhatthefuckever on (One Eye Open), Saturday, 4 July 2020 02:34 (one month ago) link

all the good points AW makes were all made at the time of the original musical's release here at a time when very few were willing to hear it (and no despite the URL it's not a n*th*n r*b*ns*n oiece) and without the conservative nonsense

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2016/07/you-should-be-terrified-that-people-who-like-hamilton-run-our-country

k*r*n koltrane (Simon H.), Saturday, 4 July 2020 07:12 (one month ago) link

seems like awful pish for the blathering class

specific fry such as scampo (||||||||), Saturday, 4 July 2020 08:04 (one month ago) link

I would say that now in 2020, 4 years after that (very good) Current Affairs piece was written, that there are still depressingly few willing to even acknowledge the existence of, let alone listen to and ruminate at length on, the multitude of obnoxious and problematic things about Hamilton. So hackneyed right wing trolling aside I don't have a problem with AW or anyone else reiterating them.

Sabre of Paradise (trevor phillips), Saturday, 4 July 2020 09:02 (one month ago) link

its justification — that 2008 idea of worshipping the purported political brilliance of an obnoxious individual.

Imagine writing this sentence in 2020.

turn the jawhatthefuckever on (One Eye Open), Saturday, 4 July 2020 19:15 (one month ago) link

I would say that now in 2020, 4 years after that (very good) Current Affairs piece was written, that there are still depressingly few willing to even acknowledge the existence of, let alone listen to and ruminate at length on, the multitude of obnoxious and problematic things about Hamilton. So hackneyed right wing trolling aside I don't have a problem with AW or anyone else reiterating them.

― Sabre of Paradise (trevor phillips), Saturday, July 4, 2020 5:02 AM (fourteen hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

OTM

Armond's best review since Get Out.

flappy bird, Saturday, 4 July 2020 23:13 (one month ago) link

three weeks pass...

It's Dylan's Trump album, a brilliant warning to cancel culture. https://t.co/F7WI73CMqu @bobdylan @realDonaldTrump #RoughandRowdyWays #MurderMostFoul @billboard

— armond white (@3xchair) July 24, 2020

“Murder Most Foul” offers a cultural and moral history lesson that Black Lives/Antifa don’t know, a lesson that the movement’s enablers — those desperate, still agnostic Sixties liberals — conveniently disregard. That’s why even Dylan’s devout followers are in denial about the obvious contemporary allusion in “Murder Most Foul.” It is clearly a Trump song, an epic poem that summarizes the self-annihilating resentment amassed in the anger of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Consider how Dylan’s “Key West (Philosopher Pirate)” song references pirate radio stations — the alternative media we all long for in the wake of Silicon Valley’s shadow-banning conservative speech.

... (Eazy), Sunday, 26 July 2020 15:50 (two weeks ago) link

I ... don't know who to root for in this round.

Get the point? Good, let's dance with nunchaku. (Eric H.), Sunday, 26 July 2020 17:00 (two weeks ago) link

Uh, wasn't "Murder Most Foul" pulled from the vaults? Was it even recorded after Trump started running? I thought he cut most of this record in 2013.

flappy bird, Sunday, 26 July 2020 23:15 (two weeks ago) link

“Murder Most Foul” is significant to me. Dylan’s troubadour sorrow is in touch with our own, it feels like a song for this moment

but “the self-annihilating resentment amassed in the anger of Trump Derangement Syndrome”, “the alternative media we all long for in the wake of Silicon Valley’s shadow-banning conservative speech”...fuck off

Dan S, Sunday, 26 July 2020 23:41 (two weeks ago) link

I said the soul of a nation has been torn away
And it's beginning to go into a slow decay
And it's 36 hours past Judgment Day

Dan S, Monday, 27 July 2020 00:43 (two weeks ago) link

Play Ben Shapiro
Play Bari Weiss

... (Eazy), Monday, 27 July 2020 02:20 (two weeks ago) link

from Pitchfork review....

“The size of your cock will get you nowhere,” he grumbles to a sworn enemy, who might be death itself, in “Black Rider.”

Lady Antibody (Neanderthal), Monday, 27 July 2020 04:17 (two weeks ago) link

How Taylor Swift's Folklore album leads the BLM/Antifa Folklore Wars. https://t.co/eYNyPtueDM @taylorswift13 #Folklore pic.twitter.com/HqSuEGljM2

— armond white (@3xchair) July 29, 2020

A Bob Dole conservative might be surprised that anodyne romanticism can be so threatening, but conservatives today had better beware of the dangers presented by the Folklore War and its deceptive consensus. Consider Folklore the 1619 Project of pop music.

... (Eazy), Wednesday, 29 July 2020 22:43 (two weeks ago) link

even by his low worst standards that's lazy stuff

the quar on drugs (Simon H.), Wednesday, 29 July 2020 23:24 (two weeks ago) link

this is funny? i guess? also sad, and dumb.
https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/07/antifa-films-25-movies-that-turned-generation-into-nihilistic-anarchists/

ian, Friday, 7 August 2020 00:27 (five days ago) link

Gus Van Sant’s homoerotic version of academic class war between Boston Southies and Cambridge preppies turned a Horatio Alger story into a Howard Zinn movie.

"...And the Gods Socially Distanced" (C. Grisso/McCain), Friday, 7 August 2020 00:31 (five days ago) link

Vertigo - "Hitchcock’s most obsessive love story became a how-to manual for “people who are not sure who they are but who are busy reconstructing themselves and each other to fit a kind of social ideal.”"

come on

Dan S, Friday, 7 August 2020 00:35 (five days ago) link

vertigo undoubtedly a huge influence on the antifa generation

turn the jawhatthefuckever on (One Eye Open), Friday, 7 August 2020 00:41 (five days ago) link

The Harry Potter films (2001–2011): The dullest, most inept franchise in Hollywood history was not harmless; it served to subvert C. S. Lewis and Christian Sunday School parables

i'm shocked this is the worst he can think to say about harry potter - seems like a line is missing. was he in such a rush that he seriously couldn't squeeze an obama dig in there? something about "teaching kids to worship a charismatic magician-huckster"? jfc do i have to write this guys stuff for him?

turn the jawhatthefuckever on (One Eye Open), Friday, 7 August 2020 00:46 (five days ago) link

He remains 100% correct re: The Dark Knight, but you know, a broken clock.

A White, White Gay (cryptosicko), Friday, 7 August 2020 00:48 (five days ago) link

he's more like a thermometer that insists he's a clock

popeye's arse (Neanderthal), Friday, 7 August 2020 00:53 (five days ago) link

Gladiator (2000): Another comic-book movie for those who never read Gibbon, Virgil, Horace, Socrates, Plato, Ovid, or Steve Reeves.

"those who never read...steve reeves."

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Friday, 7 August 2020 00:54 (five days ago) link

“A Steve Well-Reeved: A Memoir”

turn the jawhatthefuckever on (One Eye Open), Friday, 7 August 2020 01:15 (five days ago) link

staggering number of bad takes in one place i think.

ian, Friday, 7 August 2020 01:32 (five days ago) link

New board description?

ultros ultros-ghali, Friday, 7 August 2020 12:39 (five days ago) link

Movies were never his first love.

Get the point? Good, let's dance with nunchaku. (Eric H.), Friday, 7 August 2020 13:39 (five days ago) link

Comments are surprisingly good. This guy gets it.

Brian Silenus
6 days ago
(Edited)
Antifa syllabus?! LOL. This reads like every incel, 8chan, right wing edgelord’s favorite movie list.

Bougy! Bougie! Bougé! (Eliza D.), Friday, 7 August 2020 14:06 (five days ago) link

hilarious list and commentary

solo scampito (mh), Friday, 7 August 2020 16:21 (five days ago) link

Javier Bardem as the “hero” in No Country For Old Men is a pretty out there take

This Is Not An ILX Username (LaMonte), Friday, 7 August 2020 16:30 (five days ago) link


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