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

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed
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 (seventeen years ago) link

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

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

Was that elementary school actually in Florida?

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

"Punditocracy"??!! I love it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Al-Jazeera bashing = automatic idiotic review.

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

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

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

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

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

hahahaha alex

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

George Wolfe’s adaptation of the August Wilson play reduces black American blues art to an agnostic monstrosity.

what the hell does this even mean

The weird thing is, even when I agree with him--and I agree with him quite often in this piece; I also thought First Cow, The Assistant, Mank, and The Trial of the Chicago 7 were overrated--I hate the way he seems to go out of his way to frame those films in a way that would appeal to National Review readers.

clemenza, Friday, 8 January 2021 17:00 (nine months ago) link

reading the glorious insanity of this list is exactly the soothing balm i need after the last 2 days. god bless this american lunatic

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Friday, 8 January 2021 17:15 (nine months ago) link

Soul is a BLM film because...it's about a black life that matters?

Langdon Alger Stole the Highlights (cryptosicko), Friday, 8 January 2021 17:42 (nine months ago) link

hard to get worked up at the list this year considering i've seen like 4 of the movies on it

anyway, this is great, as is most of the things Adam Nayman writes: https://cinema-scope.com/features/minority-report-armond-white-wants-to-make-spielberg-great-again/

self-clowning oven (Murgatroid), Friday, 8 January 2021 17:51 (nine months ago) link

A quick roundup of the worse-than films' transgressions: PC distractions, Kelly Reichardt condemns American capitalism as racist and homophobic, the brainwashing of black Americans, speciously equates contemporary politics with bygone grievance, privileged feminism and cultural thuggery, a Planned Parenthood commercial, anti-Trump hectoring, feeble Harvey Weinstein rumor for the #MeToo movement, political and cultural posturing, Spike Lee’s trendy BLM racism.

It's laughable. And not really film criticism.

clemenza, Friday, 8 January 2021 18:00 (nine months ago) link

What a laff!

Bidh boladh a' mhairbh de 'n láimh fhalaimh (dowd), Friday, 8 January 2021 18:04 (nine months ago) link

Thanks for linking the Nayman piece; will read it when I get back home. I do love that White put out a Spielberg book that also includes some of his very early work in the '70s. Going thru it is like seeing a critic's entire rise and fall like no other single volume document I can think of.

(The entire last section of the book is simply titled "Obama," which of course.)

As per usual, a lot of the movies he holds up as "better than" are indeed interesting and/or great choices regardless of what's on the other side of the comparison.

2020: The Movie and The Plot Against the President > Time

But not all of them.

yeah its funny - aside from exceptions like that example, its not that he's always or even often wrong about the 'better thans', but instead its that the pairings just seem completely random, which makes the gobbledygook blurbs even more amusingly WTF

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Friday, 8 January 2021 21:11 (nine months ago) link

When I saw Eighth Grade and Mid90s pretty close together a few years ago, and markedly preferred Mid90s (I did come around on Eighth Grade after a second viewing), I remember thinking "Hey, that's a perfect better-than pairing"--and then White ended up grouping both films together on the wrong side of some other film I can't remember. That made me smile.

I think the concept is fine, and I think Kael, without ever explicitly saying so, did some of that herself: she'd hold up one film as a superior to a related, more acclaimed film. You could even say that better-than was one of the driving forces of Sarris's auterism (Nicholas Ray's and Phil Karlson's socially-minded films were less celebrated and better than Stanley Kramer's and Elia Kazan's.) And of sabermetrics. And Chuck Eddy. And lots else.

It's just that with White, having followed at least this corner of his career for a few years, I can make up the list of his worse-than films beforehand. Anybody could--just make a list of the most acclaimed films of the year. Which isn't that interesting, even before he tacks on the I-see-through-this rationalizations.

clemenza, Friday, 8 January 2021 21:29 (nine months ago) link

equate contemporary politics with bygone grievance

dude in Mangrove had been hassled and his businesses disrupted by cops for ten years before the court case, and continued to be for ten years after winning the case. Armond fails to see that the "courtroom drama" marks one moment in a long continuity for this member of the Mangrove Nine, even aside from his contention that black business owners and activists... no longer suffer violations of justice from provably lying law officers.

the Better Than rankings are indeed interesting and often otm. his argumgrievances are mostly garbage.

shivers me timber (sic), Friday, 8 January 2021 21:31 (nine months ago) link

Disappointed to find that Armond White, whose maniacality has over the course of his long career always been interesting, has started to degenerate into extremely dull "the cleansing moral clarity of Sebastian Gorka" pablum

https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/12/review-the-plot-against-the-president-bridges-conservative-generation-gap/

The "better thans" are still enjoyable to read, though.

Guayaquil (eephus!), Monday, 18 January 2021 01:25 (nine months ago) link

two months pass...

While the series focused on Hollywood production practices, making it easier to apply the same generalities as today’s “systemic racism” canard, TCM’s jurists had difficulty equating the primarily liberal bent of Hollywood employees with the imagined offenses pointed to in their films. That’s why the series dealt only with movies made before 1968, the implication being that contemporary Hollywood is totally enlightened and sin-free.

The second sentence here represents the one halfway reasonable point in this piece, though one I've already seen made by folks far less odious than White.

edited for dog profanity (cryptosicko), Sunday, 4 April 2021 22:09 (six months ago) link

Except that the second clause in the sentence does not in any way follow from the first. (Not even internally, in his implication that 55 years ago is "contemporary.")

armoured van, Holden (sic), Monday, 5 April 2021 00:46 (six months ago) link

In the context of depictions in race in movies I think that is fairly contemporary, sadly. A lot of sociopolitical problems we're dealing with now stalled out in the 1970s. look at Mother Küsters Goes to Heaven, from 1975: Fassbinder made the perfect denunciation of the media and the contemporary left in Germany at the time, and it's striking how similar it is to our situation. I don't think we've moved much beyond Guess Who's Coming to Dinner on one end and Death Wish on the other.

flappy bird, Sunday, 11 April 2021 07:00 (six months ago) link

Meanwhile, Armond’s heart is truly in the fourth coming of Zach Snyder and I fully expect him to turn out another three or four essays on the movie over the next month.

avatar of a kind of respectability homosexual culture (Eric H.), Sunday, 11 April 2021 16:24 (six months ago) link

Momentarily distracted by Morrissey's latest tantrum...

https://letterboxd.com/notarmondwhite/film/the-simpsons-christmas-special/

But that little eco-terrorist vegan Lisa was always the show’s sponsored character, a stunt that liberal viewers enjoyed and conservative viewers tolerated. (Homer was its Archie Bunker.) Are the Simpsons colored yellow because the show is cowardly, its one-time edginess just a relic from before the days of PC fascism?

avatar of a kind of respectability homosexual culture (Eric H.), Wednesday, 21 April 2021 13:06 (six months ago) link

another maniacal rhetorical question

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 21 April 2021 13:07 (six months ago) link

One Simpsons actor apologized to the nation of India for the portrayal of the Apu character, yet the show’s producers have never apologized for the Reverend Lovejoy and Ned Flanders characters that trash Christianity.

avatar of a kind of respectability homosexual culture (Eric H.), Wednesday, 21 April 2021 13:08 (six months ago) link

kind of surprised there hasnt been some kind of armond reference on the simpsons by now tbh

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Wednesday, 21 April 2021 13:31 (six months ago) link

two months pass...

This doesn't make sense in a way--Point Blank is emblematic of the kinds of films that end up on the right side of better-thans--but if Armond White were writing about 1967 today, I bet he'd pair it with Buzz Kulik's Warning Shot and give the nod to Kulik. (Actually, retrospectively doing year-by-year better-thans would be really interesting...with, for me, someone other than Armond White.)

clemenza, Sunday, 4 July 2021 02:44 (three months ago) link

one month passes...

Kinda ... not maniacal? And pretty honest about what's alluring about this movie and its main character?

https://letterboxd.com/notarmondwhite/film/ferris-buellers-day-off/1/

i carry the torch for disco inauthenticity (Eric H.), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 15:17 (two months ago) link

stopped reading after the first graf

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 15:19 (two months ago) link

J/K. But hoo boy:

This montage of all-American amenities is lavish but strikingly common. It is what members of BLM and Antifa derive from and in fact envy.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 15:23 (two months ago) link

I mean, it's a putrid stance, but it speaks to the mindset that the movie's appealing to in a way that goes beyond the well-established "but Ferris is the VILLAIN!" bit.

i carry the torch for disco inauthenticity (Eric H.), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 15:24 (two months ago) link

"Ferris is the villain" only popular in film crit circles. I've never a non-crit person who disliked him.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 15:26 (two months ago) link

and, actually, I agree, with misgivings, it's Hughes' best film.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 15:27 (two months ago) link

It would not be surprising to find that Ferris Bueller was a favorite film among a range of luminaries; Ferris’s like can be seen in the styles of John Roberts, Robert Francis O’Rourke, Drake, Billie Eilish, and David Hogg, who all reflect American acquisitiveness, aspiration, and individual (perhaps even reckless) choice.

edited for dog profanity (cryptosicko), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 17:24 (two months ago) link

Yup, first thing I think of re David Hogg is his recklessness about flaunting his individual choice.

i carry the torch for disco inauthenticity (Eric H.), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 17:36 (two months ago) link

The first thing I think of re David Hogg is how reckless I'd like to be with him flaunting it.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 17:41 (two months ago) link

(note that the hormonal sci-fi of Hughes’s Weird Science is superior to anything from the Marvel Cinematic Universe)

Wouldn't be an Armond White review without at least one of these...

but also fuck you (unperson), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 17:44 (two months ago) link

I don't know if I think Bueller is a villain but I do think he's a dick and I'm not a film critic

Guayaquil (eephus!), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 17:49 (two months ago) link

Read the review and it made me kind of sad; the old Armond was too original and zingy to recycle the same boring shit you can find in the institutional right wing; there are flashes of the old White here but there are moments where it could be Tucker Carlson and there's enough of that already.

Guayaquil (eephus!), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 17:52 (two months ago) link

there are flashes of the old White here

Yeah, I think this is what I responded to here, the semblance of an argument built from the evidence of the movie, for a change.

i carry the torch for disco inauthenticity (Eric H.), Wednesday, 4 August 2021 18:17 (two months ago) link

two weeks pass...

We need Chuck now. Heston remembered. https://t.co/cYHVEEbBXm pic.twitter.com/RxKnUzvu0C

— armond white (@3xchair) August 20, 2021

i carry the torch for disco inauthenticity (Eric H.), Friday, 20 August 2021 23:07 (two months ago) link

otm

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 21 August 2021 02:01 (two months ago) link

two weeks pass...

Fauci is a "despot" people

A lesson in media trickery: How National Geographics'#Fauci sells a political despot to film culture. Read it only here: @NatGeoUS @DrFaucis1 @lizgarbus pic.twitter.com/wW7weaSjNG

— armond white (@3xchair) September 10, 2021

i carry the torch for disco inauthenticity (Eric H.), Friday, 10 September 2021 22:42 (one month ago) link

(I can only assume the tagging of dummy accounts is deliberate.)

i carry the torch for disco inauthenticity (Eric H.), Friday, 10 September 2021 22:43 (one month ago) link

He says "Read it only here:" but then didn't include a link?

Piven After Midnight (The Yellow Kid), Friday, 10 September 2021 22:50 (one month ago) link

Hated his Nomadland review. He takes a 40-second bit of speechifying, and that becomes the platform for his typical National Review suck-up review--couldn't even see it as, at the very least, a good road film.

clemenza, Sunday, 12 September 2021 00:04 (one month ago) link

one month passes...

If you don't think the Alec Baldwin t-shirt is a brilliantly funny, justified riposte, you probably enjoy SNL, Samantha Bee, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show, Jimmy Fallon and Bill Maher. @DonaldJTrumpJr @nbcsnl pic.twitter.com/VURC7TIsPf

— armond white (@3xchair) October 25, 2021

Milm & Foovies (Eric H.), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 14:15 (yesterday) link

gosh he's right

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 14:28 (yesterday) link

is that Tim Heidecker on the left?

Typo? Negative! (Boring, Maryland), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 14:29 (yesterday) link

xp lol I was gonna say, but glad I didn't have to say

Milm & Foovies (Eric H.), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 14:29 (yesterday) link

Alt-White

the utility infielder of theatre (Neanderthal), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 16:24 (yesterday) link

I would love to see an AW review of Malcolm & Marie (isn't one, evidently). I think it would make him apoplectic...except maybe the "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" rule would apply: the film seems to be hated by some of the same lefty critics White hates, so maybe he'd contort himself into defending the film.

clemenza, Wednesday, 27 October 2021 01:43 (seventeen hours ago) link


You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.