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 (eighteen years ago) link

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

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

Was that elementary school actually in Florida?

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

"Punditocracy"??!! I love it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Al-Jazeera bashing = automatic idiotic review.

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

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

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

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

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

hahahaha alex

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

love this guy tbh!

calzino, Wednesday, 22 December 2021 22:55 (nine months ago) link

No sane person believes

How would Armond White know what sane people believe?

but also fuck you (unperson), Wednesday, 22 December 2021 23:15 (nine months ago) link

The Last Duel is a chic feminist rewrite of history. Its analogy asks: Can Michelle replace Hillary?

this is actually very funny and I respect his commitment to what he does much more than I do with a bullshit wanker like Peter Bradshaw. Even if I'm straining to work out how the fuck he came to this mad summary!

calzino, Thursday, 23 December 2021 01:45 (nine months ago) link

two weeks pass...

It's "better than" list time ...

Movie culture reached a turning point in 2021 where the glut of content, streaming or in theaters, overwhelmed concerns about quality, craft, and the destructive messages being sold to us. Film artists competed with virtue-signaling, and political distraction was confused with emotional and visual satisfaction.

This year’s Better-Than List is, more than ever, a reminder of the standards we must hold to keep our sanity and to maintain culture that preserves our humanity and morality. Every Better-Than choice offers alternatives to deceit, ineptitude, and nihilism.

About Endlessness > Dune, The Green Knight
Roy Andersson’s series of comic-tragic tableaux depict the modern Christian quest for salvation that is abandoned by Denis Villeneuve’s inexpressive sci-fi and David Lowery’s fractured mythology. Most sci-fi movies, like pseudo-myths, are about meaninglessness.

Annette > West Side Story
Leos Carax’s ravishing existential opera addresses artistic crisis, that creative challenge that Steven Spielberg’s remake turns into no-hope social-justice platitudes.

Coming 2 America > Judas and the Black Messiah
Eddie Murphy and Craig Brewer’s superior sequel hilariously corrects Hollywood’s fashionable, insulting race hustle. The year’s best Hollywood movie is a welcoming diaspora comedy.

Shoplifters of the World > Licorice Pizza
Stephen Kijak’s tribute to The Smiths captures the inextinguishable flame of pop-culture fraternity, going deeper than Paul Thomas Anderson’s clever ’70s period piece.

France > Drive My Car
Bruno Dumont’s media heroine reveals contemporary psychic turmoil while Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Chekhov imitation distracts from it. Dumont mixes genres to pungent effect while Hamaguchi tells the wrong story and lards it with “art.”

Summer of 85 > Belfast
François Ozon revisits ’80s AIDS-era innocence for a bold cultural confession, while Kenneth Branagh turns Irish ethnic conflict into totally inauthentic pop nostalgia.

Sin > Benedetta, House of Gucci
Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky’s awesome Michelangelo biopic explores the price and sacrifice of achieving greatness. Paul Verhoeven and Ridley Scott exploit the business of religion and fashion for shameless Euro-trash.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Army of the Dead, Army of Thieves > No Time to Die
Snyder finally got his chance to fulfill the visionary possibilities of pop myths, but the James Bond franchise-holders kill off the formerly fun, expressive brand.

Georgetown > The Card Counter
Christoph Waltz’s unsparing Beltway satire is more humane than Paul Schrader’s wallow in way-late recriminations about the Iraq War.

Love Is Love Is Love > Passing, The Lost Daughter
Eleanor Coppola’s wisdom about female experience is missing from Rebecca Hall’s and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s miserable tales about racial and gender identity. Coppola doesn’t fit the feminist model, she transcends it.

Saint-Narcisse > The Power of the Dog
Bruce LaBruce dares explore the mystique of sexual identity, creating his own, rich mythology, but Jane Campion demeans the Western genre as if to justify the misandry and homophobia of pseudo-feminism.

Sublet > Parallel Mothers
Eytan Fox forces a haughty New York Times journalist in Israel to rethink his place in the world, but Almodóvar’s bisexual melodrama turns his usual charm into a pretext for lamenting Spain’s Fascist past. Remarkable compassion vs. embarrassing guilt.

Licorice Pizza > The Worst Person in the World
Anderson’s wild, evocative anecdotes about freewheeling youth best Joachim Trier’s exploits that tirelessly defend self-obsessed Millennials. It’s the difference between romance and cynicism.

Dear Comrades! > The Tragedy of Macbeth
Konchalovsky’s view of recent Soviet history (featuring a powerful performance by Yuliya Vysotskaya) parallels the contemporary U.S. Communist threat, but Joel Coen traduces Shakespeare to flatter contemporary U.S. political trends. A vibrant history lesson vs. a lesson in thespian vanity.

Pig > King Richard
Nicolas Cage’s artisan-avenger makes Michael Sarnoski’s folktale a fable about personal conviction, but Will Smith misses the point in his latest egotistical biopic.

Max Hamburgers (Eric H.), Saturday, 8 January 2022 00:40 (eight months ago) link

his binaries are more awful than ever

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 8 January 2022 01:00 (eight months ago) link

Almodóvar’s bisexual melodrama turns his usual charm into a pretext for lamenting Spain’s Fascist past.

he's such a sloppy wrier these days I'm not even sure he even means the consequences of this sentence

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 8 January 2022 01:01 (eight months ago) link

I'm such a sloppy wrier these days

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 8 January 2022 01:01 (eight months ago) link

Had not heard of Georgetown or (maybe other than a 2019 festival mention) Love is Love is Love until now. Curious about both.

... (Eazy), Saturday, 8 January 2022 01:32 (eight months ago) link

I'm not curious enough about either of those films to pay to watch them

Dan S, Saturday, 8 January 2022 01:42 (eight months ago) link

Having Licorice Pizza show up at both ends of a pairing is kind of neat...although I seem to recall him doing that before.

clemenza, Saturday, 8 January 2022 01:47 (eight months ago) link

It's "better than" list time ...

What a relief! I literally just now said "Oh no" to myself seeing the revive, worrying that he'd written something pissy about Poitier (and why that I don't know).

Precious, Grace, Hill & Beard LTD. (C. Grisso/McCain), Saturday, 8 January 2022 01:57 (eight months ago) link

I haven't seen Georgetown but hThe Card Counter was very disappointing.

but also fuck you (unperson), Saturday, 8 January 2022 02:05 (eight months ago) link

Not having seen many of these, they don’t look on paper as crazy as his takes usually are. I can definitely believe Pig (seen) is better than King Richard (haven’t seen), tho pairing them doesn’t make any obvious sense despite his explanation.

a man often referred to in the news media as the Duke of Saxony (tipsy mothra), Saturday, 8 January 2022 15:48 (eight months ago) link

Maybe his editor said he wasn't allowed to call Will Smith a sex pig in print.

Max Hamburgers (Eric H.), Saturday, 8 January 2022 15:48 (eight months ago) link

Armond White hasn't had an editor since the New York Press folded.

but also fuck you (unperson), Saturday, 8 January 2022 15:54 (eight months ago) link

"the formerly fun, expressive brand"

all bonds are bad

mark s, Sunday, 9 January 2022 11:59 (eight months ago) link

Maybe as close to cogent or at least predictable as he's been in awhile?

What Is the Worst Film of 2021? That's easy. It's Don't Look Up.
Adam McKay wages civil war, Hollywood style.

Readers have asked why the Better-Than List did not include a Bad Luck Banging > Don’t Look Up entry. My answer comes from W. C. Fields: “Too blatant.”

Radu Jude’s funny, shocking essay on Covid-era lunacy and its political roots was third-rail satire that found little public and media response. That old theater maxim “Satire is what closes on Saturday” seems relevant but off the mark when mainstream culture is incapable of appreciating satire.

Don’t Look Up is Netflix’s evasive, misstated excuse for political satire that fails very badly because writer-director Adam McKay doesn’t grasp his own political prejudices. Unlike Jude, McKay has no real sense of humor, just sophomoric ridicule. He brazenly broadcasts the entitled sense of obnoxiousness encouraged in Hollywood or Broadway environs, where liberalism has turned into progressivism. And as essayist David Horowitz observed, “inside every progressive is a totalitarian screaming to get out.”

Romanian esthete Jude knows what totalitarianism looks like, but self-satisfied American McKay thinks totalitarianism looks like progress. That’s why Don’t Look Up’s score-settling jokes are off. The premise, in which a team of astrophysicists (Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence) discover a comet headed for collision with Earth and try to warn the president of the United States (Meryl Streep), is so deeply earnest — yet facetious — that it’s humorless. DiCaprio and Lawrence fear that only six months and 14 days remain for mankind, echoing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s warning that we all have only 12 years left before humanity collapses. The warnings go unheeded, because we are not as smart as them.

McKay’s “climate crisis” is more narrow-minded than Jude’s survey of media-madness and lockdown hysteria. McKay pokes fun at the end of the world the same way that progressives employ threats instead of making humanist appeals to reason. The film’s negativity indicts McKay and insults his audience.

Don’t Look Up’s better-than-you comedy reveals the nastiness of liberals who cannot abide difference of opinion. Experts DiCaprio and Lawrence (a bloated egotist and a hipster egotist) sneer at “climate deniers,” creating their own coterie of bourgeois elite, spending the end-times at an elite dinner among new civil-war separatists. All who oppose them are fools, including an executive branch leader who is essentially of their own kind — depicted by Streep with lofty giddiness.

Given Streep’s strained buffoonery, we might realize how the media coddles Puppet President Joe for the express purpose of holding on to power. This pragmatic, disdainful maneuver, a stealthy coup against public consciousness, exceeds McKay’s capacity for insight. But note that it’s achieved only through media complicity — the temerity familiar from late-night talk shows and TV propaganda mills such as Saturday Night Live (McKay’s breeding ground). Although McKay avoids skewering his own profession, by now it’s apparent that establishment comedians have restructured comedy into thin-skinned self-righteousness (as with the cackling Disney villainesses on The View). They can’t resist forcing their predictable politics on the public.

In Bad Luck Banging, Jude presented a three-part argument that included documentary realism. But McKay’s doomsday fantasy offers know-it-all-ism under the guise of absurdity, then makes the error of using annihilation as an analogy for climate change. This is not just ridiculous, it lacks the sensitive character detail of broad satire like Dr. Strangelove.

That’s the reason McKay goes for a pompous, all-star spectacle. As in 2018’s Vice, his hateful, too-early tirade against the Dick Cheney clan, Don’t Look Up boasts a marquee roster. These liberal Hollywood fellow-travelers are the least appealing cast of any movie this century.

It’s a showcase of those who’ve already committed deceitful grandstanding (Streep, Lawrence, DiCaprio) or who are lower-level deceivers (Thimothée Chalamet, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Jonah Hill, and Mark Rylance as a Fauci-Gates-Bezos composite like his cloying character in Ready Player One).

Every caricature, teetering between silliness and arrogance, lacks farcical dimension; it’s the shrillness of virtue-signaling celebrities telling us how to feel and what we should think. McKay relies on their fame and misapplies their skills — unlike the believably harried city folk in Bad Luck Banging and the panoply of all-American types in Tim Burton’s social, cultural, political extravaganza Mars Attacks. These are the Great Obliviots — overpaid performers so oblivious to state of the world actually happening around them that they exaggerate pandemonium beyond recognition.(The only obnoxious leftists missing are Robert DeNiro, George Clooney, Alec Baldwin, and Mark Ruffalo.)

But the fault is not only in these stars; they’re following McKay’s humiliating orders. His topical sarcasm about bureaucratic infighting (grifting military advisers, a lone black political operative) neither earns our cynicism nor justifies offending our sensibilities. McKay is, in fact, topically retarded. The White House–Beltway jokes are far behind The West Wing’s; the scientific-paranoia gags don’t improve on War Games or Minority Report; his fear of the future mimics Year One, Armageddon, and Deep Impact. His pretense of unsparing showbiz parody doesn’t match our gobsmacked sense of the ridiculous: Ariana Grande playing an opportunistic pop star singing at a political event in a feather gown doesn’t compare with her performance in a black tutu at Aretha Franklin’s funeral while ogled at by Jesse Jackson and Bill Clinton.

Because we’ve already crossed the Rubicon, McKay’s browbeating us about it feels redundant and wimpy. He cowardly identifies the New York Times as “The New York Herald,” defanging any satire of media blowhards. Then he completely avoids the ramifications of Big Tech’s First Amendment clampdown — implicitly accepting the calamitous censorship of the president of the United States. Only climate-crisis folderol matters.

We are far ahead of McKay, because the worst has already happened — the end of liberty, honesty, election integrity, science, gender, and religion. An apocalyptic comedy by atheist liberals doesn’t even come close to being scary, or a plausible allegory.

McKay has fashioned himself a niche as Hollywood’s premier political reactionary. The Big Short was his overweening, unintelligible reaction to the 2008 recession. Vice was his Bush 43 revenge-kill, targeting a subordinate. Vice may have preempted a Trump satire by McKay, but the Derangement Syndrome is strong in this guy. Laudatory reviews for Don’t Look Up mean that McKay isn’t likely to stop clowning, even though Nancy Pelosi ripping up President Trump’s State of the Union address on TV, kneeling at the Capitol in a kente-cloth shawl, or later praising George Floyd’s “sacrifice” make more effective, dangerous, absurdist jokes than McKay.

Max Hamburgers (Eric H.), Wednesday, 12 January 2022 22:57 (eight months ago) link

Laudatory reviews for Don’t Look Up

Most of the reviews I've seen have been, at best, lukewarm?

Les hommes de bonbons (cryptosicko), Wednesday, 12 January 2022 23:05 (eight months ago) link

Most of the reviews I've seen have been, at best, lukewarm?

No, no; everything Armond dislikes has been otherwise universally praised, because Armond is a Brave, Truth-Telling Contrarian, and that's how it works.

but also fuck you (unperson), Wednesday, 12 January 2022 23:10 (eight months ago) link

As in 2018’s Vice, his hateful, too-early tirade against the Dick Cheney clan

HAHA

Precious, Grace, Hill & Beard LTD. (C. Grisso/McCain), Wednesday, 12 January 2022 23:11 (eight months ago) link

Yeah--it's fiction to pretend this has been mostly well reviewed. There was a piece someone sent me last week complaining about how all the bad reviews are missing the point. (An interesting piece itself insofar as the guy seems clueless as to the function of criticism.)

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2021/12/critics-of-dont-look-up-are-missing-the-entire-point

clemenza, Wednesday, 12 January 2022 23:12 (eight months ago) link

_As in 2018’s Vice, his hateful, too-early tirade against the Dick Cheney clan_


HAHA

LOL, I missed that gem.

Max Hamburgers (Eric H.), Wednesday, 12 January 2022 23:17 (eight months ago) link

three weeks pass...

Reviews the Poly Styrene documentary:

https://www.nationalreview.com/2022/02/the-poly-styrene-story-is-a-lesson-for-us-all/

I'm glad to see a lengthy review from anyone, and I still haven't been able to see the film. Positioning the Poly Styrene of 1978 as a counter to the Neil Young of 2022 strikes me as somewhat ridiculous--I suspect Poly Styrene would be taking exactly the same actions herself if she were alive--and the Poly Styrene of 1978 vs. the Neil Young of 1978, that's hardly so clear-cut either. Anyway, I'm glad he likes it. I do wonder what he'd be writing if the documentary takes off to great acclaim and he were reviewing it six months from now.

clemenza, Wednesday, 2 February 2022 21:38 (eight months ago) link

one month passes...

Big swing alert!

https://letterboxd.com/notarmondwhite/film/the-godfather/1/

On the 50th anniversary of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather, it is worth reexamining the film’s haunting opening. A face emerges from shadow and speaks: “I believe in America.” The moment is even more haunting now, when our major institutions, corporations, and even mainstream Hollywood promote America-hating nonbelief — as in the destructive, nihilistic mythologies of Spotlight, 12 Years a Slave, Moonlight, The Shape of Water, Nomadland, The Power of the Dog, as well as the subversions of the 1619 Project.

Max Hamburgers (Eric H.), Friday, 18 March 2022 14:15 (six months ago) link

Oh.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 18 March 2022 14:17 (six months ago) link

The Godfather, a rebuke to all the America-hating going on today (and in 1972).

(I'm sure his argument is not as ludicrous as that.)

clemenza, Friday, 18 March 2022 14:23 (six months ago) link

I wouldn't be so sure.

Max Hamburgers (Eric H.), Friday, 18 March 2022 14:26 (six months ago) link

"I believe in America," says the father petitioning America's biggest mob boss for a hit.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 18 March 2022 14:28 (six months ago) link

This is a hint that his next move is to have the New York Film Critics Circle Awards ceremony massacred by helicopter attack.

Halfway there but for you, Friday, 18 March 2022 14:34 (six months ago) link

In the essential struggle out of society’s crushing anonymity, the American dream can turn to nightmare.

he would know

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Friday, 18 March 2022 16:17 (six months ago) link

I sort of unironically love this?

It was great writing for First Things. https://t.co/uflnZTuD8F pic.twitter.com/DrhWsMyUGw

— Armond White (@3xchair) March 21, 2022

Max Hamburgers (Eric H.), Monday, 21 March 2022 23:34 (six months ago) link

one month passes...

Who could possibly be surprised?

Don't expect a better American movie in 2022 than Father Stu. #FatherStuMovie https://t.co/7JLVIrKbpW pic.twitter.com/aMq14yoJbt

— Armond White (@3xchair) April 20, 2022

Max Hamburgers (Eric H.), Thursday, 21 April 2022 18:40 (five months ago) link

Would rather read him about Disco Stu

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 21 April 2022 18:44 (five months ago) link

Tom Scharpling was riffing on the trailer on a recent episode of his podcast, and all I kept thinking was that this movie was going to be huge and would inspire a month of think-pieces on contemporary Hollywood's disdain for "faith-based" entertainment (as if this isn't basically the same movie as CODA and King Richard).

Les hommes de bonbons (cryptosicko), Thursday, 21 April 2022 18:51 (five months ago) link

"A career peak for Mark Wahlberg"... wow!!

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Thursday, 21 April 2022 18:59 (five months ago) link

"it’s not preaching to the choir. It’s got F-bombs, so you do have to weather those things to get to the jewel.”

Yep, we sure don't see people purporting to be members of the choir dropping F-bombs in today's America.

Max Hamburgers (Eric H.), Thursday, 21 April 2022 19:14 (five months ago) link

According to The-Numbers, the film earned $5.4 million its opening weekend. The film would earn a total of $7.7 million in its first five days given it opened on Wednesday, April 13th.

Not exactly The Passion 2.

Max Hamburgers (Eric H.), Thursday, 21 April 2022 19:57 (five months ago) link

one month passes...

https://letterboxd.com/notarmondwhite/film/lightyear-2022/

Lightyear proves that the folks at Pixar and Disney are past masters at audience manipulation, now known as “grooming.”

Yeah, that's not what people are using the word "grooming" to insinuate.

Eggs Benedick (Eric H.), Friday, 17 June 2022 13:28 (three months ago) link

three weeks pass...

Father Stu aside, this seems like a highly non-maniacal mid-year list: https://letterboxd.com/notarmondwhite/list/mid-year-reckoning-2022/

Bait Kush (Eric H.), Wednesday, 13 July 2022 14:11 (two months ago) link

one month passes...

Idiot Chalamet has not yet had a popular hit. Only Hollywood media likes him and reward him with attention. #DenyChalamet https://t.co/HpsGyRiIPR

— Armond White (@3xchair) September 2, 2022

papal hotwife (milo z), Friday, 2 September 2022 23:41 (one month ago) link

I guess Dune was a bust?

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Friday, 2 September 2022 23:47 (one month ago) link

And Little Women?

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 2 September 2022 23:53 (one month ago) link

OK, I shouldn't have read the last month of tweets. We shouldn't even link to him anymore.

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 2 September 2022 23:57 (one month ago) link

I was searching something today and his Licorice Pizza review came up. (He liked it.) Opening sentence: "Paul Thomas Anderson’s most famous films, Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood, cursed America."

Whether you love, hate, or are indifferent to Boogie Nights, I don't see how you can view it as a curse on America. I mean, if you hate it, one of the reasons might be that it views the porn industry as a nurturing, extended family. One of the main reasons I love it are joyous moments like "Those are great names!" (or the serenity of the final tracking shot through Burt Reynolds' house). It's not a mean or judgmental film at all.

clemenza, Saturday, 3 September 2022 00:41 (one month ago) link

OK, I shouldn't have read the last month of tweets. We shouldn't even link to him anymore.

I mean, this one is pretty funny, regardless of intention.

Just watched a TV trivia game show in which no one remembered Sandra Bullock's #Netflix hit @Birdbox. pic.twitter.com/APrPNkTkXh

— Armond White (@3xchair) September 1, 2022

Bait Kush (Eric H.), Saturday, 3 September 2022 16:17 (one month ago) link

It's not a mean or judgmental film at all.

Not saying it's "mean" to condemn a pedophile, but the film's epilogue specifically exists to reward the good-hearted characters and punish the bad. If anything, it's too insistent on the audience finding the majority of the characters as lovable as the filmmakers do.

Halfway there but for you, Saturday, 3 September 2022 17:40 (one month ago) link

The Colonel meets with a bad end, of course, but that's about it. Anyway, your last sentence makes the same point that I do: it's not a film that, love it or despise it, "cursed America." (There Will Be Blood, sure.)

clemenza, Saturday, 3 September 2022 18:08 (one month ago) link

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/04/review-freaks-and-geeks-documentary-show-made-nihilism-cool/

Haven't read it yet, but--after a slow start for the first three or four episodes--Freaks & Geeks is great. So I'm counting on lots of maniacal stuff in there.

clemenza, Thursday, 15 September 2022 17:03 (two weeks ago) link

That review's actually four years old...I went looking for a Godard comment from White, and that was at the top of his Twitter page for some reason.

clemenza, Thursday, 15 September 2022 17:07 (two weeks ago) link


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