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March 21, 2009


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Ti Alan Chase

I'll be in church with a number of friends whom White would probably lump into the "secular movie mob" given our taste in films.


I find it ironic that Armond wrote off the matter-of-fact, respectful treatment of people of faith in SILENT LIGHT as "trivial" and "anti-spiritual," whle praising Mel Gibson's sub-Lucio Fulci splatterfest. Something gives me the feeling that if SILENT LIGHT were widely panned or ignored, he'd love it.

Glenn Kenny

I like your characterization of GIbson's "Passion." I recall seeing it and thinking about 2/3rds of the way through, "What the hell is this? The Gospel According to Tony Iommi?" And then Jim Henson's Satan Babies came to get Judas, which was pretty much the cherry on top....

Tom Russell

I'd like to reiterate my belief that Armond White is actually a Andy Kaufman-style avante-garde comedian. That's the only way what he says makes any sense.

I thought "The Passion of the Christ" was pretty awful. How awful, might you ask? I'll tell you how awful.

For the following to make sense, you have to understand that my wife and I are "normal moviegoers"-- a term which here denotes the fact that we turn off our cell phones, do not stand in front of others in the theater, do not eat or slurp with excessive loudness, do not yell at the screen or throw things at people.

But when we saw "The Passion of the Christ", we were so bored by what was on the screen that we basically passed the time having a rather wide-ranging theological discussion and had to be shushed twice. This is the only time that we've ever done anything like that-- and so I think that counts as a special kind of awful.

Speaking of gory Jesus movies, though: why has no one made a film about Holy Saturday and the Harrowing of Hell? Jesus versus Satan, rescuing the righteous-- that's action movie gold even for us secular mobsters.

Lord Henry

HUNGER was my favourite movie of last year, but it was one of those films where I could understand somebody not liking it. But this --

"As prison-movie machismo, Walter Hill’s Undisputed is better; as visual art, Jan Troell’s Everlasting Moments is superior."

-- is insane.


"Passion" was okay if you are into snuff films. I'm not. At least I don't think I am since I haven't seen that many. Oh wait, I've seen both versions of Funny Games... so yeah... no, I'm definitely not into snuff films.

Sundays I like to sleep in late, then when I hear the church bells I like to put on my Slayer records. Unless of course it's Lent, then I put on my Deicide Cds. Tomorrow I may re-screen Winter Light. Now look what you made me do! I try to be a good person and not say anything unless I can say something nice.

I like your surly streak GK, don't fight it. It's a part of you and it's fun to read and if you quashed it there might be an undesirable ripple effect that messes up the rest of your writing. Plus, as one blogger friend likes to remind me, that's what blogs are for.

p.s.-I've never read Armond White. I just like a good brawl and name dropping Slayer.
p.p.s-" The Gospel According to Tommy Iommi" sounds like a good thing to me. And also a meme.


I'll probably be watching "A Man Escaped".

But listen, everybody, this idea that "Passion of the Christ" is a snuff film is getting old. Well, has already gotten old, I guess is a better way of saying it. The story of Jesus, whether you buy into it or not, features violent suffering as a pretty big component, to the degree of actually becoming one of the key points, and I've never understood why actually showing that violent suffering is somehow off the mark. No one has ever explained that to me. Jesus was tortured and then violently killed. Gibson chose to show that. So what's the problem, exactly?

Glenn Kenny

@bill, since you ask...where to begin? The slow-motion nonsense in the garden of Gethsemene scene, the crow biting out one of the thieves' eyes, the aforementioned Jim Henson's Satan Babies...sensationalistic/sadistic frippery that's nowhere in the Gospels that the filmmaker so arduously claimed to have been faithful to. And I have read all those Gospels, and the rest of the NT too. Good stuff. So there's that. Then there's the fact that the film doesn't merely depict Jesus's torture and suffering but practically luxuriates in it—in effect blunting the emotional impact it's supposed to have. The almost equally brutal flogging scene in John Hilyard's "The Proposition" is staggeringly superior, and an object lesson in how such things should be done.

On the other hand, maybe the whole thing was ruined for me by my former colleague Tom Roston. I went to a screening with him (the entire cast of "Fox and Friends" sat behind us!), and during the Last Supper scene, when they were taking those flat breads out of the oven, he whispered to me, "I didn't know they had Cosi in ancient times," which made me spend too long trying too hard to suppress my giggles.

Steven Santos

White hasn't been the only critic who have accused those who didn't like "Passion of the Christ" of biases and ulterior motives. Personally, I am getting sick of it. I do wish some day, any of the film's supporters would express what was so great about the filmmaking. Forget the accusations of anti-Semitism. "Passion" felt like it was adapted by Alex DeLarge from "A Clockwork Orange".

As a filmmaker, Mel Gibson is Zack Snyder mistaking himself for Terrence Malick. Although I would say Gibson was abusing slow motion before Snyder did. Apparently, Gibson's direction of actors was basically telling them to wear exactly one facial expression through the entire shoot. Gibson's idea of filmmaking is to pound one note (often sadistic, desensitizing violence) into the head of his audience.

"Passion" bored me like it did some others here. Although I have to admit that the last shot of Jesus rising from the dead and walking offscreen like the Terminator made me laugh out loud in the theater.

Tom Russell

And speaking of bibical/historical accuracy, if I'm not mistaken there's a scene in Gibson's film in which Jesus basically invents the table?


S.F. Hunger

Man, it's times like this that I *really* miss the old "Armond Dangerous" blog. Google that if you never saw it. Glenn, maybe you can pick up the torch and do a weekly Armond-in-review post.


@Glenn - The crow/eyeball scene wasn't a great idea, but saying that the film "practically luxuriates" in the violence is sort of subjective, isn't it? Because "luxuriate" isn't the word I'd use, nor did I find the emotional impacted blunted. Look, it's not my favorite film by a longshot -- I thought it was okay, to be honest -- but the whole "violence gives Mel Gibson a boner" talk that surrounded the film seemed ludicrous to me. Peckinpah's violence is voluptuous and balletic, Gibson's is the product of a perverse mind. The deck always seemed stacked to me. And I say that as someone who thinks Gibson is a nut, just maybe not THAT kind of nut. He may be fixated on violence as a subject, but so were/are a lot of directors who either get a pass on it, or at least aren't judged for having the fixation.


Sunday morning means a viewing of Radio Days for me. The Gospel According to Woody. Much less flagellation.

Account Deleted

'Christ' and 'Apocalypto' were strange films. Gotta love 'Braveheart' though.

Ryan kelly

I'd agree that you should lay off White. By playing him up like he's your arch nemesis you're really just giving him power, power that he relishes in (he's said in so many words that he enjoys pissing people off...). He knows he drives his detractors up a wall, and I wonder if he isn't writing with his critics in mind. If you don't let him bother you... well, he can't bother you! I think White subscribes to the "Just spell my name right" theory of publicity, and by giving him the attention he relishes in I think his detractors put him on the pedestal they're trying to take him off of!

I mean, the guy writes for the New York Press for Pete's sake! He may shit on us bloggers... but at least we don't write for the New York fuggin' Press, the trashiest trash paper in the history of New York trash papers. How Matt Zoller Seitz wound up writing for them (without tarting up and dumbing down his writing) I'll never fully understand. I always tell people that Seitz's review of Batman Begins and White's review of The Dark Knight are interesting case studies in how to trash a movie. Seitz calls Nolan's first film a 'bat turd', but it's the most gentle, benevolent, level headed pan I've ever had the pleasure of reading. White's review of TDK was written solely to provoke the people who liked it, instead of talking about the film itself. That I agreed with many of the points he made is not the real issue.

I think White makes interesting observations, usually at least one or two in a review, but the writing itself is structureless, aimless and, lately, pointless. That it's mean spirited is almost not the point. Almost.


@Ryan - Personally, I don't get the feeling that White drives Glenn up a wall. I get the sense that Glenn enjoys the hell out of White's, let's just say unique world view. I think Glenn would miss Armond White terribly if he weren't around. I certainly would. There aren't many critics with that kind of energetic, utterly dependable looniness. And I also suspect that White's intellectual exhibitionism would be on display whether Glenn, or indeed anyone else, was looking. If White weren't writing for the NY Press he would have a blog or if he couldn't figure out Blogger he'd do the same routine at dinner parties. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly ...


I think it's the perspective that bothers me. Showing (extreme and/or protracted) violence on screen is a shallow exercise unless it involves ideas outside of the mere act. Something other than simply "this is bad". I don't want to see it purely from the viewpoint of the victim or the perpetrator. I don't want to experience the violence myself. I want to connect it to a greater question or theme. It's what separates Saw from Irreversible or Hostel* from Salo.
*disclaimer: probably shouldn't pass judgement of Hostel, since I haven't seen it.

I'd take Payback over Braveheart, John Toll notwithstanding. It has a sense of humor (even if it owes part of it to John Boorman).

No Slayer so far today. Just followed last night's Bad Timing with Vertigo today. A nice combination.


One thing about Gibson: I don't think that he's a sadist or sadistic. He's a masochist with a Christ complex, get it right.

Cole Smithey

There is a certain justice in the fact that the NY Press is down to about 16 pages and available in about as many of their disused green boxes around town. I called "Hunger" a piece of "stunt filmmaking" in my review, and I'm sticking to it. Like Todd Solondz, Steve McQueen's career does not look as bright as Armond "The Tool" White imagines.

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