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August 15, 2009


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Michael Adams

"don't mouth off when you haven't the slightest idea of what the fuck you're talking about."

Wouldn't abiding by this, I mean, you know, put an end to comments sections such as the one in which I happily type?


I don't think its very fair of you to cherry pick a couple of poorly structured quotes from Armand White and then pretend that his reviews are incomprehensible.

In fact, in its context, its fairly easy to understand what he is saying in the Pelham 123 quote. Namely: when the original movie came out, the premise fit into the audience's preconceptions about the worst tendencies of the city they lived in. But in a post-9/11 world, the premise no longer fits the city.

To me, the basic problem is not with White, but with the Manichean structure of Rotten Tomatoes. A review must either be a pan or a rave; there is no in-between. The review is reduced to a tweet. There is no room for ambilavence, and there is no room for critics who want to use their reading of movies to engage in a larger critique of culture.

If you read White's reivews of Transformers 2 or G.I. Joe carefully, they are hardly raves. White, as I read him, does not like consumer culture. He does not like the infantilism present in corporate movies. But this is, nevertheless, the culture we live in, and these two movies embrace this tendency in our culture more than any other. As such, they are objects of interest for a critic who is looking to movies to explain how culture is created in late Capitalist societies. And the fact is, (for White) in looking at these movies, despite their crassness, or perhaps, because of it, there is something viscerally thrilling about the way their directors preofssionally stage the action.

That does not make them profound or intellectually stimulating, but at least they don't pretend to be. Meanwhile other movies that are cut from the same crass Capitalist tendencies try to disguise their nature and put on pretentious airs, while simultaneously sucking all the joie de vivre from the screen (his 3:10 to Yuma remark). This is, in fact, a very Andrew Sarris, kind of point.

Nor, despite, the tweet that has been wrenched out of his review on Rotten Tomatoes, is his review of "There Will Be Blood" a total pan. He loves the score, loves the cinematography, and loves Day Lewis' performance. But he thinks its an ideas movie with a confused, rotten idea at the core and that Anderson's conclusion is a rushed mess. The movie, then, strives to be a big idea movie, but has nothing at its center. This is the kind of opinion Pauline Kael expressed all the time (re: Apocalypse Now). Sarris too (re: most of Lynch's oeuvre.) Thus, judging the movie based on the standards Anderson sets for himself, White thinks the movie fails. This does not mean he thinks that G.I. Joe is a better movie, just that it fulfilled what it set out to do (something limited and crass) better than There Will Be Blood. Rotten Tomatoes has no room for such subtlety. But really, that's Rotten Tomatoes' problem isn't it.

Dan Seitz


I happen to think your reviews illustrate the problem. If White were just holding movies to the standards they aspire to, I doubt anybody would take issue with that. The problem is, as a rule, White decides anybody who doesn't agree with his standards must be a complete clod. Add to this his intentional contrarianism (you can pretty much peg that whatever the buzz is saying about a movie, White's generally going to offer up the exact opposite, hence his "District 9" review, which even people who don't like the movie think is drastically off the mark), and you've got the perfect equation for smug, self-righteous jackass.

Todd VanDerWerff

I actually worked as a copy editor for about five years to pay the bills (before the newspaper industry went kaput), so I have some experience in this arena, and I more or less followed the Pelham sentence. The second one quoted, though, is pretty much all over the place. I actually tried to diagram it and didn't really have a good sense of where it was going, though that may have something to do with not having all of the pronouns' antecedents in front of me. The first sentence diagrams pretty fine.


Had too much to drink at the Red Lobster...

glenn - junior drum set expert

I don't know, i've always thought White is pretty crazy, or at least a little odd. His dreams are something no one would think of, at least no one here would think of.

Matt Zoller Seitz, aka Drunken Necrophiliac

Armond White is the only true genius in film criticism today.

I'm a nothing squish compared to him. That's the real reason I quit the Press. I just couldn't bear not measuring up.

And now I have a hot and heavy date with Chris Penn.

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