MCN Blogs
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Say What, Armond?

I kind of love the way some Facebook posts end up generating a pretty interesting comments discussion. Last night, Matt Zoller Seitz posted a link to Armond White’s review of The Conspirator, Robert Redford’s newest directorial effort, which led Glenn Kenny to note that White had lumped in Matt Damon with George Clooney and Sean Penn, thusly:

Now, with The Conspirator, Redford himself seems to believe his own legend; he has joined his knuckle-headed, self-righteous progeny—George Clooney, Sean Penn and Matt Damon—by directing a film that is as dull as it is politically hip.

What’s that you say? You didn’t know Damon had directed a movie? Neither did Kenny. Neither did I or, probably, anyone else besides Armond White (Pssssst … Armond, you’re perhaps thinking of Damon’s Good Will Hunting co-writer Ben Affleck.) Not that we wouldn’t be perfectly happy to see Damon try his hand at being behind the camera; I for one would fully support that effort, and I’d be interested to see just what kind of movies Damon might direct. It’s just that right now, he hasn’t done so, is all. I know, picky picky.

I haven’t seen The Conspirator , so I can’t say whether I agree or disagree with Armond White’s slam of the film, which seems to be as much about White raging against the liberal Hollywood (Communists! Bleeding hearts!) machine as it is about the film in question. But you don’t have to have seen the film to enjoy (so to speak) reading White’s review, which includes, among other bits, this nugget of cinephile wisdom:

But The Conspirator abuses the same Civil War atmosphere that Jonah Hex brilliantly turned into a comic exploration of contemporary political terror and spiritual gloom. Critics failed to appreciate the expressionist ingenuity of Jonah Hex— an action film-plus, ably directed by Jimmy Hayward and written by Neveldine-Taylor, the genre-revisionist team.

Waitwaitwait … what’s that? We’re talking about the same Jonah Hex the rest of us saw, right? The one where Megan Fox was actually one of the best parts of a film that was so poorly scripted even Josh Brolin couldn’t make it good? THAT Jonah Hex? I mean, I’d grant that the Jonah Hex comics are pretty brilliant, and I’ll admit that there’s certainly plenty of room for intelligent people to disagree about what constitutes good filmmaking, but to say the adaptation even came close to achieving “expressionist ingenuity” is so deliberately contrarian as to be laughable. How can anyone take Armond White seriously when he writes something like that?

White also dredges up Redford’s nauseatingly moralistic Lions for Lambs, making sure his readers know that:

Redford had shown remarkable—lonely—intelligence in his previous directorial effort, Lions for Lambs, which examined the tumult of contemporary political antagonism plainly and humanely by arguing opposing sides of the Iraq War, so that biased journalists chose to conveniently dismiss it.

So, in the World According to White, every critic who thought Lions for Lambs was not a great film was just … biased. We conveniently dismissed it because of our bloody liberal politics, not because it just wasn’t as compelling a film as it should have been, right? And this from the man who thought Toy Story 3 is a “sap’s story” that “strictly celebrates consumerism.”

Right. Thanks for clearing all that up, Armond. Now I actually want to see The Conspirator just because he hated it … hey, if that’s the kind of effect White’s reviews have on people, maybe studios should get him to hate on their films more often. It sure didn’t hurt Toy Story 3.

4 Responses to “Say What, Armond?”

  1. Don Krumble says:

    Wow. Thanks for bringing Armond White to more people’s attention. He’s quickly becoming a household name thanks to the likes of angry journalists like Kim. You can try to supress him lady, but the man is intelligent, and he speaks the truth. There will always be an audience for that, and by the looks of it, a pretty large one. Also, for whatever it’s worth, Armond knows that Damon hasn’t directed a film. The structuring of his argument seems to have been a bit sloppy, but those with enough awareness understand what he’s saying. He was simply getting at the fact that the self righteous progeny of Penn, Clooney and Damon, are often involved with, and associated with, movies that are as dull as they are politically hip. Seems like there is a real inferiority complex among critics. The minute Armond makes the slightest slip in an argument, it’s “stop the press everybody! Armond made a minor mistake in a valid argument! He’s sooooo stupid. And did I mention that the dude likes Jonah Hex? Rofl!” Meanwhile, Armond’s powerful, and brutally truthful essay “What we don’t talk about when we talk about movies,” is a white elephant in the corner of every film critic’s mind space. Ebert wasn’t even aware of it until after sticking his neck out to praise Armond. After having it brought to his attention, he turned on Armond conveniently and labeled him a troll. It’s pretty obvious that Kim Voyner is aware of the article. Either that, or she’s simply too ignorant to truly grasp Armond’s cultural insights. And that’s a shame. She’s quickly becoming the minority.

  2. Thuan Dang says:

    When you see a movie, you watch for plot, performance, and pacing. When Armond White sees a movie, he watches for underlying meaning, cultural analysis and visual style.

  3. Nicol D says:

    “Armond knows that Damon hasn’t directed a film.”

    Exactly.If you disagree with Armond…great. I don’t even want to get into Redford’s comments of late. But please, do not set up a straw man argument against White, as intelligent a reviewer as there is (and I love Toy Story 3) by “parsing” and “nuancing” his language to make it look like he knows nothing about film, when you know he does.

    That is a left wing debating tactic that gets very old.

    You’re better than that, Dave.

  4. Sean Gallagher says:

    “When Armond White sees a movie, he watches for underlying meaning, cultural analysis and visual style.”

    Well, I’ll grant that last one, even though I wonder about any critic who thinks Michael Bay is the quintessential director when it comes to “visual style”, but as for the other two, I submit what White really does is decide before he goes into the theater what the film’s underlying meaning is, and writes accordingly, or he just pulls it out of his ass. I’m sorry, but if there was any “expressionist ingenuity” in JONAH HEX, it completely escaped me, and it escaped a lot of others as well.

    “The minute Armond makes the slightest slip in an argument, it’s “stop the press everybody! Armond made a minor mistake in a valid argument!”

    Again, I would vehemently disagree about his arguments being valid (his argument about “The Wire” being nothing more than – I’m paraphrasing here – cynicism on parade is the complete opposite of valid, and there’s also the time he praised THE HURT LOCKER, only to backpedal when he realized most of the other critics were praising it too), but if critics pounce on his mistakes, that’s because he makes so many of them (way back to when he went off on a tangent about the line in COPLAND where Ray Liotta said, “Being white is not a bullet-proof vest!” Except he didn’t actually say that; what he said was “Being *right* is not a bullet-proof vest!” I think we can agree those are two entirely different statements). There used to be websites devoted to showing how invalid and mistake-riddled his arguments were (and may still be, for all I know).

    No, White is not a moron. He’s an asshat.

Quote Unquotesee all »

“The thought is interrupted by an odd interlude. We are speaking in the side room of Casita, a swish and fairly busy Italian bistro in Aoyama – a district of Tokyo usually so replete with celebrities that they spark minimal fuss. Kojima’s fame, however, exceeds normal limits and adoring staff have worked out who their guest is. He stops mid-sentence and points up towards the speakers, delighted. The soft jazz that had been playing discreetly across the restaurant’s dark, hardwood interior has suddenly been replaced with the theme music from some of Kojima’s hit games. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music is sublime in its context but ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots’ is not, Kojima acknowledges, terribly restauranty. He pauses, adjusting a pair of large, blue-framed glasses of his own design, and returns to the way in which games have not only influenced films, but have also changed the way in which people watch them. “There are stories being told [in cinema] that my generation may find surprising but which the gamer generation doesn’t find weird at all,” he says.
~ Hideo Kojima

“They’re still talking about the ‘cathedral of cinema,’ the ‘communal experience,’ blah blah. The experiences I’ve had recently in the theatre have not been good. There’s commercials, noise, cellphones. I was watching Colette at the Varsity, and halfway through red flashes came up at the bottom of the frame. A woman came out and said, ‘We’re going to have to reboot, so take fifteen minutes and come back.’ Then they rebooted it from the beginning, and she had to ask the audience to tell her how far to go. You tell me, is that a great experience? I generally don’t watch movies in a cinema at all. Netflix is the future. It’s the present. But the whole paradigm of a series, binge-watching, it’s quite different. My first reaction is that it’s more novelistic, because if you have an eight-hour season, you can get into complex, intricate things. You can let it breathe and the audience expectations are such that they will let you, where before they wouldn’t have the patience. I think only the surface has been touched with experimenting with that.”
~ David Cronenberg