Armond White “Masters” The Film Bloggers
At the beginning of the week I post another edition of “Film News Worth Your Time”. However, a more pressing matter concerning journalistic integrity and persecution has taken precedent.
Film-Cycle Hall of Fame film critic Armond White has aroused the ire of the film blog-o-sphere with his dual article reviewing both Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master and Paul W.S. Andersons Resident Evil 4: Retribution. White makes the bold and well-defended claim that Paul W.S. Anderson is the superior of the two and calls PTA’s “The Master” trash. The Twitter-verse is already ablaze, the review is inciting shouts of “troll” and “hack”. If being a troll means writing daring and frighteningly intuitive cultural commentary, then Armond White is the biggest troll the world has ever seen.
I have a question.
Has cultural commentary and criticism devolved into such a state of herd mentality that the mere suggestion of someone bucking a popular trend or denouncing a fad is sacrilegious? I would have to answer yes, based on the juvenile, asinine, and off-color responses White’s review is drawing. Why is Armond White a troll? Is it imperative that one like The Master to gain acceptance as a film critic? Do you have to thumb your nose at the work of those considered “unimportant” and untalented (like director Paul W.S. Anderson) so that you can seem smart? It’s not like we’re talking about some internet film nerd whose knowledge of cinema is threadbare, at best, and thinks black and white films are “boring.” Armond White’s critics should actually read some of his other less “incendiary” articles, such as his think pieces on David Lean and Vincente Minnelli. Then they would see that he is not a troll, but an uncompromising, intuitive, and challenging film mind. People don’t see this. Why? He offends them by daring to dislike films they “love” (like The Dark Knight, Inception, and There Will Be Blood). However, their love and appreciation for a film and its director is not the pure kind that breeds understanding and growth, but a dark kind that causes jealousy, ignorance, and rabid fanaticism. Sadly, more unsavory off-shoots of the dark kind are now the typical calling cards of most cultural criticism today.
I wrote this article to defend Armond White, but in truth, he doesn’t need my defense. The pride he takes in his profession, the focus he has on the arts, and the childishness of his critics’ opposing arguments, has freed him from any need of defense.
Besides, he has said all he needed to say about the sad state of cultural criticism in his brilliant and timely article, Discourteous Discourse. In the article he asks us to:
“Consider how film criticism now works: Publicists select favorable media outlets to create advance buzz (embargoing others) and then, with frat-boy mentality in effect, no one else in cyberspace dares dissent from the hype.
A new model of cultural response is taking over: criticism of criticism—and critics—as a pointless, snaky substitute for examining films themselves.”
“Attacks from bloggers—crude interlopers of a once august profession— are not about diversity of opinion. What’s at root is an undisguised rivalry. Every moviegoer with a laptop claims equal—vengeful—standing with so-called professionals. Professional dignity is the last thing Internetters respect. Their loudmouth enmity and lack of knowledge are so overwhelming that it is imperative to put this crisis in perspective.
These new social networks overturn the informed judgments and occupational decorum of journalist-critics, substituting the glib enthusiasms and non-discriminating devotion of apparently juvenile cliques. Worse yet, this schoolyard style of peer group fanaticism has devolved into all-out, ugly intimidation: Internet bullying. It has begun to sway the professional ranks already frightened by media transitions that have cost many of my colleagues their jobs.
The most important concern exceeds the critical profession; it’s the danger these changes pose to the culture in general. Ridiculing the need for mature thought and discriminating judgment diminishes film culture. Any opinion that challenges the blockbuster market gets punished. We never experience a healthy exchange of ideas. The social networking approach to criticism encourages anti-intellectual harassment and the excoriation of individual response; it may spell the end of critical habits altogether.”
Testify Armond, testify.
Posted on September 18, 2012, in Film and tagged Armond White, City Arts, David Lean, Film Criticism, Matt Singer, Paul Brunick, Paul Thomas Anderson, Paul W.S. Anderson, Resident Evil 4, The Master, Vincente Minnelli. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.