Armond White and the art of trolling.

Armond White and the art of trolling. (photo)

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There are really two kinds of people who care about constantly controversial New York Press critic Armond White. There are those who care about keeping up with film criticism regardless of what the movie is; White’s a veteran critic, a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, etc. He is Important, and you read him. And then there’s the rabid geek who lurks on Rotten Tomatoes, waiting for someone to challenge his or her (or, c’mon, his) sense of priorities.

Like “The 700 Club” and Glenn Beck, White’s work is reliably, pleasurably insane on a week-to-week basis; the volume of the outcry it provokes depends on who’s paying attention. And because the fanboys have a higher web presence than anyone else, it’s no surprise White’s distinctive take on “District 9” has them up in arms. For veteran readers, it’s business as usual: invocations of superior precedents (his beloved Steven Spielberg, natch), dismissive references to movies most people enjoyed as obviously stupid (“Children Of Men”), loving references to movies that annoyed most people (“Indiana Jones And The Crystal Skull”), a Morrissey reference, and… scene. White’s main point — a not unreasonable one, for a change of pace — is that Neill Blomkamp’s apartheid allegory is poorly conceived and trivializes what it seeks to examine. It’s arguable, but at least it is, in fact, arguable.

Roger Ebert saw it that way initially when he wrote “In Defense Of Armond White” — a needed defense, considering Armond’s review stands at 497 comments and counting at Rotten Tomatoes, all of them negative and some of them straight-up racist. Tackling head-on “White’s reputation as a critic who ‘doesn’t like anything,’ ” he harrumphed that “it would be more accurate to say he dislikes a great many films approved of by fanboys.” Ebert likes “District 9,”, but agrees with the legitimate grounds for disliking it. But he backtracked when he saw a chart someone had prepared for the angry hordes, dividing up good and bad movies according to White, and noting that critical darlings “A Christmas Tale” and “The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford” fell under the “Bad movies” category, while first up under “Good movies” was “Transformers 2.”

Well, that was all Ebert needed. In his perpetual war against Michael Bay’s sequel, his mortal cinematic enemy, he was forced to retract and qualify: “It is baffling to me that a critic could praise ‘Transformers 2’ but not ‘Synecdoche, NY.’ […] I am forced to conclude that White is, as charged, a troll. A smart and knowing one, but a troll.” Personally, I’ve never doubted White’s sincerity. His most annoying tic is the one in which he reviews two movies in a week, using one as a stick with which to club the other. There’s no measured middle ground, just ecstasy and agony; this means that he’s occasionally forced to rhapsodize about, say, “Transporter 3.”

White has to enjoy his position as a bomb-thrower, but that doesn’t mean he’s kidding; one does not, generally, build an over two decade career on a desire to publish the print equivalent of “LULZ.” White is many things — most of them annoying — but he’s not a troll. And “Transformers 2” shouldn’t change that anymore than, say, the fact that Ebert gave three and a half stars to Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs”. You know?

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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was narrated by Robert Evans and based on his memoir of the same name. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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