Armond White, the internet’s favorite film critic, strikes back against his detractors and the online consensus mob mentality in an article at the New York Press — after provoking more ire by being one of (at the time I’m writing this) only three negative reviews of “The Social Network” at Rotten Tomatoes. Regardless of where you stand on Armond’s writing and opinions, it’s a worthwhile read that lands some punches with regard to the spoilers police, the eclipsing of criticism by studio marketing, and the insanity of attacking writers for giving a film an unexpected bad (or, in the case of “Vampires Suck,” good) review:
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.
The hostility that greets a pan of an anticipated film does seem to speak to a culture in which anticipation of what’s coming has become more important than what it’s like when it actually arrives. Worse, there’s the undercurrent of criticism being a killjoy, or taking too seriously what are “only movies,” as if to have higher expectations is to ask too much of an industry and an art that has huge cultural and financial impact in our lives.
Of course, for every valid point that Mr. White makes, there’s another that goes totally wild. His criticism of internet film culture includes everything from “The Social Network” to “trendy aggregate websites” like Rotten Tomatoes to “attacks from bloggers.” It indicates misunderstandings about how the internet works — he conflates bloggers with commenters (who leave “posts” on RT) and social networking sites with aggregators; he attaches significance to the way that “over three million Google results offered links to the ad hominem ferocity” — to his RT link? to the entry for the film? from where? And he addresses online culture as an impossible monolith in a way that can’t help but be seen as a “kids these days” rant.
And finally, he writes that “a new model of cultural response is taking over: criticism of criticism–and critics–as a pointless, snaky substitute for examining films themselves.” But in the field of “print” critics, if that’s a meaningful designation anymore, White has always been the worst offender in devoting whole segments of his reviews to the failures of his fellow critics. A few selections from his reviews:
“Critics preferred Let the Right One In for its selfpitying view of adolescence.” — from “Let Me In”
“The familiarity of these clichés explains the critical raves for Affleck’s two directorial stints. Given their specious ethnic subject matter, it is necessary to point out the mainstream media’s preference for this heist fantasy over the superior Takers as proof of racial preference; critics swallow Affleck’s thuggish pieties while ignoring the ethnic details in Takers and dismissing director John Luessenhop’s splendid distillation of genre form that gave it speed and complexity.” — from “The Town”
“If critics and fanboys weren’t suckers for simplistic nihilism and high-pressure marketing, Afterlife would be universally acclaimed as a visionary feat, superior to Inception and Avatar on every level.” — from “Resident Evil: Afterlife”
“Clooney’s still on his anti-American kick, sentimentalizing the corruption that appeals to cynical film critics who fall for his forced, noxious ‘charm.'” — from “The American”
“Most critics misjudged Wright’s 2006 Hot Fuzz as simply a cop movie parody; they completely ignored the sting in Wright’s spoofing how the English class system is repeated in its law enforcement bureaucracy and his bemused critique of its threatening arcane social traditions.” — from “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”