Armond White has long been famous among film fans for his ... unique reviews.

The film critic, who writes for the alternative weekly the New York Press and whose reviews have appeared in Film Comment and the defunct The City Sun, takes no prisoners: His idiosyncratic reviews have often been labeled contrarian, fearless and provocative; he's also been accused of misanthropic mudslinging. Most of his reviews stand in opposition to the consensus. And he hates blog film critics.

If he were a movie, he'd have pull quotes like this:

"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." -- IFC

"Is Armond White a principled critic or an opportunistic crackpot -- or something in between?" -- Slant

Much of the controversy surrounding White's reviews was limited largely to the film criticism community until he reviewed "Toy Story 3" and gave it one of three bad reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Then all hell broke loose. It's one thing to pick fights with film nerds over art films; it's quite another to dismiss Woody, Buzz and the gang as, according to White, sell-outs in a heartless corporate movie. Armond White has long been famous among film fans for his ... unique reviews.

The film critic, who writes for the alternative weekly the New York Press and whose reviews have appeared in Film Comment and the defunct The City Sun, takes no prisoners: His idiosyncratic reviews have often been labeled contrarian, fearless and provocative; he's also been accused of misanthropic mudslinging. Most of his reviews stand in opposition to the consensus. And he hates blog film critics.

If he were a movie, he'd have pull quotes like this:

"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." -- IFC

"Is Armond White a principled critic or an opportunistic crackpot -- or something in between?" -- Slant

Much of the controversy surrounding White's reviews was limited largely to the film criticism community until he reviewed "Toy Story 3" and gave it one of three bad reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Then all hell broke loose. It's one thing to pick fights with film nerds over art films; it's quite another to dismiss Woody, Buzz and the gang as, according to White, sell-outs in a heartless corporate movie.

So what makes Armond tick? Why does he pick fights like this? Here are five reviews we dug up that prove that, while we may not entirely agree with his assessments, he makes a few good points amid the hyperbole.

'Transporter 3'



What the Critics Said:
"Incoherent and inconsistent, this is a step back for [Jason] Statham in his quest to become more than a cult figure." -- Chris Hewitt, Empire

"With insulting action sequences and a tacked-on love scene, the movie quickly veers into a downward spiral." -- Andrew McGlinn, FilmInk

White's Contrary Review:
"These intricately edited movie jousts aren't about speed but narrative, capturing instantaneous action, rescuing a moment and imprinting it. Movement is given comic-book efficacy and cubist energy. It's true visual wit. These are not stunts; they're objects d'art."

Why White Is Right:
Calling a 'Transporter' movie a work of art is probably a little over-the-top, but to be fair, critics sometimes have a hard time appreciating fun, mindless entertainment. Which is not something you can say about White. Once you filter out the hyperbole in his review (he actually uses the word "Godardian"), what you come up with is that this is actually a fun movie. White does have a fairly good point in that it feels more natural and less strained than a lot of indie movies: It knows exactly what it is, namely a movie where Jason Statham uses some poor mook's head to play a piano, and glories in it.

'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen'


What the Critics Said:
"[Director Michael] Bay seems to think that just showing us a bunch of brightly clashing metallic limbs (accompanied by lots of noise) is enough to make us faint in our seats with excitement." – Stephanie Zacharek, Salon.com

"'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen' is a bewildering, noisy, sloppy, cynical piece of work, a movie that sneers at the audience for 147 minutes and expects us to lap it up as entertainment -- and be grateful." – Robert Wilonsky, Village Voice

White's Contrary Review:
"Why waste spleen on Michael Bay? He's a real visionary -- perhaps mindless in some ways (he's never bothered filming a good script), but 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen' is more proof he has a great eye for scale and a gift for visceral amazement."

Why White Is Right:
Well, first off, he's not entirely in disagreement with the majority of the critics; after all, he does say right up front that 'Transformers 2' has a terrible script. On the other hand, he also says that it doesn't really matter because the scale is huge and the effects are impressive ...and he's got a point.

Stop and think about this for a minute; making us believe in those gigantic robots was a pretty tough job, but it worked thanks to the convincing special effects. You may hate Michael Bay's style, with its shaky-cam and lens flares, but there's no denying that the director puts his own stamp on a film.

Whether that qualifies as visionary is subjective, but if we're just going by the auteur theory, it actually makes sense (you don't have to be good to be an auteur, after all). And finally, do we really show up to a movie that proudly announces that it's based on a toy line expecting to find Shakespeare? So White is saying, we don't watch a movie like this for subtle storytelling, we show up expecting to be blown away by the effects. So we've got to give it to White, he's absolutely right.

'Fanboys'

What the Critics Said:
"Turns out there is something more annoying than an infatuated bunch of 'Star Wars' nerds. Turns out a movie about an infatuated bunch of 'Star Wars' nerds can really set your teeth on edge." – Rick Groen, Globe and Mail

"The plot device of young men who refuse to mature has never felt more exhausted, maybe because these actors or ones who look like them have already done this shtick in other movies" – Neil Genzlinger, New York Times

White's Contrary Review:
"... 'Fanboys' commemorates how crazily fans anticipated the opening of "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menacee.' Impatience about George Lucas' continuation of the series reveals the camaraderie within their pop infatuation. ... 'Fanboys' is actually about the sweetness of innocuous/inane adolescent passion. Director Kyle Newman satirizes geek erudition as a common cultural trait."

Why White Is Right:

First, let's just get this out of the way: The 'Star Wars' prequels were terrible. But up until 1999, 'Star Wars' was one of those cultural touchstones that everybody knew about, from the nerd putting 'Star Wars' models together to that nerd's parents, who probably conceived him after a screening of 'A New Hope' in 1977. So beating on a movie for focusing on people who obsess on a common trope is, in fact, a little unfair.

And the movie does capture what it's like to be a fan. It's just that if you've ever spent 10 minutes among a group of fans discussing something you don't care about, you get bored. Fast. And that's probably what happened in the theater as critics realized this really was going to be 90 minutes of 'Star Wars' jokes interspersed with a soppy story about cancer.

'Across the Universe'

What the Critics Said:
"Even those resistant to or unmoved by the story can appreciate [Julie] Taymor's settings of the songs, and the arrangements by T-Bone Burnett and other studio masters." – Richard Corliss, Time Magazine

"An often-dazzling rock opera set to the accompaniment of 33 Beatles songs." – Claudia Puig, USA Today.


White's Contrary Review:
"Neil Jordan, Ken Russell and Wes Anderson made movies that expressed how pop inspired them, but Taymor has expended her considerable talent on a dull artifact. 'Across the Universe' feels like something entombed on Broadway, made to instruct bored tourists while grasping after Importance. It's an anomalous musical epic: a Pop movie without the excitement of pop."

Why He Was Right:
White points out that this movie takes place outside of any detectable sane reality, which makes the film's social unrest plot kind of stupid, as there's nothing driving it except the fact that "it's the sixties, man." Then he points out that this movie actually has characters named Jude, JoJo, Lucy, etc., all brick-to-the-face obvious Beatles references that nobody in the movie notices because the Beatles don't exist in this movie. You know, the one taking place in the decade that they defined and drove, culturally. Basically, White's point was that the entire conceit of the movie was stupid and ill thought out. And quite frankly, considering how hard we smacked our foreheads when somebody actually said "Hey, Jude!" in the movie, it's hard to argue otherwise.

'Eastern Promises'

What the Critics Said:
"[Viggo] Mortensen lends a moral complexity to 'Eastern Promises' that makes it much more than just a very accomplished action thriller." - Lou Lumenick, New York Post

"[David] Cronenberg has become such an assured director that it's a pleasure to sit back and hand yourself over to his sick and singular vision." – Dana Stevens, Slate

White's Contrary Review:
"This means 'Eastern Promises' is a pretty hollow viewing experience. It deals with the ugly life choices facing Eastern immigrants in the West (London) but seems more contrived than truthful. The script was written by Steve Knight, who had already exploited this subject in 'Dirty Pretty Things' and then risen above it in 'Amazing Grace.' But Cronenberg takes Knight's sociological fascination and twists it into exploitation movie huggermugger. Trouble is, he's done this kind of lurid exaggeration for so long that his grindhouse tricks have no kick. Instead, they have dread-filled 'significance.'"

Why White Is Right:
'Eastern Promises' is, it must be said, a pretty good movie. White's got a history of dismissing David Cronenberg, but he's right in two pretty important respects here. One, people were far too focused on the naked fight scene involving Mortensen, and two ... it IS contrived. Basically, it's a movie about a nurse of Russian descent who stumbles across a journal written by a Russian girl, then gives the book to her Russian family so it can be translated. When she discovers the diary's unsavory contents (child prostitution), she somehow finds the right Russian -- a gangster who happens to be an undercover cop -- to give it to. True, a lot of movies ask us to swallow situations a lot more contrived than this, but it's easy to see how this plot line would put audiences off a wee bit. Although most of them were probably distracted by a naked Mortensen anyway, so we should take that into consideration.


Postscript: So Why Does Everybody Hate Him?

As we've seen, White isn't as big a loon as everybody really seems to think, just rather contrary. So why the hatred? It's because he inevitably uses the movies he does like as a club on the movies he doesn't, and being a contrarian, the movies he doesn't like are inevitably the ones people enjoy. And he's not a fan of the subtle gesture, either. In his 'Fanboys' review, he whales on 'Superbad,' in his 'Eastern Promises' review, he dismisses the entire body of work of a director in one fell swoop. Every film is either a true classic or a miserable attempt to grub your money, no shades of gray, nothing interesting if unsuccessful: it's all crap or it's all brilliant. It doesn't help that he applies the same criteria to his fellow film critics.

White went up against the film blog Spout with a diatribe that dismissed not just Spout, or former Spout critic Karina Longworth, but the entire Internet and everything on it regarding film criticism. Yes, White dismissed the entire Internet. Really, when you boil it down, Armond White is an over-educated version of that guy who shows up on message boards and has two modes: This thing is the best thing ever, or it sucks so hard that it spontaneously creates black holes. It's not a scale with him; it's an on-off switch. No wonder he loved 'Fanboys': they're his people.
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