May 14, 2008

A rebuttal to Armond White

Today I received an email from Dan over at FilmBabble, asking for my thoughts on Armond White's recent article in the New York Press (available here ). Specifically, my angry thoughts. The article is long, but you only have to skim it to get a sense of White's point, which is his passionate hatred for all film bloggers. Angry thoughts were not hard to come by after reading it.

First, a little background on White. Googling him reveals many interesting things, most notably a blog devoted solely to "parsing the confounding film criticism of Mr. Armond White" (to use their words). White is found to be a critic who has made a career out of making enemies, focusing more 0n films/directors he hates than ones he likes. He dismisses style, context, and production in films and claims that the only thing that matters is the message - which, by his logic, would make anything aired on C-Span the best movie of the last ten years. He is notorious for championing films that everyone else pans, including Little Man. Yes, Little Man. He criticized Zodiac for its excessive violence, although it featured only three murder scenes in the first 15 minutes of its 160-minute running time. He called A.I. - Artificial Intelligence one of the 10 greatest films ever made. And as a grammar and style nerd, I have to point out that in this article he does not italicize, underline, or use quotation marks for movie titles, which any tenth grader would know is necessary.

White’s first mistake is grouping all bloggers into one category. I personally think I might belong on the ivory tower that White believes himself to occupy. Though I belong to the unwashed mass of bloggers cluttering his precious cyberspace, I am a film major at a respected college. I could tell you what film stock any movie is shot on, and how they did the special effects. I have read Benjamin and Baudrillard. I have written lengthy papers on sexual transgression in the German silent film Pandora’s Box, recent trends in Korean popular cinema, and auteur theory as it pertains to Annie Hall. But none of this matters. All that matters is that I am a person, with a voice. If all I wanted to do was talk about how Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movies are the greatest cinematic achievement of all time, I have that right. Because we live in a democracy, the same democracy that affords Armond White a voice. The irony here is that White’s criticism is so far out that if the whole world subscribed to the same elitism that he did, his ideas probably wouldn’t stand a chance!

He also complains about bloggers ruining cultural discourse. Last time I checked, doesn’t “discourse” refer to people discussing things? And isn’t that what bloggers do? I noticed that on the page for his article, there was no option to comment or reply - heaven forbid he engage in discourse with plebeians!

Another tragic irony of this article is that White accuses film bloggers of “chipping away at the professionalism they envy.” Armond, honey. Were you ever a young boy that liked to talk about movies? Perhaps you would go to the theater with some friends and then afterwards discuss what you saw? Or was that banned in the apparent dictatorship you grew up in? No, it wasn’t, because you’re from Michigan, not Maoist China. So, what us bloggers did is take that discussion that I absolutely know you’ve had all your life and transplant it to the interwebs. We have no hidden agenda! We just like to discuss film! I started blogging because my filmic discourse was limited to myself and my friend Scott and, although fun, it often came to a dead end because we hadn’t seen very many of the same movies. So I opened my thoughts up to the blogosphere and started an ongoing discussion with hundreds of people about cinema. And as far as bloggers “envying” professionalism, that’s just poorly-disguised fear on White’s part that us peasants are going to put him out of a job.

Some of White’s observations about the current state of film criticism are simply insane, and seem to indicate that he doesn’t read any blogs or reviews at all, ever. “Movies are considered fun that needn’t be taken seriously. Movies contain ideas better left unexamined.” “Nowadays, reviewers almost never draw continuity between new films and movie history—except to get it wrong.” He claims that modern movies are escapist entertainment that perpetuates societal denial, which is funny because myself and my aforementioned plebeian friend Scott, after a viewing of There Will Be Blood, noted (without any help from critics!) the trend in modern movies to bravely depict the devastating and destructive consequences of hyper-masculinity. He accuses critics of blindly praising blockbusters (which they do, if they’re GOOD), then goes on to cite the Tom Cruise version of War of the Worlds as a movie containing moments of “personal emotion.” And he actually has the audacity, after all his nonsense, to bash elitism!

When I started reading this article, I was angry. By the time I finished it, I just felt pity for this sorry little man, kicking and screaming away at independent-minded movie lovers who manage to share their views without making atrocious puns like his “It’s entertainment - weakly.”

May 3, 2008

Counting in movie titles

When I was deathly bored at work the other day from foolishly not bringing anything to amuse myself, I came up with a clever time-killer: thinking of movies with numbers in the title, and seeing how high I could count with them. I don’t get internet at work, so I couldn’t cheat by looking online. (Even later, I didn’t check the interwebs because that’s no fun.) I asked some friends for input though, which helped a little. I set some rules: cardinal numbers are okay (i.e. “fifth”), the number can occur anywhere in the title, and in the case of longer numbers, it’s how you pronounce it (i.e. 1984 is “nineteen-eighty-four,” not “one thousand, nine hundred and eighty four”). I set a goal of getting up to 30, which I did, sans three numbers. Thirty to 60 proved more difficult, but I got about half. Some numbers are obviously easier than others, but you only need one for each. Want to try it? Think about it, and scroll down if you give up and want to see what I came up with. Remember, don’t check the interwebs, that’s cheating!!

1. One True Thing
Two Weeks’ Notice
Three Kings
Fantastic Four
The Fifth Element
The Sixth Sense
Eight-Legged Freaks
Plan 9 From Outer Space
The Ten Commandments
11. The 11th Hour (Leonardo DiCaprio environmental documentary - it was in theaters, don’t give me crap)
12 Monkeys
15 Minutes
Sixteen Candles
17. Edge of Seventeen (some gay independent movie we had at the video store where I used to work)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
21 Grams
The Number 23
24 Hour Party People
25. 25th Hour
26. COULDN’T THINK OF ONE - I had my friend IMDB it to see if there were any obvious answers, but he said there were none anyone has ever heard of
27 Dresses
28. 28 Days Later
30. 13 Going on 30

This game is dangerous, because it spurs an obsession - thinking of movies with a specific category of words in the title. It’s a great game for long car rides or for engaging shy/lame people you’re stuck hanging out with. It’s all I could think about for about a week afterward. Both solo and with friends, I thought up movie titles with color words (A Clockwork Orange, The Green Mile), body part words (Happy Feet, Hair), animal words (Dog Day Afternoon, Crocodile Dundee), food words (Mystic Pizza, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes), types of flowers (The Purple Rose of Cairo, Driving Miss Daisy), family words (Father of the Bride, Uncle Buck) U.S. states (King of California, Sweet Home Alabama), cities (Fargo, An American Werewolf in London), countries (My Voyage to Italy, Big Trouble in Little China), and even building materials (The Asphalt Jungle, Steel Magnolias). See, it’s addicting!