There are minor irritants in my world whom like a pesky mosquito buzzing around my ear, I don’t really want to be bothered with because they’re needy attention whores and when I write about them it only gives them the attention they crave and do not deserve. But because they are writers like me (well, not exactly like me because they’re better known and bigger assholes than I am), and offend me with the damage they do to the craft of journalism Armond White makes a return trip for another verbal waterboarding.
White, appearing on a SlashDot.com podcast set his sights on America’s most popular movie critic Roger Ebert as the target of his withering scorn:
“I do think it is fair to say that Roger Ebert destroyed film criticism. Because of the wide and far reach of television, he became an example of what a film critic does for too many people. And what he did simply was not criticism. It was simply blather. And it was a kind of purposefully dishonest enthusiasm for product, not real criticism at all…I think he does NOT have the training. I think he simply had the position. I think he does NOT have the training. I’VE got the training. And frankly, I don’t care how that sounds, but the fact is, I’ve got the training. I’m a pedigreed film critic. I’ve studied it. I know it. And I know many other people who’ve studied it as well, studied it seriously. Ebert just simply happened to have the job. And he’s had the job for a long time. He does not have the foundation. He simply got the job. And if you’ve ever seen any of his shows, and ever watched his shows on at least a two-week basis, then you surely saw how he would review, let’s say, eight movies a week and every week liked probably six of them. And that is just simply inherently dishonest. That’s what’s called being a shill. And it’s a tragic thing that that became the example of what a film critic does for too many people. Often he wasn’t practicing criticism at all. Often he would point out gaffes or mistakes in continuity. That’s not criticism. That’s really a pea-brained kind of fan gibberish.”
What’s White’s problem? Nothing but a serious case of jealousy of a better known and far more respected competitor.. It really gets no more complicated than that. He’s become the Jason Whitlock of film criticism and if you know anything about sportswriting you know how much of an insult that is. If you don’t, here’s what it means. White and Whitlock make their daily bread by writing hatchet pieces designed to inflame and not inform, heap scorn on the abilities of competing writers and spend countless hours gazing lovingly in mirrors at their own reflection.
Ebert, along with his colleague Gene Siskel, took film review out of its haughty, rarefied air of elitism and they made it about two guys that just liked movies. Their PBS program, “At the Movies” streamlined movie reviews to three-to-five minute summations and a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” rating system. It wasn’t profound or scientific, but it wasn’t trying to be. What’s so bad about that? Andrew Sarris and Pauline Kael were better writers and more important critics than the Chicago based duo, but far less popular or imitated. Siskel and Ebert helped make film criticism cool and fun, two words that have never been associated with Armond White. White makes a mistake common to a pompous braggart: He thinks what he does as a film critic is important. It’s not. Film criticism is to films what a bun is to a hot dog; an accompaniment, not the main ingredient. No one ever stood in line and plunked down nine bucks to watch a critic read his latest review.
White is perfectly within his rights to believe the Internet has allowed too many amateurs and wannabees to crowd into the movie reviewing pool. He is welcome to dog out Ebert if he believes the guy is a lousy critic, but he makes himself look small and petty when he says “…he does NOT have the training. I’VE got the training. ”
Who else doesn’t have the training? Mr. White is happy you asked and even happier to tell you.
We got film critics who are employed professionally by legitimate publications, and we have the world of the internet film writers. The internet has become so pervasive and overwhelming that the internet has stolen the impact and prestige and effect that traditional professional film criticism used to have. As a result of that I think that people who are now employed by the mainstream media are so intimidated by the internet that it seems, when you read mainstream published film critics, that they’ve simply given up being film critics, because they’re afraid of losing readership, because they’re afraid of losing their jobs, probably because publishers and editors simply want to get readers and appease readers, rather than inform and instruct readers. And I think that leads to a kind of anarchy where there are very few people writing about film who know what they’re talking about and who are rigorous about having standards in film. The anarchy, I think, comes from the fact that in mainstream media and the internet, most people who are writing about films are simply writing from a fan’s perspective instead of a truly critical perspective. So what used to be termed “film critics” now is almost meaningless, because you just got a free-for-all of enthusiasms rather than criticism.
Chew on the irony that a guy whose reviews are primarily read on the Internet is slamming the Internet for ruining film criticism by opening up the field to more film criticism. Hypocrisy is the greatest luxury isn’t it?
Criticsm can and should aim higher than whether a movie is four stars, two thumbs up, or better than sex evaluation. A review can invoke emotion, thought and a depth that goes beyond an arbitrary scoring system. While film criticism isn’t essential to the enjoyment of a movie, neither is it worthless. It is pure elitism to state only a chosen few are capable of properly critiquing the cinema. White can whine and bash critics more popular (and better) than him if he wants, but this is one bell that can’t be unrung.
You guys might have perhaps come across something I wrote/said somewhere, where I said that I think no one should be allowed to make a movie before they’re 40, although there are obviously a whole lot of exceptions to that. We’d have no Citizen Kane if that were so. But I kind of feel that way, and I certainly feel that way about criticism. I think really, there should be no film critics – okay, let’s change the age – there should be no film critics younger than 30. Because before that you don’t know enough about art, you don’t know enough about life.
Got that, all you aspiring young film students? Go do something else for the next 20 years or so and don’t come back until you’re not so wet behind the ears and get off my lawn, you damn kids. As for you punks with your blogs and You Tube videos, you don’t know nothin’ about nothin’ either, so you can get lost too!
It’s not as if White has about anything to say about movies that is particularly important or even very interesting. This is a man who thought Precious, was the worst portrayal of Black Americans since The Birth of A Nation but says Norbit is a gem and despises Christopher Nolan’s Inception and praises Michael “Transformers” Bay as unfairly maligned auteur. It’s really kind of funny to watch an angry, bitter man flail around impotently and sneer at the very people who could make him as popular as Roger Ebert ever was if he wasn’t busy being such an insufferable DICK.
Haters gonna hate.