Legend of Armond White
The only film critics that I read these days are the bad ones. My single favorite quote of the last decade actually came from a Netflix member who posted that Captain Jack Sparrow, in response to negative Pirates of the Caribbean reviews, “should stab evil film critics in the heart because they are so heartless.”
In this worst-is-best bizarro worldview of film critics, the New York Press’ Armond White is god. White was largely unknown outside of snooty-pants East Coast circles in the pre-Rotten Tomatoes era, but he sprung into cinéaste notoriety with his 2008 essay “What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Movies.”
In it, White used the occasion of Roger Ebert’s failing health to excoriate his career as “where film criticism went bad,” laying the blame for dumbed-down discourse at the foot of his deathbed. It was a withering piece, albeit incoherent and insane, often reading like something that Patty Hearst’s captors would have forced her to recite. Ebert made the situation all the more awkward by stubbornly deciding to remain alive.
The controversy only expanded White’s profile, and he played the contrarian windbag card so cannily in the following years that a vortex of Bill Brasky-esque legend swirled around him. Some thought White a fraud, perhaps guerrilla retaliation for the David Manning scandal. Others believed him to be a Rotten Tomatoes terrorist, rating against the grain just to screw the system.
We know for sure that his favorite movie is Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence, that he used words like “clarity” and “complexity” to describe Fast Five, and that if The Onion ever wanted to broadly satirize pretentious film critics, most of White’s columns could be republished without edit. Forced to accept all of that, I’d believe that Armond White is 40 feet tall and eats glass.