Open Forum Friday: Is a Critic Who Disagrees with the Masses No Longer Credible?

openforumarmondwhite

With the rise of Rotten Tomatoes as a resource for film reviews over the past few years, a lot more moviegoers seem to be placing stock in a film’s average review score as opposed to the opinions of a few specific individuals that they trust. It does make a lot of sense; after all, no one has time to read every review out there, and it’s a lot easier (and in theory, a lot more reliable) to just get a general consensus on the latest theatrical releases. But as a result of this mentality, it’s also a lot more obvious when someone decides to go against the grain. Someone like controversial New York Press critic Armond White, for example.

Armond White’s name has been popping up across the blogosphere quite a bit lately, since he often seems to provide the sole negative review on movies that most other people seem to like. A while back we wrote about how he was the first critic to give Pixar’s Up a thumbs down, and now this week the same thing has happened with District 9. On the flip side, he has also given a lot of questionable films a pass (Dance Flick, Transformers 2, Norbit, etc.). Fanboys have left a wave of angry comments calling his integrity and taste into question, despite the fact that most of them still haven’t actually seen District 9. But is it really worth getting so worked up over?

Roger Ebert came to White’s defense earlier this week with this article on his blog, calling him “the epitome of the ideal critic” (because he agrees with the Tomatometer exactly 50% of the time) and saying that “his opinion is often valuable because it is outside the mainstream”. I kind of agree. But in an interesting twist, Ebert changed his mind a day later and labeled White a “troll”, after seeing a breakdown of the movies he was for and against. Ouch! What do you think? Does Armond White consistently take a contrarian stance on purpose, or does he give valid reasons for his opinions? Is a critic who goes against popular opinion too often no longer relevant to the discussion? Does Rotten Tomatoes encourage a herd mentality? Give us your thoughts here on Open Forum Friday.



  • Mike

    it sure seems like he “consistently takes a contrarian stance on purpose”. I love that ebert changed his mind about him. People need publicity i guess he thinks this is the only way for him to get it. Or he has terrible taste in movies.

  • He looks like an a-hole.

  • Ian

    The difficult part about answering this question is that you have to read the critic’s work on a variety of films. Back when The Dark Knight was big a friend sent me a critique from some idiotic Left Wing philosophy site that did not like the film. That’s fine but the rationale for dislike was so steeped in an agenda about criticizing what it saw as Bush Administration policies in the film and even talking about issues of Xenophobia where the Joker was related(I know it was out there) that it seemd to miss the point as to if the movie was good or not.

    Movie criticism with overt political agenda that make the movie about whatever message the critic wants is really not very good.

    If this guy doesn’t like something and can say why by talking about the movie and what happens and not drawing a somewhat thin and convoluted connection to other issues then that’s fine. I suppose it’s about sensitivity and those that are perhaps overly sensitive to certain things will look to find those in movies and then look to use that to further some other ideal or goal about revolution or cultural demise, etc.

  • I think, unfortunately, that White IS credible because he bases a lot of what he says with fact. What White surely is, however, is a pompous a-hole who thinks he knows more than every one else because he has all this knowledge. And I tend to agree with Ebert, I think he’s enjoying his role as a movie critic troll. I say we ignore him.

  • Bob The Slob

    i think the bigger argument here is, what is the definition of Credible? and who decides that ultimately?

  • Goon

    He’s a pretty terrible critic. Scott Holleran of Boxofficemojo.com is worse though, even though he generally has better taste. Holleran is often offended by the strangest things, has the weirdest sense of how he reads into movies, and filters everything through Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. He’s batshit insane.

  • Dave

    Oohh, let me get in a kick at Mr. Holleran too. I don’t think I’ve ever read a more antagonistic reviewer in any medium. I remember when he absolutely trashed Hot Fuzz because it was released so close to the Virginia Tech shootings. Total douche.

  • Kim

    When Up came out in theaters posters on the RottenTomatoes.com message board correctly predicted he would hate the movie long before hand, why did he even need to write a review? Even when our opinions of movies differ, I Roger Ebert’s opinion and perspective. He actually loves movies; he finds the good in almost every film and tries to give even bad ones value. When Armond White defends Norbit and Dance Flick, can anyone really claim he has the same intent when he purposely seeks to criticize even the best movies? Worst of all, whenever a black person makes a movie, and if there is nothing good one can possibly say about the film, Armond White will claim the movie is making a statement about African-American culture or racial tensions.

  • Bob The Slob

    Dave,

    his review of Hot Fuzz drove me to screaming at my pc screen. God i hate that guy.

  • Justice

    Didn’t you post this exact same question when this guy gave UP a bad review and everyone was complaining and you ran to his defense? Now that its your precious District 9, its more of a problem?

  • JakeTheFatMan

    “It would be more accurate to say he dislikes a great many films approved of by fanboys.”

    Truer words have never been spoken.

  • Nate

    I rarely agree with Mr. White and I never know where he’s coming from in his reviews. In his review of Coraline earlier this year, which he liked, he spent the majority of the text bashing WALL-E. It seems he can’t critique a movie on its own, it always has to be compared to something else, and in most cases multiple comparisons are made. There are times when comparisons are appropriate, but White is constantly doing this and it drives me nuts. He also has a hardcore crush on Speilberg, case in point, he named both War of the Worlds and Munich as his co-best films of 2005.

    All I know is that if Armond White had a podcast, I would subscribe in a heartbeat.

  • Have you seen the list of movies he thinks are bad?

    Yeah, all those 500 Days of Summer, Milk, In Bruges and Michael Clayton fanboys are surely pissed.

    White is an ass who gets some sort of academic stiffy for being contrarian and writing about it.

  • Rusty James

    The problem isn’t him giving which ever movie a bad review. The problem is this sentence:

    “That cartoonish Mothership image suggests the high-concept inanity featured in ‘Children of Men’ and ‘Cloverfield:’ It’s apocalyptic silliness. Not ominously beautiful like the civilization-in-peril tableau that caps Roy Andersson’s ‘You, the Living.'”

    That’s just trolling.

  • Rus

    Troll? – is Ebert writing for themovieblog now?!

  • Goon

    the music equivolent of White woudl probably be this guy named Tim Perlich who used to write for NOW Toronto and would give almost any major release 1/5 even if it was quite acclaimed, and would usually not even review the music but instead use his space to crack jokes about album art or the bands past releases, etc. Luckily he was fired not too long ago.

  • Captain N

    I have never heard of this critic, though I think its interesting that someone pointed out that he’ll rush to the defense of films made by black filmmakers, regardless of quality, and its probably true. I’m not interested enough to check this person’s taste and reviews out.

    Ebert, though, is fantastic. His web site is great to visit and I greatly enjoy his blog. If Ebert has bashed this man on his taste of film, then chances are he deserves it. I know opinion’s are subjective but there are those who go out of their way to have a different opinion and to flaunt it with insanely stupid point of views. Believe it or not, I simply accept when someone says they just didn’t like a movie instead of making up weird excuses, my favorite always being,”It just wasnt realistic.”

  • Tim1974

    I have never read anything that White has written. However, that is not the point. Like any critic, it is his opinion. And, opinions are based on your background and values. Then it is up to the individual to decide whether you agree or not. When dealing with opinions, there is no right or wrong. I may not agree with what he writes but I defend his right to do so. I believe it is good for people of different opinions to continue to express theirs and maybe someone will learn something that they had not thought about. If not, then it is easy enough to dismiss it. I also think it is a good idea for him to express himself and not allow popluar opinion and critism to impede his decision to offer a different point of view. So, I may not like anything that this man says, but I defend his right to do it and praise his determination to do so even though he is aware it may not be a popular opinion.

  • Rusty James

    Yeah Tim, but I don’t think this is really a first amendment issue.
    No one’s debating whether he has a right to state is opinion, we’re debating whether or not has an opinion worth listening to.

  • “When dealing with opinions, there is no right or wrong. I may not agree with what he writes but I defend his right to do so.”

    Jesus F-ing Christ, Tim. Get over yourself.

    “When dealing with opinions there is no right or wrong?” What a bunch of ass backwards, feel good, extra-special snowflake, bullshit.

    “I defend his right to do so.” He’s not being systematicaly censored by the government so I’m not sure what you are defending – he’s a friggin film critic – but have a blast.

  • JakeTheFatMan

    One of the many comments on Rotten Tomatoes “…they could offer a feature where you can filter out reviewers whose opinions you don’t agree with so that you can get a more accurate picture” Considering the nature of the film, thats pretty fucking hilarious.

  • I had never heard of Armond White before, but when I read that he did not like the new Star Trek, I just had to read his comments. I thought maybe he would have articulated some reasons that would explain why I did not like the new Star Trek. Film Junk readers gave me grief for not being able to explain why I disliked Star Trek. Well, I don’t think I can say that I agree with Mr. White’s main reason. I think his main criticism is that the new Star Trek movie is structured too much like a television show. But if his main reason for being negative was that the new movie was banal, then I would tend to agree. I think I do agree with his view that the Star Trek television show was structured to appeal to mass sensibilities. Just because something appeals to mass audiences doesn’t make it “art.” This raises the question of whether a film critic is grading a film as art or as entertainment.

    Ironically, Ebert was also a critic who didn’t give the new Star Trek movie a rave review, and I thought he was trolling until I saw the movie. I believe he essentially had the same problem with the movie that White did. And I had the same problem with the movie as well. The new movie didn’t tackle new ground. And for those who would defend against this statement by saying that the new movie was intended to simply reboot the franchise, then fine. But as a work of “art,” it left much to be desired.

  • J

    The masses have pretty terrible taste in things. The flaw is inherent in something having “mass appeal”. You can’t piss people off and you have to appeal to this phantom ideal of a majority consensus. For example GI Joe can’t be an American organization because it has to sell in a global market (Or if anyone remembers Superman Returns, he fights for “truth, justice, and all that stuff”). I don’t have a problem with that. These studios are sinking millions of dollars into these films, so they are just trying to insure that they will sell well/ they’ll get a return on their investment. I have a problem with critics who know that these movies are pretty much just financially driven,choose to ignore that, and judge a movie on a criteria it will never hold up to. Certainly the critics are justified in having their opinions, but if their job is just going to come down to tearing apart other peoples work, who’s going to care to hear them?
    It sounds to me that Armond White guy needs to spend some more time championing the movies he actually likes than trying to (unsuccesfully) stop the hollywood mass media movie machine.

  • Swarez

    Why do people care so much about what one has to say about films? I’ve never understood why people get so riled up over a critic who doesn’t like the same stuff you do.
    It’s fucking pointless. All of it.

  • Bob The Slob

    I think swarez just hit the nail on the head.

  • I think an even better question is why do people get so riled up over a critic who doesn’t like a movie that they *think* they’re going to like but haven’t even seen yet?!

    To play devil’s advocate, I suppose if you like a movie and you also want it do well, you want to see critics supporting it. Still, one dissenting voice among hundreds of positive reviews does not seem worth getting upset over.

  • JakeTheFatMan

    Not surprisingly, adolescents make up the majority of internet users. Growth into adulthood requires developing an individual identity. Part of that process is finding what to identify with, whether its athletes or the latest pop cultural gimmick. For whatever reason “fanboys” (even prior to watching the movie) have picked it to give themselves a sense of that self-validation and take it personally when the movie, hence themselves, have been attacked. Most people grow out of this phase in life.

    In the meantime, it’ll be enjoyable to make fun of them.

    Its also why I’m not a fan when people say things like “everybody hated Transformers 2” or “everybody knows Star Wars Episode 1 sucked”. Internet commenters are not a microcosm of the world.

  • David Wilson

    Not everybody likes the same movies, if people don’t like him then they shouldn’t read him.

    The rottentomatoes film site is pretty flawed anyway.

    Stars mean different things to different reviewers and rottentomatoes should just create their own system to get a gauge of the film’s criticism instead of just taking ratings off these blogs.

    But ultimately if you like something and someone else doesn’t, it doesn’t lessen your movie experience.

    Why does this movie need to have a 100% for you to absolutely love it?

  • Samuel Beckett

    ESTRAGON:
    That’s the idea, let’s abuse each other.

    They turn, move apart, turn again and face each other.

    VLADIMIR:
    Moron!

    ESTRAGON:
    Vermin!

    VLADIMIR:
    Abortion!

    ESTRAGON:
    Morpion!

    VLADIMIR:
    Sewer-rat!

    ESTRAGON:
    Curate!

    VLADIMIR:
    Cretin!

    ESTRAGON:
    (with finality). Crritic!

    VLADIMIR:
    Oh!

    He wilts, vanquished, and turns away.

  • I have no idea who this guy is but that picture I have to say is bloody ‘orrible. I’m going to give his reviews a quick read and see what the fuss is about.

  • Interesting read…but I just don’t share his love for the same films he does. Also I think he’s looking at all films in the same light. I did not read his district 9 review as I’m not reading any reviews of it as of yet (apart from your podcast of course).