You're damned if you do and damned if you don't. This aphorism has been reconfirmed for us while still in the nascent stages of Armond Dangerous, as evidenced by recent readers' comments -- when we take our man to task we're charged with malicious intent (including "hijacking") and when we agree with him every once in a while we're accused of letting Armond White off the hook. Which leads us to think of another aphorism -- you can't please everybody -- and the sense that our inability to pander maybe, just maybe, means we're on the right path.
But what of the suggestion that we must pick Armond apart even when we like what he has to say? That's a fair criticism, and we'll try harder in the future to look at "good" reviews as thoroughly as we do for the ones with which we have problems. But in our defense, things usually aren't as clear cut for us they were with the Dreamgirls review. Take what will surely one day be considered classic Armond -- his enraged review of the gargantuan smash comedy Borat. Read it? Okay. Now, after taking a moment to digest the humorless invective ("Borat is not funny -- except, perhaps, to 13-year-olds or people who imagine Cohen’s targets (that is, other Americans) as mortal enemies") and the childish name-calling that places him on an equal level, at least according to his own standards, with his object of derision (“'Ethnic-Cleansing' humor," classy), recognize the validity of what Armond's trying -- and we emphasize the word "trying" -- to say. Like his prose or not -- we personally detest the rant-style -- he's one of the few film critics in America to wonder at (via railing at) the political one-sidedness of Borat. That doesn't make the film any less funny, nor does it excuse Armond's starchy attitude toward satire that can't be redeemed by sickly-sweetness a la Napoleon Dynamite (that he can roll with Bunuel shooting the Pope in The Milky Way but not the broad-side-of-the-barn torchings of Borat we can only figure as a product of Armond's "real movies = old movies" equation that plays it safe regarding the Canon; his love of recent Solondz we're still working on); but it does make for a polemical questioning of what exactly audiences and critics alike found so affirming in Borat. Of course, Armond's ungenerous slant has Borat pegged as "divisive," even though people offended or turned off by the film are clearly not culturally marginalized or split apart from fellow Americans by its success. If that's the case, where was White for the Larry the Cable Guy movie? Nonetheless, Armond's criticism is that the Borat phenomenon reveals a strand of deep-rooted condescension and superiority among American liberals who lapped up the film's hi-jinks. Buried somewhere beneath his frothing vitriol, Armond's point may very well be valid. But we wish White could see how the film's nastiness might very well come from a healthy, collective feeling of resentment and exasperation of one political persuasion toward another. No rule states that pop culture -- or, for that matter, humor -- must be a "unifying force."