Long live hyperbole!
Yes, it's the beginning of January, the time when critics and pundits look back on the calendar year that was and pronounce stern judgment on the feats, flops, and fickle trends defining the cultural landscape. And who better for such a seasonally predictable task than Armond White, that wonky bullshit detector always ready to take out films both deserving of demotion (Babel, ugh) and those really just a speck on the ass of badness, if bad at all (Three Times), comparatively placing in their stead the overlooked (yes, we admit, nobody talked of Broken Sky) and the facetiously-pretending-to-have-been-overlooked (World Trade Center).
Look, we're a little amazed and nervous that relatively so many people are interested in our take on Armond White's "Better-Than List." We don't want to let our readers down, but as we've pointed out before, we have little interest in lists -- they're reductive and calcifying, and, as Andrew Tracy, Mark Asch, and others have duly noted, they bring out the worst in a critic like White prone to the sort of extremist positioning that while temporarily incendiary really provokes little critical thought in the long run. So if you're interested in thorough analysis of the films White mentions we suggest searching for his original reviews. Not that the "Better-Than List" doesn't contain some veritable LOL moments, as when Armond:
-- subtitles his article "The 2006 smackdown [Jesus Christ, what is this, a wrestling tournament?] deflat[ing] this year's hype-bloated productions" and then lists among his cinematic correctives World Trade Center and A Prairie Home Companion.
-- says about Broken Sky, "Julian Hernandez's existential love story proved Mexico held the heart of cinema in 2006," even while failing all year to mention Carlos Reygadas' tremendous Battle in Heaven. Not a fucking peep.
-- earnestly pens these words: "But Oliver Stone's film was a great act of empathy and facilitated catharsis. Those who saw it were healed . . ." Even only a week into January this is the Armond White quote of the year.
-- ends his comparison of The Promise vs. Letters From Iwo Jima/Flags of Our Fathers with, "It's 'The cinema I love" vs. 'The cinema I don't want.'" Wouldn't that make a perfect title for a career-spanning anthology of White's writing?
-- counteracts Army of Shadows with non-retro Changing Times. Aren't seemingly similar but qualitatively different films being juxtaposed? (Oh, and we think AW meant " . . . critics and audiences running away from the political present, seeking the moral clarity of WWII" instead of "the safety and security of WWII." The second World War probably wasn't too safe and secure for that many people, but what do we know?) Something tells us Armond failed to bother with the film event of the year, if not decade: the Museum of the Moving Image's screening of Jacques Rivette's legendary thirteen hour-long 1971 magnum opus Out 1. White's loss.
All in all, some good, unintentionally funny stuff -- we needed a frivolous offering after the heaviness of the last three postings. Armond, we can always count on you.