Tuesday, January 9, 2007

New York Press Review: "Dreamgirls"

Alright. We've now settled in at Armond Dangerous, having answered our backlog of comments (the ones that needed answering, that is), spoken our piece on the Armond White reviews we felt needed a challenge, and even tackled that silly "Better-Than List" that got everyone all in tizzy. Now it's time to get happy. Sorta.
At first we were in complete agreement with Armond's review of the atrocious Dreamgirls but couldn't understand why he was all worked up about it. Then we learned the extent to which people -- friends and co-workers as well as critics -- actually love this piece of garbage. And we were shocked, not so much that anyone could give a pass to the horrendous representation of music and history that Dreamgirls puts forth (if Forrest Gump proved anything it's that the American public will readily pay to view its own belilttlement), but that moviegoers -- you know, people who attend movies -- enjoy the barrage and din that Bill Condon and company pass off as entertainment. In other words, we're flabbergasted that human beings with functioning eyes and ears actually like Dreamgirls.
So this is one of those moments where we fully sympathize with AW's alarmist response to both an individual film and the general state of film culture (especially after seeing a near-double bill of Kansas City and Jazz '34, two films that at least respect the unbreakable bond between life and art.) "Sure," writes White, "Dreamgirls is basically a confection, but its core is soul-rotting." Amen. There's pretty much no moss- and slug-covered stone AW leaves unturned regarding Dreamgirls, so we'll just leave the terrific lashings to his prose except to point out the best line in his review: "Condon zips past the styles of the era without feeling (characters step out of a recording studio into—uh, oh—a race riot)." That's Dreamgirls in a nutshell, probing into the intersections of pop music and social change only as far as it gives itself the appearance of authenticity and a servicable background for the undistinguished, synth-drenched, Broadway-bland numbers that only allude to the feeling of the real-life moments of musical bliss that supposedly provided the film's inspiration. We love that White can point out and mock the Dreamgirls' pretensions in a single sentence -- it's the critical equivalent of a well-rocked solo.

20 comments:

Film at 11 said...

There is a contradiction here. If someone's quality of thought is fundamentally disturbed, then it is disturbed in those instances in which you disagree with them AS WELL as when you agree with them.

The challenge then would be to find the disturbances in Armond White's reviews even when your basic feeling is "I agree." Then you have to look for what's disturbed in your own thought as well.

To say, "Sometimes we agree with him" is not sufficient. You either believe AW's quality of thinking is fundamentally disturbed or the whole edifice falls down, and this just becomes an "anti-fan" fan site.

Jeff said...

In that case, how about we point out that the Dreamgirls review is still over-the-top and resorts to too many divisive binary distinctions?

The Resistance said...

film at 11 and Jeff,

To film at 11: Huh? We just don't follow your line of reasoning -- ""You either believe AW's quality of thinking is fundamentally disturbed or the whole edifice falls down." Talk about all or nothing! We never said we thought Armond's "thinking is fundamentally disturbed" -- when his critical faculties are weak, we point them out, and when he's on, well, he's on. Because we find a lot of Armond's reviews off the mark means we should consider everything he puts out to be inherently flawed? If our disagreement with such a narrow assessment of his work makes us an "'anti-fan' fan site," whatever that is, I guess we'll plead guilty as charged.
To Jeff: Of course the Dreamgirls review is over-the-top -- that's often AW's style. But which divisive binary distinctions do you feel we missed?

Jeff said...

I mostly wanted to point out that Armond's hyperbole drowns out his critical points. Mostly its his use of unnecessarily loaded terms: humiliating, cartoonish, soul-rotting, inane, villains, fakery. It's this all-or-nothing, masterpiece-or-garbage attitude that limits White, limits him to being a divisive provocateur and not a voice for enlightenment.

The Resistance said...

Jeff,

Agreed. We guess we were so shocked by the overwhelmingly positive response to Dreamgirls -- have you seen this film? It's a complete joke -- that we for once sympathized with White's hyperbole. Maybe his prose is like the boy who cried wolf -- he's been wailing about films undeserving of such negativity for so long that when his rage finally equals the object of his rage one no longer takes him seriously. We still do, though.

Jeff said...

I did see Dreamgirls and didn't care for it...but at least if it wins Best Picture, it'll still be a better movie than Crash.

film at 11 said...

The Resistance's stance is confusing. If you think AW is "dangerous" then you will want to determine what the basic foundations of his thought are; from there, you can investigate how that thought works, whether he is praising or blaming, whether you "agree" or "disagree." You will see danger even when you "agree."

To take AW to task for infantile binaries, and then to say "YES!! WE REALLY AGREE WITH HIS INFANTILE BINARIES IN THIS CASE!!! EVEN IF WE THINK HIS REVIEWS OF INLAND EMPIRE AND APOCALYPTO ARE INSANE!!!" is to be no better than AW himself.

The Resistance said...

film at 11,

One more time: the title of this blog is a corny pun on Armond White's name that has nothing to do with us thinking his writing or thought is "dangerous." See our very first posting, our statement of intent, as it were, that makes specific reference to this.
Thus, sometimes we agree with Armond and do not see the "danger" or "distrubance" in his review (and we would never say anything in all caps.) In the case of Dreamgirls, we admit that, as Jeff has stated, Armond goes over the top, but AW's analysis of the film also draws attention to the film's flagrant idiocies. If you'd like to point out the infantile binaries that Jeff also alluded to but never explicated, we'd love to hear them. This is a forum as much as our own blog, after all, and if you feel we're missing something, please, feel free to fill in the gap.

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