Armond White's review of Pride is the first one by him that we've even partially agreed with in quite a while, but at the risk of coming across as negators we'd like to call attention to its most revealing passage:
Some will dismiss Pride as schmaltz and sentimental, but that diabolical attitude merely prefers noxious, pessimistic fantasies that deny human possibilities.
Whether intentional or not, White has never more clearly stated the parameters of his Manichean cinematic cosmology: schmaltz and sentiment v. noxious pessimism. Those who even question the simplicity of the former brand of filmmaking contain "diabolical attitudes." In the meantime, despite its limitations, a formulaic, oftentimes superficial film like Pride is accorded "uncommon substance."
We understand what White sees in Pride: "It’s the inspirational aspect of Pride that makes it anachronistic now when such lousy films -- Black Snake Moan, I Think I Love My Wife, Dreamgirls and Waist Deep -- reduce the African-American experience to cliches of superstition, licentiousness, minstrelsy and crime." But in getting so excited about the film's "human possibilities" he neglects to mention its rather tame dependence on a host of other cliches. Which invites questions: isn't there a gray area of complexity between sentimental schmaltz and noxious pessimism? And couldn't this area of complexity even exist in the "pop" arena White so loves? Armond's binary logic is critically flawed. It allows for little nuance when he tries to combat the backward cynicism of Hollywood crassness by promoting virtuous films that are equally one-dimensional. His readers, and our movies, deserve better.