The New York Film Critics Circle recently ousted member Armond White, a critic for the New York Press, an alternative weekly newspaper. Reason: at the guild’s awards ceremony, he heckled 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen, calling him an “embarrassing doorman and garbageman.” It’s just the latest, although loudest, moment in White’s career, which is dotted with inexplicably contrarian reviews. Here’s a look at the the times White hated movies everyone else loved, and loved movies everyone else hated.
Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3 is one of the best-reviewed films ever. It’s one of only a handful of animated movies ever nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. On the movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the movie enjoyed an amazing 100% rating with reviews in from more than 130 critics. And then it dropped to 99% because of a single negative critical review, from, Armond White. In his savaging of the Pixar movie he wrote that the movie “stops being about the innocent pleasures of imagination and strictly celebrates consumerism.” He went on to call it “fitfully amusing, more than can be said for Wall-E or Up,” referencing two other critically acclaimed Pixar animated films.
Here’s another universally hailed, 2010 nominee for Best Picture that White just didn’t like. The mind-bending sci-fi drama earned writer/director Christopher Nolan Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, and brought in $292 million. White wasn’t impressed, saying that Nolan, who also directed the recent Batman trilogy, “doesn’t have a born filmmaker’s natural gift for detail, composition, and movement, but he’s definitely a born con artist. Who else could make Hollywood’s most elaborate video game movie and slap on a puzzling, unappealing title?”
Clash of the Titans
This campy adaptation of ancient Greek myths is best known for spawning the catchphrase, “release the Kraken!” It received a 28% on Rotten Tomatoes, but White loved it. In his review, he said that director Louis Letterier “shows a better sense of meaningful narrative than the mess that Peter Jackson made of the interminable, incoherent Lord of the Rings trilogy.”
Jonah Hex was both critically reviled and avoided by audiences. It earned a lowly 12 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, two nomination for the Razzies (the “award” for the worst movies of the year), and grossed $10 million against its $47 million budget. Based on a relatively obscure comic book, Jonah Hex was a mixture of science fiction and Westerns, set during the Reconstruction, and starred Josh Brolin and Megan Fox. White, however, thought it was high art, saying that it “reexamines assumptions of good and evil-morality tales vs. trite entertainment by confronting the hideous compromises people make with social conventions and their own desperation.” Jonah Hex was, to White, “beautiful and brilliant.”