In the Battle for Paul Anderson Supremacy, Armond White Sides With W.S.

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by Matt Singer
September 18, 2012 8:50 AM
1 Comment
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"Resident Evil: Retribution."

Are you sitting down? This may shock you: 

Armond White prefers the new movie from Paul W.S. Anderson ("Resident Evil: Retribution") to the new movie from Paul Thomas Anderson ("The Master").

All right, so it's actually not that shocking. White has previously written in praise of Paul W(ild) S(tyle) Anderson movies like "Death Race" and "The Three Musketeers" while bashing P.T.A.'s "There Will Be Blood." White's critics often accuse him of knee-jerk contrarianism and a desire to shock readers into oodles of hateread traffic. I disagree. I think he's just being hilarious.

"'The Master'’s cynical bombast defines the worst aspects of our anti-religious era; its solemn audacity is unconvincing (a fashion show scored to Ella Fitzgerald and a naked females musical number recalling 'Eyes Wide Shut' are two of the most embarrassingly banal sequences in recent cinema). The fun and fascination of Paul W. S. Anderson’s 'Resident Evil: Retribution' proves the work of a true cinema artist; it transforms a genre franchise with visionary newness."

There's a lot I could say about White's review. I could note that he praises the 3-D in "Resident Evil: Retribution" as counterpoint to the "diorama compositions with objects poking out toward the viewer" in "Hugo" while ignoring "Retribution"'s numerous examples of crap being thrown at the lens -- Milla Jovovich's Alice chucking a knife at the audience in one scene and firing slo-mo bullets in several others. I could note that he praises W.S.'s ability to turn "gaming conventions into idealized pop myths" even though he routinely trashes directors he doesn't like for doing the exact same thing. I could note how he complains about P.T. "copycatting" Altman, Kubrick, Lynch and King Vidor two paragraphs after he praises W.S. for "fulfill[ing] the warrior promise of Sigourney Weaver's Ripley." One man's plagiarism is another man's fulfillment of warrior promise, I guess. Or, in this case, the same man's.

I could bring up all that stuff, but why bother? This is par for the course. If White really wanted to surprise someone, he'd flip the script and pick PTA over W.S. At this point, White's unpredictability is nothing if not predictable. And hilarious.

Read more of "Battle of the Andersons."

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1 Comment

  • Thuan Dang | September 20, 2012 3:43 AMReply

    Armond White isn't unpredictable at all. He has certain principles with regards to cinema that by reading his reviews are easily understood. He hates nihilism. Loves humanism. He doesn't really give a shit about sound (hates movies that are too talky) and only really interested in visuals and kinetics. Also he discusses movies with not their intent but by their idea and execution of said idea.

    I shall now defend sir Armond White. The preference for Paul WS instead of PTA is applauding Paul WS for creating movies with visual flair and humanism. Paul WS can be considered by many as silly, too much, all over the place and too Brechtian. Many critics hate on this because they have the weird idea "we should be engulf in the story, we should be lost in it, we should care about the characters" and all that nonsense. Armond White knows better, he understands that art can be critical of even itself. Look to his praise of Joseph Kahn's work and Godard. The weird idea about caring about characters and not breaking taking us out of the movie is an elementary way of seeing art which is why he also hates on other critics like all the goddamn time. Roger Ebert in particular, well at least back in the day, because his tv show was always talking about this weird idea when Roger doesn't add anything of importance to the discussion of the movie or cinema to the entire world at hand. Back from my tangent, Paul WS also plays with simple themes of good overcoming evil and other humanistic themes. Paul WS makes these themes simple because he makes B-movies which call for simple themes.

    Now for PTA, I have yet to see the Master (this friday I will) but for There Will Be Blood, very nihilistic, no redemption for the Plainview nor even defeat. He is just a dick all the way through and Armond White hates this because it shows being good has nothing to do with success in life. It goes against humanism.

    Armond White is for visual but will always pick meaning of a movie before the visuals. This is why he hates Christopher Nolan pictures. Why does he hate Nolan's gaming conventions and not Paul WS's. Nolan's cinematic argument about gaming conventions is hollow. Now one could make the argument that gaming is a hollowing experience and Nolan making a cinematic argument just as hollow is actually kinda genius. But Armond White finds that stupid either way and instead sees Paul WS's (as well as Neveldine/Taylor) critique of it more appealing. Paul WS takes gaming conventions and make them pop myths (Death Race = Man vs System, the system being one entire game). Nolan takes gaming conventions and make nothing with them, only using them to tell a story but not using them to say anything else deeper. Death Race shows the humanity's disintegration by video games kinda like The Running Man.

    Also trashing PTA for being like other directors is one of being authentic to his own views of the world. Armond White says this because he sees PTA taking the viewpoints of other directors and not making his own. Which is why he also once said "PTA has no original bone in his body" meaning he has no authentic ideas. Paul WS's and warrior promise Ridley thing is about Armond White seeing how Paul WS uses the idea of honor of that from warrior woman Weaver to Milla to tell show the goodness in humanity and rising above evil while not succumbing to it but he tells it in his own visual way, though an authentically silly-ass one.

    Armond White gets movies because he gets art. Most people don't see movies as art or understand that art can say something about the world or itself. They have an adolescent view of cinema. Out.

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