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From the Wire: The 2012 Better-Than List

Criticwire By Matt Singer | Criticwire January 9, 2013 at 12:20PM

"A Thousand Words is better than Argo" and more of Armond White's annual contrarian comparisons.
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"A Thousand Words."
"A Thousand Words."

It's been a busy week for Armond White. On Monday night at the New York City Film Critics Circle Awards, he apparently didn't heckle Michael Moore as he presented Best First Feature to "How to Survive a Plague" director David France -- but later took credit for the heckling anyway in a conversation with Indiewire's own Eric Kohn. Today, he published his annual version of a best-of list, which he calls his Better-Than List.

If you've never read the Better-Than List before, it's perhaps White's purest expression of his contrarian style. Rather than simply ranking the movies he enjoyed, he denigrates all the movies you enjoyed, while explaining why the movies you never saw or flat-out hated were actually superior. So, for example:

"A Thousand Words" > "Argo"
Brian Robbins and Eddie Murphy dared the most personal Hollywood critique since Clifford Odets’ The Big Knife; Ben Affleck trivialized Hollywood accountability.

Admittedly, I saw "A Thousand Words" on an airplane. So it's possible all of the subtleties of its "personal Hollywood critique" took place during the beverage and snack service, and I just missed them all. But the movie I saw -- the one that sat on a shelf for four years before it got dumped into theaters -- was about a literary agent supernaturally cursed to die after he speaks 1,000 words. It was also borderline unwatchable (if my plane ticket came with a parachute, I would have been faced with a real dilemma). Other than that, the comparison sounds dead-on to me.

Just how subversive is White's list? He even subverts himself! Last July, he gave out his Mid-Year Awards in the New York Press. Amongst his favorites (including "A Thousand Words"), in a category called "Oddities, One-Shots, and Newcomers" he listed "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Now sixth months later, "Beasts" got stuck on the losing end of a Better-Than with Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom," because, he says "Wes Anderson’s fable of childhood innocence lifted the curse of racist liberal condescension preferred by Benh Zeitlin’s obnoxious, way-late Hurricane Katrina fantasy." 

So take that Armond White! Armond White says you were dead wrong! 

Read more of "Better-Than List 2012."

This article is related to: Armond White, From the Wire


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