Monday, July 25, 2005

Mondo Armond

Here's an oldie but a goodie. Armond White's Worst of 2004. Yeah, I know, but this blog only got started last week. Once again Armond displays a shocking ability to infuriate me. This list is more a collection of comparisons...some of the most asinine comparisons I can come up with. Not only are his picks both bizarre and arbitrary, but his reasoning once again defies all common sense. I reiterate for the record that I am not taking issue with Armond's praise or lack thereof, merely his rationale. Which I might add is patently, obviously, and deliberately contrarian, for no good reason. With that in mind:

De-Lovely < You Got Served -- It didn't seem likely that movie musicals could get worse than Moulin Rouge or Chicago, but Irwin Winkler's moribund biography of Cole Porter sunk even lower.

Okay, I agree with the first part of that sentence. Now, I haven't seen "De-Lovely". My folks liked it, I guess. But I did watch "You Got Served", which is described by Armond as:

...proudly pop, a hiphop musical with muscular dancing that expressed the sexual and political energy of a not-yet calcified culture. It put life in the face of showbiz snobs.

Apparently that statement is based on dialogue like "DJ, drop it like it's hot!"(spoken by soon-to-be-jailbird Li'l Kim), or "Go home and stop acting like a ho!" What about "You did with Dawn, you did it with Shondrella, and you did it with the triplets LaTeesha, LaTasha, LaToya...", or my personal favorite, "Y'all just mad. Because today, you suckers got served. Served. Served. Served! Served!" I realize that Armond is trying to connect with the same audience (both guys, I mean) that read his Tupac biography, but really this is just a case of an old dude trying to be hip.

The Aviator < The Dreamers -- What profiteth a movie brat to win an Oscar and lose his legacy? It's hard to see Scorsese's entry-point for this whitewash bio-pic of millionaire Howard Hughes who produced mostly lousy films and finished his life on the lunatic fringe. This unwieldy behind-the-scenes epic makes a mockery of Hollywood while glamorizing capitalist excess. Compare it to Bertolucci's The Dreamers, which stays the course of enlightened cinephilia. Bertolucci recalls the excitement of political commitment (May '68) and equates it to romantic/sexual liberation—and confusion. Against Scorsese's crude impersonations of Hollywood legends, Bertolucci memorably juxtaposes student activists spiritually channeling their movie idols. Rich stuff, and genuine.

So let me get this straight. Scorsese won an Oscar for this one. It's whitewashed, because Hughes was actually a murderer or something, and it didn't display any of the traits that eventually destroyed the man. His movies sucked, which is relevant because the movie is about a man who loves to build and fly airplanes. And it glamorizes capitalist excess because Hughes ultimately cures himself so that he can live happily with his money, which is what gave him the ability to overcome his illness in the first place.

Oh, wait. NONE OF THAT IS FUCKING TRUE AT ALL. But the movie with the hot naked chick who likes Godard, watching her brother jerk off and eating menstrual blood? That one was seriously relevant and not even slightly exploitive. Here's a good question: What do these two films have in common that warrants their comparison?

Cowards Bend the Knee < Torque -- Guy Maddin continues to bowdlerize silent cinema for a sham cognoscenti.

Wow, deflating a recognized art form simply to impress bourgeois intellectuals? Who would do that?

["Torque" director Joseph Kahn] respects the expressive potential of the vroom-vroom genre. The only rival to Torque's images would be a collaboration between Godard and James Rosenquist. After Hero, it's the most exultant pop art of the year.

WHAT!? GODARD!? And again I ask why these two film are pitted against eachother.

Motorcycle Diaries < Hotel Rwanda -- A travelogue disguised as a reverie of prelapsarian politics versus the hard issue of a nation's civil war. Che Guevara's stardom seems especially trivial next to a Rwandan citizen's moral struggle. One movie makes history picturesque, the other makes it anguished and immediate.

First of all, the way Armond describes "The Motorcycle Diaries" could just as easily be applied to "The Dreamers", which he loved. Second, there is no "moral" struggle in "Hotel Rwanda". Don Cheadle's character wants to save as many people as he can, going so far as to risk his own family and safety, and there's never any question about that. Third, there is nothing anguished and immediate about either of these two films, as "Diaries" could have starred J-Lo if Che just wanted to be a dancer instead of a revolutionary, and "Rwanda" was shot like it was fucking "Rudy", which was just as safe.

Tarnation < The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou -- Jonathan Caouette's therapeutic collage movie is also a jumbled, insensitive family portrait. Its inordinate praise mistook the director's autistic, hysterical scrapbook method for a sensible, artistic ordering of his tastes, fantasies and experience. Wes Anderson's latest feature is as personal and revealing, but because it is constantly surprising and creative, it is never impertinent. Anderson's response to pop experience is healthy and progressive; Caouette's smacks of pitiful and shameless self-exploitation.

I'm throwing this one in to show I'm no mere nitpicker. Armond's dead on the money with this one. I'm not being so hard on him because I think he's automatically wrong. I don't. He's just saying shit that makes sense to nobody 95% of the time. This counts as part of the lucid remaining 5%. Don't say I never gave you anything, pal. I still don't know why you put these two movies together though.

Maria Full of Grace < Spanglish -- This pseudo-Third World indie is actually full of crap. An anti-Homeland Security tearjerker, the story of a Colombian supermodel type puts a twist on illegal immigration. New motto: Give me your bored and materialistic—especially if they have no gag reflex.

Yeah, I'm so sick of movies where we're meant to give a shit about a girl who desperately needs to find a way out of her soul-sucking life in a third world country, so she takes a job as a drug mule, swallows 60 condoms full of smack, flies to the States, watches her friend get horribly sick and then has to tell the girl's family she's totally dead and chopped up somewhere. Oh, and now she's an illegal in New York, with just as few options as she had in Columbia. Bitch.

James L. Brooks' Spanglish exposes all that nonsense "humanism" with an immigration and integration story that honestly questions the values of L.A.'s soft-headed and wrongheaded liberals. His complex view of family love and social commitment shows the difference between compassion and condescension. Funny and remarkable.

Right on! "Humanism" is totally fucking lame. I hate humans. I love how this movie's all about how liberal guilt isn't really just another form of racism, and how social commitment means that a good Mexican should learn her place and not try to "better herself" by going to a great school or accepting any opportunities from people who offer them. The difference between compassion and condescension is absolutely nowhere to be found in this film. It is ruthlessly condescending to each and every character who is not white. Oh, and to the audience. It's really great that Armond compares these two movies because they're both about Latin chicks. It's like comparing "Speed" with "Get on the Bus" because they both have buses.


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