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die hard is a xmas movie | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is Armond White a troll?

So, Armond White of the New York Press wrote a negative review of District 9. No biggie: not everyone loves the same movies, and there’re always gonna be a few critics who buck trends and revile a film that almost everyone else, to varying degrees, loves.

The thing is, fans have been noticing that White is almost always that contrarian.

Roger Ebert initially posted a defense of White’s review of D9, but then he was compelled to retract it:

On Thursday night I posted in entry in defense of Armond White’s review of “District 9.” Overnight I received reader comments causing me to rethink that entry, in particular this eye-popping link supplied by Wes Lawson. I realized I had to withdraw my overall defense of White. I was not familiar enough with his work. It is baffling to me that a critic could praise “Transformers 2” but not “Synecdoche, NY.” Or “Death Race” but not “There Will be Blood.” I am forced to conclude that White is, as charged, a troll. A smart and knowing one, but a troll.

(Ebert says his original defense of White’s review still stands, and it follows at the same link.)
That eye-popping link Ebert refers to leads to this image, a very succinct summary of Armond White’s opinions on film:

Just so we don’t get sidetracked: this isn’t about freedom of speech or “everybody’s entitled to their opinion.” No one is suggesting that Armond White should be denied his freedom of speech, or that he isn’t entitled to his opinion. It’s also preposterous to suggest — as some Rotten Tomatoes commenters on White’s review of District 9 imply — that he spoiled the film’s perfect Tomatometer rating; no film is entitled to a perfect Tomatometer rating.

The question is, Does Armond White go out of his way to play devil’s advocate? Should we trust that his reviews represent his genuine opinion or merely a desire to poke the tiger of online film fandom?

Christopher Campbell at Spoutblog offers a defense of White that pretty much mirrors my opinion on the matter:

Certainly White gets a lot of notice and publicity for his opinions, too, but the important thing is that he’s an interesting read, and not just for how against-the-grain he is. Even if he is ever intentionally anti-majority just to be anti-majority, he presents reasonable arguments and raises necessary points while doing so. Besides, does anyone really want to live in a world where everybody likes District 9 or Up or The Dark Knight and where nobody has anything fresh, smart and positive to say about Transformers 2? How boring that world would be.

I agree that would be boring. I would hope, however, that anyone offering contrarian opinions would actually hold those opinions, and not just be trying to get some attention by voicing them.

What do you think? Is Armond White a troll?

(FYI, my review of District 9 is here.)

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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