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maryann johanson, ruining movies since 1997

you’re not helping: Armond White says, “Roger Ebert destroyed film criticism”

So, Armond White is a troll, after all.

I debated not posting anything about this at all. I keep hearing my mom’s voice, her advice on what to do about bullies when I was kid: “Just ignore them. They’re only looking for attention.” That’s White in a nutshell: He says crazy things, he gets linked, we all start bitching about him, and because he got a reaction, he’s encouraged to do it again.

Maybe he can’t get any more trollish than this. Maybe this is the last time — the very last time, I mean it — that we’ll have to give him what he wants.

But, now, in an interview with /Film, it’s kinda hard to ignore his ultimate troll proof:

I do think it is fair to say that Roger Ebert destroyed film criticism. Because of the wide and far reach of television, he became an example of what a film critic does for too many people. And what he did simply was not criticism. It was simply blather. And it was a kind of purposefully dishonest enthusiasm for product, not real criticism at all…I think he does NOT have the training. I think he simply had the position. I think he does NOT have the training. I’VE got the training. And frankly, I don’t care how that sounds, but the fact is, I’ve got the training. I’m a pedigreed film critic. I’ve studied it. I know it. And I know many other people who’ve studied it as well, studied it seriously. Ebert just simply happened to have the job. And he’s had the job for a long time. He does not have the foundation. He simply got the job. And if you’ve ever seen any of his shows, and ever watched his shows on at least a two-week basis, then you surely saw how he would review, let’s say, eight movies a week and every week liked probably six of them. And that is just simply inherently dishonest. That’s what’s called being a shill. And it’s a tragic thing that that became the example of what a film critic does for too many people. Often he wasn’t practicing criticism at all. Often he would point out gaffes or mistakes in continuity. That’s not criticism. That’s really a pea-brained kind of fan gibberish.

You could say a lot of things about Ebert that many people would not agree with and not sound like a troll, but White, it appears, chose to frame it in the most inflammatory way possible: “Roger Ebert destroyed film criticism.” Oh, and that stuff about it being “inherently dishonest” to have a similar reaction to six out of eight movies. Isn’t that what White does, except he hates lots of films instead of liking them?

Maybe the thing that pisses me off the most — and why I hate myself for even posting this — is that this shit works for White. It boosts pageviews for his paper’s Web site, the New York Press. It raises his profile as a critic. White complains about “blather,” he complains in another portion of this interview that

people who are now employed by the mainstream media are so intimidated by the internet that it seems, when you read mainstream published film critics, that they’ve simply given up being film critics, because they’re afraid of losing readership, because they’re afraid of losing their jobs, probably because publishers and editors simply want to get readers and appease readers, rather than inform and instruct readers.

but with his criticism — and with calculatedly confrontational comments like these — he doesn’t appear to want to reverse this situation. He’s not contributing to an intelligent conversation about film. He’s just striking a pose that stands out from the crowd. He’s just another bully on the playground who thinks that because he pulls pigtails and smirks while he does it that he’s being cool and independent.

The Internet could be a big sandbox where we all play nicely together, even if we don’t always agree with one another. Or — to use a more adult metaphor — it could be a sophisticated cocktail party where the conversation is contentious but dynamic and passionate.

But it’s because of people like Armond White that we can’t have nice things.



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