Ever since he panned “Toy Story 3” and ruined that film’s 100 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating (though Cole Smithey did the same), Armond White of the New York Press has been criticized, demonized, lambasted, caricatured as a cranky contrarian, and attacked as being unworthy of inclusion on the Rotten Tomatoes site.
Paul Brunick of Slant Magazine has posted a piece about White that starts by taking a measured look at the critic who is known for going against the grain on movie after movie. (The same month that he slammed “Toy Story 3,” White praised “Jonah Hex” and compared “Grown Ups” to Mike Leigh and Jean Renoir.)
Brunick, though, dismisses most of the White-haters as not advancing the discussion in any substantial way. The only way to figure White out, he says, is to actually go through his offending review carefully and diligently, and see if his arguments against director Lee Unkrich’s beloved film make any sense at all.
Newsbreak: they don’t.
“By my count there are about three declarative statements in this entire piece that are not categorically inaccurate,” writes Brunick after a lengthy, detailed examination of White's review. “The rest is a seething tissue of factual errors, self-negating examples, glaring elisions, logical inconsistencies, specious industrial analysis, mystifying rhetorical constructions and basic grammatical errors.”
But Brunick doesn’t make his argument with inflammatory rhetoric like that; instead, he takes White’s review line-by-line and detail-by-detail, one Pixar slam at a time.
In the first paragraph, for instance, Brunick finds that White completely misremembers (or misrepresents) the moment from the Whit Stillman film “Metropolitan” that he uses to denigrate “Toy Story”; that he misconstrues the use of product placement by Pixar; and that his argument that the film is “strictly a celebration of consumerism” is “either oblivious or dishonest.”
In the end (and it’s a long piece), little of White’s review is left standing – not because the critic had the temerity to attack a film almost everybody else loved, but because he did so with “practically nothing (nothing!) in the way of analytical insight or emotional truth.”
Still, Brunick concludes that White is in fact being sincere; he’s not just contrary for the sake of being contrary, but a self-styled maverick “who sincerely despises his ‘shill’ colleagues and the ‘brainwashed’ audience.”
And in that, he finds something to admire … sort of: “Where your average critical hack job is just banal, White's ability to disconnect the dots exerts a kind of bizarro brilliance.”
By the way, Brunick calls his examination “a one-off exercise.”
So sorry, Chris Nolan fans – when White gets around to almost inevitable slam of “Inception,” you’re on your own.