January 8, 2010

The controversial film critic Armond White puts out his Best of 2009 list...

...only he calls it his "Better-Than List". It's exactly what you'd expect from him. The full piece is here, but this is essentially what it boils down to:

Everlasting Moments > Every other movie of 2009
All else pales next to this marital memoir, a confirmation of Jan Troell’s mastery. Sweden’s nature poet also captures human nature through fundamental mysteries: love, family, politics, the personal creative urges that parents hide from their children. A mother’s discovery of photography explains the basis of our need for cinema. The family story Hollywood avoids turns out to be everyone’s story.

Revanche > An Education

Gotz Spielmann’s debut American import evokes the forgotten grandeur of European spiritual cinema from Dreyer and Bergman to Fassbinder while Anglophilia was never more hateful than Lone Scherfig’s anachronistic material-girl drama.

Of Time and the City > Crude
Terence Davies’ Liverpool memoir investigates nostalgia and uncovers the politics behind beauty and destruction, memory and art, while the green movement clichés of Crude missed every opportunity to make a distinguished documentary.

Coraline > Precious
Henry Selik made the year’s best stop-motion animation, a dazzling adolescent girl’s fantasy that explored psychological and cultural fears while Lee Daniels’ racist fantasy contradicted political reality with a laughably pornographic view of black female pathology.

This Is It > Me and Orson Welles

Kenny Ortega structured Michael Jackson’s rehearsal footage into a postmodern movie-musical that revealed facts of protean showbiz genius that Richard Linklater kept deflating in his humdrum quasi-bio-pic.

Anvil: The Story of Anvil > The Hangover

Sacha Gervasi doesn’t enable boys as men but delves deeply into how real-life boys become men through love and dedication, art and family. The Hangover offers boys-will-be-
pigs tautology.

Next Day Air > Up in the Air
Benny Boom disinfects The Wire’s pathology into an August Wilson-rich comedy about what greed does to the working class; it has truth and beauty where Jason Reitman told white-collar lies about labor, vocation and lack of community.

Crank 2: High Voltage and Gamer > Avatar
Neveldine/Taylor, avant-garde filmmakers consigned to B-movie obscurity, are sharp stylists who satirize the responsibilities of the digital era that James Cameron turns into insipid escapism.

Gentlemen Broncos >Inglourious Basterds
Jared Hess goes to the roots of the sci-fi genre for its pathos. Removed from exhibition, its day will come. It is the 2001 of 2009. But Q.T. traipses through the war movie genre without touching on anything remotely personal or amusing.

Ricky > Drag Me to Hell
François Ozon’s original parable finds hope in family life and unorthodox sexuality. It turns the divine into real-life, Emily Dickinson poetry. But Sam Raimi’s horror pastiche is lowbrow, low-down and unedifying.

Brothers > The Hurt Locker

Jim Sheridan finds the emotional substance of our Iraq War years while Kathryn Bigelow hides behind genre skill. By avoiding a moral or political stand, Bigelow’s movie says nothing to anyone—especially liberals.

A Serious Man > The White Ribbon
The Coen Brothers redefine Jewish paranoia as existential anxiety. It beats Haneke’s art-house Nazi fetishism any day.

Tyson > Invictus
James Toback’s monologue doc, a fallen angel’s confession, challenges our capacity to comprehend Mike Tyson (and ourselves) while Eastwood merely deifies sports fan Nelson Mandela.

Bandslam > Nine

Todd Graff’s high school musical understands pop and showbiz better than Rob Marshall’s Fellini-botch. Too bad mainstream Hollywood doesn’t know the difference.

Cherry Blossoms > Up
Doris Dorrie’s strange, sweet tale of a widower challenging the sexual mores
he grew up with is exactly what
Pixar’s corporate-formula widower’s
tale evades.

Where the Wild Things Are > District 9
Spike Jonze realizes the liberating, introspective possibilities in pop while Neil Blomkamp reclaims apartheid for geeks who don’t know what that was, yet enjoy the comforts of pop idiocy.

-Thoughts on the pseudo list?


  1. i will refrain myself...

    your right armond!
    i also preferred where the wild thungs are to district 9
    im glad you can appreciate a serious man as well


    are you joke?

  2. For White this actually isn't that bad. Of course I disagree with a lot of it, but he does stumble onto some valid points that aren't being addressed by critical groupthink -- the problems with Up in the Air and Inglourious Basterds, and the seemingly forgotten genius of Where the Wild Things Are. Up being dismissed as mere "corporate formula" and Brothers being superior to Hurt Locker are ridiculous ideas, but I assume they're mostly just to provoke.

  3. This is an interesting list, I definitely agree with the Where The Wild Things Are pick(I am a bit biased though, it was my #1 film of the year.) Unfortunately I think it's Best Picture hopes are pretty much dead in the water at this point, the competition is quite tough this year. I see it losing a 10th slot showdown with either District 9 or (500)Days of Summer.

  4. I don't appreciate anyone who takes lesser movies and states bogus reasons for them being better than movies that are actually good, just to be different.

    Although Wild Things is better than District 9 (just not for the reason he states).


  5. I think he's perfectly in his rights to make whatever opinion he wants, but he's too dismissive of other people's opinions. I kind of base my life as a critic on doing the opposite of him. That being said, I respect him like any other colleague...

  6. I'm also a firm believer in everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I don't believe he actually agrees with what he is saying. I suspect he's just writing these things to be different. I have no basis for feeling this way, but it's just a gut reaction I get from reading his work.


  7. I don't mind him having his opinion. I just think it's ridiculous that he's the head of the NY Film Critics Society.

  8. Congrats Mr. White, you succeeded in pissing me off.

  9. He partially does it for this reason, to stimulate conversation, I think...