When I first read Armond White’s comment on how Chicago Sun Movie critic Roger Ebert ‘ Destroyed Film Criticism’, I just thought—must be a slow news day because a film critic is criticizing another film critic. He then said his rationale for his comment ‘ he has the pedigree and training’ and it made me paraphrase a line from a Shakespearean Play Hamlet “Sir you protest too much” (Lady doth protest too much).
Why the Shakespearean phrase? Well, first of all film critiquing is subjective based on your perception of what you see and possibly your background on what you are viewing. Two people can see the same film and come away with different observations based on their perceptions. Those two people aren’t wrong they are just perceiving the film differently.
Since perception can differ from person to person—-was White’s comment warranted? I think not. After all, to say that a film critic has ‘destroyed film criticism’ would imply that person was utterly useless to the trade of film reviewing–which clearly doesn’t describe Roger Ebert much less any other critic who has been published for years.
One reason why I enjoy Roger Ebert’s reviews is he has brought film reviewing down to the average reader instead of it being only a realm where angels fear to tread. In short, he makes you feel like he was in the audience with you. He’s college educated, has credentials but there are no special airs—just a man sharing his God-given gift to thoughtfully critique a film. He’s done his research and I find that most of the time he has been pretty much dead on target. Has he been wrong? It depends on the viewers perception. While its true that he does many popular films, he’s also done films that weren’t so mainstream such as American Violet (2009) and Tsotsi (2005).
Armond White has impressive credentials: Masters of Art degree in Film from Columbia University’s School of Arts where he has also taught film related courses as well as reviews in the former City Sun newspaper and other media (Chen, 2010). He touts the fact that he is a member of a few film reviewing organizations and served on other film festival events . No doubt, academically, he knows his territory (film) very well.
White’s style of film reviewing has been described as being “contrarian” with the objective of providing information or a topic of discussion to provoke the reader. In itself, “provoking the reader” is not a bad idea if it makes the reader think or better yet see the movie to see if there is any merit in the review. However, it could have the opposite effect if the reader sees as being an attack without merit. Reviewer can lose following because it becomes a question of credibility. I feel that this was the case with Ebert who handled the criticism in the appropriate manner.
In the end, its not about Ebert or White but the area of film critiquing itself. Film critiquing is a large area because of its subjectivity, perception and the fact that everybody has their own unique style. In this case, Ebert is at one end of the spectrum while White is clearly at the other. So, it’s not even a question of who is better but who people prefer. After all, its the people who are real critics.
Chen, David. “Armand White: I do think it is fair to say that Roger Ebert Destroyed Film Criticism. Slashfilm.com. Retrieved 8-16-10. http://www.slashfilm.com/2010/07/20/armond-white-i-do-think-it-is-fair-to-say-that-roger-ebert-destroyed-film-criticism/.
Matthews, Jack. “Who is Armond White and Why is Everybody Mad at Him?”. Moviefone.com. Retrieved 8-16-10. http://insidemovies.moviefone.com/2010/06/23/rough-cuts-who-is-armond-white-and-why-is-everybody-mad-at-him/
Shakepearean, William. Hamlet. Wikipedia. Retrieved 8-16-10. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_lady_doth_protest_too_much,_methinks