Armond White Says ‘Crystal Skull’ Is Better Than ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ Paul W.S. Anderson Better Than P.T. Anderson and Martin Scorsese
Posted on Thursday, September 27th, 2012 by Germain Lussier
I have nothing but respect for Armond White, but to say his opinions are unpopular is like saying the Sun will rise. It’s a foregone conclusion, and two of his most recent posts fit that bill and then some. In one post, he argues that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is better than Raiders of the Lost Ark and in another he says Paul W.S. Anderson is a better filmmaker than both Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson, comparing Resident Evil: Retribution and The Master. (That one is a few weeks old but we hadn’t written about it yet.)
The scary thing is, White is such a talented, smart writer and has such confidence in his outlandish arguments you almost want to believe them. Can he convince you? Read some excerts and link to the full articles after the jump.
Before you crucify White over these statements, please do read some of his thoughts. First of all, he’s quick to say he prefers Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade to the other three films, calling it “a masterpiece.” He also doesn’t dislike Raiders of the Lost Ark, he just believes it’s the worst of the four because Spielberg improved in many ways with each sequel. In regards to Crystal Skull, he says it’s “in fact, far richer” than Raiders and “builds on Raider’s ideas and complicates them. Arriving two decades later, it is the series’ true sequel–refined and elegant.”
He believes Raiders was a novelty in 1981 because the serial genre had been ignored for so long, but believes the subsequent films improved with pacing and ideas. While I whole heartedly disagree with these statements, White does his best to back them up.
The whole article, called The Whip and the Fedora, can be read here.
Then there’s the Battle of the Andersons, an article that’s circulated far and wide since its publication two weeks ago which just so happened to be the first weekend both Paul Anderson’s, W.S. and P.T., opened movies against each other. White has long, long been an advocate of W.S. Anderson’s films, often the lone champion in a pile of horrific reviews, so it wasn’t surprising that he preferred Resident Evil: Retribution to The Master. What’s surprising is how far apart he sees the two.
White’s basic argument is The Master is filled with ideas for the sake of being filled with ideas and nothing more where as Retribution makes no bones about what it is: “Apocalyptic Pop.” He believes W.S. Anderson lets the ideas be inferred onto the film, if the viewer chooses, as opposed to being forced down your throat, like PT Anderson. Again, I don’t particularly agree with this, but here’s one particualar highlight:
Anderson’s taste for the kinetic excitement that gaming has in common with cinema inspires him to turn gaming conventions into idealized pop myths. Serious ideas about our entropic destiny are used to confirm humanity’s positive will as embodied by resilient Alice (athletic, emotive Milla fulfills the warrior promise of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and shows a convincing maternal gentleness in a terrifying domestic tangent). This universal lesson opposes The Master’s cynicism in which P.T.’s vague storytelling alludes to notorious religious beliefs then particularizes its “expose” with pessimistic displays of Quell and Dodd’s actorly neuroses. It’s a secularist epic for audiences of the vampire age who don’t believe in religion anyway–there’s no possibility of rebirth or conversion, just suspicions of torture as Dodd manipulates Quell to follow orders and reveal his pain. Yet Alice (in a Wasteland rather than Wonderland) meets cynicism head on and does spectacular battle with it. That used to be the purpose of movies–at least until the indie era permitted disaffected filmmakers to obfuscate moral predicaments with narcissistic indulgence.
He also throws some jabs at the 3D in Hugo and “unfairly” compares Paul W.S. Anderson to Martin Scorsese, but not how you’d think:
My point isn’t to measure Paul W. S. Anderson against Martin Scorsese; that’s too easy–an almost unfair contrast of innovative imagination to uninspired convention.
Yes, he just said Paul W.S. Anderson is a superior filmmaker to Martin Scorsese.
Say what you want about White. Call him a “troll” or “contrarian” but the simple fact is his tastes are just radically different from the status quo. He watches movies differently and comes at them with his own sets of likes, dislikes and history. And he’s certainly not making statements like this solely to get fanboys riled up. If you’ve ever heard him actually speak about these points (such as on the /Filmcast or Ron and Fez show) it’s obvious he firmly believes in his opinions. Plus he’s almost frighteningly smart about film history and can flat out write.
Even if you don’t agree with him – and most of us don’t – you’ve got to respect his guts to regularly come out with such unpopular opinions. I mean, this stuff is just so good, how can you be mad at it?