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Armond White's Better-Than List; Or, Film Criticism As The Onion

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Armond White is a professional troll who moonlights as a film critic. Actually, reverse that. The confusion is understandable, of course: When he isn't shouting at Academy Award winners -- like he allegedly did to Michael Moore at the New York Film Critics Circle dinner on Monday night -- he's writing reviews that fly in the face of conventional wisdom. Sometimes, that means he speaks truth to power -- White was no fan of "The Artist," "The Help" or "The Social Network," to name three beloved recent films. Sometimes, that means he thinks "Jack and Jill" is better than "The Descendants."

Which brings us to White's annual better-than list. As a critic for CityArts, White publishes a yearly rundown of contrarianism that allows him to tear down accepted favorites in favor of some lesser known (and lesser quality) offerings. This year, White wrote things like this:

"A Thousand Words" > "Argo"

Brian Robbins and Eddie Murphy dared the most personal Hollywood critique since Clifford Odets' The Big Knife; Ben Affleck trivialized Hollywood accountability.

And this:

"Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance," "Taken 2" > "Zero Dark Thirty"

Neveldine-Taylor and Olivier Megaton revealed the post-9/11 zeitgeist in genre tropes, while Bigelow reduced the zeitgeist to an enigmatic comic strip, a "mission accomplished" delusion.

Which, LOL. Especially at White calling "Zero Dark Thirty" delusional when he thinks "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vegeance" was a better movie.

There's something to be said here for White's role as film critic. Is he supposed to fall in line with other reviewers and add his voice to the cacophony of people proclaiming "Zero Dark Thirty," "Argo" and "Lincoln" as some of last year's best films? Or is it his job to take the critical equivalent of a dump on Metacritic's best and brightest? The answer, of course, is neither: White should express his opinions, whatever they may be. It's just that no one takes his opinions seriously -- not when they are so gleefully off-the-grid to the point of self-parody. His better-than list is an annual rite of OMG; a joke passed around by journalists on Twitter like some first-rate Onion article. As New York Times reporter Dave Itzkoff wrote, perhaps 2014's list will include "Texas Chainsaw 3D" > "Battleship Potemkin." At this point, why not?

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