Armond White's Better-Than List Isn't as Crazy as You Think
Is 2011 poised to be the Year of Armond White? Not only was the curmudgeonly New York Press film critic one of the few to heroically stand against the "emo-fascism" of Blue Valentine, but his annual Better-Than List actually includes a lot of legitimate points and criticisms about 2010's most-beloved films. He's making some sense! Except for that part about Jonah Hex being better than True Grit.
"This year's Better-Than List provides an opportunity to see how a great year for movies, highlighted by a renaissance of cinema's Old Masters from Resnais and Bellocchio to Chabrol and Haile Gerima has been obscured by the media preference for slick new images of its own noxious, select kind," writes White. "The Social Network rewards immorality, but this list knows better." OK, well, disagree about The Social Network -- one of White's 2010 bête noires -- but! There are some really strong points here. To wit:
Mother and Child > The Kids Are All Right
Rodrigo Garcia delves into the meaning of community though basic female experience (Naomi Watts, Annette Bening and Kerry Washington, all brilliant). He digs deeper into sex, community and local politics than Lisa Cholodenko's facile, P.C., button-pushing lesbian sitcom.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World > Inception
Edgar Wright finds a funny, sexy, visually exciting way to illustrate the mind while Christopher Nolan bends the frame and fanboys into mindlessness.
The Girl on the Train > Winter's Bone
Andr Tchin transposes the Tawana Brawley incident to France for a global tale of adolescent need vs. a pandering hillbilly Precious.
Ondine > Black Swan
Neil Jordan shows the importance of myth and faith in an Irish romantic epic so visually ravishing (shot by Christopher Doyle) it feels absolutely new, but Aronofsky rips-off Repulsion and The Red Shoes to terrify and excite the ignorant, faithless and over-cultured.
Please Give > Greenberg
Nicole Holofcener's best-yet film understands it's not all about "me," but Noah Baumbach advertises his own repugnant egotism, striking a chord with evil critics everywhere but thankfully, not the public.
Huh. Even if you love those films, White's critiques aren't totally out-of-bounds -- for instance, Aronofsky did rip-off Repulsion and The Red Shoes, though to great effect; and Please Give was better than Greenberg, Greta Gerwig's brilliance notwithstanding. To be fair, White loses some sanity points by claiming Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole was better than Toy Story 3, and then there's this knee-slapper.
Jonah Hex > True Grit
Jimmy Hayward's neo-Western -- written by unsung geniuses Neveldine-Taylor -- is more stirring than even the Coen Brothers' very-good remake.
OK, so he's still Armond. But at least he admitted True Grit was very good? Progress!
· Better-Than List 2010 [New York Press]