Stomach for Loneliness

As totally expected, and as I predicted on 9.25, N.Y. Press critic Armond White has panned The Social Network.

The Social Network “is simply Hollywood’s way, post-Obama, of sanctioning Harvard’s ‘masters of the universe’ mystique,” he writes. “It’s an attempt at glorifying a contemporary aristocracy-cumplutocracy through flattery of Zuckerberg and his ilk. Like one of those fake-smart, middlebrow TV shows, the speciousness of The Social Network is disguised by topicality. It’s really a movie excusing Hollywood ruthlessness.

“Here’s the truth: Citizen Kane was not about a brat’s betrayal, but about a sensitive braggart’s psychological and philosophical shift inward. The Social Network is more like Hollywood’s classic film industry self-romance The Bad and the Beautiful. Yet that Kane-lite film never excused its bad-boy protagonist’s sins and ended magnanimously by converging his three injured parties’ points of view into one beautifully clarifying narrative. It admitted our cultural compromises; this is TV-trite. In The Social Network, creepiness is heroized.”

TSN “excuses” the sins of its Mark Zuckerberg character?

43 thoughts on “Stomach for Loneliness

  1. Travis Crabtree on said:

    I can’t WAIT to be let down by this movie.

  2. I ask this sincerely: who gives a shit what this guy thinks? When a critic who isn’t expected to pan this movie does so, I’ll be intrigued, if only to hear someone who didn’t love the movie. Armond White is just asking for attention, and we continue to give it to him. Can we seriously stop talking about this guy?

  3. Wasn’t as entertaining as his usual rants. By his standards it was quite low-key, apart from the bit where he compares it negatively to Soul Man.

  4. What makes White frustrating is you can see the remnants of an actual journalist in there, particularly in the way that his pans of popular stuff like this or Toy Story 3 go back to an actual point of view (old-left, contempt for corporatism and consumption) but you can tell he only brings it out when it’s time to bray for contrarian attention.

    What amuses me in this is that if you change the tone this would be a positive breadown of the film from my end: I LIKE that it’s basically about turning vengeful, socially-awkward ultra-nerds into tragic heroes by virtue of their being quicker than everyone else on the digital revolution.

  5. Wells: I am curious, however — since I (and most readers here) have yet to see the movie — to know if you find ANY merit in what White has to say. Does he make any anti-TSN arguments that you agree with?

  6. Guys…. Armond White LIKING The Social Network would have been one of the signs of the apocalypse.

    If the world’s most insane critic would have gone positive, my heart would have sank.

    So rejoice… the Planet Earth is operating as it should.

  7. The mere fact he describes Sorkin as “TV’s Aaron Sorkin,” speaks volumes, as if he’s no better than whatever douches created Friends, never had a play on Broadway, never an Oscar nomination…

    And Fincher’s colour scheme is more brown/orange-green than yellow-green. Do we have to add colour-blindness to his list of faults?

    I haven’t even seen the movie and I know there’s one dude, not two, playing the twins. So clearly vision is an issue of some kind.

    He puts Soul Man and Harvard Man (as opposed to, say Wonder Boys) in the same category as The Paper Chase?

    How can someone write so well and be so misguided and foolish?

  8. >I ask this sincerely: who gives a shit what this guy thinks?

    Oddly, these excerpts make me slightly more interested in the guy.

    He approaches TSN from a different tack (its touting of the Harvard myth), and as someone who maybe “coulda” gone to Ivy League but instead went the star-crossed USC-film-school route… and still consequently feels various echoes of inadequacy/defensiveness… Armond’s comments resonate a bit.

    Also, he prodded my thought as I rushed to refute his comment about Citizen Kane. Does CFK ever turn “inward”? No, I hastened to type — he is a uniquely unintrospective individual who “needs more than one lesson and is gonna get more than one lesson” but never learns. Or does he? After Susan leaves him, does some fundamental shift in his character occur? Are his last breathed words a rediscovering of what really mattered in his life, or just a clinging to childish nostalgia? The movie itself won’t reduce to such clarities, which is part of its greatness, and I reject Armond’s capsule summation of its “point.” Yet, it set the wheels spinning.

    Finally, hurrah for Bad and the Beautiful. Great movie, nice to see it mentioned.

    Anyway…

  9. From Armond’s original draft:

    “I, for one, was neither titillated nor aroused by Dakota Johnson’s ass, an obvious and plainly cynical attempt by Fincher to make his movie more appealing to the very fake-smart twenty-somethings who will unfortunately flock to this movie. Ladies: Armond is a boob-man.”

  10. Why are you all so preoccupied with consensus and liking what you’re supposed to like? As a serious critic, White is obligated to write what he really thinks. Are you suggesting that he’s lying about his take on the movie or, worse yet, should pretend to like it when he doesn’t? And what exactly is the benefit of every critic sharing the same opinion? White brings an intelligent, challenging alternative view to the table. I disagree with him all the time, but his reviews always add something to the debate. Grow up, movie fans.

  11. JD — I agree with you, except when you write “White brings an intelligent, challenging alternative view to the table”… I’d change that to “”White brings an alternative view to the table.” When your reviews are riddled with factual inaccuracies, it kind of undercuts your arguments.

    While I love to read alternative viewpoints… they do have to have that intelligence behind them. Otherwise it’s just about being a contrarian to be noticed. (In Armond’s case, it’s definitely worked.)

  12. Poor Armond can’t understand that his career, maybe even his very existence, itself “heroizes creepiness.” Few things are more cognitively and empathetically dissonant than the dribbling rants he puts on paper contrasted with the strained, fake gentility he manifests in person.

  13. JD, even outside the realm of White, your point is valid. If other, well respected critics come out with not so glowing reviews, what shape will the response from Wells and others take? Without realizing it I think most of the culture lives in a vacuum. We prefer to spend the majority of our time locked in a room with people that carry the same opinions with the objective of boosting our own opinion and outlook. As a result, our ability to disagree in a healthy and productive manner damn near vanishes. Instead of disagreement through intelligent discourse we opt to berate and belittle with as much snide arrogance and condescension that we can muster. I’ve certainly fallen prey to such outlooks and I try to avoid it now as much as I can.

  14. How is it in the best interest of any oulet to employee this guy? I dont get it as he appears to have some sort of mental illness going against the grain almost every time..

  15. At least White’s not contrasting it, negatively, with HATCHET 2 or some other flick opening Friday. That’s his usual gambit. (“THE SOCIAL NETWORK lacks the gravitas, the sensitivity, of HATCHET 2, also opening this week, and doomed to be dismissed by the critical establishment as it drolls over Fincher’s latest overpraised nonsense.”)

  16. Armond White is a twit. It’s obvious that he has criticisms of the film BECAUSE it’s getting great reviews. Think about it. If The Social Network was being hated on, White would be praising it to the skies.

    It was the same thing when the Hurt Locker was released. The difference between his review and others was that his was released way before most of the reviews came in. He wrote a hugely positive review for it. Months later when critics were cumming all over it he felt that he should have been the only one with the orgasm when he started calling the film “overrated”.

    His fanboyism of Spielberg, Wes Anderson, and others also grates on my nerves. Spielberg could go delusional tomorrow and direct a film about lynching black people and White would still find something positive there that wasn’t.

  17. THE SOCIAL NETWORK lacks the formalism of Alexander and Karaszewski’s SCREWED while rejecting the basic tenets of biographical storytelling that made BACKBEAT the best film of the 90s. Beginning with a chiaroscuro patina that brings to mind Benjamin’s THE MONEY PIT as re-imagined by MOUCHETTE-era Bresson, Sorkin fails to assign his characters the gravitas that was inherent in Harry Winer’s SPACECAMP for a scattershot mise-en-scene that brings to mind the best moments of IRON EAGLE II, but without Furie’s genius for creating a bildungsroman…

  18. HAHAHAHAHA that SCREWED reference was great… One of the oddest credits ever, as those two guys had just come off Ed Wood and Larry Flynt, and then… SCREWED. The best thing about that movie is DeVito returning to his early GOIN’ APE look.

    Isn’t White a huge fan of Torque? Even a broken clock…

  19. I don’t see any point getting into White’s Citizen Kane analogy but given how often that film keeps getting mentioned it strikes me there is an important distinction.

    Obviously Charles Foster Kane is based on Hearst, but Hearst is ultimately extrapolated into a larger metaphor and there is a veneer of fiction over the whole thing. Certainly neither Welles nor anyone else actually suggested Hearst was an asshole who really missed his sled.

    The Social Network, however, wants to extrapolate Zuckerberg into a metaphor without changing any names. No one should expect the film to be TRUE but the implication is you’ll learn more about Marc Zuckerberg from watching The Social Network than you will about William Randolph Hearst from watching Citizen Kane.

    It kind of begs the question of whether they should have fictionalized the whole thing, or whether they’re going a bit far with their “this isn’t about Zuckerberg, it’s about all of us” angle….

  20. I think the most telling thing is that White considers The Bad And The Beautiful a classic. I like Kirk Douglas, but that movie is pretty ham-handed. Two Weeks In Another Town is better, and even it`s not that great.

  21. @actionman

    Oh. My.

    Hadn’t seen that one. I knew he was a critical loon, but that Rez Evil review didn’t make my radar screen. Wow. Just, wow.

    I may have to revise my rankings and bump Zachereck up to 2nd worst after seeing that.

  22. His paper should be run out of town. A committee should be formed to boycott him. You may, if you can form such a committee, put me down for a contribution of one thousand dollars.

  23. Actually, Resident Evil IS pretty fucking great. And its 3D is better than Avatar’s, better than any 3D I’ve seen yet. White is a nut and I don’t buy this whole “he writes well so it’s an interesting perspective” defense, but if he has ONE saving grace, it’s that he gives a comparatively fair shake to fun genre material that truly is above the call for what it is, stuff that none of his detractors would lower themselves to see. In terms of its goals and how it achieves them, Resident Evil Afterlife, or Torque, are A-rating level movies for their genres.

  24. This may be a first, but I have to agree with the point LexG makes about “fun genre material that truly is above the call for what it is”. Not all stuff that looks like garbage is completely unredeemable, and not all “mindless popcorn movies” are equallly fun. I want to know which ones are actually worth seeing, or at least how much I should fight to ditch my friends who suddenly decide that we’re going to see a movie that wasn’t on my radar.

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