Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why District 9 Will Kick All Kinds of Ass

District 9 has a simple premise: Aliens are living as refugees in South Africa. Produced by Peter Jackson, it looks completely and utterly badass. This notion has been reinforced by film critics, who have praised the film at a 96% clip on RT thus far. Of the 26 reviews currently archived, 25 are positive.

Guess who's submitted the lone negative review thus far.

Poor, misguided Armond White. So predictable. Once again, RTers were commenting that District 9's 100% wouldn't last because White hadn't submitted his review yet. But lo and behold, his review is in, which you can read here. (Finish whatever food you may be eating first; his arguments are a choking hazard)

Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Technically brilliant and socially poignant, District 9 has action, imagination, and all the elements of a thoroughly entertaining science-fiction classic.

Armond White: District 9 represents the sloppiest and dopiest pop cinema -- the kind that comes from a second-rate film culture.

The guy who loves Michael Bay is calling District 9 pop cinema. The amount of hypocrisy here is downright laughable.

I've never been a paid film critic, but I'm fairly certain it's an important part of the job to go into each movie with an open mind, regardless of what may have been heard about it or how a critic might personally feel about the subject matter.

This is what pisses people off (myself included) about White the most. Before he sees a film, he knows what kind of review he's going to give it. First off, District 9 is produced by "intellectually juvenile New Zealander" Peter Jackson. Strike 1.

"This cheap, darkhumored pass at empathy disgraces any greater cinematic potential." Strike 2.

"District 9 confirms that few media makers know how to perceive history, race and class relations." Strike 3!

White isn't a dummy, as I've stated earlier. He definitely knew Jackson produced District 9, and I'd wager he knew the film's basic premise as well. He knew before the film even started that he was going to trash it, and he was licking his chops.

Oh, I'm sorry Armond! I wasn't aware District 9 was a movie fit for a Social Studies class! I was under the impression it was a work of fiction. And no, the film's producer is not black, so his "pass at empathy" sure is pathetic, huh? My favorite part is when you flat-out called Peter Jackson a racist, suggesting his effort "suggests some lingering Afrikaans’ fear or, possibly, how Jackson really thinks about the Maori and Aborigines. "

What the shit are you talking about, Armond?

You see, people-I've discovered something about Armond White. He's a bigoted, stubborn racist. For the first clue, just check out his positive and negative reviews.

But the major clue to White's racist tendencies comes in the ease with which he cries "RACISM!" when it's not even present at all. Much like the cheating husband who is jealous and accusatory toward his wife or the moron who laughs the loudest because he doesn't get the joke, White plays the race card in an effort to subdue his own prejudices. It's not working, Armond. You're a flat-out racist.

Most moviegoers are idiots. They want to see shit blow up before being taught a lesson every single time. What Jackson and other astute filmmakers have figured out is that you can draw parallels to actual events (while blowing shit up) that pretty much everyone can absorb.

All Jackson and Neill Blomkamp (District 9's director) tried to do is to show us that intolerance doesn't pay. And you threw it back in their faces, Armond. Well done.

When my wife is in labor, I'll shout encouragement to get her through it. Do I understand her pain? Absolutely not. And as I encourage her, will she interrupt me, call me a sexist prick, and make me leave the room? Only if she's a stubborn, bigoted and close-minded nutjob.

Evaluate your life, Armond. Nobody likes a racist.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

You're Going To See This Movie Because You're An Idiot

Note: I went to a double feature over the weekend (and only paid for 1 ticket, I'm so badass). I saw The Hurt Locker and 500 Days of Summer. Two very different movies, and two of the best that I've seen in a while. But while I was there I saw a preview for The Time Traveler's Wife before each film. Coincidentally, I vomited twice. In my haste to clean myself up, I ran into the women's bathroom and overheard this conversation.

"OMFG Brooke, did you see that preview for The Time Traveler's Wife?"

"I totally did, Michelle! It's gonna be like, the best movie ever!"

"I know! It's like The Notebook but with time travel lol!"

"It totally is! U R so right! It even has that same girl from The Notebook! I forget her name. Rachel McSomething lol!"

"Yeah that's her. I wish my face could be as pretty as hers."

"What? Are you cereal? Your face is TOTALLY pretty! It's WAY prettier than mine."

"OMG shut up! You are so much prettier than me!"

"No, you're prettier!"

"You are!"



"What were we talking about again?"

"The Time Traveler's Noteb...I mean the Time Travler's Wife!"

"OMG were you gonna say The Time Traveler's Notebook? lolz!"

"I totally was! lol I'm so dumb. Good thing I've got these boobs!"

"lolz lolz!"

"OMG Brooke. OMG. Did you see how hot the guy is in Time Traveler's Wife?"

"OMG Michelle I did. He is so hot. I mean, like, he's not as hot as Ryan Gosling but OMG yeah he's so hot. What's his name again?"

"I dunno, I just know he was The Hulk lol!"

"lol ur so funny!"

"OMG if she like, dies at the end I am totally gonna cry."

"OMG totally! Bring the kleenex lol! It's gonna be a moist one!"

"OMG Brooke ewwwwww!!! Did you just say moist! Ewwwwww!!!!!"

"OMG OMG I totally did! lol ewwwwwww!!!"

Seriously, what is going on in this train wreck of a movie? Eric Bana visits Rachel McAdams as a little girl? Is this guy a pedophile or what? When he disappears, what's that red thing he's wearing? A towel? WTF? No wonder McAdams can't let go of him, he voilated her when she was little.

If you see this movie, you endorse pedophilia.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Top (And Bottom) 10 Fastball Hitters in MLB

I've neglected my sportswriting recently in favor of film critics, organic food and fake Gene Hackman interviews. I apologize from the bottom of my heart for this mistake. To make amends, it's time to break out my inner nerd and discuss a topic that's been near and dear to my heart since my days of wearing sweatpants on a daily basis: baseball statistics.

It's gotten to the point where batting average, home runs and RBIs don't get the job done anymore. I need new ways to absorb what I see on TV. Give me OPS, VORP, win probabilities, fielding range and pitch values.

Enter FanGraphs, my new favorite site. They track pretty much every stat that's been conjured up. How in depth are they? They can tell you what hitters and pitchers are most/least effective when hitting or throwing a certain pitch. I'm positively giddy. This new information is awesome beyond words.

You'll learn things about your favorite players that you never would have known before. For example, the only pitch that Albert Pujols hits below average is a split-fingered fastball. You'd think every NL Central pitching coach would lead a split-finger course to try to gain any kind of advantage over King Albert.

You're either going to find this information extremely fascinating or more boring than Pretty In Pink (I kid, RIP John Hughes. And Molly Ringwald's career). My guess is that there's a good chance you'll find this material captivating if you have a Y chromosome. If you're a double X, you could be out of luck. But whatever. Like I said, I'm unleashing my inner nerd here. So here are the major leaguers who currently are best and worst at hitting the ol' #1. The average is 0. Above average hitters score above zero, below average hitters score below zero. Easy enough.

10 Best Fastball Hitters of 2009 (Runs above average)

1. Albert Pujols (31.1)
2. Kevin Youkilis (29.0)
3. Michael Young (27.6)
4. Mark Teixeira (25.3)
5. Justin Upton (24.8)
6. Prince Fielder (24.1)
7. Shane Victorino (23.7)
8. Chase Utley (23.1)
9. Adam Dunn (22.2)
T-10. Victor Martinez (21.9)
T-10. Mark Reynolds (21.9)

  • Only one guy in all of baseball is worse at hitting sliders than Justin Upton (-12.1), and that's Kevin Kouzmanoff of the Padres(-12.4). Why Upton still sees fastballs is beyond me.
  • 4 of these 11 guys are on my fantasy team (Albert, Young, Prince, Victorino). My pitching is blowing it for me, but that offense is still stacked.
  • Only 2 of these 11 boppers (Prince and Dunn) are above average at hitting a split-finger fastball.
  • Albert, Prince and Utley also tattoo sliders. (5.1, 4.1, 5.2)
  • 2 BoSox, 2 Phillies and (shockingly) 2 D-Backs on this list.
  • No Cubs on the list. The first one doesn't have to wait too long, though. The most effective fastball-hitting North Sider is Derrek Lee (14th in MLB at 20.1)
  • First White Sox man doesn't appear until Paul Konerko shows up in 54th place at 9.8
  • I hate Teixeira. Just seems like a big, muscled, sexy douche. Wait, what?

10 Worst Fastball Hitters of 2009

10. Magglio Ordonez (-6.3)
9. Jose Lopez (-6.4)
8. Orlando Cabrera (-6.6)
7. Jeff Francoeur (-6.7)
6. Emilio Bonifacio (-7.6)
5. Randy Winn (-7.8)
4. Edgar Renteria (-8.8)
T-2. Bengie Molina (-10.5)
T-2. Jason Kendall (-10.5)
1. Willy Taveras (-11.5)

  • Taveras' only above average score is 0.5 on split-fingers. He's below average on fastballs, sliders, curves, changeups, cutters, and knucklers. Professional hitter.
  • 3 straight Giants are near the top of the list (Winn, Renteria, Molina).
  • Francoeur has the lowest score of any player on this list for any secondary pitch (-6.5 on sliders).
  • Magglio had a +26.9 on fastballs in 2007, good for 22nd in the majors. He was +3.3 in 2008 and now he's 10th-worst in 2009 at -6.3. Either he's aging rapidly or he kicked the performance enhancers.
  • No Cubs in this list, either. Worst fastball hitter on the team is Ryan Theriot, who is at 50th-worst in the league (but still above average) at +2.2.
  • The worst fastball hitting player on the White Sox is Alexei Ramirez, 28th-worst in the bigs at -2.2.
  • 7 of the 10 worst fastball hitting players hail from Spanish-speaking countries. Latinos can't hit the fastball unless aided by performance enhancers? Let the stereotyping begin!
Even if this post bored you completely, I had too much fun with it. I really did. Expect more baseball stats that don't really matter in the future. I'm out like Maggs on 93 mph gas.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Meet Rotten Tomatoes' Most Hated Film Critic

Note from Luke: This post is long. Really long.

Photo by Nigel Parry

Say hello to Armond White, a man deemed the worst film critic on Rotten Tomatoes because of his tendency to discard widely respected films and embrace ones that get trashed. This post is being written because Armond's reviews are in some cases so confounding that I've taken it upon myself to decide whether he's going against the grain in order to increase his traffic and further his career (a method that's definitely working) or if he really, truly feels this way about the films he watches. I'm going to look at 3 movies he loved and 4 that he hated to find the answer. Let's start it up.

The Dark Knight

Critic Consensus: "Dark, complex and unforgettable, The Dark Knight succeeds not just as an entertaining comic book film, but as a richly thrilling crime saga."

Armond White: "Ledger reduces The Joker to one-note ham-acting and trite symbolism. If you fell for the evil-versus-evil antagonism of There Will Be Blood, then The Dark Knight should be the movie of your wretched dreams. The Dark Knight is the sentinel of our cultural abyss."

Ok, to Armond and anyone else who feels this way: the movie is called The Dark Knight. There's a possibility that the film could be a little dark. Its tagline is "Welcome to a World Without Rules." Absolutely brilliant deduction that the film lacks morality. What could White have possibly been expecting? Song and dance numbers? A CGI Judy Garland cameo? Chris Columbus as guest director?

I remember not being able to take my eyes off the screen when Ledger's Joker was involved. He reinvented a tired, worn-out character and won a posthumous Oscar for it. Sounds like ham-acting to me.

Get used to these three traits from White: 1. He has a stubborn way of praising people and film studios he loves and bashing ones he can't stand, regardless of the films he's reviewing. 2. He comes off as an egotistical blowhard, partly because 3. He views himself as a moral compass on par with God, Gandhi, and Magnum P.I.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Critic Consensus:
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a noisy, underplotted, and overlong special effects extravaganza that lacks a human touch."

Armond White: "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is more proof [Bay] has a great eye for scale and a gift for visceral amazement."

I don't think anyone can argue that Michael Bay knows how to blow shit up. It's the little things Bay struggles with (character development, plot, reality). Bay found out long ago that if he blows things up, uses lots of slo-mo shots and finds a hot babe and makes her bend over in jean shorts, his films will reach the $100M plateau within weeks.

If you read Armond's full review of Transformers (click here for it), his points kind of make sense. He acknowledges Bay neglects plot for spectacle. He acknowledges slo-mo Megan Fox shots with a fighter jet flying overhead. White knows how to write, and he knows how to argue. This is what makes his reviews so infuriating. Such an articulate guy should be able to recognize a fantastic film with ease. But he doesn't. Want another example?

The Hangover

Critic Consensus: "With a clever script and hilarious interplay among the cast, The Hangover nails just the right tone of raunchy humor, and the non-stop laughs overshadow any flaw."

Armond White: "Rising-star Bradley Cooper and gang represent the dirtbag element that has become acceptable in contemporary comedy."

Remember what I said about Armond White, Moral Compass and his tendency to be stubborn? Both traits are in play here. He notoriously trashes the raunchier, better written R-rated comedies in favor of lighter, easier to write and produce efforts (see the next film).

Here's the full review. He grouped it together with The Proposal, which makes sense because the two movies are pretty much identical. And for those of you waiting for an "Armand White is ratard" joke, sorry, it's not gonna happen. Except it kind of just did. Moving on.

Dance Flick

Critic Consensus: "Dance Flick scores a few laughs thanks to the Wayans brothers' exuberance, but it’s ultimately a scattershot collection of gags without much direction."

Armond White: "It isn’t highbrow -- or encumbered by scruples -- but the Wayanses retain their vulgar, adolescent derision of sex, class and race. In this bow down to Hollywood millennium, their irreverence is almost subversive."

The Wayans' irreverence isn't subversive, it's lazy. Jokes about race, gender and class are incredibly easy to make. Similar to Michael Bay, they've found a money-printing film making method that requires little to no creativity. Find a popular genre, spoof it for 90 minutes with "White girls can't dance, LOLZ!" jokes, collect check, laugh all the way to the bank. And we keep falling for it. Apparently Armond does too.

White calls Dance Flick "more invigorating than Chicago, Dreamgirls or Hairspray." That's not my area of expertise, so I'll let the ladies and Dan Bardin handle that one.

Star Trek

Critic Consensus: "Star Trek reignites a classic franchise with action, humor, a strong story, and brilliant visuals, and will please traditional Trekkies and new fans alike."

Armond White: "This Star Trek sells cuteness, sentimentality and explosive F/X as if Starship Troopers, Minority Report, Mission to Mars or even Blade Runner or The Matrix (all visionary standard-setters) never happened."

I had a blast watching Star Trek, just like 95% of the critics on Rotten Tomatoes. If that gives me the emotional capabilities of an early teenager, Armond, so be it. You're above us all. And yeah, I agree, Star Trek is exactly like Blade Runner and Mission to Mars. Have any of you actually watched Blade Runner? I had to for a film class. The Harrison Ford voiceover was cheesier than the deuces Kraft's CEO drops. And Mission to Mars? Um...what? You mean this Mission to Mars?

White didn't feel that Star Trek deserved its own review; he grouped it with X-Men: Wolverine. Good call. Those films were equally enjoyable.

Transporter 3

Critic Consensus: "This middling installment in the Transporter franchise is a few steps down from its predecessors, featuring generic stunts and a lack of energy."

Armond White: "Forget the Oscar bait, Transporter 3 is the only movie you need to see this season."

I haven't seen this one. I'm sure I'd enjoy it, but definitely not as much as Armond did. You really have to read the review to fully comprehend it. He says Buster Keaton is nodding appreciatively (wherever he is) and Spielberg should take notes. And let me tell you something, Armond White LOVES Steven Spielberg. Loves him. Transporter 3 is the most glowing review I've seen Armond write.

I'm starting to figure something out about White's taste in films. He values visuals over dialogue every single time. This is why he loves Michael Bay, the Transporter series, and dismisses The Dark Knight and well-written comedies. He wants to be told a story visually, which is fine, but it doesn't explain his hatred for Pixar.


Critic Consensus: "Another masterful work of art from Pixar, Up is an exciting, hilarious, and heartfelt adventure impeccably crafted and told with wit and depth."

Armond White: "All this deflated cinema and Pixarism mischaracterizes what good animation can be (as in Coraline, Monster House, Chicken Little, Teacher’s Pet, The Iron Giant). Up’s aesthetic failure stems from its emotional letdown."

This review is so far out there that I have to quote a little bit more of it: "Today, nobody dares mock Pixar. This absurdity clarifies contemporary news media’s unprincipled collusion with Hollywood capitalism."

Why didn't I realize it before? The Disney/Pixar tandem has effectively brainwashed us all into believing they make great films and are worth spending money on! White not only slapped Hollywood in the face, but also threw his fellow critics under the bus who dared to enjoy Up (and 97% of them did).

White revealed just what a badass he is with 4 simple words: NOBODY DARES MOCK PIXAR. His hatred of the studio is so predictable that, when Up had a 100% going for a while, someone actually wrote "Enjoy this while it lasts, Armond White hasn't turned in his review yet."

It's in this case that I think White is going against the grain simply to get attention. There are so many contradictions in his review that there's no other explanation.

"Emotional letdown?" Did he get there 20 minutes late? Oh wait, he didn't. He said the first 20 minutes were over-sentimentalized. Makes sense. On the contrary, as I've already written about, those first 20 minutes were incredible. The entire theater was silent, absorbing the story.

Yes, Up was manipulating our emotions. That's what great movies do. They take us places and make us feel things that wouldn't have been possible if we weren't there. White still hasn't figured that out.

Read that sentence again: contemporary news media's unprincipled collusion with Hollywood. What proof does this guy have of collusion? What kind of a conspiracy theory is this? Does Pixar really make horrendous films? Have we all been brainwashed?

No, we haven't. My conclusion is that Armond White is an articulate, intelligent, ego-driven and stubborn film critic who values visuals over dialogue, shuns raunchy comedies, and has an irrational hatred of Pixar and an irrational love of Jason Statham. In most cases he actually feels the way he says he does about films he watches, and in Pixar's case it seems he puts on a show in order to generate attention and traffic.

His career is generally respected amongst his peers, so it looks like he'll continue to have a job reviewing movies. There are users on Rotten Tomatoes that have urged him to kill himself or contract cancer, and some have threatened to kill him themselves. It's not quite that serious. Let's just enjoy his reviews and accept them as transcendent comedy. Thanks for all the laughs, Armond. Keep up the hilarious work.