I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, it’s unfair and reductive to call Armond White “a troll.” If he was just a troll, he wouldn’t be that interesting. He’s often right and says things that need to be said, but he tends to fire his truth bullets while wearing an elaborate ghillie suit of utter insanity. His insight is well-camoflaged in total crazy – that’s what makes him so interesting. This week, the veneriforous curmudgeonarian of the Bull Moose Moving Picture Society of the 1934 World’s Fair took on the two Paul Andersons, that imbecilic feebleton Paul Thomas, responsible for cretinous sewage scrapings like Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood; and his exalted ecumenical high holiness Paul WS, ennoblifical architect of such patina’d effervesticals as Death Race, Aliens vs. Predator, and Resident Evils 1, 4, and 5. As it turns out, Paul WS Anderson is such an obviously superior filmmaker to Paul Thomas that it’s almost not even worth Armond’s time. 1100 words? Armond White could write 1100 words on the dump he just took, if a gentleman so well-read as Armond White ever deigned to take a dump.
Compare the unoriginal use of 3D in Hugo–standard diorama compositions with objects poking out toward the viewer–to Paul W.S. Anderson’s astonishingly lively 3D compositions in Resident Evil: Retribution where heroine Alice (Milla Jovovich) fights the Umbrella Corporation’s viral experiments that produced a plague turning mankind into zombies. Anderson’s images vivify the entire expanse of the wide screen to keep your eyes busy surveying the breadth of action while also pulling your vision inward for an appreciation of depth–and emotion.
That was the first paragraph. He opened the article by bashing Scorsese while praising the guy from Death Race. This is the critical equivalent of “First off, f*ck ya bitch and the clique you claim...” The article isn’t even about Scorsese. He just needed an example of someone he thinks sucks, and his first thought was Martin Scorsese. This is a natural thought process for Armond White. Friends, if you’re out begging f*cks, steer clear of the White hacienda for there they will not be given.
And in case you philistinic loafwits – Hobermanites, probably – missed the subtext of that first graf, A-Dubz will break it down for you.
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.
Why, it’d be like comparing velvety, ambrosiacal Mountain Dew to that stagnant, hog-swaddled fecal tea, Dom Perignon. WE GET IT, ARMOND! YOU DON’T NEED FIVE ANALOGIES TO EXPLAIN THAT THE SKY IS BLUE! WE’RE WITH YOU, STOP PANDERING!
It’s time now to assert Paul W.S. Anderson’s status as one of contemporary cinema’s most thrilling talents. He deserves a clarifying comparison to the fraudulent, annoyingly monickered Paul Thomas Anderson whose film The Master opened the same week as Resident Evil 5.
That Scorsese bashing was just a warm up. Now onto Paul Thomas Anderson. BULLET POINT NUMBER ONE: Paul Thomas Anderson has an stupid name, unlike that genius Paul WS Anderson. I mean that name! What an obnoxious phony!
It’s inevitable that Paul Thomas Anderson’s artistic ambitions should be unavoidably juxtaposed to Paul W.S, Anderson’s artistic success.
The juxtaposition is inevitable on account of its unavoidability! I REST MY CASE, YOUR HONOR!
Their differences immediately reveal how a pseudo-serious indie artiste fails the aesthetic and emotional impact of commercial craftsmanship. The Master, a roman a clef about Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and his paradigmatic follower, is a dull, nihilistic and mean-spirited presumption of cultural history whereas the futuristic fantasy of Resident Evil: Retribution turns nihilism into Apocalyptic Pop. This is the classic White elephant vs. Termite art parallel once coined by critic Manny Farber.
Here’s the classic paradox of A-Dubz: he references a completely relevant essay, the subject of which is basically that the best art is created by those who weren’t setting out to create their culture’s conception of “great art,” but he uses it to drive home a point about how a fivequel about future zombies is better than The Master. It’s like he’s trying to light a broken cigarette with a shotgun. Hey, points for boldness.
Memorably dubbed “P.T.” (as in the huckster-showman P.T. Barnum) by New York Press’ Godfrey Cheshire, Paul Thomas Anderson makes “big” movies that resemble the 1960s studio epics today’s film geeks never experienced–and so become fools for the highly-hyped affectations of a brand-name charlatan.
WAKE UP, DUMMY! Read a book! You been had! You’ve been took! You’ve been HOODWINKED, BAMBOOZLED, led astray, run amok! We didn’t land on There Will Be Blood! The blood landed on us!
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… 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.
Wake up, sheeple! The mutated future zombies represent “cynicism!” And she fights them! All while your beloved, flaccid mimes were playing homoerotic grabass with secularist moral relativism! You wouldn’t know art if it rose from the grave and bit you on the dick like that dick-biter Hoberman!
Phoenix’s humpback and hare-lipped snarl/smirk recall a DeNiro yokel and Hoffman’s posturing again exposes his script’s grandstanding.
The best visual P.T. can muster is an over-obvious jail-cell scene that puts id and super-ego side-by-side.
Compare that redundant ambiguity to the sequence where Alice confronts her manipulation by the Umbrella Corporation in a factory. The image of her robotic replication surely recalls Spielberg’s A.I. (a summary reference for the Resident Evil series) but it also painfully signifies her political disillusionment–not only that, it inspires her determination to fight on.
“Joaquin Phoenix resembles that schmuck DeNiro, while Resident Evil recalls the brilliance of Spielberg’s AI!”
My favorite part of this is that if you read between the lines, the scene so pregnant with symbolism that A-Dubz describes is Milla Jovovich in a factory of Milla Jovovich-bots – a scene that’s been done in how many sci-fi movies now? Wait, am I seriously arguing with him? DAMMIT, I’VE FALLEN INTO HIS TRAP!
The Master’s cynical bombast defines the worst aspects of our anti-religious era; its solemn audacity is unconvincing (a fashion show scored to Ella Fitzgerald and a naked females musical number recalling Eyes Wide Shut are two of the most embarrassingly banal sequences in recent cinema). The fun and fascination of Paul W. S. Anderson’s Resident Evil: Retribution proves the work of a true cinema artist; it transforms a genre franchise with visionary newness.
Basically, Armond likes dumb B-movies, not because they’re simple and exciting and unpretentious (a totally valid reason to like B-movies), but because they’re like empty vessels he can fill with his own pretensions and symbolism and allegory. And he hates films that feel like the filmmaker did it first. Charlatan! A true artist must respect the vanity of the critic!