This, according to The Atlantic Wire, who applied a highly scientific formula (I believe it’s called “math”) to Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the Top Critics in America, examining which writers most frequently went against critical consensus. Smith “blew away the competition” by poo-pooing 13 of the 90 best-reviewed films and recommending 9 of the 90 worst-reviewed films between the years of 2009 and 2011. For example, Smith didn’t care for the Oscar-nominated “Hugo” but he did like the widely derided “Atlas Shrugged: Part I.”
Smith, in slightly cantankerous fashion, took issue not with the title (which he called “an honor”), but with The Atlantic Wire’s word choice. In a Post blog post, Smith reacted to his dubious honor:
“I take exception to the exact wording of my new sobriquet. Merriam-Webster… defines ‘cantankerous’ as ‘difficult or irritating to deal with.’ Yet The Atlantic seems to think I am being difficult or irritating intentionally (not true) and seems to define my difficult-ness from the point of view of the herd with which I am unwilling to go along, in either direction… the adjective for which The Atlantic is searching is, perhaps, ‘contrarian,’ not ‘cantakerous.'”
And then Smith goes on to argue that he’s not a “contrarian” either, which is in no way what a contrarian would do in this sort of situation. Actually, he is probably right: we don’t typically refer to critics like Smith as “cantankerous” — although, in The Atlantic’s defense, another definition for “cantankerous” is “argumentative,” which is probably a decent descriptor for someone whose acceptance speech for the title of The Most Cantankerous Critic in America involves refuting the entire premise.
The obvious follow-up question here is: where’s Armond White, the infamously
cantankerous contrarian argumentative awesome film critic from City Arts who famously stirs up trouble with Internet fanboys by praising films like “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and bashing critical darlings like “Inception?” In a follow-up post, The Atlantic explains that White didn’t qualify for the award because he’s not considered a “Top Critic” on Rotten Tomatoes because, according to RT EIC Matt Atchity, “his outlets have never had a significant reach outside of NYC.”
Fair enough. But does that make The Atlantic’s award for Most Cantanerkous Critic slightly contrarian itself? My head hurts. Learn who else made The Atlantic’s list of The Most Cantankerous Critics in America here.