Are you sitting down? This may shock you:
Armond White prefers the new movie from Paul W.S. Anderson (“Resident Evil: Retribution“) to the new movie from Paul Thomas Anderson (“The Master”).
All right, so it’s actually not that shocking. White has previously written in praise of Paul W(ild) S(tyle) Anderson movies like “Death Race” and “The Three Musketeers” while bashing P.T.A.’s “There Will Be Blood.” White’s critics often accuse him of knee-jerk contrarianism and a desire to shock readers into oodles of hateread traffic. I disagree. I think he’s just being hilarious.
“‘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.”
There’s a lot I could say about White’s review. I could note that he praises the 3-D in “Resident Evil: Retribution” as counterpoint to the “diorama compositions with objects poking out toward the viewer” in “Hugo” while ignoring “Retribution”‘s numerous examples of crap being thrown at the lens — Milla Jovovich’s Alice chucking a knife at the audience in one scene and firing slo-mo bullets in several others. I could note that he praises W.S.’s ability to turn “gaming conventions into idealized pop myths” even though he routinely trashes directors he doesn’t like for doing the exact same thing. I could note how he complains about P.T. “copycatting” Altman, Kubrick, Lynch and King Vidor two paragraphs after he praises W.S. for “fulfill[ing] the warrior promise of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley.” One man’s plagiarism is another man’s fulfillment of warrior promise, I guess. Or, in this case, the same man’s.
I could bring up all that stuff, but why bother? This is par for the course. If White really wanted to surprise someone, he’d flip the script and pick PTA over W.S. At this point, White’s unpredictability is nothing if not predictable. And hilarious.
Read more of “Battle of the Andersons.”