You may have noticed that Armond White, whose contrarianism and combination of unpredictability and utter predictability (he's loved every Spielberg movie since god knows when) were once known only to a few film buffs, has become more widely-known lately. But not in a good way. There's even a petition to ban him from Rotten Tomatoes.
As movie fans have gotten obsessed with Rotten Tomatoes rankings -- rooting for their favorite action/animation/sci-fi movies to get 100% positive rankings -- they've noticed that White frequently goes against the critical consensus (though not always), and that he single-handedly stands in the way of getting Toy Story 3 a perfect score. And so they're enraged. Since I think a collective critical ranking is kind of useless, particularly a numerical one, I kind of enjoy seeing him screw it up.
And it's also interesting to witness the anger of people who think The Dark Knight is the last word in cinema but can't stand a single contrary opinion. It's as if they don't have full confidence in their own opinions. White fills his contrarian reviews with references to other movies, often very worthwhile ones (I may not agree with his pan of Toy Story 3, but I agree that Small Soldiers is an underrated film), and obviously knows a lot about movies -- not just recent Hollywood movies either, but movies from all places and time periods. That gives his writing a certain authority that can make a person very uncomfortable; I think some (not all) of the people who get really angry at White are worried that he may be right. It's a bit like I used to get angry at John Kricfalusi for his opinions on cartoons I liked, because I wasn't secure enough in my own likes and dislikes. I'm now at the point where I know enough to agree or disagree.
Of course White is not right, or at least I find it very difficult to believe that he means what he says all the time. He denies that he's going out of his way to offer the opposite opinion from other critics, but since it happens so often, it almost comes off as a parody of criticism, a bit of performance art designed to show how meaningless critical buzzwords are. He uses the same words lots of critics use, and makes them argue the exact opposite from what the rest of them are arguing.
I also wonder if White's increasing weirdness is just based on his lack of interest in most current Hollywood movies. As a regular reviewer he has to be, officially, interested in every movie that comes out, and especially the big Hollywood releases. Except I doubt he cares very much about most Hollywood blockbuster sequels, whether it's Transformers 3 or Toy Story 3. And if he doesn't care, he might as well argue the opposite of other critics. Especially when it gets a rise out of the kind of filmgoer who is his natural enemy -- the filmgoer who is almost exclusively interested in current Hollywood product.
That's not really a defense of White. The thing I can say in his defense is that he still can and does write interesting pieces on small, foreign and past films -- that is, the kind of films where no one cares about the Rotten Tomatometer. Those are the films that he clearly gives a damn about, and if you look at his reviews with the new Hollywood movies filtered out, he looks a lot less bizarre.
But, of course, if he really is just having a lark with contrarian reviews of movies he doesn't care about, that's not a defense either. I'm sure it can be a chore to find something to say about every new movie, but his criticisms are so non-specific that I can't help thinking (again) that they're just some big joke on criticism.
Still, I can't help but feel a bit of enjoyment at watching the reaction to a critic who refuses to consider movies important just because they're big and new. I mean, if you look at the famous list of movies he hates and likes -- yes, the hates are sometimes weird and the likes equally so. But I don't think most of the movies on the "hate" list are immortal masterpieces, and his hatred of them isn't that much weirder than the reviews that proclaim these movies to be four-star perfection.
Most movies, then and now, don't matter that much in the long run. And the ones that do turn out to matter often aren't the ones that get the four-star reviews at the time. That, at least, is something that White keeps pointing out in his own strange way. And while everyone should like what they like, there's a weird sense of entitlement in some of his attackers, the idea that not only did they think Toy Story 3 was great (a perfectly good opinion) but that because it's the biggest movie of the week, everybody must validate this opinion. White's performance art is suggesting that most of these big movies are just the flavor of the week, and it doesn't matter much what critics say about them. I'd prefer this suggestion to be coming from a regular critic who actually discusses the movies, not a distant idea of what they are, but at least he's goading people into questioning some assumptions about what the "important" movies are at a given moment.
Update: In comments, Bwolowitz has a different perspective on where White is coming from:
I've read enough Armond to believe that he truly considers himself to be the savior of a diseased film culture. He constantly lashes out viciously against critics and so-called "hipsters" (White's favorite pejorative that's utterly meaningless in his hands) who have taken film culture in the wrong direction. And only he can right the course. So what we see as contrarianism, he sees as corrective measures. (And sometimes - rarely nowadays - he's right.)