Why Armond White Wasn't Our Most Cantankerous Critic

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This morning we released our ranking of America's most cantankerous film critics, and since then, several people, including winner Kyle Smith of the New York Post, have asked why longtime New York City critic Armond White was left out of our contest. White, who recently moved from New York Press to City Arts, certainly has a reputation for being one of the more cantankerous critics out there. But he wasn't eligible for our contest because we only included those Rotten Tomatoes deemed "Top Critics," and White is not one. Rather than adding and removing people based on our own impressions of which critics matter and which do not, it felt more objective to defer to their list. We asked why White isn't on the Rotten Tomatoes list, and editor in chief Matt Atchity told us, "Armond White has never been a Top Critic, mainly because his outlets have never had a significant reach outside of NYC."

Of course, White's personal reach, especially in in media circles, has usually far outdistanced his outlets. He worked for the City Sun for years before moving to the weekly New York Press and now reviews for CityArts, which is a free semi-monthly that is "distributed to buildings and prominently located news boxes in Manhattan, as well as to galleries, museums, performing arts centers, schools, cultural centers, hotels and numerous other organizations throughout Manhattan." But his penchant for riling up his peers has given him plenty of notoriety over his career. He once said Roger Ebert "destroyed film criticism." Ebert, in turn, called him a "troll," a characterization that has been echoed by other over the years. (For a fuller picture of the controversy he's raised, read this very entertaining New York magazine profile.) When White moved to CityArts last fall, his reviews actually dropped entirely from Rotten Tomatoes, leading to speculation that the site had dropped him over his too-contrarian review of Jack and Jill. But Atchity told AV Club at the time, “That’s just Armond being Armond. Some people just like to stir up controversy.”

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Ultimately, though, rules are rules, the Rotten Tomatoes list was the one we went with, and that means White is disqualified. But, out of curiosity,  we crunched the numbers to find out how he would have scored. Out of the 180 best- and worst-reviewed movies we examined, he gave 20 bad reviews to well-liked movies including Midnight in Paris, Star Trek, and The Social Network and seven good reviews to disliked movies including Grown UpsDance Flick, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. That’s 27 against-the-grain reviews in total. And it would have edged just past Kyle Smith's 22 outlier reviews. It's a tough loss on a technicality, but we wanted to give him his moment in the sun. Congratulations, Mr. White. You have incredibly unique opinions on film.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.