Meet the shock jocks of cinema

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

They love films that have been roundly panned – and give the thumbs down to critically-adored movies like District 9. Tim Walker on the new rebel critics

When the film writer Richard Brody posted his list of the decade's best movies on The New Yorker's website last week, it received a slightly baffled response from the blogosphere. Filled with obscure titles in languages other than English, Brody's list contained only a few films that the average cinemagoer was likely to have heard of. And what they'd heard might not have been good: Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream, for example, garnered some of the Noughties' worst notices, and The Darjeeling Limited is the least-beloved entry in Wes Anderson's oeuvre.

Brody's broad and educational selection demonstrates the limits of any "best-of" list: how can anyone boil down the many thousands of hours of film produced in the last 10 years to 100 top movies, let alone 10? (Brody chose a characteristically contrarian 26.) And it also reminds film fans that taste remains subjective, even – perhaps especially – among the tastemakers. There are some film critics who seem to dislike all movies, having been forced to sit in the dark with so many awful ones over the years. Others don't just dismiss the "good" films; they celebrate the "bad" ones, too. And when you find a critic who consistently rubs against the grain, you have to wonder whether they are deliberately perverse, visually impaired, or just plain wrong.

Two film reviewers who attract gallons of bile from those who consider themselves discerning fans are Fiore Mastracci and Armond White. Mastracci is a film teacher from Pittsburgh with a blog and a cable television show, who writes reviews for (in his own words), "those who remember when films had and expounded on American and family values". Which means that he's ultra-sensitive to "the gay agenda" or to President Obama's "socialist" policies, slipping superfluous mentions of both into reviews of the most unlikely films, from V for Vendetta ("blatant support for the gay agenda") to Fantastic Mr Fox ("makes as much sense as Obama's foreign policy").

Mastracci is especially proud of his signature criticism, "excrement on celluloid", which he frequently applies to films highly praised by his peers – including The Road, John Hillcoat's new adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's magnificent novel. That particular review earned him the ire of thousands of Twitter users. Mastracci hated The Bourne Ultimatum, Volver and TransAmerica. He loved Punisher: War Zone, and considered Mr Bean's Holiday the funniest film he'd ever seen. On the website Rotten Tomatoes, which collects and aggregates film reviews, a forum was founded in his honour: "Fiore Mastracci is an idiot". An idiot he may be, but his reviews still count towards the average grade awarded to each film by the site.

Armond White, meanwhile, is no idiot. He writes for the Manhattan freesheet New York Press, and is currently the chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle. When he gave a bad review to the otherwise-acclaimed South African sci-fi thriller District 9 this summer, the web erupted in outrage. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, the eminence grise of American film criticism, first defended White in his blog, then retracted his defence after delving deeper into his fellow reviewer's portfolio. White, for example, adored Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Transporter 3, starring Jason Statham. In his opinion, however, the ecstatically received Up was just another example of how "Pixar disgraces and delimits the animated film as a mushy, silly pop form".

Despite their apparent perversity, White and Mastracci both agree with the Rotten Tomatoes "Tomatometer" – a measure of critical consensus – around half the time. A quick survey of other major critics suggests that most only follow the pack for 75 per cent of films. Mastracci's personal "Fist of Fiore" awards for 2008 may have gone to blockbuster thrillers, but at least they were decent blockbuster thrillers – Quantum of Solace and The Dark Knight. White recently joined the majority of his peers in praise of Fantastic Mr Fox, Where the Wild Things Are and the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man.

White's righteous anger, when it flares, seems directed not so much towards filmmakers as towards the consensus views of his fellow film critics, most of whom he sees as liberal, urbane, "elitist film nerds". White (who is black) kicks against Hollywood's cultural conventions and is particularly exercised by its presiding racial attitudes. Last year, he attacked the "blithe condescension" of Slumdog Millionaire, and his views on this year's Oscars dark horse Precious were equally fierce: "The hype for Precious," he wrote, "indicates a culture-wide willingness to accept particular ethnic stereotypes as a way of maintaining status quo film values. Excellent recent films with black themes ... have been ignored by the mainstream media and serious film culture while this carnival of black degradation gets celebrated. It's a strange combination of liberal guilt and condescension."

When it comes to reductive "best ofs", White prefers to offer his more constructive annual "better than" list. In 2008, for instance, he advised his readers to watch Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull rather than Iron Man; and preferred Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla to Slumdog Millionaire.

Most film fans would disagree with White's conclusions, yet just as watching a "bad" film every now and then reminds us what "good" means, so reading a contrarian critic can teach us to look again – at the films we first considered flawless, and those we thought were excrement on celluloid.

Best of '09: What were your favourite films of the year? We want to hear about your most memorable cultural moments of 2009. In the comments form below or at independent.co.uk/bestof09 or via email to arts@independent.co.uk, nominate your favourite - in film, music, theatre, comedy, dance or visual arts - with a brief explanation as to why it tops your list and we'll print a selection in The Independent Readers' Review of 2009.

Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?