This was too long to post in comments:
Obviously, there are no hard and fast rules regarding what is White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art, yun-fat is another Farber fan and he probably has a different conception of what is and is not White Elephant Art from both me and Farber (I guess it's like that saying about pornography, I can't define it but I know it when I see it). To me, White Elephant Art is hidebound by the tradition of serious artwork (why see ersatz High Art when you can just go and see the real thing), encapsulating simplistic versions of bourgeois Humanism and Idealism ("A movie about the triumph of the human spirit....blah, blah, blah), it's staid, serious, pompous, portentious, respectable, medicinal, most humor of it's type being freeze-dried, carbon-dated attempts at irony and satire (the "serious" forms of comedy). It's prestige, trolling for awards (to better help the bottom-line), willing to cash in on any associated cultural cachet, no matter how tenuous. A Beautiful Mind
is a recent exemplar of White Elephant Art, but you can't dismiss the movie, that would be doing it a disservice. One still has to recognize the craft involved, Russel Crowe's performance, a few scenes with actual lived-in vitality (the barroom demonstration of game theory). A few moments of termite art burrowing through the creaky structure.
Termite Art, to me, is a combination of many traits, it can be alive, sexy, vital, passionate, funny, daring, natural, self-effacing, action-packed, thrilling, suspenseful, excessive, playful, etc., etc., but also, paradoxically, it can be formally taxing, distant, daring, hard, Termite Art so singular that it not only eats through the boundaries of the art, but it seemingly helps establish whole new ones (this strand of Termite Art doesn't care about "respectability," if it wins awards, it is a pragmatic way to getting the film seen, etc., etc.), and is not to be confused to the directorial pyrotechnics of the "playful," hyperkinetic, look at me, look at me, stylistic quirks of some recent cinema. All that is are new forms of White Elephant Art that has already colonized the newer forms of Termite Art. I actually see affinities between the two strands of Termite Art besides similar attitudes to the respectable culture: What Time is it There?
would be insufferable without Tsai Ming-liang's deadpan humor and quiet observational touches, Minority Report
would just be another Saving Private Ryan
without it's action, and bizarro-disgusting touches of humor....