Armond White, the contrarian City Arts critic who reportedly heckled 12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen during last week’s New York Film Critics Circle award ceremony by calling him “an embarassing doorman” and “a garbageman,” was officially and permanently expelled from the NYFCC this morning by an executive committee, according to a N.Y. Times report posted a little after 2 pm today, and a post by Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman.
City Arts critic Armond White
White brought this on himself, of course. Loud heckling is, of course, a vile, low-rent way to make a point. White didn’t just assault McQueen but the propriety and dignity of the NYFCCC. He deliberately asked for this. I recently wrote that if (I said “if“) alcohol was a factor, the only way White could save his skin would be to plead alcoholism and pledge to enter rehab. If White wasn’t drinking and he heckled McQueen sober, he had no excuse. He was a dead man as far as the NYFCC was concerned.
Then again White’s heckling was the source of at least two Golden Globe awards jokes last night. Co-host Amy Poehler addressed Matt Damon at one point and said, tongue obviously in cheek, “Sorry but you’re a just a garbageman” (or words to that effect). When he took the stage 20 or 30 minutes later, Damon said, “It’s me, the garbageman.”
An audio file is contained in this Film Society of Lincoln Center report. Go to 6:35 and judge for yourself.
The NYFCC committee also suspended New York Post film critic Lou Lumenick for a year — presumably between now and January 2015. Which means Lou doesn’t get to vote next December. What a lot of shit this decision was and is. What is the problem with reporting about how the voting went down? Everybody wants to know the details. It doesn’t hurt anyone to reveal this information. Reports of this nature have leaked out over the last three or four years. If you ask me the NYFCC committee acted like Soviet commissars when they suspended Lumenick. He was just delivering some good reporting.
“They were repeat offenders,” a source told a Times reporter. “Action had to be taken.”
The moves were confirmed in an online post by Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman, a member of the group. Here’s an excerpt from his article:
“This morning, the members of the New York Film Critics Circle, including me, voted to expel Armond White, the former critic of the now-defunct New York Press (and currently the editor and movie critic of City Arts), from the group. To me, it was a sad moment — pathetic, really, though Armond brought it on himself.
“A week ago, at the Circle’s annual awards dinner, White made a rude and bellicose spectacle of himself, as he did the year before, by heckling one of the winners — in this case, Steve McQueen, the director of 12 Years a Slave, a movie that White, in his review, had dismissed as ‘torture porn.’ Make no mistake: He has every right to dislike 12 Years a Slave, a movie that he considers not a powerful historical docudrama but a sensationalist feel-bad fantasy that is subtly designed to make white people feel good about their own guilt.
“That’s a provocative view of an acclaimed film (Armond tosses out provocations like grenades and eats acclaimed films for breakfast). But last Monday night, during the awards ceremony, when McQueen got up to the podium to accept his award for Best Director, there were loud and disdainful comments coming from White’s table, and a number of witnesses who were within earshot quoted him as calling McQueen an ’embarrassing doorman and garbageman,’ and saying, “Fuck you, kiss my ass!” White has claimed, to writers from The Hollywood Reporter and The New York Times, that he wasn’t heckling, that he and others at his table were just talking amongst themselves. (He has also denied that he said any of those words.)
“But I was sitting about 40 feet away from him, and though I couldn’t make out everything that was said, I can testify: Everyone at my table lurched around to see where the loud, jeering, disruptive comments were coming from. This unquestionably fit the definition of heckling. It was all meant to be heard by the room at large. When White later claimed that his comments were “sotto voce” (a musical term that literally means ‘soft voice’), he was either lying or lying to himself, or perhaps both.
“The reason that the whole incident, to me, was sad is that Armond White is a critic I have defended, and at times championed, for being an extraordinarily vital voice: not a soft one, to be sure, but a demanding and even important one. As a critic, he is passionate, perverse, furious, infuriating, insightful, obtuse, humane, ruthless, fearless, out of his gourd, and, at his best, outrageously exciting to read.
“A lot of people despise [White], because he can be a bully in print, and he wears the I-stand-alone perversity of his opinions far too proudly, like a military armband. Yet much of the dismissal of Armond is itself way too dismissive. He’s an embattled critic, but one who is often at war with the lockstep tendencies in our culture, and that’s a noble crusade.”