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Armond White Kicked Out Of New York Film Critics Circle; Declares 'Man Of Steel' Better Than 'Gravity' In Annual List

by Kevin Jagernauth
January 13, 2014 2:38 PM
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Man of Steel,  Henry Cavill,

"It’s a smear campaign from people who don’t have the intellectual capacity to argue with me or debate me in terms of criticism," Armond White declared to Slashflim last week, in response to the backlash he received following the New York Film Critics Circle awards ceremony in which he allegedly heckled Best Director winner Steve McQueen (after an introduction by Harry Belafonte), yelling “You’re an embarrassing doorman and garbage man” and “Fuck you. Kiss my ass.” (And while White continues to deny it was either his voice and/or that his words were just intended for his table, numerous accounts from other attendees widely dispute that argument.) So, what happened next?

Twitter exploded, a public apology was issued by the NYFCC while internally, the organization was in the midst of damage control as they tried to figure out how to proceed from a very embarrassing situation. The NYFCC is typically the first critics group in the country to issue their awards in early December, with studios and filmmakers often scrambling to finish their movies so they can be screened for the group in time. But White's actions would certainly give pause to any studio or filmmaker about trying to accommodate the group in the future. Why should they rush for the NYFCC if their winners will only be open for catcalls when they come to receive the award? And what kind of supposedly prestigious group allows this kind of behaviour? Moreover, it's just poor form and bad decorum. 

Indeed, this isn't the first time reports of White using the NYFCC awards show as his own playground have surfaced. As Variety notes, Annette Bening and Michelle Williams were his targets in 2011 (when he was chairman of the group), while the following year, Robert De Niro and Viola Davis were heckled as well. To a small degree, the NYFCC is responsible for not calling out this behaviour the first time it surfaced, and arguably created at atmosphere where White felt he could continue in this way. But regardless, this year tipped the scales.

An emergency meeting was held today by the New York Film Critics Circle and the decision came down to expel Armond White from the group (NY Post critic Lou Lumenick was also suspended for a year after revealing vote totals on Twitter). Here's part of what fellow member and EW critic Owen Gleiberman had to say about it:

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'....

....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....

....Does Armond White simply have his own idiosyncratic opinions? Or is he a contrarian, a bomb thrower who’s deliberately out to rile people up? I would say that both are true, but for most people the contrarian label sums him up, and you often can’t tell where the fearless free-thinker leaves off and the bullying, didactic iconoclast begins. And that’s the problem with Armond’s criticism. He writes like he’s the last honest man in America, but contrarianism, by definition, isn’t completely honest. It’s self-hype, designed to provoke a reaction. 

And getting a reaction is what White digs, as once again, he's issued his annual Better-Than list in which he pits two (usually totally different) movies against each other and declares one better than the other. This year, sure to raise eyebrows, is his assessment that "Man Of Steel" is superior to "Gravity," which is comparing apples and oranges, but here's what he had to say: "Zack Snyder’s powerful visionary re-imagining of the spiritual potential in comix trounces Alfonso Cuaron’s second-rate Kubrick-DePalma rip-off."

That's probably the tamest assessment of the bunch, that finds White as usual tossing critically acclaimed films under the bus and praising less well-regarded material (case in point, his assertion that "Bad Grandpa" is better than "Nebraska").

Anyway, Slashfilm has a pretty concise rundown of all the events surrounding this, as well as chat with White himself about the events of that night, and his opinion that this is all just a conspiracy against him. Listen below.

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  • Col | January 15, 2014 11:06 PMReply

    Russ D is a tard.

    Taarrrrrdddd I don't care what you say shut up shut up you stupid
    And Scott. And Aaron. Where did you guys come from?
    Nobody cares
    Shut up

  • rocketeer | January 15, 2014 4:46 PMReply

    Just another step in creating a homogeneous society in which anyone stepping outside of the groupthink is immediately identified and ostracized.

  • Col | January 15, 2014 11:08 PM

    Seriously, you sound like a 13 year old.

    You are nonsense.

    Shut uppppp

  • Kendall Kanoa Hawley | January 15, 2014 2:44 PMReply

    Owen Gleiberman's opinion of Armond White is exactly the one I've developed after reading White's work steadily through the past couple years. I am highly offended at the notion that it's tied to his race. Trolling transcends race and other people are allowed to say so. The repeated heckling is childish and unprofessional behavior and should be grounds to keep him out of those events. If you actually read his work, his opinions amount to crying that the sky is red and anyone who doesn't agree is simply too stupid to even address. There is no arguing with someone like that, and most people have the sense to not even try. Racism is most definitely alive and well in this country, but criticism of Armond White's rude and petty behavior are not an example of that.

  • SF | January 15, 2014 11:33 AMReply

    I'm all for solidarity, but frankly I'm shocked at the support for him here. White was rude, petty, envious towards McQueen.

    He's an attention whore and got what he deserved. Good riddance.

  • Russ D | January 15, 2014 1:15 PM

    Typical hypocritical First Amendment trasher.

  • scott | January 15, 2014 9:13 AMReply

    I mean, we DO still live in a world where many Americans bury their heads in the sand and pretend racism towards black people doesn't exist simply because we have an African American president.

    Opinionated, educated black people still get the short end of the stick in this country. (as do most black people, come to think of it)

    Steve McQueen was allowed to make 12 Years a Slave because it played into audience's white liberal guilt and allowed white people to pat themselves on the back for feeling bad about slavery.

  • Col | January 15, 2014 11:11 PM


    Please. LSD is a brutal drug. Go lie down. You are going to hurt yourself

  • Russ D | January 15, 2014 1:22 PM

    So true. And the white house resident isn't AA but only half, and those who live in reality vs PC know there's only ONE race, the human race, no one with a brain imagining any skin color is either "black" or "white" both rather shades of melanin brown, unlike the mindless "black"/"white" brainwashed that think what they're told to think, like those who ironically hypocritically promote the very intolerance themselves that they pretend to decry by expelling White, being too infantile to take criticism.

  • scott | January 15, 2014 9:05 AMReply

    I suspect racism is part of this. You have to consider that most of the people who dislike Armond are white fan boys and mostly white film critics who buy wholeheartedly into the hype machine that wishes to dispose of anyone who doesn't buy into the "Hollywood hype machine."

    When Armond says other critics can't match him on an intellectual level, the best that this article can come up with is pointing out that he liked Man of Steel more than Gravity, implying that disliking a critically acclaimed film in and of itself is wrong, despite the fact that, if you've read both of his reviews of these movies, he has very clear reasons for his opinions. And that is another problem with people's hatred of Armond White's reviews: they simply decry him for disliking popular movies without considering WHY he dislikes them. For some people, going against popular opinion is simply wrong in and of itself because it isn't well... popular. He takes his views from a somewhat academic theoretical standpoint, whereas many critics, including the ones who write for so-called "prestigious" publications like the NY Times or Time magazine, often succumb to the "roller-coaster ride of the year/thumbs up/thumbs down" infotainment style of criticism that only seems to exist in order to give studio PR people quick, thoughtless blurbs that they can slap on an ad on opening weekend.

    Notice that people call him a "troll" yet they cannot make any actual arguments about his opinions or debate him about the artistic merits of the movies they decry him for disliking.

  • Col | January 15, 2014 11:13 PM

    Oh my godddd SCOTT you are just as bad.
    Go lie down on the couch

  • Louis Proyect | January 14, 2014 8:10 PMReply

    Anything is better than "Nebraska", except maybe "American Hustle", "A Wolf of Wall Street" and 'Llewyn Davis". Then again it may be a dead heat for crappy movie of the year.

  • Gerard Kennelly | January 14, 2014 7:28 AMReply

    man of steel IS a better film

    love him or hate him,, the man is right

  • Andrew | January 14, 2014 7:53 PM

    On some points. But I do completely agree that Man of Steel was more entertaining (to me) than Gravity was. Movies are about personal opinions. Apparently his has been deemed invalid.

  • dan | January 14, 2014 2:23 PM

    .............No. MOS was shit, Gravity is overrated but still much better. The man says Bullet to the Head is better than Mud, Pain and Gain better than Wolf of Wall Street, 42 better than 12 years a slave (whaaaaaa) or the worst one KANYE WEST'S NEW SLAVES VIDEO IS BETTER THAN INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS?!!??! What the *********************

  • Aaron | January 14, 2014 6:58 AMReply

    "Annette Bening and Michelle Williams were his targets in 2011 (when he was chairman of the group), while the following year, Robert De Niro and Viola Davis were heckled as well."

    Where is the evidence of this because I just did an extensive search and all I see is what he supposedly did recently. Stop spreading lies.

  • Russ D | January 15, 2014 1:26 PM

    Lies is all they have to prop up their infantile hate speech and appease their base, for movie critics certainly have no allies with intelligence to whom to appeal.

  • DANIEL PLANE VIEW | January 14, 2014 7:32 AM

    De Niro deserves to be heckled
    look at the most respected actor today Daniel day lewis
    now imagine
    if he started making films like little fockers and rocky and Bullwinkle
    that would be a great disappointment

  • Washington | January 14, 2014 12:28 AMReply

    It is disguising how he's just dismissed as a "performance artist" or "crazy" or whatever just because his opinions aren't the norm.

  • Russ D | January 15, 2014 1:28 PM

    It's the new "tolerance." I'll tolerate you only if you agree with me. It's good they kicked him out for who'd want to be in a crowd of stupid fool hypocrites like them anyway, like the vile American Studies Association censoring Israeli scholars! They did him a favor by helping him avoid their stench.

  • Andrew | January 13, 2014 9:41 PMReply

    Interesting title. Made it seem like it was connected. Itching for clicks?

  • Tay-Tay the Bay-Bay | January 13, 2014 8:47 PMReply

    10/10 - Man of Steel was suprisingly more relatable of a movie than Gravity - my problem was the whole "trapped up in space" thing was just so far-fetched and out-of-this-world that I had less trouble getting on terms with an alien (who had lived as a human his whole life) discovering his limitless potential than I did about *SPOILERS* Sandra Bullock's existential sadness over losing her kid.

    Gravity should be noted as an amazing technological achievement, but one of the most over-rated movies of last year. Shame, really expected something amazing from that one.

  • Russ D | January 15, 2014 1:34 PM

    I loved MOS but very much regretted and objected to the changing of the back story re Dad Kent's death from the original TV version (I'd be interesting to know what if any there was of it in the original comic book version). I haven't seen Gravity, and plan to, at least speed through it (so few are worth watching at slower than 16X speed; sadly the words are rarely worth hearing). What you said proved how often technology has little if anything to do with a good movie, especially if it gets in the way of the crucial elements of story & characters.

  • Dan | January 13, 2014 3:46 PMReply

    My favorite is:

    Bullet to the Head > Mud.

    ... What is going on in that man's head??

  • Quatto | January 13, 2014 3:05 PMReply

    No proof he made these comments.

    Armond White is the last warrior of actual film criticism.

  • Russ D | January 15, 2014 1:37 PM

    I agree DA, name them. Mere bald assertion is proof of NOTHING, history being full of resoundingly asserted falsehoods that easily fool the gullible, especially those who want to be fooled, like the Nazis smearing of the Jews in which America also joined, FDR being a gullible fascist Hitler lover who likely would never have gone to war with his love Hitler but for Japan.

  • Clyde | January 13, 2014 3:38 PM

    Oh Yeah D.A. name them?

  • Clyde | January 13, 2014 3:38 PM

    Oh Yeah D.A. name them?

  • Clyde | January 13, 2014 3:38 PM

    Oh Yeah D.A. name them?

  • d.a. garabedian | January 13, 2014 3:12 PM

    There are numerous - NUMEROUS - eyewitness accounts reporting that he did, in fact, make these comments. Could it be a smear campaign, and an elaborate conspiracy? Sure. Anything's possible. It seems a bit unlikely, though.

    And while I do find the guy fascinating as a figure, a writer, and a critic, to claim that he's "the last warrior" of "actual" film criticism is hyperbolic in the extreme. Film criticism may be a dying art, but there are many critics out there who are still fighting the good fight.

  • ben | January 13, 2014 2:57 PMReply

    Finally!!! Why it took so long to announce this and why the NYFCC put up with this moron for so long is utterly bizarre. They make get headlines but it makes them look ridiculous to be associated with such a clown.

  • Russ D | January 15, 2014 1:39 PM

    Another religious hypocrite too infantile to allow criticism, the new tolerance being only allowing those who agree to speak, freedom of silence, not speech.

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