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New York Film Critics Circle Apologizes to Steve McQueen and Fox Searchlight for Armond White Heckling, White Defends Himself (UPDATE)

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by John Anderson
January 7, 2014 2:41 PM
23 Comments
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Steve McQueen, Harry Belafonte

Regarding what he called "the misreporting and the repetition of lies," Armond White wrote by email this morning: "Shame on the unprofessional bloggers, reporters or whatever they are -- you don't pursue or tell the truth." 

Armond White

Asked whether or not he yelled at "12 Years a Slave" Best Director-winner Steve McQueen, Armond responded: "Wrong question, John. I was not in a position or vicinity to yell at McQueen. It was talk among my tablemates. The Variety and Wire lines are outright misquotes and lies. You might want to ask why the gutter bloggers continue to misquote and distort the event and NYFCC history."

White feels strongly that his comments should have remained contained by colleagues at his table, but clearly others around the room heard and reported them. 

In any case, the NFCC chair, Time Out’s Josh Rothkopf, has apologized to Fox Searchlight and Steve McQueen for White's remarks and wrote that disciplinary action was being taken: “On behalf of the New York Film Critics Circle, I apologize sincerely for the crass bit of heckling Mr. McQueen encountered. I’m mortified to learn that this was from one of our own members.”

Meanwhile, New York Post critic Lou Lumenick is also facing reprimands for his tweeting of the ceremonies, which was against the NYFCC rules. 

EARLIER: For pure shock value, Adele Exarchopoulos’ legs were the main event at Monday’s New York Film Critics Circle awards dinner, barely contained as they were in a man’s shirt disguised as a dress. Armond White? There’s not a lot of shock value left: When we sat down to eat, someone at our table said, “Let’s have a pool: How long 'til Armond goes off?” We waited a while, but Old Faithful finally blew.

You could see it coming. Steve McQueen, named best director for “12 Years a Slave,” had been a target of White’s critical wrath, and, as usual, the New York film critic-least-likely-to-go-along-with-the-crowd had gone his own way as usual: As White had written, “12 Years,” based on the memoir of Solomon Northup -- “who claims [emphasis ours] that in 1841, away from his home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., he was kidnapped and taken South where he was sold into hellish servitude and dehumanizing cruelty”  -- was in keeping with McQueen’s “interest in sado-masochistic display” and  “belongs to the torture porn genre with ‘Hostel,’ “The Human Centipede’ and the ‘Saw’ franchise but it is being sold (and mistaken) as part of the recent spate of movies that pretend ‘a conversation about race.’”

Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford

So there was no doubt in this member’s mind that if Armond were going to reprise one of his old favorites -- like “fuck you,” with which he countered accusations against the Catholic Church during the “How to Survive a Plague” portion of last year’s program -- it was going to be for the benefit of McQueen.

Harry Belafonte, who delivered what may well have been the most moving and eloquent presentation of an award this distinguished group of critics had ever heard, was allowed to deliver his words, but as soon as McQueen hit the podium, White exploded: “Doorman” and “garbageman” were the words that rang out the clearest, as well they might.

Fox Searchlight is understandably pissed, and not just about McQueen's feelings: Having left Toronto in September with many convinced that “12 Years” was the fait accompli Best Picture, they find themselves in a real contest. The nonsupport of someone even as seemingly unpredictable as Armond (who’s really rather predictable) and who is one of the few black members of the NYFCC, can’t be very welcome. And what studio is going to want to send its talent to pick up awards from the group when one of its members feels so free to be abusive? If he scares certain people off, the evening becomes, by default, the Armond White Award Show. A lot of colleagues, while occasionally bewildered by his positions on films, find Armond a very likable guy. And you certainly can’t say that about everyone in the group.

But to judge by Tuesday morning’s response by Time Out’s Josh Rothkopf (who has just finished two terms as NYFCC chair) the incident may not be over. “It amazes me that we have members who are so self-serving, they would sacrifice the decorum of our group -- both in public and during our confidential meetings -- solely to satisfy their own egos,' he wrote to members. "I can't believe we need to draft rules of conduct for adults, but apparently we do.”

Since the winners are known well in advance of the awards ceremony, and there are no real surprises save the length of the speeches and/or Adele Exarchopoulos’ legs, those who disagree with the choices have an option: Stay home.

23 Comments

  • Thomas Jay | January 8, 2014 3:05 PMReply

    I'm sorry, but calling Hamn a villian of Toy Story 3 just isn't "the truth".

  • Adesijuola Ogunjobi | January 8, 2014 4:15 AMReply

    Who is providing financing for these movies? Well, whites. I don't blame these black filmmakers and the problem with black filmmakers is not the movies they are forced to make to entertain white audience and white financiers, the problem is lack of empowerment where a black major studio that can command vertical integration to showcase black movies well produced and mainstream. Generation after generation of talented blacks will continue to suffer this indignation until someone comes along to empower black producers, filmmakers, writers, etc. Until then, black creative minds are at the mercy of whites who control the "deep pocket" as in money. 12 years of Slavery is a metaphor. It looks like "12 Centuries of Slavery" in Hollywood for blacks.

  • soulution | January 7, 2014 8:18 PMReply

    AND he's a STEPHEN. Pathetic.

  • soulution | January 7, 2014 8:06 PMReply

    Yo, read the review and White ain't saying shit. But it's besides the point. Simple: Fool was out of order for the ad hominem attack and the lack of self-control. He should be barred.

  • Matt | January 7, 2014 5:54 PMReply

    Armond White IS Uncle Ruckus

  • phantom | January 7, 2014 5:37 PMReply

    Asked whether or not he yelled at "12 Years a Slave" Best Director-winner Steve McQueen, Armond responded: "Wrong question, John."

    That sounds like a yes to me.

  • Sumthin sumthin | January 7, 2014 4:39 PMReply

    Doorman, lol, it fits. McQueen was obviously the black face of a pretty white production team and agenda. If White keeps it up, he just might earn some street cred.

  • Gerard Kennelly | January 8, 2014 1:45 AM

    i agree 100%

    12 years a slave is not a movie
    it is an argument starter

  • Sumthin | January 7, 2014 6:36 PM

    Go back to the warm fold of sheep, David. It's obvious you're frightened by ideas on the outside.

  • David | January 7, 2014 6:30 PM

    Oh Armond, even with the pseudonym Sumthin Sumthin, your douchebaggery shines through.

  • Pat | January 7, 2014 2:38 PMReply

    Does this Steve McQueen person direct any good films, which we've heard of, or just crap about an Irish hunger striker, and this film, which is typical of the stuff which gets nominated for the Oscars, by the snobby people, who think it makes them seem extremely intelligent for nominating films which generally not many of the plebs bother going to the cinema to see.

  • Oscar | January 7, 2014 8:30 PM

    As I recall it the lack of Oscar nominations for either of his films, Fassbender's performance in Shame in particular, was the cause of a massive outcry. I believe a lot of people called it one of the bigger snubs in recent memory.

    He makes heavy films about adult people with real problems, and then analyses what those problems do to the minds of his protagonists. It's not entertaining in the way that Batman might be, but it's extremely well put together and in a class of its' own when comparing to the state of cinema these days.

  • John Calhoun | January 7, 2014 5:27 PM

    Not a big fan of McQueen's, but what's your definition of a good film? Something that makes a lot of money? And how can someone who likes films with challenging content escape being labeled a snob, in your opinion? Sorry, but I'd really like you to explain why I shouldn't regard you as an idiot.

  • Heckler | January 7, 2014 1:18 PMReply

    Critics, along with filmmakers, have an interest in pretending movies are entitled to the same gravity as the "realities" they claim to depict -- Steven Spielberg as holocaust hero, etc. -- but come on, folks.

    "Twelve Years" is a mass-market movie meant to appeal to white people who can congratulate themselves for being superior to the white people depicted in the movie, and is of zero moral consequence. Note that there is ongoing genocide in Africa right now, but it wouldn't sell movie tickets or make audiences feel virtuous.

    All mass-market cinema is exploitative. White simply showed up the farce for what it is. It's only a movie, folks.

  • HECKLER | January 7, 2014 3:22 PM

    @JOSH

    Thanks, Josh, for your encourage, but what could be more "cynical" than pretending the movie business has any interest or authority in matters of morality and conduct?

    Of course, you're free to take moral guidance and history lessons from mass-market entertainment, but accusing those who decline to do so of being killjoys makes as much sense as denouncing Santa Claus deniers of taking all the joy out of internet shopping.

  • josh | January 7, 2014 2:02 PM

    I would encourage you to think about the last line of you own comment.
    Yes, it is only a movie. Could it be that McQueen and the others involved in this film just wanted to tell a story that was important to them? Or is it only cool to take the joy out of everything by being cynical for the sake of being cynical?

  • Oliver | January 7, 2014 1:05 PMReply

    Do to Armond what the French film community did to Autant-Lara: expel this disgrace.

  • cadavra | January 7, 2014 5:52 PM

    Carmen, you've completely missed the point. White is certainly entitled to his opinions. He is NOT entitled to get plastered and scream "F--- you!" and other disparaging comments during a classy affair with many industry heavyweights in attendance. If he can't behave like a grown-up, then he should stay home and yell at the cat.

  • Carmen | January 7, 2014 4:42 PM

    lol, you're the guy who was screaming that people offended by Wolf 0f White Street are promoting censorship and the equivalent of the Red Scare and the Production Code. How full of shit you are! "expel" people with different opinions"? Who's the real fascist here?

  • Chuck | January 7, 2014 12:49 PMReply

    White is a goof, no doubt, but the fait accompli of the movie should genuinely be up for debate. It supposes that scenes of horror are the same thing as depth, something McQueen has done in his two previous films. It has no sense of time, is overly lush and filmakery for the content it is trying to deliver (the material is strong enough without all that), and aside from the lead wanting to get back to his family, there is no depth to him or his struggle.

    Also, what was wrong with Adele Exarchopoulos' dress? Is this a conservative site all of sudden. Plus, she has dumpy legs and they are hardly even worth mentioning.

  • Chuck | January 7, 2014 8:56 PM

    @Oscar Not trying to start an argument. My point in that was that it exchanged scenes of horror and presumed them to be depth. McQueen did the same thing with Hunger (haven't seen Shame). The movie needed scenes of horror, obviously, but that is not depth.

    Solomon had no journey. He suffered and then got what he wanted. There were no, for example, scenes with him contemplating giving up or believing that he might never go free. HE had no depth and thus the movie did not either.

    Also, it did not feel like he spent twelve years away, aside from the grey hairs. Scenes like the above would have given a sense of journey to the character and given the audience more meat, giving it that sense of time.

    McQueen is an incredibly talented visual filmmaker which is the direction he comes at moviemaking. Unfortunately he is lacking in storytelling experience (and possibly ability) and this movie suffered because of that. The movie was, in the end, style over substance, unfortunately.

    Also unfortunately, Armond White being a dumbass has neutered any argument he might make about the actual film because he is an egoist. A shame (pun intended) because the movie deserves a critical eye not a loud mouth.

  • Oscar | January 7, 2014 8:43 PM

    I think you're confusing depth with roadblocks. This is basic drama that basically 90-95% of all films made, adhere to.

    Take a character, introduce something that character wants/needs (in this case see his family again), and put up roadblocks to prolong the moment when the character achieves that goal. The depth of the character lies in how the character approaches these roadblocks and how these roadblocks/conflicts affect the character. Depth of that magnitude was plentiful in this film. Hell, the scene where they sing of the river Jordan displayed more character depth than most films these days even get close to in the entirety of their runtime.

    But then again most films also rely on terrible sidekick characters who serve one purpose: comic relief. Those characters can ruin the all-around impression that good characters in those films might give. Steve McQueen's films are devoid of comic relief, which makes me glad. Luckily there are still a few adults in the business who approach heavy subject matter with a manner of respect.

  • Christopher Bell | January 7, 2014 1:02 PM

    Good Luck Chuck

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