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

Thompson on Hollywood By John Anderson | Thompson on Hollywood January 7, 2014 at 2:41PM

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.
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Steve McQueen, Harry Belafonte
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
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
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.

This article is related to: News, Steve McQueen, Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave, Armond White, Critics Groups, New York Film Critics Circle, Awards, Awards Season Roundup, Awards


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