Armond White is a three-time past chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle (known to FilmDrunkards as the Bull Moose Moving Picture Society of the 1934 World’s Fair), an accomplishment of which he was once so proud that his Twitter handle is “3xchair.” But now he’s an NYFCC member no longer, after the NYFCC voted to expel him this morning during an “emergency meeting,” following the flap over White’s alleged heckling of 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen. White joins infamous Vaudeville critic Mudflaps Peterson, who was expelled from the NYFCC in 1937 for smuggling moonshine into an NYFCC meeting inside his prosthetic foot (not really).
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.
Armond flat out denied heckling at all, saying…
The comments that I supposedly made were never uttered by me or anyone within my earshot. I have been libeled by publications that recklessly quoted unnamed sources that made up what I said and to whom I was speaking. Someone on the podium talked about critics’ “passion.” Does “passion” only run one-way toward subservience?
Unfortunately for White, his heckling – or making a disturbance, or saying something loud enough to be heard while Harry Belafonte was presenting an award to Steve McQueen – was confirmed by numerous eye witness, and a commotion can even be heard on an audio recording from the event (at around the 6:40 mark), which White denies ever happening at all.
As Criticwire reported, there is some confusion over what White said and what was said by his guests, but Vanity Fair blogger Katey Rich saw White yell “White liberal bullshit!” as Steve McQueen stepped onto the stage to receive the NYFCC’s award for Best Director, and Slate’s Dana Stevens, who was at White’s table for much of the night, says he and his guests were consistently loud and disruptive. [Criticwire]
As did John Anderson and a couple others. As it stands, it seems highly unlikely that Armond or one of his guests wasn’t the heckler (or whatever you want to call it), despite White’s vociferant, polysyllaberous denials.
I initially made fun of the NYFCC for their “emergency meeting” and for their anger that news outlets were covering the heckling story and not the speeches and the clapping (which I will continue to do, because that stuff is hilarious). But they have every right to expel a member with a history of heckling like Armond, especially after it has become a pattern. Once or twice could be forgiven, but it gets obnoxious. I didn’t like 12 Years a Slave either, but you don’t invite a guy to your house to receive an award and then insult him when he shows up to accept it (unless you’re Chris Hansen or something). So Armond White can call this a Commie witch hunt all he wants, but, at least in this one isolated case, he brought it on himself by acting like an A-hole.
But really – and I don’t say this lightly or dismissively – who cares? He’ll continue to be Armond and those of us who appreciate him will continue to. Reaching a consensus and voting as a group aren’t what criticism is about in the first place. Critics don’t join critics organizations because it has anything to do with criticism, we do it so we can get Academy screeners and get drunk with the cool movie stars and pretend to be cool ourselves for a night. Critic groups and critic parties and critic awards, to quote Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, “they make you feel cool.”
We’re not cool. We’re not supposed to be. We’re supposed to speak truth, to have a singular voice, not find consensus or conformity. A bunch of other uncool people telling Armond he’s not cool enough to hang out with them just makes his job that much easier.
Reached for comment, White had this to say:
F-CK YOU I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME
F-CK YOU I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME
F-CK YOU I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!