Did Armond White rain on the NYFCC parade?

Posted by · 1:28 pm · January 11th, 2011

As regular readers might know, I tend to fall in the less populated “pro” camp when it comes to notoriously cranky New York Press critic Armond White — as much flak as he takes, from bloggers in particular, for his off-kilter tastes and occasionally aggressive writing style, I think he’s one of a select few writers making readers evaluate criticism as an artform, while I frequently find fillets of perspicacity in his more impassioned arguments.

Dispensing with social niceties in creative print, however, is more endearing than doing the same in person — particularly when you’re representing not just yourself, but a group of professional peers.

This Gawker report on White’s acid-tongued emceeing of last night’s New York Film Critics’ Circle awards dinner is too stingy with details and heavy on relayed quotes to pass judgment on, but on what’s supposed to be a celebratory communal evening, perhaps backhanded insults to winners and guests alike can wait for one evening. (UPDATE: NYFCC member Lisa Schwarzbaum says as much in her displeased writeup of the proceedings.)

White has knocked his group’s choices before, so sniping about “The Social Network”‘s Best Picture win is pretty much par for the course. One hopes, however, that this snippy exchange with Michelle Williams (there to present an award, so effectively doing the NYFCC a good turn) was more playful than the on-paper transcript:

He insulted Michelle Williams by introducing her with praise for her role in 2004’s Land of Plenty, which got mixed reviews. “I made that movie almost 10 years ago,” Williams said from the stage, according to people who were there. “I can’t imagine what you’ve said about me since then if you had to go back that far to say something nice.”

Plenty of room for tonal misinterpretation there. And hey, perhaps White just really loves her in “Land of Plenty.” (It’s a fine performance, after all.) I sense Gawker might be protesting too much here — and their report of a teary-eyed peace plea by Best Actress winner Annette Bening isn’t particularly damning evidence with no actual quotes to go on. (Tears at an awards ceremony? Who would have thought?)

Still, who doesn’t want to see video of this? YouTube, the floor is yours.

[Image: New York Press]




→ 45 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

45 responses so far

  • 1 1-11-2011 at 1:54 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    Someone must have taken video!

  • 2 1-11-2011 at 1:54 pm

    Maxim said...

    The problem with White isn’t he seems to have an educated opinion on everything – he seems to feel strongly about everything. An even bigger problem is that he thinks his opinion on everything is always valid.

    But hey, at least he has good taste in Spielberg :) .

  • 3 1-11-2011 at 2:09 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    He can write whatever he wants but making derogatory or snide comments towards actors,directors and films at an awards ceremony is definitely unwarranted.

  • 4 1-11-2011 at 2:16 pm

    Graysmith said...

    What I don’t is why the NYFCC members put up with him. Why hasn’t he been canned from the group, effective immediately? I can’t imagine they feel more loyal towards him at the expense of all of Hollywood boycotting them.

  • 5 1-11-2011 at 2:18 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    What’s wrong with feeling strongly about everything? You express strong feelings more often than not, Maxim.

  • 6 1-11-2011 at 2:19 pm

    /3rtfu11 said...

    This article makes me think of the ending to Se7en when Morgan Freeman starts shouting he won. Armond White has won; Guy defends him – while everyone else continues to beat the drum about what a bastard he is.

  • 7 1-11-2011 at 2:26 pm

    Gabriel Destrempe said...

    The problem with White is that sometimes, I feel he doesn’t like something just to be in opposition with the majority. Like his Pixar hate.

  • 8 1-11-2011 at 2:37 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    I can’t imagine they feel more loyal towards him at the expense of all of Hollywood boycotting them.

    Who says Hollywood is boycotting them, Graysmith? They all showed last night, didn’t they?

  • 9 1-11-2011 at 2:38 pm

    KB said...

    What we have here is a man that hates film, and hates people who make them even more. He is a douchebag of the highest order.

  • 10 1-11-2011 at 2:50 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Go read White’s sincerely joyous review of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” — or, for contrast, of “Another Year” — before making glib statements like “he hates film.”

  • 11 1-11-2011 at 2:51 pm

    alynch said...

    fillets of perspicacity

    Seriously?

  • 12 1-11-2011 at 2:55 pm

    Kevin K. said...

    Armond White needs to get laid. Pronto.

  • 13 1-11-2011 at 2:58 pm

    Graysmith said...

    @Guy,

    I’m talking about next time. Are Aronofsky, Williams and Bening going to attend another NYFCC dinner again at the risk of being ridiculed by what can only be described as a sociopath? I know I wouldn’t, and I’d probably tell my Hollywood pals to take a stand too.

    What I’m asking is, how the fuck can the NYFCC membership be okay with this? Why wasn’t there an apology from them today along with the news that White has been canned? If the rest of the membership don’t take a stand they are all basically condoning his behaviour as okay and I’m pretty sure Aronofsky, Bening and Williams didn’t think this was an okay way to be treated.

  • 14 1-11-2011 at 2:59 pm

    Dreyer. said...

    “I think he’s one of a select few writers making readers evaluate criticism as an artform”

    God, you’re such a pretentious douche Lodge.

  • 15 1-11-2011 at 3:02 pm

    Phil said...

    I rarely agree with him, but at least White has a point of view, and he is never boring. I read a lot of reviews and sometimes it feels as if the writers are interchangable. There are not too many distinct voices out there. As crazy as he sometimes is, I’m glad he’s there.

  • 16 1-11-2011 at 3:07 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    Graysmith,

    Armond never said anything about Annette Bening from what I recall. Also Aronofsky went on stage and made a derisive comment towards White not the other way around.

    The only person White may have subtly dissed is Michelle Williams.

  • 17 1-11-2011 at 3:11 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Graysmith: As I say in the post, we don’t know how badly White was misbehaving last night — those quotes don’t quite indicate whether he was doing his standard tart ribbing (which he deals out every year, I believe) or something more spiteful.

    Dreyer: I’m not pretending to be anything I’m not, but your feedback is appreciated.

  • 18 1-11-2011 at 3:15 pm

    Chris said...

    Guy, I think you are pretty fabulous, no matter what Dreyer says.

  • 19 1-11-2011 at 3:21 pm

    Chris said...

    White is one of the most interesting critics out there. He always comes up with some of the most ridiculous criticisms in his reviews. But if he was rude, I could see that being a problem in the future.

  • 20 1-11-2011 at 3:26 pm

    Graysmith said...

    Well, according to the article someone called his antics “pompous and scolding”. I’d say that’s pretty severe. Of course we don’t know the tone of what was said, we don’t have any context, but as long as the rest of the NYFCC don’t act, they are condoning his behaviour, encouraging it even. And so what if he didn’t cross the line too far this time? Are they going to let him push the limits of his behaviour until he really crosses the line? He’s there as an NYFCC member representing them as a whole. I don’t know, I think NYFCC members are absolutely insane to condone it even in the slightest.. But then again these people elected him as their leader too so maybe one shouldn’t hold out too much hope.

    At least they’ll have plenty of leftovers from their next dinner “gala”.

  • 21 1-11-2011 at 3:33 pm

    Arty said...

    If White was as mean-spirited as he sounds, the NYFCC only have themselves to blame for appointing such a contentious host in the first instance.

  • 22 1-11-2011 at 3:49 pm

    Justin said...

    Anyone who defends Armond White is just as much of a pompous contrarion — if not moreso — than him.

    Ooooh, you like him. How unique!

  • 23 1-11-2011 at 3:57 pm

    The Dude said...

    Matthew Starr hit the nail right on the head…yes, as a person employed as a critic, he has the right to support or pan any movie he wants. But him making snide comments like this at an awards ceremony (and rudely, I may add) is inappropriate. There is a time and a place, Armond…save your commentary for your actual reviews. Don’t sully other people’s achievements just because you disagree with the majority. It’s like telling a bride she’s ugly on her wedding day…it’s her day, keep your stupid opinion to yourself. What he did was distasteful and inappropriate.

    I don’t know if he should be canned for this (that seems harsh), but he, at the very least, should issue an apology.

  • 24 1-11-2011 at 4:12 pm

    a-mad said...

    This is not surprising news at all. I’ve read many of his reviews, and his behavior last night seems to match the tone of his reviews more often than not. The surprising news is why the NYFCC still allows him to be included in their organization, let alone chair the 2010 awards.

    For every “joyous” review of Another Year, he has ten other “obnoxious” reviews where he skirts around an actual review of the film, and instead, uses his forum to offer a social or political rant. In the case of Toy Story 3, a complaint of consumerism (at one point praising Joe Dante’s more challenging… ready for this? “Small Soldiers”).

    Guy, you celebrate Armond’s gifts as a writer, but since when did an aggressive and quirky writing ability automatically qualify one to be a reliable and respected film critic, let alone one from one of the most prestigious organizations in the nation?

  • 25 1-11-2011 at 4:31 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    A-mad: He’s the chairman of the NYFCC — not just for this year’s awards. As for your last point, you’re presuming to speak for me when it comes to stating his virtues. I don’t just think he’s “aggressive and quirky” — I think he’s thoughtful, distinctive and well-informed, with more writing flair than many of his more agreeable peers. So, yeah, he’s entirely qualified in my view. The fact that I also disagree with him more often than not is neither here nor there.

  • 26 1-11-2011 at 4:50 pm

    Collin said...

    Lisa Schwarzbaum just posted her take and it definitely sounds like he was out of line.

    Really, in what context would these remarks be acceptable?

  • 27 1-11-2011 at 5:18 pm

    Angry Shark said...

    hey now, Small Soldiers is really underrated.

  • 28 1-11-2011 at 6:49 pm

    sosgemini said...

    Guy,

    Here’s an0ther take on the show. Looks like White was an arse!

    http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2011/01/armond_white_is_why_people_hat.html

  • 29 1-11-2011 at 6:57 pm

    Aaron said...

    You have to be the most pompous, self-involved asshole to take a cheap shot at the lovely, warm, and soft-spoken Michelle Williams. That’s like walking up to Bambi and putting an AK-47 to his head.

  • 30 1-11-2011 at 6:59 pm

    KNSat said...

    I personally think White is a sincere, serious and dedicated film critic who puts as much – and possibly more – work into his writings than almost any other critic. That I disagree with him most of the time and think he criticizes a film for often specious reasons (Pixar, anyone?) does not negate the legitimacy of his writings. But being rude and nasty at an awards banquet is completely out of line. (I love Dude’s analogy comparing the behavior to calling a bride “ugly” at her wedding.)

    Aronofsky should also be faulted for dissing White at the ceremony and setting White off. But that doesn’t excuse White’s poor behavior toward the award recipients and presenters and spoiling what should have been a fun evening for them.

    White strikes me as a man who has a very high opinion of himself and correspondingly very few friends.

  • 31 1-11-2011 at 6:59 pm

    Tabb said...

    Lisa Schwarzbaum, former Chair of the NYFCC, has posted her feelings about the evening.

  • 32 1-11-2011 at 7:48 pm

    red_wine said...

    I think White is neither essential to film criticism nor dispensable. In my opinion, he is million times better than Peter Travers who shames film criticism and Mark Kermode who annoys the living hell out of me.

    People are just so hung up on their popular movies that they can’t bear any mainstream critic hating them. He loves Wild Grass and Vincere this year which is more than fine by me.

  • 33 1-11-2011 at 8:19 pm

    Kevin K. said...

    red_wine: If White ever said anything of value in his pans of popular movies, you might be on to something. But as it stands, he goes on faux philosophical rants about nothing relevant to the film at hand. Try again.

  • 34 1-12-2011 at 2:39 am

    the other mike said...

    thats the most fair write up of this thing i have seen so far Guy. We all know what Armond is like. You either love him or hate him, and most hate him. Fair enough, if he is going to be as aggresive and sometimes offensive in his reviews, he has to take it when it then comes his way. And I am all for artists having the right of reply and have no beef with Darren Aronofsky getting his digs in etc. But there is a little too much eagerness out there in film critic world too place the sole blame on the Critic Everybody Loves To Hate.

    We saw this kind of thing with Michael Jackson etc and as Kanye said in the Runaway Video that White preferred to Black Swan, “Dont believe anything you hear in thiswWorld.” or words to that effect. Cynical I know, but hey, we’ve been down this propaganda road too many times before.

  • 35 1-12-2011 at 2:46 am

    Mondz said...

    It’s all well and good to have strong opinions about films. But White can be very condescending in his reviews. Seems like he takes pleasure in looking down on those who like the movies he hates. As if everyone else is a film illiterate and his views are the only ones that matter. It’s that I can’t stand. But I can totally understand why some would defend him.

  • 36 1-12-2011 at 3:24 am

    Stefan said...

    I haven’t got a personal problem with critics who deviate from the crowd. I also haven’t got aproblem with critics who believe that a sharp tongue is indispensable when writing their reviews. And, finally, I can live with critics who dislike Pixar and Darren Aronofsky.

    Having said that I HAVE a problem with persons who do not know how to behave (possibly, because they have never learned). And to hijack an award evening to bore everyone with his non-authoritative dissenting opinion is not exactly an indication for good education. Plus I have a problem with White’s self-arrogance and his God-given mission to enlighten the stupid herd of douchebag moviegoers who only want to see a film for the purpose of mere entertainment, while, according to White, movies like Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen contain political, sociological and art related messages, which require a profound life experience and education in order to be understood.

    And, finally, I have a problem with critics who can dish it out, but who can’t take it. Complaining about Ebert’s (and Schwarzbaum’s and Hoberman’s and Denby’s and A.O. Scott’s and and and) style of reviewing on the one hand, but complaining about Ebert’s criticizm of White on the other hand, is simply ridiculous and unworthy of an adult man.

  • 37 1-12-2011 at 8:19 am

    KB said...

    Guy, with all due respect – my opinion isn’t glib, it’s very sincere…

  • 38 1-12-2011 at 9:35 am

    Pope said...

    What 23, 24, 25, 26 said. Just to add my 2 cents I don’t have a problem with him bashing well respected films. I believe THAT is good for film criticism as a whole. THAT, I believe is much needed. Even praising some bad films sometimes I think is healthy. It’s just the frequency with which he praises bad films which irks me even more and how he takes them completely out of context and makes claims that they have , to quote what Stefan said, “contain political, sociological and art related messages, which require a profound life experience and education in order to be understood…” Yea, its his opinion and though I have no way to prove he feels otherwise, I honestly DO NOT believe that he believes these things himself. He does like some good films though and that makes me think even more that he’s just going against the grain more often than not. He is simply doing his little “going against the grain-i’m a contrarian-i love the attention” thing. I also believe he does this on purpose because though I don’t fault him for panning well reviewed films (as weird as it may seem sometimes), his REASONING for panning them is basically just the opposite of when he praises some bad films. Just takes them completely out of context, makes them seem like they have more depth than what appears, etc. Ya know if he panned maybe one or two universally praised films every now and then I’d give this man more credit and actually read more of his stuff, but the predictability…smh. The predictability more often than not, is like clockwork. It’s kinda sus, is all I’m saying. But what REALLY irks me is his attitude. And from the looks of posts above, it isn’t just me who thinks he’s condescending and kinda snobbish. We all understand critics rely on their opinion but, but he does seem to go off on personal attacks a bit much. I mean if you’re not writing a review and have nothing nice to say would it hurt to just be quiet?

    Sorry if this was posted already: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/dailymusto/2011/01/black_swan_dire.php#

  • 39 1-12-2011 at 9:49 am

    Rashad said...

    Small Soldiers is definitely underrated

  • 40 1-12-2011 at 10:04 am

    Maxim said...

    White may not hate film but reading him is like watching a Fox News Anchor. His entire demeanor is that of someone who uses his reviews as a podium to excise his own, I don’t know what.

    Rarely have I read the guy have just an opinion on a particular film. Everything is seemingly taken to an almost freudian extreme going back to the makers of the film in question’s deep personal failure as human beings. You know what I’m talking about. It’s all so very deliberate and personal. Or the exact opposite. And, like I’ve said earlier, White seems to have a correct opinion on absolutely everything and seems to allow for no probability that he’s ever mistaken.

    Also, and this needs to be said too. Sometimes he is fun to read and he comes off like he knows what he’s talking about and generally sounds like a print critic. Often times though his, shall I say, employ of tortuous and circuitous utterances comes off as jarring and pretentious, wheres someone like Ebert knows how to use such words effectively.

  • 41 1-12-2011 at 10:20 am

    Maxim said...

    “What’s wrong with feeling strongly about everything? You express strong feelings more often than not, Maxim.”

    Guy, I think I can explain the difference pretty easily. While I probably do tend to come off as outspoken it’s mainly a side effect of the things I choose to comment about. Believe it or not, there are plenty of things out there that I don’t have an exteme feeling on, or the opinion I have isn’t that different from other people’s. Or I don’t feel like I know enough to have one, etc.

    So the point I was making had less to do with him being opinionated and less to do with the fact that he is virtually unable to take anything at face value. It’s the unwavering tone of White’s prose that, after a while becomes almost a parody of itself.

    It’s not like I’ve never read White and said to myself “he makes a very valid point”. It’s just that after a while, I realized that I felt that While had more in common in with preachers than critics.

  • 42 1-12-2011 at 12:13 pm

    Fitz said...

    It would be one thing if he actually wrote what he felt but he’s nothing more than a page hit-whore. I’ve actually written something in detail about it already.

    http://nevermindpopfilm.blogspot.com/2010/12/armond-white-or-how-i-learned-to-stop.html

  • 43 1-12-2011 at 1:53 pm

    Mike said...

    Who in the world thought it was a good idea to let him host?

  • 44 1-12-2011 at 2:17 pm

    Maxim said...

    Mike, as mentioned above White is the chairman of the NYCC and so he lets himself do what he wants.

  • 45 1-12-2011 at 9:36 pm

    Kevin K. said...

    Ultimately, White is free to say whatever nonsensical vitriol he wishes to say in his reviews. Good for him. But an awards ceremony like this is neither the time nor the place. Tasteless doesn’t even begin to describe it.