So, at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards last night, apparently film critic and noted contrarian Armond White decided it would be a great idea to heckle 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen as the director accepted an award on stage. From Variety:
McQueen had just accepted his prize for "12 Years a Slave," presented by Harry Belafonte, when the interruption broke out.
As soon as McQueen took the stage, White started shouting from his table at the back of the room. "You’re an embarrassing doorman and garbage man," White boomed. "F—you. Kiss my ass."
McQueen either didn’t hear the comments or pretended not to. He thanked the critics group for honoring him with an award previously given to John Ford and Woody Allen, at which point White hissed "pulease."
Yikes. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the heckling, "could not be heard from the front of the room and did not interrupt the proceedings." STILL.
Variety doesn't specify whether or not White was drunk at the event (even though it kind of sounds like he REALLY WAS), but eyewitness tweets suggest otherwise:
Def for McQueen. Armond was too drunk and had to leave. Ask him tmrw.— Vadim Rizov (@vrizov) January 7, 2014
@trim_obey My friend & I left the table after that big outburst. But he & cohort had been drunk & heckling at a lesser level the whole time.— Dana Stevens (@thehighsign) January 7, 2014
Oh, and this wasn't the only instance of fuckery. Apparently, upon accepting her award, 20-year-old Blue Is the Warmest Color star (and absolute ANGEL) Adèle Exarchopoulos was also heckled and told to "suck a dick" by someone at White's table. (No way of know who made the comment.) Either way—it's sexual harassment, and it shouldn't be ignored:
As Adele Exarchopoulos accepts, a brief, brave cry of dissent from the Armond table of sycophants: "Suck a dick!"— Vadim Rizov (@vrizov) January 7, 2014
Dallas Buyers Club star Jared Leto wasn't well received by White's table either:
Scattered cries of "bullshit" et al from the Armond table for Leto quelled by news it's time for AMERICAN HUSTLE awards.— Vadim Rizov (@vrizov) January 7, 2014
This isn't the first time that White has heckled award-winners at events. As Variety points out, back in 2011 he "took verbal jabs" at Annette Bening and Michelle Williams while hosting the event, and in 2012, he heckled Robert De Niro and Viola Davis as they spoke on stage.
If you're unsure of who Armond White is, here's some background. White is a New York-based film critic who, broadly speaking, has some...different ideas about what makes for a good film. Remember the moving beauty that was Toy Story 3? Remember how it made you bawl along with all the other movie theater patrons during that one part? Well, White hated that movie, and he's one of the reasons that it doesn't currently hold a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Here's an excerpt:
Toy Story 3 is so besotted with brand names and product-placement that it stops being about the innocent pleasures of imagination -- the usefulness of toys -- and strictly celebrates consumerism...the Toy Story franchise isn’t for children and adults, it’s for non-thinking children and adults. When a movie is this formulaic, it’s no longer a toy because it does all the work for you. It’s a sap’s story.
Oh, yeah, and that same year, he liked Jonah Hex. Over Toy Story 3. Seriously:
Jonah Hex does for the western what the Crank movies do for the urban action film; simultaneously commenting on genre practice. … Hayward’s action scenes depict a terrorist environment way past Pixar-kiddieland. Bombs, flames, explosions carry 9/11 force, replete with hellhound and ravens—creatures whose myths help vanquish anxiety—all to a pounding score that re-routes death metal back to cathartic affirmation. … Without a $50 million ad budget to make Jonah Hex seem important, the media feels free to trash it—doing so exposes their collusion with marketing and refusal to read film for personal reflection. True art is watching hot-chick Megan Fox (as Lilah the hooker) fearlessly staring at the most grotesque side of Jonah’s face as if coming to grips with her own exploitation. Beautiful and brilliant.
That's not all. He also thought that Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Taken 2 were better movies than Kathryn Bigelow's award-winning Zero Dark Thirty, because, quote, "[Ghost Rider 2 directors] Neveldine-Taylor and [Taken 2 director] Olivier Megaton revealed the post-9/11 zeitgeist in genre tropes, while Bigelow reduced the zeitgeist to an enigmatic comic strip, a 'mission accomplished' delusion."
Back to White's heckling of McQueen—it's worth noting that White was one of the only critics this year to hate on McQueen's 12 Years a Slave. In a lengthy review, he scolded that the film "belongs to the torture porn genre with...the Saw franchise but it is being sold (and mistaken) as part of the recent spate of movies that pretend 'a conversation about race.' The only conversation this film inspires would contain howls of discomfort." An excerpt from the full review, which can be read here:
These tortures might satisfy the resentment some Black people feel about slave stories (“It makes me angry”), further aggravating their sense of helplessness, grievance–and martyrdom. It’s the flipside of the aberrant warmth some Blacks claim in response to the superficial uplift of The Help and The Butler. And the perversion continues among those whites and non-Blacks who need a shock fest like 12 Years a Slave to rouse them from complacency with American racism and American history. But, as with The Exorcist, there is no victory in filmmaking this merciless. The fact that McQueen’s harshness was trending among Festivalgoers (in Toronto, Telluride and New York) suggests that denial still obscures the history of slavery: Northup’s travail merely makes it possible for some viewers to feel good about feeling bad...McQueen’s fraudulence further accustoms moviegoers to violence and brutality.
Armond White. Most fun guy of 2013, 2014, and beyond.
The rest of the NYFCC awards reportedly went smoothly, and, as The Wire points out, there are many parts of the event "that should be highlighted instead of White's rudeness." Like Belafonte's amazing speech, which you should read.
White has not yet commented on the incident.
UPDATE: In response to the reports, White has released a statement to Indiewire, denying that he heckled McQueen:
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."
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.
NYFCC chair Josh Rothkopf (of Time Out) has apologized to Fox Searchlight for the incident.