New York Critics Apologize to Steve McQueen for Heckling, But Armond White Defends Himself

New York Critics Apologize to Steve McQueen for Heckling, But Armond White Defends Himself

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Critic blasts “misquotes and lies,” even as NYFCC promises disciplinary action

The New York Film Critics Circle has apologized to Fox Searchlight and director Steve McQueen over an outburst aimed at the director by a NYFCC member during Monday night’s awards ceremony, even as the offending critic claims he was misquoted.

“On behalf of the New York Film Critics Circle, I apologize sincerely for the crass bit of heckling Mr. McQueen encountered,” outgoing NYFCC chair Josh Rothkopf wrote to the studio. “I’m mortified to learn that this was from one of our own members. We are taking disciplinary action.”

Also read: Directors Guild Nominations: Steve McQueen, Alfonso Cuaron, David O. Russell, Martin Scorsese and Paul Greengrass

The member in question is NYFCC’s most infamous critic, Armond White, a writer for CityArts who is best-known for hating what other critics love and loving what they hate, but who also has a history of being a disruptive presence at the group’s awards dinners.

When McQueen took the stage on Monday night to accept his best-director award after what was reportedly an eloquent speech by Harry Belafonte, a number of people in the room reported hearing a disruption from the vicinity of White’s table.

While McQueen did not respond and most people in the room couldn’t hear what was being said, a Variety reporter seated near White reported that the African-American critic yelled, “You're an embarrassing doorman and garbage man! F— you! Kiss my ass.”

Others reported that he also yelled “White liberal bulls—!” at the stage during McQueen’s remarks about “12 Years a Slave,” which White had ripped in a review stating that the film “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.’”

Also read: '12 Years a Slave’ Featurette: Solomon Northup Descendants on Freedom Anniversary (Video)

In an email on Tuesday to Indiewire’s John Anderson, White blasted “the misreporting and the repetition of lies,” but declined to answer when Anderson asked him if he yelled at McQueen.

“Wrong question, John,” he wrote, according to Anderson. “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.”

While White apparently feels that the “talk among my tablemates” was not meant for McQueen's ears and not as offensive as reported, Slate critic Dana Stevens tweeted that the accounts were “sadly accurate.”

Stevens, who was sitting at White's table, also said that White and a cohort were heckling throughout the entire event, with White as ringleader.

Rothkopf clearly felt that transgressions had occurred, writing in an email to members on Tuesday morning, “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.

“I can't believe we need to draft rules of conduct for adults, but apparently we do.”

Also read: Review Eviscerates ‘Toy Story 3' Hater

This is not the first time White has been a disruptive presence at NYFCC’s awards ceremonies. Last year, he reportedly yelled “f— you!” at presenter Michael Moore. And when he hosted the event in 2011 (he was NYFCC chair at the time), he was hostile to a number of the winners, to the point where “Black Swan” director Darren Aronofsky took the stage and said, “Keep it up, because you give us another reason not to read the New York Press.” (White wrote for the Press at the time.)

So far, the NYFCC has not given any indication of what the “disciplinary action” aimed at White might be, though suggestions on social media seem torn between “kick him out of the group” and “let him stay but never invite him to an event again.”

The contrarian critic has served as chair of the organization three times, and he clearly relishes that role: His Twitter handle is “@3xchair.”

Even after the apology went out, the home page of the NYFCC website included two White stories in its “Latest Headlines” section, which features links to three recent stories by its members.

One of them linked to a review of the critically maligned “Grudge Match,” which White called “the most purely entertaining movie released during the Christmas season (‘American Hustle’ excepted),” and mocked critics who made up their Top 10 lists before seeing it.

Somehow, his rave also managed to work its way around to slamming Martin Scorsese for a comment the director made in an interview with TheWrap.

Also read: Martin Scorsese on ‘Wolf of Wall Street': I Wanted It Big and Ferocious

Apart from his public behavior, White is known for being one of the only critics to have slammed movies like “Toy Story 3,” “District 9” and “There Will Be Blood,” while praising “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” and Adam Sandler’s “Jack and Jill.”

  • Don

    Now is that fair? Heckling a beloved iconic actor who has been dead for 33 years?!

    • Manfred Hideous

      First thing that popped into my head was Wait, what? Then I read the story.

      Person who down-voted has probably never heard of Bullitt.

  • triumph_2012

    Speak your mind Armond. Variety reporter is a bottom feeder who tried to harm you.

  • Moses Simon

    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.

    • Manfred Hideous

      Not sure if serious…

      • Moses Simon

        Not sure if serious? You must be a effing COWARD. I am a black man that prefers to see the truth than delusion society is notorious for. Example, people call Obama a black man…nothing could be further from the truth. Obama is white by race because he has straight hair, not kinky like black people. No black person has straight hair and spends 9 months in a white woman's womb. Talk about serious, that's serious.

        • Manfred Hideous

          How does asking for clarification make one a coward? I couldn't tell if you were trolling the internets or not. Now that I know you are, I'm good.

  • Rudyinbama

    Lord, the Allen West of film critics.

  • curri

    This guy seems to have modeled his career on that of Stanley Crouch.

  • Taxpayer

    Sounds to me as if an African-American is jealous of accomplishments made by a caucasian director in this particular incident. Critic or not there is such a thing as class that apparently Mr. White has none. There is a huge difference in being a critic and performing a classless act to the point where NYFCC is going to take action against Mr. White to the effect of A) kicking him out of NYFCC or B) letting him stay but no future invitations. The latter is more appropriate that way we can have a laugh now & then at Mr. Whites expense at the annual NYFCC awards. Maybe he will change his twitter handle from @3xchair to @kickedout! Either decision they make to address the problem is a WIN WIN for NYFCC & viewers.