The perpetually polemical Armond White spiced up the 79th annual New York Film Critics Circle awards last night when he heckled director Steve McQueen.
While McQueen was accepting his Best Director award for 12 Years a Slave, White yelled out from his table at the back, “You’re an embarrassing doorman and garbage man. Fuck you. Kiss my ass.”
Such vulgar eloquence should be expected from the CityArts editor, who just two years ago hosted the ceremony and took snide jabs at Annette Bening, Michelle Williams and Darren Aronofsky. The infamous writer is renowned for his seemingly calculated contrarian takes on movies; even the late Roger Ebert deemed him a “troll.”
Earlier in the year, White penned his evisceration of McQueen’s magnum opus, claiming, “12 Years a Slave belongs to the torture porn genre with Hostel, The Human Centipede, and the Saw franchise.” Against all odds, White managed to compare a film about a free family man unjustly forced into slavery with a movie whose centerpiece is a triumvirate of characters linked together, ass to mouth, in the form of a life-like centipede.
However, what’s more saddening than White spewing profanities at McQueen (who managed ignore the critic’s comments while graciously accepting his prize) is that today reputable outlets from around the web will be publishing stories similar to this one. They will condemn White for his incivility and lack of etiquette, and the movies – which is the primary reason critic groups are formed – will take a backseat to some nasty comments.
This seems to be the recurring storyline throughout all this awards hoopla. Just a few week ago AwardsDaily insinuated that the Utah Film Critic Association were racist for heralding Gravity over 12 Years a Slave as the Best Picture of 2013. That’s probably all you read when it came to what awards the Utah-based group gave out. You might not have noticed that they had some fairly nuanced selections for Best Original Screenplay (The World’s End), Best Supporting Actor (Bill Nighty for About Time) and Best Supporting Actress (Scarlett Johansson for Her).
Each awards season seems to come with its own set of controversial stories that have little do to with the movies themselves. And with that inconsequential controversy comes a larger issue: the possibility that the critics themselves are becoming more important than the movies they are praising.
As for White, Scott Renshaw of Salt Lake City Weekly put it best on Twitter when he wrote: “The New York Film Critics Circle needs to dismiss Armond White. Period. Enough is enough.”
For those interested, here’s what the New York Film Critics Circle awarded in 2013.