New York Film Critics Met for Hours to Oust Armond White

Armond White NYFCC
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

A majority of critics voted to remove him

Members of the New York Film Critics Circle were in general agreement on Monday that Armond White had intended to heckle director Steve McQueen before they voted him out of the organization.

The decision came from a two-and-a-halfhour meeting attended by about two dozen of its 36 members. White did not attend.

As first reported by Variety, McQueen was met with taunts by CityArt’s editor White at their annual gala on Jan. 6 when he took the stage to accept his prize as director for “12 Years a Slave.” White, who had panned the critically acclaimed drama, started to shout: “You’re an embarrassing doorman and garbage man. F– you. Kiss my ass.”

After the story grabbed headlines and became part of awards season chatter, the critics group announced an emergency meeting to address the situation. Repeated attempts to invite White to the proceedings were unanswered, a member said. White has denied that he heckled McQueen despite numerous eyewitness accounts. He declined to be interviewed for this story.

The organization was able to oust White by invoking an interpretation of its bylaws, which says its members must “uphold the integrity and significance of film criticism.”

White’s fate was decided by paper ballots, with more than a majority voting to remove him, an unprecedented decision for an organization that dates back to 1935.

“I’m sorry it diverted attention there from the people we were meant to honor,” said the group’s newly minted chair Stephen Whitty, film critic for the New Jersey Star-Ledger. “I don’t think it tainted the group. We recognized a problem. We met and discussed and dealt with the problem, and we’re moving forward.”

“This is not a happy situation,” said Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman. “None of us felt good about kicking out a member.”

Gleiberman added: “What came from Armond’s table was unquestionably heckling. For Armond to deny that, he’s either lying or he’s lying to himself. I’m not sure which one is worse.”

Rafer Guzman, critic for Newsday, said he too heard the disruptive comments that night. “As I recall, he was heckling both [presenter] Harry Belafonte and Steve McQueen,” Guzman said. “He was saying things like, ‘go home’ and ‘pulease.'”

At the emergency meeting, the critics also voted to suspend Lou Lumenick for one year for reporting the tallies of its votes, a violation of the rules. Lumenick was present at the meeting.

As of today, White’s name had been removed from the New York Film Critics Circle site.

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  1. Mr. White’s literate writing and the depth of his knowledge of the canon of his profession are not all he brings to the table. His unique reflections are equally a pleasure to read. Who else would reference David Lean in a critique of “All is Lost.” The NYFCC seem to have behaved as a high school clique, insisting on a party line and uniformity. Refer to Senate debates of a century ago; thin-skinned one could not be. Mr. White’s colleagues are that and supercilious, too. He says he does not want his sisters in Detroit to worry about him. Mr. White also has a sense of humor which seems to be lacking among the members of the NYFCC.

  2. louisproyect says:

    There’s something so incestuous about these awards, the ceremonies that accompany them, the publicity machinery from the likes of TWC, the hyperbolic reviewers who like David Denby compare “American Hustle” to Shakespeare, Lubitsch and Sturges, the full-page ads in the NYT, the junkets, etc. No wonder Armond White (or someone at his table) dissed Steve McQueen, the product of an uncritical press. If you want to see a great film about slavery, see “Sansho the Bailiff”. Compared to that, “12 Years a Slave” was like John Phillip Sousa compared to Bach.

  3. Ed says:

    Lame. Say what you will about Mr. White, but he brings some zest, life, and good crotchety fun into an otherwise self-important snoozery.

  4. Ho ho wow great things for me to say something dat been in my mind hof the days but now am happy to talk now I get a south story of my life on me to say it uot to my people ho. No time for me again buy

  5. Brian says:

    Well done, New York Film Critics Circle. The fact that there are so many witnesses to what was said adds tremendous credibility to the story. Critics and opinions are an important element of a free society. But when the ego becomes bigger than the criticism, it’s a problem. Mr. White seemed to think that the noise of the ego was more important than the sound of reasoned applause. Applause is not always correct, but, if it’s reasoned applause and a majority opinion within a group that you belong to, then respect it as a member of that group. Yes, we are individuals, and yes, we are also social animals. But if an individual thinks his or her ego and/or opinion is greater than the group, greater than the collective whole, and greater than society, than chaos and conflict rise to the forefront. That’s usually how wars get started, and wars always have casualties. Mr. White was a casualty of the war he created himself. In my humble opinion.

  6. Just Confused says:

    If ARMOND WHITE has no respect for his peers how can he expect to be considered worthy of theirs.
    End of story!

    End of career?

    • Emmy says:

      It’s the of the Circle, not writing for Armond White. This group has never defined him. He’s the most honest individual there. Now, it’ll be a room of Hollywood insiders stroking each other. Too bad for film criticism. His career is alive and well. People know him and he has a huge following…whether they like him or not. He gets read.

      • Dave says:

        Absolutely agree, Emmy. In this era of uncritical thinking, Armond’s voice is the only one that matters. Truly, the NYFCC ain’t what it used to be.

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