Much as no trip to the movies is complete without surveying the opinions of your fellow, farting moviegoers in a crowded multiplex bathroom, a year in cinema is only half-finished until Armond White yells something at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards. The man who uses his breadth of film knowledge to create the most impressively researched versions of “U mad bro?” in the realm of movie criticism spent 2013, as he has every year, heckling the world of cinema from the cheap seats of his CityArts column, awaiting the annual day when he could do it live and get the negative attention he craves.
And so, as we have every year, we play right into it by dutifully reporting that at last night’s NYFCC Awards, Armond White yelled out some shit. This time at 12 Years A Slave’s Steve McQueen, whose acceptance speech for Best Director was interrupted by White—who’d derided McQueen’s movie as “torture porn” in print —shouting, “You’re an embarrassing doorman and garbage man. Fuck you. Kiss my ass.” After McQueen mentioned previous award recipients Woody Allen and John Ford, White then reportedly hissed, "Puhlease."
Aside from the missed opportunity to make other-Steve McQueen jokes (“You’re the one who should have made a Getaway! I’d rather take a Bullitt than watch your movie! All I could think about while I watching it was making The Great Escape!” etc.), White’s race-baiting heckling was even more awkward and desperately inflammatory than in years past—like the year he, as then-chairman, hosted the awards by introducing every presenter and recipient with backhanded compliments or outright insults, even making Annette Bening cry. Or the very next year in 2012, when he kept yelling out “Ethel Waters” at Viola Davis, because he felt Davis “[needed] to hear the name.” Or last year, when he just shouted, “Fuck you!’ at Michael Moore, having at last distilled his mode of criticism down to its very essence. At this rate, next year may well see Armond White simply chucking D-batteries at the stage while screaming, “Ernst Lubitsch!”
That regression into a more nakedly Bronx cheer-like version of his usual contrarian act has some questioning whether it was actually White—and since we weren’t actually there, and since White has accused those of us passing on these sorts of secondhand reports of being inhuman little moles, we should definitely acknowledge that uncertainty. (Because far be it from us to paint Armond White as condescending or hostile, based solely on years of precedence.) Variety definitely believes it was White. Meanwhile, Slate’s Dana Stevens confirmed that White and his “boorish consorts” had been “drunk and heckling at a lesser level” all night, but isn’t sure whether the “garbage man” insult specifically came from White or one of his companions. When Vulture attempted to get White to clarify his supposed outburst, he reportedly “just glared at us as he walked out accompanied by a stumbling associate”—obviously not wanting to dignify their question with a remark he couldn’t safely lob from far away.
Still, one thing can be certain: Like the popping of a champagne cork that sounds strangely racist, Armond White got us to write about him being an asshole again, and now 2014 can officially begin. Happy New Year, everyone.