With the New York Film Critics Circle hosting its annual awards gala tonight, the Hollywood Reporter has published an essay by self-identified “truth-teller” Armond White, who was ejected from the NYFCC after disrupting last year’s awards dinner.
If you were expecting time to have softened White’s stance — well, you don’t know Armond White. He still denies that he heckled Steve McQueen as he was accepting his Best Director award, without, as ever, clarifying what he actually did say. (“Truth-tellers,” as a rule, tend to be less obfuscatory about the truths they want to tell.)
“In the year since my good deeds were punished,” he writes, “it’s been possible to assess what the ouster means for any critic with a strong voice in this scared, awards-crazed era. ”
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But let’s, to the extent possible, skip past the self-aggrandizement and get to the meat: “Film criticism has lost its independence,” White writes. “Group-think not only removes honor from consensus opinion, it also promotes hostility to the practice of journalistic criticism… There is now an overwhelming tendency throughout media to make reviewers compliant and discourage any independent expression; this is done through methods as subtle as suppression and as overt as character defamation.”
That’s true enough, as you can see, ironically, from the kerfuffle over the National Society of Film Critics’ decision to award Jean-Luc Godard’s “Goodbye to Language” its Best Picture award. (White is also a former member of the NSFC, but the decision to leave was his.) For the apparently cardinal sin of voting for a movie that wasn’t part of the agreed-upon awards candidates, the NSFC was lambasted as “irrelevant” and “elitist,” two squishy terms that boil down to a vehement defense of the status quo.
White, who was was awarded the “Anti-Censorship Award” by the Before Columbus Foundation, says he is working on a book called “Critic Without a Culture” that will include the details of the “the small-minded slander and indifference” he has endured. But whatever other emotions White may provoke, indifference is assuredly not one of them.