Armond White--proving that as long as you consider yourself educated and familiar with film history, personal judgment and taste are irrelevant.
Armond White, controversial film critic and editor of City Arts magazine dropped by the SiriusXM studios this week. As usual he had a lot to say about film critics and the film industry in general. He also answered some of the accusations being leveled about him around the internet, calling out supposed journalists and labeling moles. Excerpts from the interview appear below.
NOTE: Vince Mancini of filmdrunk.com already responded to this interview. You can read his response at filmdrunk.uproxx.com.
Ron Bennington: It almost seems like anything that happens with you becomes controversial. Your reviews, last year when you hosted the awards show, and this year even when you just showed up it was controversial.
Armond White: Yea, ain’t it crazy? I’m there and little did I know that there are like little moles watching and listening to whatever I do.
Armond Explains What He Really Said to Albert Brooks:
Lawrence Levi (@lawlevnyc from movieline.com) tweeted that “At NY Film Critics Circle awards dinner, I overheard Albert Brooks ask Armond White, “Is J. Hoberman here?” White replied, “That jackass.””
Ron Bennington: Now one of the people overheard you talking with Albert Brooks. Were you quoted correctly?
Armond White: Well I was quoted correctly but only a fraction of what I had to say. I’m a big fan of Albert Brooks so I had things to talk to him about his work, about his movies, we talked about an album of his that I loved called A Star is Bought.
Ron Bennington: Unbelievable album. One of the funniest albums of all time. And it’s brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
Armond White: And I had to tell him so. And that was really the gist of our conversation, but the little Hoberman moles standing around, they didn’t care about that.
Ron Bennington: I guess movieline.com, Lawrence Levi said that he over heard you saying that Jay Hoberman was a jackass to Albert Brooks.
Armond White: Albert asked me the question, is Jay Hoberman here, and I said, that jackass? Cause I couldn’t figure out why somebody as smart as Albert Brooks would even want to know.
Ron Bennington: Did you like Albert Brooks in Drive this year?
Armond White: One of the things we said, in what I thought was our private conversation was Brooks said to me, Well you didn’t like my movie, did you? And I said well no I didn’t but you were the best thing in it. And I felt that he was the best thing in it. The rest of the movie I felt was like a fake imitation Steve McQueen film, also imitating the style of Walter Hill’s The Driver and John Boorman’s Point Blank and not imitating them well. Kind of a rip off. But Albert Brooks did something kind of original. He played the bad guy.
Armond White Responds to Rumors he was being a Fan Boy with Brad Pitt
Vulture reported that ” At least one star got White’s love, though: After Brad Pitt went to take a smoke break accompanied by Sorkin, Angelina Jolie, and a big security detail, Armond White ran up to the group to introduce himself to the Moneyball actor.” FilmDrunk also accused Armond of being ‘starstruck’.
Ron Bennington: People were saying that when Brad Pitt when out to get a cigarette you went over to talk to him, and this was after you had trashed Moneyball or you weren’t a fan of Moneyball. And they thought you were like a fan boy going over to talk to Brad Pitt.
Armond White: No, I’m a member of the NY Film Critic’s Circle, three time’s past chairman of the NY Film Critic’s Circle. I was his host. And what happened was, where I was sitting at the dinner was near the green room of Crimson, which is the club where the award ceremony is held. And at one point, Brad and Angelina were brought to the green room for a smoke. And I was sitting near the green room and me and my guests could smell the smoke. And when Brad came out, I walked up to him and introduced myself as a member of the circle and I said you’re not supposed to be smoking here, Brad, it’s against Bloomberg’s ordinances. And he smiled. And I said but I’m glad you’re here, have a good time. He said, I am having a good time. That was it. I wouldn’t be rude to him and I’m not a fan boy.
Armond Explains his “Heckling” of Robert De Niro
Ron Bennington: And then Mancini from filmdrunk.com said that you were doing some strange heckling, like when Robert De Niro was speaking, you yelled out The Good Shepherd.
Armond White: Is it heckling when you’re cheering? I wouldn’t call it heckling. I’m on record as being a big fan of The Good Shepherd and being a De Niro supporter.
Ron Bennington: So you’re having a fun night, where everybody can let their hair down a little bit and relax, and as you’re doing that you feel like some of the other critics are taking shots at you.
Armond White: These people who you mentioned– they’re not critics– I don’t know what they are. I don’t even know if they’re human. They’re just little moles, who attach themselves to critics. They come in as invited guests, and they eavesdrop and give incorrect reports on what other people do. It’s out of context.
Armond White Explains his “heckling” of Viola Davis
Ron Bennington: Also, when Viola Davis was on stage were you telling out Ethel Waters over and over?
Armond White: I did. And this is the bad thing about the internet that evidences the decline of journalism. There’s no more journalism anymore there’s just gossip. Because certainly none of the people who wrote about this came to me to verify or ask why I did what I did. And they didn’t report what I would call the news of that awards dinner which was Albert Brooks’ beautiful speech and also a beautiful speech by Jessica Chastain who won supporting actress prize. They also didn’t report that when Viola Davis got on stage– she is the black actress du jour– when she got on stage she said, took the stage and talked about, as an African American actress the only inspiration I ever had was Meryl Streep. Well, Meryl Streep is a great actress but if she’s going to couch it in terms of being an African American, I would like to know, don’t you know who Ethel Waters is? There’s a problem here. Which was why I shouted Ethel Waters. She needs to hear the name Ethel Waters.
Armond White Explains His Greater Than List (why he thinks Hugo and The Artist are Shit, and what are better films to see)
Armond Explains Why Incendies is Better Than A Dangerous Method
Armond White: I look at reviews through the year. For instance, there’s that movie, the David Cronenberg film, A Dangerous Method, which a lot of critics liked, and I thought was freudian horse shit. But if you subscribe to Freud, maybe you would respond to that movie. I don’t so I didn’t. And I thought this Canadian film called Incendies dealt with some of the same ideas and I thought, this is a better alternative to that.
Armond Explains Why “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was Better Than “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
Armond White: It’s a way of looking at the entire year of film and giving people an overview of what the films were attempting and what other films achieved. I looked at The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo– the David Fincher version as a remake, so I contrasted it with Rise of the Planet of the Apes which was also a remake but a far superior remake. Certainly a less pretentious piece of film making, also, not a hateful illustration of human ugliness. It’s a movie that’s kind of a wild vision of contemporary frustration which I think is more helpful than the brutality that was on display with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. So on two levels– as a remake there was something better than The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and also as a movie dealing with contemporary concerns there was a better film than that one. Which happened to be Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Armond Explains Why “Jack and Jill” is Better Than “The Descendants”
Armond White: I will defend Jack and Jill. I get a kick out of the things Adam Sandler does. And one of the things that he does, and he does it explicitly in Jack and Jill, is that he deals with ethnicity. And he deals with family pride and family shame. These are the same subjects as The Descendants except it kind of glosses it over and uses superficial tv drama and morbidity to disguise the fact that ts story is actually about ethnicity. It’s actually about how white folks came to Hawaii and took over and owned the land. And so its cast primarily with European descendants. And I’m watching the movie and thinking where are the indigenous Hawaiians? And this might be so in many cases but the film doesn’t deal with it. It’s just a superficial soap opera about the travails of the middle class and I was not interested in that. See Jack and Jill. It was all about ethnicity and what it is about ethnicity that we all have in common. And it can be tragic but Adam Sandler finds the humor in it. And its wonderful.
Armond White on Harvey Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein knows his business and he makes it his business to win awards. Apparently movie culture has changed to the point where all film makers care about is getting awards. I guess number one they care about money. But after that, they’re vain. So in addition to having all the money there is on the West Coast and New York too, they want prizes. These are millionaires who also want prizes, so they’ve twisted film culture to make it all about prizes now.. Harvey Weinstein was part of that twisting but he understands how it works and he makes sure that he is in the running every year. You sort of have to admire somebody who understands the business that well, and I have to salute Harvey Weinstein because when it comes to a dick swinging contest, he swings a bigger cudgel than that other guy Scott Rudin. Cause they had that big set too a few years back about that Kate Winslet movie. And Harvey won because Harvey knows how to play the game. He’s the shark with the biggest set of teeth I guess.
Armond White on Martin Scorsese
Armond White: I said before, I support De Niro. I love Robert De Niro and much of that comes from Mean Streets. Taxi Driver. I think those are great movies. Scorsese had it. He lost it. He lost it when he hitched himself to Leonardo DiCaprio. Because, DiCaprio is a sure box office star, so anything DiCaprio wants to do will be made. And Scorsese knows this. So he’s made so many films with DiCaprio to whom he is ill-suited temperamentally. And also, to me, he wore out the gangster genre.
But also I think he’s lost artistic interest in movie making. I once wrote that Scorsese should simply become a producer. Because clearly he knows a lot about film making. He knows a lot about film history. I think he would be a good producer. I think he really doesn’t care about directing anymore which is why he can direct crap like Hugo and terrible films like The Departed and really awful films like The Aviator. There’s no heart in those movies.
Armond White, is the editor of City Arts Magazine.
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