J. Hoberman Responds to Armond White

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One would have to be as nutty as outgoing New York Film Critics Circle chairman and New York Press film critic Armond White to attempt to refute his lies, exaggerations, fantasies, smears and false assumptions point by point -- especially since he tends to project his own intentions onto his "enemies." It's kind of hilarious that White sees any attack on him as an attack on all film critics, especially since he's forever scolding his colleagues for their "disgraceful" behavior or characterizing them as "backward children" or worse. In my case, he assumes that I'm jealous of his influence, then spends an undue amount of time ranting about my secret network of former students or research assistants.

My posting one of White's reviews online in order to debunk the urban myth that said review (with its suggestion that Noah Baumbach's mother, former Voice film critic Georgia Brown, should have gotten a "retroactive abortion") was an urban myth was so embarrassing to him (he had only just told Page Six that he took "no responsibility" for the review), that he responded with a hysterical feature-length ad hominem attack that his newspaper saw fit to run as a cover story -- imagine, as I wrote at the time, if I had written something about him, rather than posting something he wrote! This week White devotes his New York Press column to attacking the various blog accounts of his embarrassing shenanigans at last week's NYFCC awards -- see Gawker, Entertainment Weekly, and New York's Vulture -- and, of course, holding me responsible. (Not that I wrote anything.)

It is true that, as disclosed in the Gawker post, the author is married to Village Voice film editor. But it's not true that I planted the story. Having already heard reports of White's antics, John Cook called me to get White's email address. We chatted briefly about the event -- I had no opinion regarding Annette Bening's alleged tears. (The chairman had consigned me, along with several other members of the NYFCC he regards as enemies, to the worst seats in the house.) What I did tell him was that White was a notably ungracious host in that he could not help but make his own opinion of the awards evident -- not only with words but gestures. (In a feat of breathtaking rudeness on the evening of the 2009 awards, he contrived that no one would accept Mo'nique's award for Best Supporting Actress -- it just sat there unclaimed.) So much for White's respect for his colleagues' opinions.

I further noted that as White lacks a sense of humor, his attempt to banter with Darren Aronofsky fell flat -- the guy is no Don Rickles. As of this week, he's also no longer NYFCC chairman -- so we'll be spared another such self-aggrandizing performance, at least for a few years. Incidentally, it's a measure of White's self-importance, solipsism and indifference to facts that he describes himself as the only African-American chairman of the NYFCC, something that I'm sure that will come as news to longtime NYFCC member and former chairman Dwight Brown.

UPDATE: Regarding the unique aspect of his chairmanship, White wrote "The Schwarzbaum and Hoberman duo are so consumed with envy and anger regarding my third tenure as the NYFCC Chairman (the only African American to ever do so) that they broke solidarity with the organization through their public hostility." I assumed that he was talking about the position; if he meant to say that he was the NYFCC's only three-time African-American chairman, I apologize for my misconstruction.

Related: Proof That Critic Armond White Did Call for Noah Baumbach's Abortion

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31 comments
Emancipated Negro
Emancipated Negro

Ungh, J - everyone needs to relax. A history lesson for the non-dark skins.

Armand is of a generation that tasted the civil rights movement up close, and many like him have had their entire world view shaped by that horrific time in this country - the Jessie Jacksons if you will with poignant memories of lynchings, dogs, and firehouses NOT EVEN A LIFETIME AGO! Everyone acts like the damage done before the civil rights movement magically vanished because a few affluent blacks like Oprah make millions and we have a black president. Get real.

For lack of a better word, the result from many in this generation is a sensitivity regarding issues of race. Some may call it uberhypersensitivity.

Granted, I'm aware how abuse of those calls of racism have turned discussions of race in this country into an absolute joke and political hockey puck of doom, but know where his world view comes from and was shaped by - the black experience in this country almost 60 years ago.

This is just a hot mess. Everyone needs to chill.

eatmyshorts
eatmyshorts

well said sir.

I also love how white people use the "he's playing the race card" card. Well played elitists. by the way, I automatically distrust anyone who uses that tactic. Its one rung down from "he is just a troll" card. We can thank religious figure Roger Ebert for legitimising this view.

Wobatus
Wobatus

Actually very poorly said. It cheapens this critics' cat fight to invoke lynchings and firehoses. No one is saying he can't play any cards in his deck, but if he is going to be equated with Jesse Jackson on the Memphis balcony, it's incumbent on him to lay them on the table.

wobatus
wobatus

And EAtmyshorts, how is White not empowered to speak up? He's been head of the NYFCC 3 years i a row. He has published 2 lengthy frontpage NY Press articles trashing Hoberman. Given that he has the power he should specify the alleged racism that supposedly set all this off. And he hasn't said Hoberman is a racist, just a hegemon and elitist, but he did say Brown was a racist evidently, and said her son's work might suggest retroactive abortion. Then he says liberals shouldn't care since they support abortion. That's a completely warped attempt to deflect what he said.

wobatus
wobatus

I didn't bring up firehoses and lynchings, someone else did, and if the charge is being leveled it should be specified. And spare me with the "elitist" comments. White looks down his nose at the great unwashed movie-going public more than anyone. I'm not carrying any water for Hoberman. And I don't mind White not kow-towing to popular or average tastes. He's called a troll by some because his opinions are often willfully obtuse and contrarian for their own sake, internal incosistent and often just factually wrong. Yet I'm not talking about his often poor work as a critic, but his crying foul without specifics. He calls all his opponents elitists, or part of a conspiracy, hegemony, bourgeois, etc and, in the instance we are discusing here, racists. How is Georgia Brown racist, because she didn't like Chameleon Street? And this warrants trashing her son's work? Visiting the alleged but unspecified sins of the parents on the children? Sounds like another ugly chapter, McCarthyism.

So, sure, their can be racism aside from lynchings et al. bringing that up, like Corey says, is cheap. Now, what example of racism is being alleged. People can't be offended by White's conduct without being racist?

Sounds to me like White hates Hoberman, Brown, Baumbach, Zuckerburg, Sorkin, 95% of the movie-going public etc., and Hoberman, Baumbach (or his publicist), Darren Aronofsky and 95% of movie fans who know who he is hate him. And I don't think race has anything to do with it except from White's perspective. Apparently your too, although you haven't really said why either.

eatmyshorts
eatmyshorts

easy for you to say, you are speaking as a supporter of Hoberman. And that is your right, but if Armond genuinely feels he is being targeted for sinister reasons, I rather he speak on it and feel empowered to do so and not have the usual aforementioned "he is playing the race card" card levelled at him which has become a sinister tactic.

And not all racism involves firehoses and lynchings. I thought we knew this in 2011.

I also love how its not right for Armond to scream racism, but its ok for 90% of the film critical media to constantly brand him a troll. Can you name another film critic who has been branded one for having contrary opinions? I guess its one rule for some, and another for others. Maybe that racism card isnt so outrageous afterall.

And its also worth noting as maddening as Armond can be, this little tiff was started by Hoberman. twice now. Too bad the film community is scared of him. All you have to say is "we love you Jim, but you have been a bit of a prat, for snitching on Armond twicewith regard to the greenberg screening, and the NYFCC dinner, and all for personal reasons. and no one respects that".

but Armond shouts the loudest and is easy to blame and has a reputation so its all his fault. Well played elitists.

Corey Harmel
Corey Harmel

Actually it cheapens the history and presence of racism in the US to suggest that White's bilious lies and slander are justified by it.

Butch
Butch

Trying to slog through "My Greenberg Problem—and Yours," I just want to yell, "Dude, it's just a fucking movie."

Mynameisnobody
Mynameisnobody

I liked AW when he wrote for the City Sun. Was he as batshit crazy back then as he is now, or was I?

Malcolm
Malcolm

White is a terrible hypocrite and liar. Witness his obsession with Spielberg and Bay (among others) and subsequently Hollywood power. The guy gets more embarrassing by the minute.

Puffer @ digitallofi
Puffer @ digitallofi

This may be old hat to most around here, so apologies if I'm overstating the obvious or well-covered, but this recent 'controversy' got me thinking. Back when I still read the paper, the main operating principal of New York Press was more or less trolling. I read it quite a lot in the 90s, both before and after White started writing for them, and a fair number of the writers/columnists seemed employed just to rile up as many people as possible, i.e. if you didn't have something interesting and/or well-reasoned to write might as well stir up shit and spit out some stupid just to generate readers.

This was at the beginning of the popular adoption of the Web and years before the general population got wise to the concept of trolling. (Or was that just me?)

The editor was this blowhard Russ Smith who also wrote the an insufferably navel-gazing column about his life as Republican who like to eat at expensive restaurants, and delighted in the negative mail his verbiage generated. It's no wonder he gave a platform to the likes of J.R. Taylor, Dirty Sanchez, Amy Sohn, et al. It's not that these were uniformly bad writers, and some could be entertaining. But mostly it seemed they had columns/gigs as to fill up the letters column with hate mail. You don't give a weekly music column to J. R. Taylor, who hated most everything and was petty and mean (though occasionally funny), because you want thoughtful, reasoned thoughts on popular music; no, he was hired because he was a loud mouth who would say spiteful things and get people coming back week after week to be outraged when he insulted music you liked. A. White was par the course. Plus he added a whole level of pomposity and arrogance.

I haven't read the Press in years other than clicking on a link here or there so I don't know if it's still filled with stupid for the sake of stupid. And there were certainly some really good writers to pass through its pages. But if anyone is wondering how White got a job, and obviously why he still has one, when there are a lot of other writers not quite so up their own ass are published on blogspot, the history of that particular paper says a lot.

And, as far as I'm concerned, he's always been this misguidedly batty.

wobatus
wobatus

Actually, the Press had a stable of good writers back in the day (I think I started reading it in '88 or so when I believe it first came out) and over the years. Jim Strausbaugh, Dan Radosh, Sam Sifton, Jonathon Ames, William Monaghan, Melik Kaylan. The Mugger column could be a tad indulgent but I enjoyed it nevertheless. They had writers across the political spectrum (which was a bit refreshing compared to at the time relatively uniform VV) and many whose names I can't recall now, unfortunately (they had one guy who wrote great articles on New York history, kind of a Up in the Old Hotel type thing. They used to run the syndicated Savage Love before it came to the Post. And also used to run Straight Dope. Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer, was a great comic, and it still has Maakies.

It's gone downhill since Russ sold it. A lot of articles about first jobs in NY, and while I don't mind the odd drag queen article, they have become obsessive, and frankly I'll take my drag stuff from Musto, thanks.

White every now and then has a good point, weighted down in nastiness towards audiences, artists and other critics, turgid writing. He rarely seems able to realize that despicable characters in movies aren't meant to be someone to emulate. Plus he has a sophomoric and pretentious fondness for words like hegemonic, privileged, bourgeois, etc. His reviews often get basic facts wrong and self-contradicting. It's fine not to like what the general public likes, or what "critical consensus" doesn't like. He's just flat-out mean-spirited and cruel about it, though. Knowing a lot of movie history doesn't excuse his boorishness, and a lot of readers know about a lot of movies as well. Dropping Tarkovsky now and again doesn't make him a genius. So, while i have read his reviews many times and he does get off thought-provoking ideas now and then, overall he's more a read to see what cringe-worthy tantrum or vendetta he is up to now.

Puffer @ digitallofi
Puffer @ digitallofi

Well said. I can see how that reads as an outright dismissal of everything that the Press put in print, which wasn't entirely my intention. You're right, there were some decent to really good writers under their banner. I remember most of those you mention as good to readable, and the others don't stand out as Ugh. Also, Jim Knipfel was pretty talented. So perhaps I'm over-stating the 'trolling' editorial mission.

But I stand by most of what I wrote (esp. since it's subjective) about the editors 'posting' writing they knew wasn't 'good' because it would at least fill up the mailbag with indignant outrage. Sure there were good masthead writers — and, as you point out, the paper had worthwhile syndicated material — and even those I call out as being there for the negative reaction — including White — were not simply talentless hacks. But come on, there was some risible prose in that rag. The First Person reader stuff was the depository to some real gems of duh. Remember Terminator? Whatever her name pretending to be a junkie truckstop rent-boy. The Press was one of the first places to publish that dreck. (I'm only boasting a little when I say even back then I sniffed out that as a crock of shit. Plus it was stupid.) Why did that Furious George dude have a column? It wasn't because he was funny or interesting. And Mugger — for me — just tedious reading and certainly not worth however many column inches he gave himself.

But, hey, I read it from week to week. And here I am 10 years later talking about it. And who do I remember most clearly? So they did something right. It was a tabloid, and it's better to be read than ignored, right? And they had the editorial acumen to not publish me so that counts for something.

About White, you're spot on.

Charles
Charles

Very well said. The contrarian nature of the NYPress suits Armond White well, and perhaps motivates him. Your framing of the editorial policy and perspective is well needed. Hell, it is the paper that published Matt Taibi and his adolescent excuses for journalism (this isn't to say I don't agree with the thrust of many of Taibi's points but, damn if he isn't an adolescent prick who thinks he is shoving his middle finger in the face of the establishment all the time. The shame is that he has good points to make but they are lost in a mess of pre-teen posturing and new hair on my chest I think I'm profound bullshit)

wobatus
wobatus

Yeah, Taibbi can posture, but even as a shareholder in Goldman Sachs (just a tiny bit; I figure if I help bail them out I may as well own some) I admit he has some good points.

John Dowell
John Dowell

Hoberman teaches film at Cooper Union (or has in the past), so the term "research assistants" seems plausible and completely unsurprising.

Jozef_2
Jozef_2

Much like reading an Armond White review, I read Hoberman above and hear sound and fury and allusions to twenty different things and still not be sure what the hell he is saying.

Writers should preface their pieces with some setting or context or history so the reader knows the events and slights and outrages that proceeded the piece. I heard that White acted like an ass at an awards ceremony but beyond that, this article seems like blog guys flaming one another.

Vadim Rizov
Vadim Rizov

Dear Ben Kessler, John Demetry and Wow Jones: y'all ever get tired of posting (both under your names and others') comments that manage to be even *more* histrionic than those of Armond's? Wouldn't a full and honest disclosure here require not just posting at least under your own names (which hey, Kessler has the guts to do, so kudos), but noting your relationship to Armond's adventures in self-publishing?

It's worth noting here that the NYPress comments section appears to be permanently broken, which is probably a good thing. Certainly convenient for all concerned. But seriously: Jones, Kessler, Demetry. Y'all know as well as anyone there's no "Hoberman cabal." There are, however, people you blindly attack in the most blitheringly pompous terms with the pretense of defending bold iconoclastic criticism (or whatever kind of nonsense you're deluding yourselves into believing you stand for today) when you guys are confereres and associates. So go on, let's talk a little more about intellectual integrity.

eatmyshorts
eatmyshorts

you again. lmao. i wondered how long it would take.

Vadim Rizov
Vadim Rizov

Oh, as long as it takes. I'm here all night, tip jar's in the corner. Spend some time on 4chan and learn how to properly troll, for god's sake.

eatmyshorts
eatmyshorts

a troll cause i don't but into your "objective" analysis of Armond? Guess i'll never make it as a true hobermouse. Oh well.

You know Jim just outed himself as supplying quotes to the Gawker article that has been proven to be an embarrasment to journalism. are you going to defend that? standards eh, who needs em.

eatmyshorts
eatmyshorts

Armond White scored a knockout in the first bout with Hoberman about Greenberg and sad to say, the rematch was an even swifter KO.

"Hobermice" Lmao.

This just proves yet again that brilliant military strategists like Hoberman should never leave the safe environment of the strategy room and enter the jungle with an expert guerilla warfare scrapper. You are fighting the enemy on his terms. Keep to influencing your disciples Jim, thats the best strategy for you.

David Ehrenstein
David Ehrenstein

Congrats Jim, on giving Miss Thing the bitch-slapping she so richly deserves. No longer NYFCC chairman? When will La Whitewoman expelled altogether? Instantaneously I hope.

eatmyshorts
eatmyshorts

referring to Armond as a she? You don't see the misogyny in that approach?

Putney Swope
Putney Swope

Keep whining, J. The first good review you write will be your first and-- just so you know I once paid attention-- your review of "Beyond Recall" sucked too. You're a hack, a fraud and you should go you OWN goddamn reserarch. A fucking film critic says "research assistants" with a straight face-- case closed.

Joe Tacopino
Joe Tacopino

that cover story seemed a bit silly. why plaster your front page with a feud that maybe, like, 2 percent of NYC actually gives a shit about.

Ben Kessler
Ben Kessler

Was Dwight Brown NYFCC Chairman three times? Because that's the exact achievement White was talking about. Just goes to show how Mr. Hoberman's end of his conflict with White is propped up by print and internet allies who ceaselessly repeat, while failing to correct, Hoberman's errors.

No time like the present to start thinking for yourself.

Kaio
Kaio

Funny, a reply from one of the 2 "whitemice" (yes pal, I remember you from the BdP-forum). Where's John D.? Speaking of "thinking for yourself", lol...

A.J.
A.J.

To say nothing of the parroting here. That assertion of White's is particularly absurd and unfounded. There really isn't a cabal of Hoberman followers blindly repeating his proclamations without comment, critique or judgement, hegemonically (as he would put it) stifling Mr. White, though I imagine it is easier for him to think and believe so. The irony of your ceaseless repetitions while critiquing that very thing is hopefully lost on no one.

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