We’re going to cover two distinctly different stories here, about two film critics headed in opposite directions. On the one hand you have Roger Ebert, the most well known and perhaps most beloved film critic of all time. On the other hand you have Armond White, film criticism’s equivalent of an internet troll.
We’ve done our best to ignore Armond over the past few months, since the attention he craves (and which we foolishly gave him at one point) only seems to fuel more bad behavior, but in this instance we just can’t overlook his latest round of trollish behavior so, I’ll attempt to balance it out with a more positive film critic example in Ebert with the promise that you won’t see any further free publicity for White any time soon.
Roger Ebert’s New Television Chin
Let’s start with Roger Ebert, who in just about any scenario deserves to go first. Ebert went through a battle with cancer several years ago, and while he survived, it cost him not only the power of speech, but left him disfigured when doctors were forced to remove his lower jaw. Though he could no longer appear on television Ebert found a way to stay vibrant and relevant, becoming deeply involved in the online world through his blogs and through regular updates on twitter.
As a fan of his work on the outside looking in, it seemed to me as though there was little hope that his situation would improve, and that he’d be permanently confined to twitter. But that all changed today. Though Ebert will probably never regain the full power of speech he has now been given back his rakish good looks. He has a new chin.
In a blog post from Ebert today he discusses the two-year process he went through to find the right prosthesis. The device fits over his lower face, neck, and from a distance passes muster. It will enable Roger to appear on his new television show, a series which most had assumed he’d only work on in the background. But you can’t keep a good film critic down. He explains, “It will be used in a medium shot of me working in my office, and will be a pleasant reminder of the person I was for 64 years. Symbolically, it's as if my illness never happened and, hey, here I still am, on the show with these new kids. When people see the "Roger's Office" segment, they'll notice my voice more than my appearance.”
During the two years it took to make the prosthesis, Roger says he’s accepted his appearance as it really is, without the prosthetic. Because of that, he doesn’t plan to wear it anywhere except on the show. That’s alright, as long as it gets him back on television. We’re rooting for you Roger!
Armond’s Excuse: People Who Hate Him Are Racists
On the other hand there’s Armond White, who almost certainly will never be on television, and at this rate it’s kind of amazing that he’s employed at all. Of White, Ebert once said, “I am forced to conclude that White is, as charged, a troll.” He says that because of Armond’s long and well documented history of publishing suspiciously disingenuous opinions as a way to garner attention for himself. It seems certain that almost none of what Armond has to say about the films he reviews in any way reflects his real opinions, they’re crafted simply to gain attention, and perhaps nearly as bad most of the time what he says doesn’t make any sense.
Now in what is almost without question his most desperate and pathetic grab for attention yet, White has launched a defense of himself by playing the race card. He claims he’s disliked, by fellow New York Film Critic’s Circle members at least, because he’s black. Slashfilm uncovered the following video in which, during an interview with Sirius XM’s Ron Bennington. Armond says of film critics and fellow New York Film Critics Circle members J. Hoberman and Lisa Schwartzbuam: “I do think that part of that not liking me is that I’m the only black man in the room.”
I’d never recommend anyone read anything Armond White writes, much less watch him speak, but here’s the video just in case you don’t want to take my word for it:
He goes further and seems to be attempting to accuse the entire New York Film Critics Circle (of which our own Katey Rich is a member) of racism. In the next video he says, “You’ve got to consider, The New York Film Critics Circle has been around for 76 years and in its entire history there have only been two black people in it? And I’m one of them? And I’ve got enemies, not because of anything I’ve done to someone, but simply because I’m there.”
It’s worth noting that when I called out White for his questionable reviewing earlier this year, the New York Film Critics Circle seemed to be one of the few groups willing to defend him. Amid calls for the critics’ organization to remove him, they’ve somewhat inexplicably stuck by him. His decision to attack them now would seem to be, at best, unwise. Like everything he does, it seems crafted simply to get him more attention, with no thought to the consequences of doing so.