Getting to the Bottom of the Great Armond White/Greenberg Meltdown of 2010
Get ready for White vs. Baumbach III: Word got out Monday night that famously irascible NY Press critic Armond White was barred from seeing a press screening of the forthcoming Ben Stiller/Noah Baumbach collaboration Greenberg, and that Baumbach himself joined Scott Rudin in issuing the lockdown."I was told this rescinded invite was ordered by director Noah Baumbach, producer Scott Rudin and their publicist," White wrote in an e-mail to his peers, citing distributor Focus Features' initial call on Monday. "They objected to my previous reviews of The Squid and the Whale and Margot at the Wedding. I objected that they were infringing upon my First Amendment rights as a journalist."
While neither Baumbach nor Rudin are commenting, their representative Leslee Dart begged to differ this morning -- sort of -- when she spoke with Movieline.
"We never ever banned Armond White from seeing Greenberg," Dart told me. "That was never implied or said. All we did was that I made a decision based on some heinous things that Armond has written and said in interviews with other people that are not related to his review of Noah's movies. He's entitled to not like Noah's movies or not think Noah's talented or any of that -- as every critic is. But he's gone on blogs and in interviews and said his parents should have aborted him. And that he's an 'asshole,' even though he's never met him. So needless to say it's a personal attack by Armond against a filmmaker he's never even had a conversation with. So I single-handedly -- not Noah, not Scott Rudin, but I, Leslee Dart -- called up Focus and said, 'I don't want this guy to be one of the first people to see this movie.' He'll see the movie; he'll make it in time to write his review about it. But there's no reason and there's no rule that says he has to be one of the first people to see this film. Focus supported my decision 100 percent, and that's the story." (Focus representatives declined to comment this morning.)
And what about that whole First Amendment thing? "It's just wrong," Dart said. "It's just not true. His First Amendment rights have not been violated. Like every film, there's a strategy on who sees a movie and when they see it, and this one has a strategy, too. It's not unusual."
On the one hand I get it, at least from a conservative PR perspective. To hear a few others familiar with the "strategy" tell it, they simply don't want White -- who does pretty openly loathe Baumbach and his movies -- poisoning a room full of critics at New York's first review screening Wednesday. On the other hand, I don't get it at all, because few if any mainstream critics are less ideologically influential among their own ranks than Armond White. That's not to say he's not "influential"; he's the current president of the New York Film Critics Circle, and when he gets on a tear (as he did last year when dismantling Precious, or shrugging off Mo'Nique's no-show at this year's NYFCC Awards), it really is something to behold. At its best, his brand of willful contrarianism has reach.
Dart might disagree ("Well, I think that the New York Press is the New York Press," she told me. "I don't think that audience is going to expand because of this"), but of course readers are going to flock to White's review once he finally gets a look at the film -- which he told me he will now see on Friday.
Pages: 1 2