The 5 Most Purposely Outrageous Claims In Armond White's Greenberg Screed
Armond White thinks the world is out to get him. That maybe the only thing we agree about. Whether it is or isn't is another matter entirely, but the paranoia was never more crystalline or direct than he made it in his review of Greenberg. It's incredible, must-read stuff, however predictable after the recent semi-scandal encircling White and director Noah Baumbach; you'll remember a screening ban and White's subsequent defense, followed by the torpedo shot his way by a fellow New York critic who wouldn't let the NY Press writer get away without a fight. And so begins the latest chapter in Retroactive AbortionGate, which Movieline has helpfully parsed with a few annotations and first impressions.
1. This Greenberg jerk is Noah Baumbach's stock in trade; that he represents an authentic social ilk was proven after news of the disinvitation was made public and Village Voice film critic Jim Hoberman joined the crackdown, exhibiting his own case of Greenberg syndrome. [...] Publicists always want to control the media but Hoberman's viciousness typifies how the media has gone off the rails. His only solidarity is not with the critical profession but with publicists--the seat of power that rules the way movies are brought to market and traditionally consumed.
White has never made much of a secret of his distaste for the smugness of his peers, but implicating the respected Hoberman in the publicity-minded conspiracy framed here is really, really reaching. Especially in context: Shortly after publicist Leslee Dart alleged that White had once said Baumbach's mother -- erstwhile Voice critic Georgia Brown -- should have aborted him, White told Movieline: "[B]y now the 'abortion' line has been totally, completely, misquoted, reshaped, distorted--and unsubstantiated." He may as well have said, "Prove it." So Hoberman (or at least one of his assistants) did.
White has every right to be bitter for being enlisted in what hasn't amounted to much more than a notoriety grab for Greenberg. But blaming critics and/or journalists for taking a piece of bait he laid out himself is specious at best, and really just kind of crass at worst.
2. Fact: The following lines, from a June 3, 1998, review of Mr. Jealousy that appeared in New York Press, do not constitute a call for abortion: "I won't comment on Baumbach's deliberate, onscreen references to his former film-reviewer mother [Georgia Brown] except to note how her colleagues now shamelessly bestow reviews as belated nursery presents. To others, Mr. Jealousy might suggest retroactive abortion." The last line is not Oscar Wilde but it's also not a death warrant; its impact is in your inference. It clearly points out the clubhouse aspect of Baumbach's raves, then contrasts natal congratulations with their demurral. No more than that. The abortion quip is easily understood unless your goal is to besmirch another critic and wage a personal attack.
Fact: The abortion "quip" apparently isn't even easily understood by its own author. First "its impact is in your inference." But any inference other than the intended inference -- whatever the hell that is (I still don't get it) -- is all about taking White down a notch. As willing as I am to give White the benefit of the doubt even when I totally disagree with him, words have meaning. Furthermore -- and I can't believe I have to write this, especially as a reaction to someone as formidably smart as White -- no one is immune from interpretation on the basis of his or her job standing. Or did I misinterpret that part, too?
3. The abortion uproar seems more serious, but it's easily dismissed as a mere nit-picking gripe. Even if I had advised abortion (which I did not), fact is, abortion remains a hallmark of the privileged class that extols Baumbach. In fact, the casual acceptance of abortion is part of Greenberg's plot. It's practically an article of faith for these "liberals." Can Hoberman and Dart's objections to the very mention of abortion mean that they are, in fact, Pro-Life? (I remember Hoberman railing against Juno for choosing life while praising the Romanian abortion thriller 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days.) Can't wait to see Hoberman and Dart defend their Pro-Life position on the Glenn Beck show.
Wow. The Say Whaaaa? Singers are off today, but still: Say whaaaa? So... am I to take from this that Dart will be fired and Hoberman will be the next critical pariah because they would not prevent the Baumbach abortion that White never recommended? Pass the Aleve.
4. It's unfortunate to have to point out that it is also a racist lynching by white critics of a black critic. Fact: Year after year, Hoberman never even deigns to review movies with black subjects, and he passes this racist contempt on to his epigones. That's hegemony. He's also a force behind racist snobbery in the film festival circuit (which led to such cultural disasters as Precious, a New York Film Festival "Centerpiece Event" and critical favorite). To the unbiased, I am known as a critic who speaks truth to power; it will test our film culture's commitment to democracy if I suffer reprisals for the freedom of speech expressed in this article.
Oh. Well, I was about to say, "Cheap, lazy shot, Armond," except I'd hate to issue any reprisals that would compromise our film culture's "commitment to democracy." Never mind!
5. Greenberg is a mite less obnoxious than Baumbauch's other films (better photographed, too: I liked Harris Savides' image of Stiller barely swimming across a pool--possibly an homage to my joke that Baumbach was the rat at the bottom of Margot at the Wedding's pool).
Sweet Jesus, here we go again. I can hear Dart now: "Armond White said Noah Baumbach should be drowned!" Moving on...
· My Greenberg Problem -- and Yours [NY Press]