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Did Top NY Critic Really Make Annette Bening Cry?

Annette Bening and Armond

Critic Thelma Adams calls bull on Gawker's claim Armond White made Bening weep at the New York Film Critics Circle awards. Hear Bening's tape for yourself, and see who you believe.

"World's Crankiest Critic Makes Annette Bening Cry at Awards Show," said Gawker, meaning NYFCC chair and Armond White, emcee of Monday's New York critics' awards, who traded verbal barbs with Darren Aronofsky. "Bening, tearfully, came close to lecturing critics for being mean little s----," one eyewitness told Gawker.

"Boo hoo. Didn't happen," says Adams, who was there too. "Bening was verklempt because it was a big evening for her...following an emotional introduction from her Mother and Son co-star Kerry Washington." White wants her to win for Mother and Son, not The Kids Are All Right. "I would be even happier than she might be," says White.

Bening's comparison of actors to delicate "gardenias" wasn't directed at White, Adams says. I think Bening doesn't look upset in the superb Jill Krementz photo of her with White at the event. And Bening's speech makes it sound like she's emotional for reasons deeper than the White/Aronofsky spat -- possibly even guilt over her getting a slam-dunk Oscar nom, made more likely by the New York win (though edged out by Natalie Portman's rising star), and the arctic freezeout her costar Julianne Moore got at NYFCC and throughout Oscar season.

"Julianne Moore, who's my partner, who isn't here tonight, but I thank [her] deeply because we did this together," said Bening, "and she came first, and she and Lisa [Cholodenko, director, also snubbed by NYFCC] asked me to the party, so I'm very lucky that Julianne was gracious enough to ask me to do it with her and to make it possible for me to do it in Los Angeles, and to be up here alongside Mark [Ruffalo, who also got an award and spent a lot less time on the film than Moore did]."

As for the Armond-White-Makes-Stars-Cry meme, Adams calls it "a total hit piece from friends of Village Voice [critic] Jim Hoberman . "There definitely is a phalanx of Jim Hoberman/Village Voice acolytes that is at odds with White. It's as apparent as the Hatfields versus the McCoys, the Capulets versus the Montagues. It came up during the voting where there was a table of folks encircling Hoberman and, at times, apparently, voting as a block. The conflict is both ideological and personal -- but I applaud Armond for being upfront, speaking his mind, standing strong, rather than twisting the facts in the press -- New York mag, Gawker -- to make him seem like less of a man than he is. He's not a back room wheeler-dealer."

White simply refuses to do the usual thing if you're an emcee, which is to make nice to the stars, and then go back to your desk the next day and rip them to shreds. He's a contentious critic 24/7, and if he disapproves of an award he's forced to give The Social Network by his group's vote, he'll say so.

White is all about getting his aesthetic across and NYFCC records into the Museum of Modern Art. He's a luftmensch averse to commerce. "Honestly, Tim. I no longer care about the Oscars," says White. "I still do hope, though, that people will vote for art and not for other nonsense, non-art reasons. If, by some miracle, Annette Bening was nominated for Mother and Child, I would be even happier than she might be."

This will happen when monkeys fly out of my Blackberry, on the same day that Armond White starts to bite his tongue. But White's big mouth did affect the Oscar race a bit, upping Bening publicity just when it was getting drowned out by Natalie Portman publicity, and making Aronofsky look like White's fellow loudmouth -- and then like a regular guy when Aronofsky admitted he'd been "a d---." Art and Oscar commerce both came out ahead.

(Photo © by Jill Krementz; all rights reserved.)

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