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The New York Times’ film critic A.O. Scott is moving to a new beat.
Scott, who has reviewed more than 2,200 films for the Times over the last 23 years, will shift to The New York Times Book Review where he will “write critical essays, notebooks and reviews that grapple with literature, ideas and intellectual life,” according to a memo to Times staff from Sam Sifton, Gilbert Cruz and Sia Michel Tuesday.
“In many ways this is a natural progression,” they added in the note. “Tony was a literature concentrator at Harvard, graduating magna cum laude in 1987, and is a graduate-school dropout in American literature (Johns Hopkins: thank you, next!). He started his journalism career as an assistant to Robert Silvers at The New York Review of Books and was soon contributing reviews there, as well as to Slate and, of course, to Newsday.”
Scott will leave the culture section for the Book Review in March, after the Oscars and 2023 film awards season.
Scott joined the Times as a film critic in 2000 from Long Island’s Newsday and was elevated to co-chief film critic in 2004, alongside Manohla Dargis, who remains the chief film critic for the paper of record. A Times spokesperson said that the outlet will be hiring another film critic.
With its international profile and large cosmopolitan readership, being a critic for the Times (be it in books, film, TV, architecture, restaurants, etc) means that everything you write will be thoroughly scrutinized. That was true for Scott as well, whose 2012 dustup with Samuel L. Jackson over a review of Marvel’s The Avengers garnered substantial media coverage (including from The Hollywood Reporter).
The memo from Sifton, Michel and Cruz is below.
On January 1, 2000, A.O. Scott joined The Times as a film critic, after working as a Sunday book critic at New York Newsday. Eleven days later, we published his first review, of the comedy “My Dog Skip”: “a relaxed, modest evocation of the mythology of small-town mid-20th-century American childhood, with its lazy summers, its front porches and picket fences, and its fat-tired, chromed-plated bicycles.” Four years later, he was named co-chief film critic, alongside Manohla Dargis.
Now, after more than 2,220 movie reviews and nearly 1,300 other essays, articles and appraisals, Tony comes full circle. In March, after the Oscars and the end of the 2023 awards season, he will move to The New York Times Book Review to write critical essays, notebooks and reviews that grapple with literature, ideas and intellectual life.
In many ways this is a natural progression. Tony was a literature concentrator at Harvard, graduating magna cum laude in 1987, and is a graduate-school dropout in American literature (Johns Hopkins: thank you, next!). He started his journalism career as an assistant to Robert Silvers at The New York Review of Books and was soon contributing reviews there, as well as to Slate and, of course, to Newsday.
A deep and abiding interest in books and ideas has been clear in Tony’s work here from the start. “It’s the job of art to free our minds,” he wrote in his 2016 book, “Better Living Through Criticism,” “and it’s the task of criticism to figure out what to do with that freedom.” And anyone who read his towering series about American novelists for the Book Review a few years ago, “The Americans,” can see in his work a desire to take measure of more than simply a cultural product, but of the culture itself.
Please join us in congratulating Tony on starting this exciting new chapter in his remarkable career.
Sam, Gilbert and Sia
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