Samuel L. Jackson Attacks New York Times Critic A.O. Scott Over His 'Avengers' Review

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by Matt Singer
May 4, 2012 9:48 AM
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"The Avengers."
They don't call him Nick Fury for nothing.

Actor Samuel L. Jackson -- he who has ever so briefly played Nick Fury in "Iron Man," "Iron Man 2," "Captain America" and now, somewhat less briefly, in "The Avengers" -- took to Twitter yesterday to vent his spleen. He read A.O. Scott's review of "The Avengers" in The New York Times, it seems, and he was not happy. In response, he tweeted "ENOUGH is ENOUGH!  I have HAD IT with these MUTHAF$*KIN CRITICS and their MUTHAF$*KIN BAD REVIEWS!" Okay, he didn't actually tweet that (my buddy and ScreenCrush colleague Jordan Hoffman did, and I'm totally stealing his joke). Here's what he really said:

"#Avengers fans, NY Times critic AO Scott needs a new job! Let's help him find one! One he can ACTUALLY do!"

Now he didn't necessarily call for Mr. Scott's firing. But he certainly suggested that Scott is so bad at his job as the lead film critic for the New York Times that he deserves to be canned. Which is not especially cool behavior from a guy who, for more than a decade, has been perhaps our culture's #1 symbol of cool.

And what did Scott do to incur Fury's fury? Nothing all that severe. He certainly didn't attack Jackson personally in his review; he barely even mentioned him, pausing once in his piece to observe that Jackson's function in "The Avengers" "is more master of ceremonies than mission commander." That's one of only two times Jackson is mentioned by name, and the other is simply a credit as part of a character description.

Scott's review isn't particularly harsh. He favorably compares the film to "Rio Bravo" which, in my book, is one of the best compliments a manly action movie can get. Granted, he also unfavorably compares the film to "Transformers" which, in my book, is one of the worst compliments a manly action movie can get. My point is Scott didn't unload a cheap shot or even a savage and merciless takedown. It was a thumbs-down review, but it was a fair, honest, and intelligent one.  It was, in other words, an A.O. Scott review.

I saw this very small drama unfold on my cell phone in between movies during yesterday's Marvel Movie Marathon, which meant I had plenty of time -- mostly during the entertainment wasteland otherwise known as "The Incredible Hulk" -- to think of a response. Then I got home at an ungodly hour of the morning and couldn't sleep because the last 40 minutes of "The Avengers" is like Mentos and Diet Coke, ready to write the whole schpiel I'd cooked up, only to discover that Scott himself had already said all that needed to be said in a statement to E! News:

"I don't think Mr. Jackson is actually trying to get me fired. Actors and filmmakers sometimes respond angrily to negative reviews -- I can't say I blame them -- and Twitter is a relatively new and very public forum for that. Rallying 'fans' against skeptical critics is a time-honored tactic, and I don't take it personally...If I'm going to dish out criticism, I should be able to take it."

A thoughtful, classy response. And I think Scott's absolutely right. Film critics criticize, so they should be able to accept a little criticism themselves. When a film critic says an actor has "been miscast" what are they really saying? They're saying they should have been fired, but in a nice way.

And that's really the one part Jackson left out, the nice way part. It's great to see an actor so passionate about something he's made that he's willing to take a stand for it. That's kind of what "The Avengers" is all about. But doing it on Twitter, calling for a guy to be fired, encouraging your 800,000 followers to pester him isn't the most dignified way of going about it. That's kind of like bullying. And as I feel like I've said six hundred times this week, bullying is not what "The Avengers" is all about.

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6 Comments

  • jingmei | May 5, 2012 10:13 PMReply

    Why this happened on The Avengers.

  • bob hawk | May 4, 2012 11:51 PMReply

    Yawn . . . zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

  • stanisliski101 | May 4, 2012 12:42 PMReply

    When did critics become such lightweights? Even Scott said said he should be able to take it. Even for the few critics who disliked the film, Scott's comments were really out of the norm. I'm sure criticisms will be just written off as fanboy backlash, but technology allows us all to critique the critics. Welcome to the 21st Centuy, Scottie!

  • Gator Dance | May 4, 2012 11:46 AMReply

    Assailing the NYT critic for a so-so review for a not-good movie that is going to make a zillion dollars...one week after the NYT Magazine has given you a blow-job cover story about how you are the coolest guy on earth, the guy in the largest number of high-grossing movies on earth, covering up the number of lazy performances you have given in shitty movies over the years, strikes me as the kind of thing...uh...one might expect from an obscenely rich 65-year-old movie star.

    Mr. Jackson actually acted in "The Sunset Junction" and I look forward to his actual acting in "Django Unchained."

  • Ted | May 4, 2012 11:25 AMReply

    It's

  • Ted | May 4, 2012 11:27 AM

    Yeah, don't know what happened there ...

    It's a bit weird to get upset at a film reviewer, particularly one who is reviewing The Avengers. It's not some piece of art that we can really debate, it's kind of just a situation of whether you like it or not.

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