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NYT Critics Dargis and Scott Weigh In On Everything That Rankles Them About the Film Industry

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood May 6, 2014 at 12:35PM

The NYT has published a fairly fabulous series of "emails" from their two top film critics -- that would be Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott -- openly addressed to a number of groups throughout the industry, including everyone from Megan Ellison and Sony to "directors," "Hollywood liberals" (with Amy Pascal and Steven Spielberg CC'd) and "everyone who is freaking out about the new Barbie and Peeps movies." In other words, they're cutting a wide, mischievous swath. Read some excerpts, below.
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A.O. Scott
A.O. Scott

The NYT has published a fairly fabulous series of "emails" from their two top film critics -- that would be Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott -- openly addressed to a number of groups throughout the industry, including everyone from Megan Ellison and Sony to "directors," "Hollywood liberals" (with Amy Pascal and Steven Spielberg CC'd) and "everyone who is freaking out about the new Barbie and Peeps movies." In other words, they're cutting a wide, mischievous swath. Read some excerpts, below.

They also take a swing at things they believe to have been blown out of proportion (Scott tells TV and its oft-mentioned Golden Age to get over itself -- but CC's movies, too), at professions close to home (Dargis tells film critics to stop being so damned self-absorbed), and at that digital monolith called the internet (Scott says we shouldn't be confusing quantity with quality).

The "emails" below appear only in very small part -- head over to the NYT to read the memo in its entirety.

To: Everyone who is freaking out about the new Barbie and Peeps movies.

From: A. O. Scott

Subject: Calm down

“The Lego Movie” was really good! And while I wouldn’t necessarily say the same of the “Transformers” franchise, that Hasbro-Paramount corporate mind-meld, as realized by Michael Bay, has its own kind of aggressive capitalist integrity. Whether we like it or not, mass-produced plastic toys are objects of affection and vehicles for the imagination, as the “Toy Story” movies so brilliantly proved. And since commercial movies are clogged with distracting and clumsy product placements anyway, we should applaud rather than complain when the studios cut out the coyness and obliterate the near-obsolete distinction between entertainment and advertising…

 

To: Sony

Cc: A.O.S.

Bcc: The ghosts of D. W. Griffith, James Agee, Ben Hecht, Pauline Kael, David O. Selznick, etc.

From: M.D.

Come on — a Barbie movie?!


To: Television

Cc: Movies

From: A.O.S.

Subject: Get over yourselves

American popular culture is acting out a version of the parable of the prodigal son. The younger sibling, a habitual underachiever, is now basking in glory while the firstborn suffers from neglect. The current conventional wisdom holds that television has entered a golden age while movies are in a period of decline. Those are dubious notions for many reasons — for one thing, a lot of TV is still really terrible, and a lot of movies are really good — but there is no doubt that the small screen has snatched some of the cultural prestige that cinema has long regarded as its birthright.

Reports of this rivalry tend to understate the creative overlap and corporate codependency of the two art forms...


To: Movie critics

From: M.D.

Here’s an idea: how about we all stop writing about ourselves, about other movie critics, about other critics’ opinions, about the state of criticism and about what criticism should and should not be. How about we just write about, you know, movies?


This article is related to: News, New York Times, News


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.