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September 4, 2015

A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips on revitalizing At The Movies

by John Scott Lewinski, posted Oct 23rd 2009 3:02PM
A.O. Smith and Michael Phillips head up the new season of At the Movies.It looks like the new crew at Disney's At the Movies is turning the ship around.

The new series run with fresh hosts (New York Times film critic, A.O. Scott (left), and Chicago Tribune film critic, Michael Phillips (right)) has gone 180 degrees in the other direction from the lighter, more sensationalized previous season.

Last year's host combination of Ben Mankiewicz and Ben Lyons often came off more glib than informative -- leaving both critics and fans wondering what happened to the more measured, analytical tone of former hosts Roger Ebert, Richard Roeper and the late Gene Siskel.

Between the two of them, Scott and Phillips bring decades of entertainment writing and critiquing experience -- combining a love of movies with a willingness to tick off the Hollywood powers that be when necessary.

But, do Scott and Phillips feel any ongoing pressure to distance themselves from the tone of the previous scene?

"I think our intention all along was to just be ourselves," Scott said.

Phillips agreed: "I think that's why we were brought onto the show -- because of our experience and our enthusiasm. But, if we tried to be something other than ourselves, the audience would sense that."

Though each host writes for prestigious major daily newspapers, neither one seeks to hold some snobby court to judge the movie business. In other words, they don't insist on living exclusively in their local art house theaters.

"I love a good big budget movie as much as I enjoy any smaller film," Phillips said. "That's the issue, though. It has to be good. It is possible to make a blockbuster that tells an effective story with interesting characters. You just don't see that happen in every case."

In fact, Scott selected one of 2009's biggest hits as one of his favorite films of the year.

"If you look at a movie like Up, there's a film that made a huge amount of money. But it was also very genuine, very emotional. i enjoyed it. Kids enjoyed it. It had a great heart. I thought it really was one of the best movies of the year -- and it was made for a mass audience."

Phillips had much the same thing to say about the Neil Gaiman animated movie, Coraline. He cited the Henry Selick-directed as a film that reached behind the typical conceits of a summertime animated movie.

"It really was a skillfully made horror film for children," he said. "I think it was marketed incorrectly because it really went beyond what you'd expect from a summer movie."

As for films that didn't work from the past summer's crop of releases, both men were quick to point out the long-winded, bizarrely incoherent and often offense Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen -- citing it fit right in with the trend of big, loud and mindless big-budget action movies.

But, Phillips cited another genre he's grown tired of lately: "I've seen enough of these angry women movies. It seems like we're getting movie after movie featuring a professional woman in her 30s who's immensely dissatisfied with her life. Unhappy with her job. Unable to find a relationship. I'm concerned that's an image of a professional woman Hollywood is putting out there."

For now, as this first season rolls on toward the holiday movie and award season, both Scott and Phillips will go on being themselves.

Scott added, "We wanted to bring forward our love of movies and be as genuine as possible."

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I agree on the "Angry Woman" character in the sense that you are to beleive whatever she had done up to no was worthless and suddenly this character (also single) shows up out of the blue with the princess rescued. Blaggh.

It helps that Phillips and Scott had some previous screen time as fill-ins for Ebert before the came on full-time. That made their acceptance easier as we already knew them. And they are good reviewers, with sensible reasonings for their views.

October 23 2009 at 4:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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