Film reviewer A.O. Scott on critic as artist

A.O. Scott [photo: Carmen Henning]
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As chief film critic for the New York Times, A.O. Scott knows he's got a target on his back.

"People would find out who I was or I'd be introduced to someone at a party and they'd say, 'I want my money back.  I went to this movie you liked and I thought it was terrible and it's your fault!" Scott said.

This weekend Scott comes to Northeast Ohio to accept The Cleveland International Film Festival's first-ever Distinguished Award of Appreciation.

For Scott it's a challenge to be a critic of something that most everyone has an opinion about - movies.

"If someone went to a movie and laughed the whole time or was terrified or was moved to tears, you can't tell them they weren't," Scott admits.

Since becoming the Times' chief film critic in 2004, Scott has learned to broaden his taste.

"One of the peculiar things about being a film critic is you don't really have a choice.  I can't say, 'well I don't like science-fiction movies or I'm too much of a chicken for horror movies so I'm not going to review those.'  I have to review what comes."

Scott explores what it means to be a critic today in his new book Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think about Art, Truth, Pleasure and Beauty.  In one chapter he compares the critic to the artist that he or she reviews.

"Critics are artists in the sense that we're trying to make something.  We're trying to create something and to use the tools of our craft to express ourselves.  It happens that the occasions, the things that are inspiring expression or our creativity, are the creative works of other people," Scott said.

Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. A.O. Scott takes part in a one-on-one conversation with Plain Dealer film critic Joanna Connors at The Ritz-Carlton Cleveland, presented by The Cleveland International Film Festival.

Listen to Dan Polletta's interview with A.O. Scott Wednesday at 12:33pm and 1:40pm on 90.3 FM during Here and Now featuring the Sound of Applause.



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