A conversation with film critic A.O. Scott

By Caroline Hall

Q: What do you love about movies?

A: They are entertainment, escapism, they are still a relatively inexpensive way to experience narrative.

Q: What made you want to be a critic?

A: For me, part of the enjoyment of music and movies was forming my own opinions about them. I was always interested in what people who seemed smart and interesting and good writers had to say about these things.

Q: What is the objective of a critic?

A: The job of a critic is to get a discussion going. If movies are worth the attention we give them, they are worth talking about.

Q: Do you go to many film festivals?

A: I haven’t gone to as many in the past few years as I previously had. The nice thing is in New York they do tend to come, we get a lot at the festivals.

Q: How many movies do you review a year?

A: I see around 300 to 400 movies a year and review about 150 to 200 for the Times.

Q: How do you think films today have changed how today’s generation view movies?

A: The specialness or uniqueness of going to the movies as a way of experiencing film narrative has changed — the uniqueness is certainly not there.

Q: What advantages/disadvantages do you think young film fans face?

A: Now you have better home viewing conditions than ever before. You have more and more stuff every year being rediscovered, restored and put back in to circulation. The challenge facing your generation is to get out from under all this history, do your own thing and do something new.

Q: In what ways are appreciation of film changing?

A: I think one way movies are changing is because there are so many different ways to watch them, the scale of them are changing. So, 3-D and other large scale spectacles are the way people are going to movies.

Q: Do you think the American audience will ever be fully desensitized to film content?

A: It’s funny because if you go back to “The Wild Bunch,” which at the time was shocking and controversial for its violence, now there is gore that puts that to shame. It’s a little difference with sex and sexuality. Compared to the 1970s there has been a retreat with how frank movies are willing to be.

Read the story about Scott’s Thursday speech here.