Tuesday, September 8, 2009

‘At the Movies’: Intelligent film criticism returns to TV

The movie review TV show “At the Movies” returned to form over the weekend with two new hosts – the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips and the New York Times’ A.O. Scott.
I gave up on the show last year when it morphed into “Entertainment Tonight” meets “Crossfire” under new hosts Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz. The two Bens were woefully unqualified.
Disney-ABC’s decision to hire Phillips and Scott was a smart one. Both are funny and intelligent and have impeccable credentials. They know that film criticism is about more than whether a movie is good or bad, but that films are an art form that can make larger statements about society and culture.
Phillips and Scott both guest-hosted the show with Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper during its 2006 through 2008 version.
The new hosts are the best pairing since the original team of the Chicago Tribune’s Gene Siskel and the Chicago Sun-Times’ Roger Ebert. Siskel & Ebert were perfectly matched. Siskel was the snooty intellectual and Ebert was the street-smart everyman.
If you missed the premiere episode with Phillips and Scott, their reviews of such movies as “All About Steve” and “Extract” are available online. (Check out the “At the Movies” Web site.)

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