At The Movies Retrospective Pt. 2: Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott

One part in and this four-part series has already proven to be a humiliating failure. Oh, well, it’s not like I have anything better to do. After all, you can only watch so many old episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond before you’ve seen them all, and have to say enough, it’s time to do something productive.

So here’s my opinion on Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott.

For their first few weeks on the air, Phillips and Scott (film critics for the Chicago Tribune and New York Times, respectively), were a breath of fresh air. Not that it was difficult outperforming their predecessors, but actually having two legit(imate) critics on the air was a nice change after the year-long piece of wet diarrhea stank produced by the Lyons/Mankiewicz combo.

But after awhile, the new At The Movies format started to formulate a mildly pungent aroma of its own. While both critics were fairly likable, neither one of them was particularly engaging on camera.

Sure Gene Siskel, Roger Ebert and even Richard Roeper could sometimes behave in a rather petulant way, but it was that pettiness which made them consistently worth watching. The three hosts mentioned above were usually able to effectively straddle the informative/entertaining line; a skill set which was missing with those who tried to follow in their footsteps.

And in a certain setting, maybe Scott and Phillips (I alternated the names to make this article more entertaining. I’m getting chills just thinking about the response I will get for this act of spontaneity) could have been worth watching. The problem is, they weren’t able to do so together, and the reason was simple; they were essentially one person split into two bodies.

Week after week, the two agreed on movie after movie. Whether it was simultaneous recommendations of panned movies (the second Twilight, Step Up 3-D), or duel lashings of movies receiving a more positive reception from the critical community (Kick Ass, Shutter Island), the two seemed to be on the same wavelength at all times, which ultimately makes for pretty boring TV.

Even on the rare occasions when they did have a noticeable disagreement, the debate always remained pretty tactful. Now is it ridiculous to criticize two grown men for not resorting to childish name-calling while reviewing a movie? Perhaps. But as I stated in my previous review, the anticipation of screaming and name-calling is what made At The Movies so great in its heyday, and without it, it became just another movie review show.

Final Words:

Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott are both respectable movie critics, who seemed to possess a good understanding of films and film history, as well as a fairly endearing sense of self-deprecating wit, and I have no doubt they would be pleasant people to discuss movies with.

But ultimately, you can’t say the phrase “competently dull” without the word “dull,” and while they could have perhaps made a go in another format (come to think of it, pairing one of them with either jerk-off Lyons or Mankiewicz could have made for entertaining television), together they simply weren’t entertaining to watch.

Final Score: 5.5/10

My third and fourth reviews in this retrospective series, assuming I continue on with them, will be up in a matter of days.

To read my evaluation of Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz (I’m pretty close to sniffing double digits!) click here.

2 thoughts on “At The Movies Retrospective Pt. 2: Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott


  1. First off, this series is maybe the greatest idea in the history of journalism.

    Secondly, A.O. Scott has long been my go-to critic, both for opinions on movies and when I needed a name to pretentiously drop in regards to a particular movie.

    “Well, A.O. Scott of the Times loved it.”

    Having said that, I don’t understand why anyone who writes for the Times would ever be expected to be entertaining in any other medium. They hire writers, people, not TV stars.

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