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Inside moves

N.Y. Times gets Elvis, Zanucks eye Crystal ball

Those wondering who will replace Janet Maslin as film critic at the New York Times have at least half an answer.

Elvis Mitchell, film critic for the Fort Worth Star Telegram and entertainment critic for National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition,” is in final talks to serve as one of two journos who will take over lead critic duties. He is expected to fly to Gotham to put the finishing touches on the deal on Monday.

According to sources within the Times, Mitchell and his fellow reviewer will divide the work equally. In the previous setup, Maslin wrote at least three times as many reviews as her No. 2, Stephen Holden.

Who will share Mitchell’s duties is still uncertain. The short list is believed to include ex-Wall Street Journal critic Julie Solomon, ex-Daily News critic Dave Kehr and current Entertainment Weekly No. 2 Lisa Schwarzbaum. Talks have fallen apart with one-time front-runner David Denby of the New Yorker.

Mitchell currently resides in Los Angeles, where he is known for his weekly radio show “The Treatment” for Santa Monica public radio station KCRW. He is now expected to move to New York. He was a film critic for the L.A. Weekly and TV critic for the now defunct L.A. Herald Examiner.

In the early 1990s, Mitchell did a six month stint as Par’s Director of Development. He was brought to the studio by then-topper Brandon Tartikoff.

The reason given for Mitchell’s dismissal was his refusal to stop reviewing movies on National Public Radio’s Saturday “Weekend Edition.” The studio called this a conflict of interest and he was axed by John Goldwyn. However, with Tartikoff no longer running Par, the move was seen by some as an excuse for house-cleaning.

A member of the National Society of Film Critics, Mitchell was honored this year with the American Assn. of Sunday & Feature Editors’ award for arts criticism for his Star-Telegram reviews.

He has had extensive broadcast experience, hosting KCET’s “Life and Times,” serving as a special correspondent for CNN’s “Newsstand: Entertainment Weekly” and guest reviewing on “Roger Ebert & the Movies.”

New York Times executive editor Joe Lelyveld would not confirm Mitchell’s hiring. “I make announcements to my staff before I make announcements to the world,” Lelyveld said in a statement.

* * *

NEW YORK — While no clear favorites have emerged so far in the Academy Awards derby, the most suspense right now is over who will get the nod in the category of host.

Richard and Lili Zanuck are wooing Billy Crystal to host the 72nd Academy Awards. Crystal bowed out this year because he needed a break, since he was promoting the comedy “Analyze This” and had a lot more on his plate. (Though Crystal’s aligned with a Warner Bros. remake of “Oh, God,” he is not going into production on any film in the near future.)

At the time he passed the hosting duties on to Whoopi Goldberg, Crystal left open the possibility he would return for his seventh hosting stint. At present, he’s made no final decision, but don’t be surprised to see him in penguinwear again soon.

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