Scott joins 2 for Times critic spot

Newsday reviewer, Mitchell, Holden to take over for Maslin

A dark horse has emerged as the winner of the final New York Times film critic spot.

A.O. “Tony” Scott, a book reviewer for Newsday’s Sunday Book Review, will be joining current Fort Worth Star Telegram film critic Elvis Mitchell and current New York Times No. 2 film critic Stephen Holden as the replacements for Janet Maslin, who will be leaving the paper at the end of the year.

Along with Scott, Times culture editor John Darnton said the other finalists for the job were former Wall Street Journal film critic Julie Salamon; former Daily News critic David Kehr; the New Yorker’s David Denby; and Daily Variety’s Todd McCarthy. More than 50 critics were considered.

A newcomer to film reviewing, Scott was an editor at the New York Review of Books and a frequent contributor to the Sunday Times Book Review before joining Newsday.

The Times contacted Scott about the position a little over a month ago, after reading an essay Scott had written about Martin Scorsese which appeared in the online magazine, Slate.

Darnton said the paper was looking for, among other things, “new voices and younger people. They’re writing about a medium that has instant appeal to young people.”

Mitchell turned 41 Monday, the same day he was in Manhattan confirming the job. Scott is 33; Holden is 58.

Rather then having a traditional lead critic, the Times will be trying a new system: The three critics will divide assignments on a rotating basis or roughly appealing to their areas of expertise. Scott said that he will likely focus on independent and foreign films.

Darnton said hiring more critics is a response to the increase in the number of films being produced and a desire to cover more European and indie fare.

“The job is too much for just a lead critic and a second string,” said Darnton. “The job should be fun. It shouldn’t be a (chore).”

With a slightly lighter load in the daily, all three, but particularly Holden, will be encouraged to write for the Sunday Arts & Leisure section.

Darnton said Holden would be doing perhaps two features per month for the section. But though they’ll be writing for the Sunday Arts & Leisure section, there won’t be a separate Sunday critic. The daily paper will be the only venue for reviews.

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