A.O. Scott, the long-serving N.Y. Times critic (1999-2023) who’s shifting into book-reviewing, has tapped out a kind of farewell essay. Here are my reactions, including one unanswered question.

1. Why doesn’t Scott explain why he’s bailing? Does he feel like a burnt-out case? Okay, then say that and relate how he got to this point. What led to this presumed lethargy? What turned him off? Scott isn’t that old (56) but has reviewed films for the Times for roughly the same number of years that Vincent Canby did (23 or 24, give or take). So what’s the lowdown?

2. An unfortunate fact (and I take no pleasure in bringing it up) is that Scott, an excellent, highly perceptive critic for the better part of two decades, began to drink wokester Kool-Aid about three or four years ago, and in my humble view dented his rep to a proportionate degree. (Ditto Manohla Dargis.) On 1.17.22, I wrote about “a category of film lovers who have lifted off the planet so often and gone so far around the bend and outside of our solar system, caused for the most part by extra-passionate wokeness (which includes a rapt belief in the wondrous and transcendent benefit of abosrbing any and all films about POC characters, POC history and starring POCs), and who seem oddly committed to contrarianism for contrarianism’s sake (i.e., the Armond White syndrome). Due respect but after pondering A.O. Scott‘s recently posted list of the most award-deserving films of 2021, I have to acknowledge the possibility that even within his bizarre arena of N.Y. Times woke-itude, Scott may be even more of an eccentric than White, and that’s saying something.”

3. “Let’s not even mention Woody Allen,” Scott writes. No, let’s mention Allen and particularly Scott’s decision to wash his hands of this great Brooklyn-born artist, which for me was entirely foul and cruel and horrid. Allen is incontestably a great filmmaker — a man of considerable genius and relentless innovative creativity, a guy whose output has enhanced the quality and worldliness of American cinema over the last 55 years, and whose sterling reputation as a filmmaker will be remembered and cherished long after Scott and the other Allen denigrators have died and been forgotten.

4. Scott on Allen’s Match Point (’05): “It is the film’s brisk, chilly precision that makes it so bracingly pleasurable. The gloom of random, meaningless existence has rarely been so much fun, and Mr. Allen’s bite has never been so sharp, or so deep. A movie this good is no laughing matter.”

5. One of the finest opening paragraphs in the history of movie reviewing was contained in Scott’s 5.25.01 review of Michael Bay‘s Pearl Harbor: “The Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into World War II has inspired a splendid movie, full of vivid performances and unforgettable scenes, a movie that uses the coming of war as a backdrop for individual stories of love, ambition, heroism and betrayal. The name of that movie is From Here to Eternity.”

6. From Scott’s farewell essay: “I’m not a fan of modern fandom. This isn’t only because I’ve been swarmed on Twitter by angry devotees of Marvel and DC and (more recently) Top Gun: Maverick and Everything Everywhere All at Once. It’s more that the behavior of these social media hordes represents an anti-democratic, anti-intellectual mind-set that is harmful to the cause of art and antithetical to the spirit of movies. Fan culture is rooted in conformity, obedience, group identity and mob behavior, and its rise mirrors and models the spread of intolerant, authoritarian, aggressive tendencies in our politics and our communal life.”