New York Times

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Jonathan Landman, the new cultural desk honcho at the New York Times, seems quite happy that he was able to hire Manohla Dargis away from the L.A. Times Calendar section. In his memo to the staff this afternoon announcing the hire, which follows, the Tony Scott he refers to is the NYT chief film critic A.O. Scott. For background, see my post yesterday breaking the news that the NYT had snatched up Dargis and two other L.A. Times staff writers. (Gawker also has the memo, cross-posted to Defamer)

To: The Staff
From: Jon Landman June 25, 2004

Our search for a new movie critic is over. We looked high, we looked low. We looked east, north and south. And west, which is where we found this:

"'Mean Girls’ so totally ♥'s mean girls."

And this:

"Hollywood was built on pulchritude, but for most of movie history our attention was principally focused on the desirability of its women, not its men. Norman Mailer wrote famously about Marlon Brando, but in the early 1970s he published a book about Marilyn Monroe.

"In the decades since, the women's and gay rights movements irrevocably altered how we look at men, on screen and off. Aided by new media outlets, these liberation movements freed the male body (or enslaved it, depending on your view), turning it into a socially acceptable field of desire and one very hot commodity. Finally, straight men could be exploited for their looks just like women by conforming to an ideal of beauty – ripped and stripped of hair – largely borrowed from gay culture.

"Gay or not, male actors and stars are more brazenly sexualized now, namely because they're also more feminized. In the past, Hollywood stars were unmistakably he-men; these days, they all whisper come hither like hard-bodied Marilyns."

Not to mention this:

"Why oh why did they make it like that,
oh why did they ruin ‘The Cat in the Hat’?"

These are clips from the highlight reel of Manohla Dargis of The Los Angeles Times, as lively, intelligent and passionate a picture show as you’re likely to find this side of Tony Scott. Manohla has been writing about movies for 17 years, in The Village Voice and LA Weekly among other places.

Now she will write for us. Observing the film scene from Los Angeles, Manohla will become our first-ever chief West Coast movie critic, joining Tony and Stephen Holden in a partnership that gives movie lovers something remarkable to look forward to. Tony will retain his title of chief critic and share the role with Manohla.

Nobody is more excited about this arrangement than Tony, and we could never have snagged Manohla without his enthusiasm, leadership and generosity. Tony wanted to work with, and be challenged by, the most interesting critic he knew, and that was Manohla. He was determined to help build the most exciting team of critics anywhere, and was happy to share the prerogatives of his position to do it.

Manohla will start on Aug. 2. Tickets cost a buck.

Nikki Finke comments on the Landman memo and updates her piece on NYT raid at the LA Weekly.


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