A film and media critic for the New York Times, he also wrote for Slate and the New York Review of Books.
He began writing for the New York Review of Books, and joined the Times in 2000, rising to chief critic following the retirement of his colleague Elvis Mitchell.
On his Top Ten list of best movies of the 2000s, he listed Andrew Stanton's Wall-E at the top.
Both of his parents were professors, and his grand-uncle was Eli Wallach, the acclaimed method actor.
He was a disciple of Roger Ebert, writing about him in 2008 to say his clarity and down-home charm was the perfect antidote to self-important critics.