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IRS vs. Elvis Mitchell

IRS vs. Elvis Mitchell

Thompson on Hollywood

Folks in the arts aren’t always good with money. (I’m not.) But Annie Leibovitz and Elvis Mitchell belong to another class altogether: people who hobnob as a matter of course with culture mavens, beautiful people, artists, filmmakers, actors and patrons of the arts who are much much richer than they are. Since Mitchell left his job as film critic at the NYT in 2004, he has taught at Harvard, hosts a weekly interview show The Treatment on KCRW FM as well as Turner Classic Movies’ “Under the Influence,” and produced the Timothy Greenfield-Sanders HBO documentary, The Black List. He’s a fixture on the film fest and lecture circuit. And he still gets the occasional writing assignment.

But let’s face it. Mitchell likes to live large. (New York Magazine has described him as “flamboyant.”) On one recent visit to L.A., Mitchell shacked up at the Four Seasons. He has been known to jet off to play in far-off locations with the likes of Quentin Tarantino.

In 2008, Mitchell was caught crossing the Canada/U.S. border with $12,000 in undeclared cash. Now the New York Post reports that the IRS is chasing Mitchell for some $500,000. Now that’s a lot of money.

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Gerald Fnord

Annie Leibovitz is not someone 'who hobnobs with' artists: she _is_ one. And to the extent Mr Mitchell can write criticism and do interviews that seem interesting to me, he is one, and I don't care how shallow he often sounds—Tolstoy was an ass in person, Kafka (according to a relative I know) was not intersting, just depressing…and all the sins you mention here and elsewhere mean little to me given that I will read Céline, listen to Wagner, and might even drive a Ford someday.

«L'homme n'est rien – l'œuvre c'est tout.»—it doesn't mean I'd hire him, but barely anyone has to.


Elvis is an equal opportunity scammer and thief. Beware of this guy and hide your wallets.


What is the deal with Elvis and these women? Why does he lie to these women? What does he do? WOMEN BEWARE!


Too bad. You missed the exciting part.


Brian, I’m not surprised you like A.O. Scott. Your comment was so boring I couldn’t get through it. Birds of a feather. . .


Never a fan of Mitchell. I was glad when the Times booted him. I much prefer the current critical lineup at the NY Times to any previous lineup in the past. (Although I miss all the great 2nd string critics like Frank S. Nugent–remember him?–Howard Thompson, and esp. Roger Greenspun.) A.O. Scott is quite knowledgeable about film and IS a good writer, even if he’s a little too middlebrow for my tastes, although not as bad as Bosley Crowther, the king of middlebrow who set back the cause of film criticism by some 30 years. I like Manohla Dargis a great deal and have been a fan of hers since she wrote for the Village Voice some 20-odd years ago. And Stephen Holden is a good 3rd-string critic. And some of the others on their team aren’t bad either. Vincent Canby was an excellent writer, but he didn’t know that much about film. Janet Maslin was terrible and I’m glad they moved her over to review best-selling novels and celebrity bios. Mitchell wasn’t as terrible as Maslin (“Titanic is the new Gone with the Wind”), but I never felt he was a good fit with the Times. If he had joined Armond White over at the New York Press, I wouldn’t have minded at all. I never listen to NPR, so if he does anything over there, I wouldn’t know.


We forgive people in the vocations certified as creative a lot more leeway to screw than mere critics or broadcasters, it seems. Elvis has always been good at self-promotion (wish I was, don’t you?) but he also delivers. He was an excellent, funny movie critic and possibly an even better interviewer. I hope he gets past this so that he can carry on doing good work. Otherwise I could care less.


This guy Mitchell is a joke. I knew him back in the day when he looked like Urkel, and then he attaches these phony dreadlocks and puts on the big soul brother routine and becomes a hotshit critic. He lies to his editors, he lies to his girlfriends, he lies to his benefactors at Sony, and he bounces from job to job endlessly. What’s worse is that horrible laugh he does whenever he’s interviewing someone on that radio show where he puts on that silky Barry White voice he thinks is so damn cool. I hate it when an interviewer tries to curry favor with the folks they talk to by laughing at every single nonsensical thing they say, like they’re so friggin’ amusing. Anyway, hopefully the IRS has less tolerance for Elvis’s b.s. than every editor has had up to this point — I don’t think the Taxman goes for the whole “The Man is putting down the black folk” routine that Mitchell pulls out whenever he’s in trouble (see his comments when he was busted at the Canadian/US border for carrying $12,000 in cash socked away in a cigar box — of course it was whitey’s fault that Elvis doesn’t trust banks.)
The only Elvis worth his salt was Presley, and maybe Costello up until Punch the Clock. . . .Mitchell is as phony as his Kiehl’s-massaged dreads.

Ginger Liu

Would any of you have such sympathy for an every day working class guy who was trying to make ends meet? I hate this double standard!

Ginger Liu

Crooks come in all shapes and sizes…I am never surprised…


Wow, I didn’t realize someone could get taxed for being overrated. Never was a fan of his.

Tommy Rector

I can see how it would happen, but am disappointed that he let it happen. His is a brilliant mind for film and history, and is one of the best critics out there. I hope his “cronies” reach out and help him, rather than shun him, and he can put his life and career back together.


@ Mark Brinton:

Ummm…from this article, it sounds like Elvis thought HE WAS one of the guys at Goldman Sachs: hiding money, evading taxes, living large when you can’t afford it. I like him, too, but, come on…

Joseph Angier

500,000 in unpaid taxes? That implies a whole lot of undeclared income (unless the bulk of that amount is punitive). And it’s a lot more income than you get from NPR and even HBO. Could it be from his earlier foray into screenwriting?


So, if he wants to live large, then get a project and produce it. I’ve got no sympathy for people who want to live the big life, but don’t want to take the big risks.


And one other thing is that Elvis defiitely knows his watches. I”ve hung out with him and he noticed and surprised that I was wearing a 30 year old Wittnauer Atuomatic and could tell me every detail about the watch and even that I had it repaired just by looking at it.

Mark Brinton

That is sad. I get that he likes to live large but the man is a great film scholar. It is to bad that this has to happen to distinguished members of our soicety, while the guys at Goldman Sachs get more money.

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