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Lane attended Sherborne School and graduated with a degree in English from Trinity College, Cambridge, where he also did graduate work on the poet T. S. Eliot. After graduation, he worked as a freelance writer and book reviewer for The Independent, where he was appointed deputy literary editor in 1989. In 1991, Lane was appointed film critic for the Independent on Sunday.
In 1993, Lane was asked by The New Yorker's then-editor, Tina Brown, to join the magazine as a film critic. Lane now shares the role with David Denby. He also contributes longer pieces on film subjects—such as Alfred Hitchcock, Buster Keaton, and Grace Kelly—as well as other aspects of literature (Ian Fleming and Patrick Leigh Fermor) and the arts (The Adventures of Tintin).
A collection of 140 of his The New Yorker reviews, essays, and profiles was published in 2002 under the title Nobody's Perfect—a nod to the final line of the film Some Like it Hot. A profile of the film's director, Billy Wilder, ends the book.
In his introduction to Nobody's Perfect: Writings from The New Yorker, Lane mentions five maxims that should be obeyed by anyone who, having tried and failed to gain respectable employment, has decided to throw in the sponge and become a movie critic instead:
The explanation for the 5th maxim is a good example of Lane's style:
Anthony Lane was awarded the 2001 National Magazine Award for Reviews & Criticism, for three of his articles:
Lane has also been nominated for National Magazine Awards on a number of other occasions, including