July 21st 2008, a day to live in infamy. We have been subjected to so much nonsense since then, especially out of the mouth of Ben Lyons.
I did not expect much from the post-Ebert At The Movies--I could not help but think that the "new direction" the show was going would not be a good one, especially after hearing something about more red carpet interviews. But as a long time viewer, I had little choice in the matter.
I have not been eager to watch At The Movies since then, only catching bits of it on occasion because that is what I am so used to doing on Sunday night at 6:30pm. I was immediately unimpressed and not eager to watch again.
But this past Sunday I turned it on out of habit and realized that the situation is just no longer tenable. Not only do I need a more serious film review show on TV, but more importantly BEN LYONS NEEDS TO BE STOPPED! He is making a mockery of one of the hallowed institutions of popular American film-going.
In particular, two reviews stuck out. First, on the new movie What Just Happened starring De Niro as a Hollywood agent, Ben goes so far as to say that he liked it because he is a Hollywood insider but he cannot recommend it to most people who might not understand it. This is preposterous, offensive nonsense. The role of the critic, as Roger Ebert once wrote, is not only to reflect popular opinion but also to shape it. If a critic enjoys a movie, they should say why and defend it. If the majority of the audience might not follow it, it is the job of the critic to urge them to view more movies (or literature or theatre or whatever) not to dumb down their recommendations to the lowest common denominator. Ben even says that it "Doesn't have the commercial appeal of something like Entourage. It's a little more adult than that."
Gee Ben, are you just trying to tap into the commercial appeal of a movie and ride its coattails, or are you willing to say why a movie which might not have commercial appeal--starring De Niro, Sean Penn, and Bruce Willis!--is worth seeing. Granted, I am sure it is no I Am Legend . I guess this is Buena Vista Entertainment's method of appealing to young people--dumb it down. Oh, and by the way Ben, you are NOT that much smarter than the rest of us. Not by a long shot.
In another review of The Secret Life of Bees, Ben seems to have no grasp of what makes a movie worth seeing. He defends it by saying it is about acceptance, understanding, etc. then accuses his co-star of not understanding or caring about these issues because he did not like it! Again, his co-star says there is no compelling reason to see this film, to which Ben (Lyons) responds that seeing a young actress (Dakota Fanning) at this stage in her career is reason enough.
What?! I am not defending or slamming the movie--I have not seen it. But this is not film criticism--this is talking about a film. But, to cite Ebert again, a movie is not what it's about, it is how it's about it. Ben's reviews, on the other hand, wallow in third grade book report territory. We need a seasoned mind with a firm grasp of how a film works and an ability to help others appreciate it.
This needs to stop NOW. Buena Vista Entertainment made a huge mistake in taking the show in a "new direction". By the way, I started watching this show in high school, when it was Siskel & Ebert, and I never thought twice about the age of the guys I was watching. I loved it because they, like me, loved movies and new a hell of a lot about them--much more than I did.
It is time to bring that back.