Monday, December 22, 2008

At the Movies, 12/21/08

Ben Lyons, get off my show!
On last week's At the Movies, Ben Mankiewicz and Ben Lyons gave a "See it" and "Rent it" rating, respectively, to the excellent movie Doubt, then proceeded to talk about what is so wrong with it. The discussion was clearly shaped by Lyons's vacillating "Rent it" rather than Mank's relatively hearty (although a bit too critical) "See it". Mank didn't question Lyons's absurd rating--how can he really not recommend this movie?--or defend the movie, either of which could have produced an interesting discussion. Unfortunately, the same dynamic occurred this week in their review of the nearly universally panned Seven Pounds. Here is Lyons on the movie:

The film took so long to get going. The first 2/3 to 3/4 of it is really over-bearingly slow to the point when the plot comes together and there's a really cool twist at the end I just didn't care anymore . . . [The director] asks a lot of the audience without really getting anything for their hard work in return . . . The music in the movie was just an afterthought, completely distracting and awful. So I'm going to have to say "Rent it."

What?! So that's 3/4 of a boring movie, a twist at the end you don't care about and a really bad soundtrack, and somehow that doesn't deserve a "Skip it" rating? Mank did little better here, saying "See it," nodding in agreement when Lyons said it was mostly boring but then saying it got interesting just when he was about to check out, although the key points at the end do not really hold up after you think about them at all. So "See it"!

Suffice it to say, while I try not to be too influenced by the reviews on this show I think these guys have convinced me to skip it.

On The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Lyons said, "As much as I was watching the romance on screen, I was thinking about my own life and where I am at in my life's journey and timeline, it's a very introspective experience." This is the second time in recent memory (the other was the Frost/Nixon review) that he has talked about how a movie's deeper message somehow caused him to reflect on his life.

This certainly isn't a terrible comment to make about a movie. When Ebert talks about seeing the Third Man as a young romantic at a flea box theater in Europe, or how he has watched La Dolce Vita through various points in his life and seen himself in it, it really reflects the richness of the movies and how they become a part of our lives and personalities as we grow older. Coming out of Ben's mouth, though, comments like these just seem silly. Sorry Ben, but you just don't carry the same kind of weight to provide these insights--they simply come off as trite and pretentious.

Finally, Mank's 3 to See once again leaves us confused. He recommends The Wrestler, Gran Torino, and Seven Pounds. The first is his favorite movie of the year, the second he clearly liked but had some criticisms, but the last he basically said sucked and gave very few reasons to like it--other than it gets good in the last 3/4 although even that doesn't hold up. That means leaving off recently released movies like Doubt--which he said was a great movie except for the very last line--and Frost/Nixon. Has Mank forgotten these films already (I certainly haven't) or is 3 to See just being shaped to appear more "relevant" to the youth of today with their supposedly short-term memories? "Dude, Doubt came out like last week, why would I want to see old stuff? Let's go see that Will Smith movie instead--maybe he'll beat up some aliens."


Dan said...

One quote that I loved it when Benny boy talked about the "groundbreaking" Thomson Viper cameras that were used in Ben Button.

Um, Benny boy? Those Viper cams were groundbreaking.....4 years ago!! If I have to say groundbreaking I'd go with Soderbergh's Che which used pre-beta Red One 4K cameras compared to the Viper's measly 2K resolution.

I really wish that Ben would actually talk about the movie rather than pull out some goddamn trivia from Wikipedia or IMDB.

Scott said...

Yeah, I think he did just that in his review of Frost/Nixon as well. He singled out the woman who played Dianne Sawyer, even though she is so inconsequential that she has almost no dialogue (I think she has two lines, one off-screen, but it is hard to say).

Both Erik and I assumed that she was a "friend of Ben," but neither of us could find evidence to support that theory. Instead, it looks like he just looked her up on imdb and threw out the name to look like he knows what he is talking about--only to prove to the whole world that he does NOT know what he is talking about.