Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Ben didn't drool"

A defense of Ben Lyons was posted by Steven Gaydos on Variety's blog "The Circuit," cleverly titled "The Ben Who Came In From the Scold" and based on Ben's interview of Laurence Fishburne at the Bahamas International Film Festival (my commentary follows):

Last time I checked the blogosphere, Lyons was getting pilloried in terms like "half-wit" and "starfucker," while getting accused of everything from nepotism (yes, Hollywood readers, believe and read on) to "destroying the fabric of American cinema," whatever that means.

There's even a website called I never saw a website called or one called and having never watched his show, I figured this guy must be pretty bad and/or stupid.

So when he sat down for the fest's highlight, an hour-and-a-half public chat with Laurence Fishburne, who was receiving the fest's Career Achievement award, I was stage-side with a drool bucket.

But surprise!

Ben didn't drool.

Instead, he did a lively, freewheeling discussion with Fishburne who was, absolutely no surprise at all, smart, charming, witty and generous with his insights about his three-and-a-half decades in the business . . .

Ben (never reading crib notes like some people I could mention) (me) also ventured onto political ground . . . Ben fielded questions from the audience, walked, talked and, if my eyes didn't deceive me, chewed gum at the same time.

As I have done several hundred interviews with filmmakers such as the one Ben had just done and I think I do a pretty good job and he did an even better job and looks a hell of a lot younger and than prettier than me, I made another discovery: Ben Lyons may be a starfucker but I suspect that most of his detractors are just fucking jealous.

I am not going to second guess the assessment of Ben's performance as I did not see it. But there are plenty of reasons to dislike Ben Lyons, among them (in case you missed it):

- He said that I Am Legend is "One of the greatest movies ever made", but could only find it in himself to call it the second best movie of the year. He also said that Goldeneye is his favorite Bond movie because he really liked the video game.

- It is not only the blogosphere that objects to Lyons but Roger Ebert as well.

- The "destroying the fabric of American cinema" comment (which used to be the tag line of this site) is OBVIOUSLY a reference to John McCain's ridiculous, hyperbolic attack on the community service group ACORN as "destroying the fabric of American democracy." ACORN was clearly doing no such thing, and Ben Lyons isn't either, but turning film criticism into an opportunity to get your name on a poster doesn't help.

- It's true, there is no, but Carrot Top did not replace Roger Ebert on At the Movies!

Finally, it is quite possible that Lyons conducted a very intelligent interview, but then why all this foolishness the rest of the time?


Dan said...

I don't mind Benny boy interviewing stars. I have a problem with Benny boy as a film critic who doesn't even have any film intelligence.

Anonymous said...

I suspect this might be a case of something coming of as a "success" because of very, very low expectations.

For instance, I once had a boyfriend I considered to be unattractive. He was very sweet but he was shorter than I was, older by nearly 10 years and not a looker. I warned my family about this so they wouldn't be surprised when they first met him. "He's a nice guy but I have to tell you he's not at all handsome".

When they met him, they were surprised at how normal-looking he was. "What were you talking about, he's perfectly allright-looking!".

"Really?! You think so?"

"Well, he's not handsome but you were making him out to look like Frankenstein. I'm actually pleasantly surprised."

The same thing with a situation where Ben Lyons does not make a complete and total ass out of himself. People give him points just for not being a complete cretin.

Scott said...

Yes, well, Jones said that he came ready with a drool bucket--but Lyons didn't drool. So I think you are right. Also, it's no surprise that he is able to keep himself from saying something really stupid (ok, maybe a small surprise) on the stage at a film festival, surrounded by real critics who are probably gunning for his job. But that doesn't excuse him from doing so on At the Movies--in fact, it makes it worse.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, the defense of Ben Lyons was written by Variety's Steven Gaydos and posted to Michael Jones' blog, so Michael didn't write it.

Scott said...

You are correct. I've changed the name in the posting to Gaydos.