Monday, December 29, 2008

Criticwatch - Good thing Ben doesn't read newspapers

Erik Childress at Criticwatch, writing about this weekend's episode of At the Movies, says this after the first of many tirades against Ben Lyons:

This is precisely why Ben Lyons will continue to be the subject of ridicule. It’s not out of jealousy. It’s not because we have nowhere else to channel our hate. Dumbing down film criticism for the masses merely means keeping it simplistic. Not just thumbs up or thumbs down, which is just a star rating or lottery quick pick in another form. I’m talking about what marketers, studio publicists and quote whores have conspired to do in reducing movie reviews into easily digestible hyperbole even at the expense of just making them up from scratch. Sure, Lyons plays that game too, but he has taken it to a whole new level of dumb. We’re not just picking on this poor little dope. He just happens to be at the forefront of an expanding epidemic and he’s made no effort to prove he’s worthy of this inheritance nor IMprove to throw egg in the face of his distractors. He’s had nearly four months of on-the-job training and we need more Colonel Stauffenberg’s with one eye on what’s happening and keeping a blind eye to the various temptations and hypocrisies that Lyons has relished in.

Discussing the review of Revolutionary Road, Erik quotes Ben's thoughts on the movie:

Lyons: "I thought it was a wonderful display of acting and high cinema."

Oh, c’mon. [Erik continues] What studio is going to pass up on the opportunity to boast the words “high cinema” on their ad? Anyone who has seen a studio junket memo is aware that this is precisely what it looks like under the name of each whore providing 10-12 quotes a piece (or attaching their name to studio-written blurbs.) One of my favorites is when some jackass like Pete Hammond or Shawn Edwards pre-advertise a film as a “big hit” or a “surprise hit” even though the film hasn’t grossed dollar one yet.

By the way, speaking of "high cinema," Lyons gave a "Skip it" rating to Synecdoche, New York.

Finally, Erik quotes Ben's boss Brian Frons who defends him in the recent LA Times critique of our least favorite critic:

FRONS: “This is a guy who, if you sit and talk with him, he really does have an enormous love and knowledge base of movies. Did he spend 20 years as critic for a major newspaper? No. He's very much of the TV generation who don't spend time reading newspapers. I think we have a guy who is giving the information that audiences want to hear about film to make decisions about what to see."

Of course he has to support his boy, but my God! You could sit down at a party and find a guest who loves movies. You might even find one knowledgeable to kick Lyons’ ass in a game of xBox Scene It. I know a lot of guys who didn’t spend 20 years as a critic for a major newspaper who know more about the history of film than Ben Lyons. They are also part of the “TV generation” and I guarantee they’ve spent more than their share of time reading a newspaper or two. Perhaps Frons meant the internet generation who may not have ink on their fingers but read the papers in their online format. Frons may think this is what audiences want to hear about film, but that’s difficult to say when the show doesn’t really have an audience. Just remember - Jerry Jones said a lot of positive things about Wade Phillips too before seeing his Dallas Cowboys get slapped down 44-6 by the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend too. Frons was also the subject of a 2003 online petition to have his duties at ABC removed due to "rudeness" and an "inability to relate to his viewers."

Frons--are you really worse than Ben Lyons?

Read the entire article here.


John Saveland said...

It's horrifying. I love film, and film criticism is invaluable. I don't always agree with Roger Ebert, but he still has the power to change my way of thinking about something, or even to educate me on alternate views.

The same could be said for A.O. Scott, Ken Turan, Wesley Morris, Michael Wilmington, Stephen Hunter, Gene Siskel... need I go on?

How did Ben Lyons get a show?? Having an opinion on a film - even an opinion I agree with - does NOT make one a critic.

Hey, I think it's going to be sunny tomorrow. What do you know - I'm a meteorologist!

Dan said...

Someone needs to tell Brian Frons that there's a difference between loving the movies and knowing the movies. Benny boy Lyons doesn't do the latter. He is good at writing down trivia though.

Leonardo D'EspĆ³sito said...

As a Fipresci member, I can say that what Ben Lyons does is unethical. Film critics are not publicists for the major, but people who tries to think about movies and cinema, shares his opinion and tries to exercise the intelligence of the public and his own by discussing about the most popular -and compelling- contemporary art.
Best regards from Argentina.

n69n said...

Brian Frons & Ben Lyons...a match made in MEDIOCRITY.