Friday, January 2, 2009

Top Ten Ben Lyons moments of 2008

Obviously, this is more of a "greatest misses" than a "greatest hits" list. But let's be honest--it takes a Ben Lyons to make misses this great. Seriously, you know when you open your mouth and something stupid comes out, and you're embarrassed, and then forget about it forever? That doesn't happen with Ben. He says things on TV that are horrendously misguided and uninformed, and then we all laugh at him (not with him) in unison. And then we get bored and remember these moments and laugh our asses off all over again. That's what I mean by greatest misses--it's not easy being this unintentionally entertaining, but Ben makes it look effortless.

  1. Separated by a common language: Ben says of Happy-Go-Lucky "I didn't get all the British humor." Yeah, all those Gordon Brown, Neil Kinnock and Maggie crushing the Miner's Strike references. Oh, wait a second, there was nothing like that in the movie. He just didn't get it.

  2. Ben Lyons 360: No, that's not a new show on CNN sandwiched between Campbell Brown and Anderson Cooper. That's Ben advertising the new XBox 360 movie themed titles You're in the Movies and the trivia game Scene It? Box Office Smash. I wonder how high Ben actually scores on this game?

  3. Ben blurbs his buddies: Every time a movie premieres with a bit-part by one of his friends, Ben can't help but to gush all over them. The examples are too many to mention, but the most notorious are Edi Gathegi in Twilight, Christopher Mintz-Plasse in Role Models and Jamie-Lynn Sigler in The Sopranos. He also held his 27th birthday with all of his "friends" just to show how cool he is. Even the "Britney Spears of Korea" showed up, although that only begs the question: why is the "real" Britney too cool for Ben?

  4. Ben blurbs himself: Ben included The House Bunny on his list of the top films of the summer and didn't even have the decency to lie about the reason why. "Even though my dialogue was cut out of the film, Anna Faris was the funniest actress at the movies this summer, hands-down." Conflict of interest, anyone?

  5. He'll never tell: In his review of Quantum of Solace, Ben says "We know what the Quantum of Solace is and we're not going to tell." I actually fell for this and thought it meant something. It doesn't--it just means Lyons is a fool. Quantum is the new SPECTRE and I don't think the word "solace" is ever used in the film.

  6. The most unfortunate thing about Let The Right One In: “Something that’s really cool about the movie is that the director of Cloverfield, Matt Reeves, is now adapting this for American audiences. So we’re going to have this story come to theaters in the upcoming years in English.” 'Nuf said.

  7. Payne in the ass: "You know what hurts a movie like Max Payne is the success of the Batman franchise. That obviously is about story and character so they think for all films of the genre it’s gotta be about story and character and this whole backstory of him losing his wife. I don’t care about that. I wanna see Max Payne shoot people. That’s all I want from a movie like this." Seriously, I am so sick of subtle themes, characters with interesting back stories, motivations, and dramatic interactions. Just blow stuff up.

  8. Third times a harm: Ben gives High School Musical 3 a "Rent it" rating because that's better than seeing it at the theater and your kids are going to make you see it anyway, "Even though it may be cringe inducing for the rest of us." Ben single-handedly shows us what's wrong with the "Rent it", then continues to wield it like the blunt object that it is.

  9. Twilight-gate: First Ben gains notoriety for including the trailer for Twilight as one of his 3 to See for the week--instead of recommending a movie you can actually watch--presumably to appeal to his teeny-bopper audience. Then he slams Twilight and puts Let The Right One In on his Top Ten list in order to make up for his sins. But it was too late--the damage was done and he would forever be remembered as the Twilight trailer guy.

  10. Best Bond Ever!: During the Critics Roundup discussion of Bond films, Ben says "Personally, my favorite is Goldeneye 'cause that’s the first one I saw in the theater. It was the first one for Pierce Brosnan. And that was also groundbreaking outside of just movies 'cause that's when the first person action video game Bond franchise was launched which I wasted many hours of my childhood playing." No comment about whether he liked the movie.

Top five worst things to happen to Ben Lyons in 2008

In theory, Ben is not responsible for any of the below--he neither did nor said any of them. In reality, Ben is indirectly responsible for all of them.

  1. The Birth of the anti-Lyons blog: First Erik Childress launches the "Ben Lyons Quote of the Week" page at Criticwatch. Later, I launch the blog that would become For Ben, it was all down hill from there.

  2. Mank spanks Lyons: Realizing his own career and legitimacy is on the line, Ben Makiewicz takes it on himself to slam Ben after he says something stupid. First, he makes a habit of telling him to "Calm down," a feature of the show that became as prevalent as the Critics Roundup. Most recently, after Ben reviewed Bedtime Stories, Mank said "I don't know where to begin. I didn't like any part of this movie. You aren't right about any point you made in the entire review." Lyons responded by smiling for the camera.

  3. Ratings plummet: According to a Los Angeles Times blog, ratings for At the Movies with Ben Lyons fell by 23%. The LA Times would not be Ben's friend this year.

  4. How not to be Ben Lyons: Roger Ebert devises "Ebert's little rule book". On the surface, it appears to be a list of things critics should and should not do. In reality, it is a fairly explicit list of the worst things Ben Lyons has said and done.

  5. LA Times dubs Ben "The most hated critic in America": Chris Lee's article about Ben introduced Lyons to many people who had never heard of him and reminded others why they stopped watching At the Movies. For the rest of us, it legitimized everything we have been saying about the man now sitting in the chair once occupied by Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. In 2008, millions of people got laid off even though they didn't deserve it, including many film critics. Somehow, Ben Lyons kept his job. Where is the justice in this world?


Joseph said...

Of all the shit this guy has done, I think his worst sin is texting during the movies at the Toronto Film Fest. As Ebert pointed out, any critic doing it should be flogged.

Dan said...

I still think that Lyons NEVER saw Happy Go Lucky. I never got the British humor? What? I didn't find any of the humor in Happy Go Lucky to be particularly British.

Scott said...

What would be worse--that he never saw it, or that he did see and still reviewed it the way he did?

Anonymous said...

I have to defend Lyons on the "Max Payne" comment.

He's saying that what should be a blow 'em up flick is laden with backstory and angst.

Whatshisface (Robert Wilonsky?) said the same thing about the "Fantastic Four" movies. That compared to heavy and serious comic books movies like Batman Begins and others, they are refreshingly juvenile and cartoonish.

Cooler said...

I used to look forward to hearing Ebert and Roeper (and even Roeper and guest) having an intelligent conversation about film. Sometimes I agreed, sometimes I didn't, but I could always count on listening to two people who actually knew what they were talking about.

But watching the show with Mr. Lyons is truly uncomfortable. I sometimes feel embarrassed for him. His reviews are sometimes so sycophantic as to be laughable. I just can't take him seriously.

Looks like it's back to reading Roger Ebert's reviews online. said...

Hey Scott, I happened at your blog via the Huffington Post article Dec 28; thanks for your opinion. Here’s mine. I found your quote, "If [Lyons] wants to sit in Siskel's or Ebert's seat, he's got to prove he's worthy of our attention," Johnson explained. "What Ben says about movies, it’s not worthwhile. He seems to be doing the show more because he wants to be on TV than because he has something to say about the movies” fascinating, actually it seem to me an oxymoron of some sort.

Criticizing Lyons for his ambition (either unrefined or stately) “to be on TV” in the context of “Hollywood and television” [entertainment] industry struck me awkward. Isn’t the ambition of each person that ‘signs up’ to appear before the camera… “to be on TV” or on its 30’x’70’/52’x72 Imax counterpart?

I was confused why you think “What Ben says about movies, it’s not worthwhile,” when artistically the far majority of movies made (mainstream and independent) are not “worthwhile,” nor worthy of any person’s attention except the movie production’s accountant.

However, what is more incomprehensible to me is the assertion, let alone belief, that a person’s opinion (solicited or unsolicited) is not “worthy of our attention”; a censorship point of view it seems to me. It also seems to me that gauging a person or group of persons opinion of “worthy of our attention” is the act of elitism and step toward mass media oligarchy, perhaps.


Anonymous said...

Calm Down Linda.

Ben Lyons is a Tool, with a capital "T".
He just part of the Hollywood puppet regime, telling people what the studios want them to hear.
I think the reason he liked "Let the Right One In", was to seem more respectable. Truthfully, I don't think he saw it. He seems like the type of person who has no patience for subtitles.

As for the "Wanting to be on TV". I think what Scott was trying to say, it this guy would go on "Dancing with the Stars" if they asked.


Anonymous said...

Scott, check out Ebert's most recent blog entry.

There's a comment by a reader who asks Ebert what he thinks of Ben Lyons and the article recently written about him and Ebert responds "You have to be really somethin' for the LATimes to write an article like that."

Scott said...

Thanks or your comments, Linda. But I respectfully disagree.

Ben Lyons is a symptom of the Hollywood Industrial Complex and rather than challenging its mediocrity he revels in it. His comments are not worthwhile, in my opinion, both because the average film buff could give you a more complex and interesting analysis of the films they watch and because he is difficult to take seriously. He gushes about his friends and fawns over stars--it is hard to tell if what he is saying is serious criticism or just him trying to land an interview.

Much of what Hollywood puts out is not worthwhile, but Ben does not challenge it, he reinforces it. My opinion of Ben is not equivalent to censorship any more than criticizing anybody is censorship. It is the corporate media, ABC/Disney in particular (who produce At the Movies), who got rid of Roeper and Phillips, who are censoring more challenging critics in favor of at least one (Lyons) who will praise their unworthy efforts.

Challenging this mediocrity is part of challenging the corporate domination of American culture.

I hope to have more on this later in the week.

Anonymous said...

Im Scottish, so dont see At the Movies - but this man has grated my soul ever since he would pop up on E News while my sis watched it. I used to beg her to turn it off for 2 minutes as he used to anger me so much!!

Heres an old interview I stumbled across too:

Its just a regular interview but theres so many annoying name drops, andimagined in his voice it stings the brain - and whats with the wierd love for nick cannon? Do I just not get that cos Im Scottish - has he ever done anything of note in movies?

Anonymous said...

Scrap that, found out why -

de-liberatedmind said...

Anonymous, not sure how much exposure you’ve had to capitalism, particularly the American brand, BUT there is not one person working in Hollywood and the “entertainment” industry (behind or in front of the camera or microphone) that is not a Tool, with a capital “T”. It’s the nature of the beast or should I say business.

I so hate to burst anyone's bubble about Hollywood/entertainment industry but everyone that is in the entertainment “for-profit” (a.k.a. capitalism) business is “…telling each other what each other wants to hear.”

As for “wanting to be on TV” and Lyons scruples, well…I guess you haven’t been exposed to much Western traditional TV, Reality TV, commercials and infomercials, movies, magazines, internet, cable TV, billboards, concert promotion, merchandising, talk shows, wave of celebrity branding – they “ALL” not only would appear on “Dancing with the Stars” but are lining up to do so!! And for the “free” advertising exposure I too would get (if I were a “celebrity brand”) so would I!!

de-liberatedmind said...

You’re welcome Scott!

What else are Hollywood and the (for-profit/capitalism) entertainment industry but an “industrial complex.” Is there any other type?

I apologize for misunderstanding you, but when I read your viewpoint all I can think of is elitism and mass media oligarchy. Otherwise why (by what rule and authority) must Lyons opinion, my opinion, and 6 billion other folks opinion “give you a more complex and interesting analysis of the films they watch” in order for our opinion to be “worthwhile” and appreciated.

So then ALL “opinions” are suppose to be the same; suppose to meet a preset criterion (set by whom?); suppose to meet your expectations, the LAT’s expectations; suppose to meet Roger Ebert’s expectations (whom I have always admired mostly cause he’s married to a sistah); suppose to meet NYT’s expectations, Criticwatch expectations, and God only knows whose elses?

Ben Lyons is not a symptom of Hollywood entertainment capitalism – he is an employee and beneficiary no less different than any other critic for hire. He and every critic for hire must meet the expectations of their supervisor, corporate executives, and advertising sponsors in order to get his paycheck every two weeks; and so do I and anyone who works/lives/thrives within a capitalist society.

History proves what happens to societies which control mass media, censor and oppress free speech. The virtue, health and well-being of true democracy not only protects and ensures Lyon’s right to his mediocre or otherwise opinion (which his employer is paying him to proffer) but wholly thrives on it.

Lyon’s is not a symptom of Hollywood entertainment capitalism – he is one amongst millions of its “entertainers” (in front of and behind the camera and microphone) which the corporate-owned and operated show is on-air to do (for a profit!) at whatever artistic value the producers create.

The show is the canvas. The host is the painters. Siskel and Ebert painted their portrait; Lyons and Makiewicz paint theirs; and you and I paint ours.

Opinions are creative expressions of each individual. Challenging the worthiness of opinions is challenging the worthiness of all creative expression.