Friday, February 27, 2009

Criticwatch - Ben there, done that

Erik Childress from Criticwatch responds to the Associated Press article on At the Movies:

The Ben Lyons Quote of the Week is in its sixth month of existence and in that time there hasn’t exactly been a groundswell of disagreement in its position (and the position of many) that Ben Lyons has no business being anywhere but on the publicity machine of E!, smiling away through puff pieces and being their official “film expert.” Which is like Rod Blagojevich winning a follicle award against Otto Kerner, George Ryan and Dan Walker. Congratulations! The only one who has come out with any sort of defense for Lyons has been Cenk Uygar, who was Ben Mankiewicz’s former radio show partner. Way to show that liberals won’t just defend anything, Cenk. Guilt by association is not always the fairest of criticism. Parents will speak up for their children, friends will play devil’s advocate when defending their closest and colleagues will command a professional respect for those in the same field. At least those they believe are professional.

This week, Associated Press writers Lynn Elber and contributor Caryn Rousseau have released a piece called “At the Movies critics dish it out, take it too.” I was interviewed for it several weeks ago, so the timing of it is rather circumspect. During Oscar week, Lyons and Mankiewicz were being trucked out on talk show after talk show giving their picks and having to listen to Joy Behar wonder if The Reader had too much sex for a Holocaust film. Even they don’t deserve such torture. But as the pair have had nearly as many reruns this year (of their Best, Worst and Oscar shows) as new broadcasts, it’s almost as if the Disney powers that be are hoping that getting their boys out there will help swing a little positive publicity their way between the talk show appearances (notice Lteno & Letterman haven’t come calling) and the live chat on their website that they conducted with “fans” who weren’t allowed to get in any tough questions. And Elber’s piece fits right into that mold. With minimal counter from myself and StopBenLyons’ Scott Johnson wedged right into the middle of it, this article is easily the most lengthy “in their own words” feature since they were initially announced (to everyone’s horror) as the new hosts of At the Movies. Lyons, you may remember, was scheduled to be interviewed for the infamous LA Times article, but ducked out at the last moment. But this is their moment. A chance to set the record straight. To answer the criticism and prove that everyone has been wrong about Lyons since they took the reins last September. But no dice. Oh, don’t be mistaken, they are trying to do all of that but in his defense of Lyons, Mankiewicz has sunk an even deeper hole. Lyons is certainly wielding a shovel as well, but Mank has received the benefit of the doubt more often than not, coming off as a reasonably astute television presence next to the head-shrinking banality of his co-star. But that honeymoon comes to an end once and for all as Mankiewicz has aligned himself with the devil and lost, for good, whatever credibility he had maintained up to this point:

"Nobody who meets him is going to doubt that this guy knows a lot about film and is thoughtful about it, is interested and wants to talk about it,” said Mankiewicz. “Everything came through this prism of presuming that he’s young and didn’t know what he was talking about."

Read the rest of Erik's response here


Anonymous said...

Well, I don't blame Mank for standing up for Lyons. If they are personal friends and professional partners, Mank can hardly be expected to talk smack to a reporter about Ben One. What's he gonna say? "Yeah, this guy is an idiot! Of course knows nothing about movies! Haven't you ever listened to him?".

If he did that, his show and his contract with the company would be in serious trouble and so by extension would be his career as a film critic.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, really. You expect Mank to say "LYONS SUCKS! KNOWS CRAP ABOUT MOVIES!" when he does a show with Ben and is contractually obligated to do it for a year or more?

He'd never be able to do the show with any credibility again. And might have a lawsuit on his hands.

Anonymous said...

I dispute the characterization of Cenk Uygur as a liberal. Women know him as a chauvinist, gays know him as a subtle homophobe. He's just an overgrown fratboy, who isn't particularly or authentically liberal. Being a liberal radio host was just a way to get his foot through the door for a career in the media. I hope to hell they don't give that hack a show on MSNBC, he's supposedly running in the lead for it.

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