Ben Lyons certainly did not excel in his role as a "serious film critic" during his tenure on At the Movies, but he seemed to realize that some of his more ridiculous hyperbole needed to be toned down--or at least heard the voices of reason telling him to do so. That did not stop him from making all sorts of gaffes, but at least he did not once again call some silly action movie the greatest film ever (more on that below) and backed off his early Twilight hype.
But since getting canned, he has fallen right back into his old habits, and it will doubtless be only a short time before he returns to being the complete fool he was before he was hired by ABC/Disney. Granted, this move already started before the ink was dry on A.O. Scott's contract, as witnessed in the interview below Lyons did with the stars of New Moon--that would be the second film in the Twilight series for those of you over 13 years old:
Unless I missed it, Lyons does not call the original Twilight a "really great film," or the next one "highly anticipated," but for somebody who gushed all over the series, then was forced to backtrack and call it the tenth worst film of the year (it was lame, but it wasn't that bad--The Spirit and The Day the Earth Stood Still didn't even make his ten worst list) this just seems to confirm what we all thought--he really loved Twilight but embarrassed himself by gushing all over it while pretending to be a serious film critic.
This interview was done while he was still presumably working for At the Movies. Since he was fired, Lyons wrote this on his Twitter page on August 17:
@wilcassettes sadly back in LaLa land. quick trip for a cameo in a @iamqueenlatifah movie with @thefatjew. Crazy!! 10 year reunion coming up
That's right, we're not going to have just The House Bunny to kick around anymore but some other movie as well.
But now, we get a full defense from Ben Lyons of some of his past behavior, specifically his claim that I Am Legend is "one of the greatest movies ever made." A reader of this blog left a link to an interview Ben did where this came up--I kept meaning to listen to it but the one hour running time kept making me think that I must have something better to do with my life. Fortunately, Erik Childress from Criticwatch took one for the team and summed it up for us. You can read his entire article here, but I'll give you a few highlights. First, on being asked whether he really believes this statement about the movie, Ben says:
Lyons: Yes, I do. OK, listen I’m going to explain it to you. This is a film that I saw and it blew my head to bits and I grew up in New York and it looked unlike anything I had seen before and I grew up on Will Smith. I think it’s an emotional movie, it’s funny, it made 700 million dollars around the world and inspired a prequel so there’s obviously a connection that people have made to the story. There are certain movies that just speak to you and that’s a film that I connected with and I won’t (inaudible) hide my opinion when that’s what I’m being paid to do. I love that film. That film is awesome. Every time I watch that film I notice new stuff in it.
Is there anything sadder than a so-called professional film critic who grew up on Will Smith? Actually yes. It’s one that needs to justify their own feelings about a film by inciting the rule of the almighty public dollar. See, look at all the money the movie made so clearly I’m in the right. There is no quicker moment that you can call bullshit on any critic or moviegoer who jumps to that well to defend their opinion. Even Ben Lyons himself, I suspect, would scrunch his face at someone who said Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is good because it’s the highest grossing film of the year. But there he is whipping out figures to back up his opinion. It didn’t inspire a prequel (still in the planning stages) because of some fantastical, emotional connection to the story. It’s BECAUSE it made 700 MILLION DOLLARS worldwide. Chicken and the egg maybe since it can only make money if people go see it and recommend it. But how many crappy movies have made a dime at the box office? Even Wild Wild West made over $110 million. The best of Lyons’ defense though was yet to come.
It might be fun to watch Lyons try to regain the fan base that he lost by slamming Twilight but life may be just too short to devote too much time to that either.