tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-92180323042343799892011-07-07T20:57:09.189-07:00Stop Ben Lyons! A blog on mediocrity and American culture Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.comBlogger259125tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-34019758570549347662011-02-26T13:28:00.000-08:002011-02-27T08:44:18.542-08:00Yellow Tail + Ben Lyons = Wine + Cheese <a onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="#topofpage"><img style="float: right; margin: 0pt 0pt 10px 10px; cursor: pointer; width: 252px; height: 250px;" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-oKKmwqP7U_8/TWlw5xugLvI/AAAAAAAAAgg/Xg5Is3s93cQ/s320/bl-yt.jpg" alt="" id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5578113751378308850" border="0" /></a><br />So, you were wondering who will win on Oscar night? Of course you were. Then, you were wondering, which wine would go best with each of the nominated films? Of course you weren't. Because Ben Lyons already figured it out for you.<br /><br /><a href="#topofpage">ReserveYourNight.com</a>, sponsored by Yellow Tail, now offers wine pairings for each oak-y film on the Academy's bloated list of 10 Best Picture nominees. The pairings are supplied by cinephile-cum-oenophile Ben Lyons, so you know they are solid. A publicist even sent out emails to various media outlets (although not this blog, mind you) asking:<br /><br /><blockquote>As you prepare your content for the Oscars, I'm wondering if you're available for an interview with celebrity film critic Ben Lyons? Ben is available for interviews... for either phone or Skype interviews. If you prefer Skype, we can record it and provide back to you as a YouTube video.<br /><br />During the interview, Ben can discuss his Oscar picks, as well as Oscar party planning tips. He is representing [yellow tail] Reserve wine* and can also discuss suggested movie and wine pairings. Appreciate your feedback. We only have a few slots left for the day, so I appreciate it if you could get back to me as soon as possible. </blockquote><br /><br />This text was provided by Jim Emerson, editor of RogerEbert.com, who was invited and chose to post <a href="http://blogs.suntimes.com/scanners/2011/02/actual_e-mail_from_a_publicist.html">a partial copy of the message along with a few snide comments</a>. Better yet, PopEater (run by AOL) actually took the bait during what must have been a dreadfully slow news day. Make sure to stick it out to the end if you want to see Ben's recommendation with a proud little smirk on his face, or see my comments below.<br /><br /><object id="AOLVP_us_802999537001" classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" height="346" width="400"><param name="movie" value="http://o.aolcdn.com/videoplayer/AOL_PlayerLoader.swf"><param name="bgcolor" value="#000000"><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"><param name="wmode" value="transparent"><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"><param name="flashvars" value="playerid=61371447001&amp;publisherid=1612833736&amp;stillurl=http%3A%2F%2Fpdl%2Estream%2Eaol%2Ecom%2Fpdlext%2Faol%2Fbrightcove%2Fstudionow%2Fams%2Fbf67323b01e50%2Fposter%2Ejpg&amp;videoid=802999537001&amp;codever=1"><embed src="http://o.aolcdn.com/videoplayer/AOL_PlayerLoader.swf" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" wmode="transparent" allowfullscreen="true" bgcolor="#000000" name="AOLVP_us_802999537001" flashvars="playerid=61371447001&amp;publisherid=1612833736&amp;stillurl=http%3A%2F%2Fpdl%2Estream%2Eaol%2Ecom%2Fpdlext%2Faol%2Fbrightcove%2Fstudionow%2Fams%2Fbf67323b01e50%2Fposter%2Ejpg&amp;videoid=802999537001&amp;codever=1" height="346" width="400"></embed></object><br /><br />You can check out the <a href="#topofpage">wine pairings at ReserveYourNight.com</a>, where you can also put each movie on your Netflix queue, creating a Lyons/Yellow Tail/Netflix corporate sponsorship trifecta.<br /><br />Their recommendations, based on the genre of each film, include a food pairing and some commentary to make it look like somebody actually took the time to think this stuff through. The pairings are below:<br /><br /><span style="font-weight: bold;"><span style="font-style: italic;">Black Swan</span> -</span> <span style="font-style:italic;">Genre: Intrigue, Pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon</span><br />According to somebody at the web site (and I am not convinced Ben Lyons did anything there besides sign a contract and cash a check), "you'll find flavor-filled red meat recipes that offer comfort as you the whole night." Missing a verb, I think. There are many things you might do the whole night, I suspect they are not referring to any of the activities you are thinking of.<br /><br /><span style="font-weight: bold;"><span style="font-style: italic;">The King's Speech -</span></span> <span style="font-style: italic;">Genre: Drama, Pairing: Merlot</span><br />"There's no doubt, drama movies are emotional. Movie-makers certainly know how our emotional connections to each other pull at the heart strings!" Yes, somebody actually wrote those two sentences, although apparently nobody edited them.<br /><br />Personally, I would recommend drinking something German to remind you of <a href="#topofpage">the pro-Nazi sympathies of the characters that the film conveniently ignores</a>. And based on Ben's pairing, I assume he has never seen the movie <span style="font-weight: bold;"><span style="font-style: italic;">Sideways</span></span>.<br /><br /><span style="font-weight: bold;"><span style="font-style: italic;">Toy Story 3</span> -</span> <span style="font-style: italic;">Genre: Comedy, Pairing: Pinot Grigio</span><br />No, I am not making this up. But in this case, why don't we just skip Yellow Tail altogether and <a href="#topofpage">get a Wine Cube juice box at Target</a> and switch it out with the little ones' grape juice. They'll be out so quick you can send the babysitter home early!<br /><br /><span style="font-weight: bold;"><span style="font-style: italic;">The Kids Are All Right</span> - </span> <span style="font-style: italic;">Genre: Romance, Pairing: Chardonnay</span><br />I'm not sure where they got the idea this was a romance, unless you consider having one of your mom's cheat on the other mom with your biological father, thus destroying your family, to be romantic.<br /><br />Along with your Chardonnay they recommend you "try out some of these great Asian, chicken, and vegetable dishes before you cuddle up in front of your TV." Yes, I think Jules might like something "Asian-y" and Nic would like a VERY large glass. But let's be honest, absolutely none of these characters would be caught dead drinking a $6 bottle of Yellow Tail.<br /><br /><span style="font-weight: bold;"><span style="font-style: italic;">The Fighter</span> -</span> <span style="font-style: italic;">Genre: Action, Pairing: Shiraz</span><br />Again, this is not an action movie. The horribly choreographed "kidney shot" scene is proof of that. And what you should be drinking while watching this movie to go with its working-class posturing is a really crappy beer, or "beah" as Markie Mark would say. The perfect choice would be a Coors, another corporate product touting its affiliation with the workin' man. It goes down nicely with notes of water, carbonation and the sweat of underpaid workers toiling over it.<br /><br />Finally, if you are listening Ben Lyons, what I really want to know is which Yellow Tail wine would go best with a viewing of <span style="font-weight: bold;"><span style="font-style: italic;">The Human Centipede</span></span>? (If you don't know, don't ask. Trust me.)<br /><br />* <span style="font-style:italic;">I will NOT refer to the Australian wine company as [yellow tail], as they prefer (does the comma go inside or outside the bracket?) lest e e cummings should arise from his grave and strangle me with a spare question mark. To read more about Yellow Tail and how they have helped destroy wine in their home country, read John Pilger's wonderfully titled exposé <a href="#topofpage">Australia's reds are revolting</a>.</span><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-3401975857054934766?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-89838885237018209322011-01-05T12:00:00.000-08:002011-02-26T18:59:33.348-08:00Ebert Presents At The Movies <a href="#topofpage">Check it out if you have not seen it already<br /></a><br /><object width="640" height="390"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/tOchYuOzlFg&rel=0&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&version=3"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/tOchYuOzlFg&rel=0&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&version=3" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" allowScriptAccess="always" width="640" height="390"></embed></object><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-8983888523701820932?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-12594819184704183092010-03-25T07:00:00.000-07:002010-03-25T09:03:07.566-07:00At the Movies Cancelled! <span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="font-style:italic;">What would be worse: <span style="font-style:italic;">At the Movies</span> with Ben Lyons, or no <span style="font-style:italic;">At the Movies</span> at all? I guess we are going to find out in a few months.<br /><br /><a href="#topofpage">Read Ebert's response (and plans) here.</a></span></span><br /><br />CHICAGO, March 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. syndicated film review program "At the Movies" has been canceled after 24 seasons, said Disney-ABC Domestic Television and ABC Media Productions.<br /><br />The show started out in the mid-1970s with the Chicago Sun-Times's Roger Ebert and the Chicago Tribune's Gene Siskel sharing their opinions on current releases.<br /><br />The Tribune said Wednesday the final episode of the series with current reviewers Michael Phillips of the Tribune and A.O. Scott of The New York Times is to air the weekend of Aug. 14.<br /><br />Phillips and Scott took over the show from Ben Lyons of E! Entertainment Television and Ben Mankiewicz of Turner Classic Movies, who replaced the ailing Ebert and his co-star of nearly a decade, Richard Roeper of the Sun-Times.<br /><br />Roeper replaced Siskel when he died in 1999 of brain cancer. Ebert has been suffering from various types of cancer affecting his mouth and throat in recent years. His battle with the disease has left him unable to talk.<br /><br />"This was a very difficult decision, especially considering the program's rich history and iconic status within the entertainment industry," the Tribune quoted Disney-ABC Domestic Television and ABC Media Productions as saying in a statement. "But from a business perspective it became clear this weekly, half-hour, broadcast syndication series was no longer sustainable."<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-1259481918470418309?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com2tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-23967973595980217072010-03-08T12:00:00.000-08:002010-03-06T13:24:44.604-08:00Another Manchurian Candidate? <span style="font-weight:bold;">by Scott Johnson</span><br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;">Note that there are POTENTIAL SPOILERS in what follows, although some of this may not make much sense if you have not seen the movie recently. Please add your comments if you have any opinions about this analysis.</span><br /><br /><a onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="#topofpage"><img style="float:right; margin:0 0 10px 10px;cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;width: 320px; height: 174px;" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_rJYxLOsQoII/S4sCR5N2xnI/AAAAAAAAAf8/BBLIyEcxATQ/s320/manchurian-candidate_leigh_sinatra.jpg" border="0" alt=""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5443447081047344754" /></a>After watching the <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Manchurian Candidate</span></span> recently I was struck by the scene where Janet Leigh and Frank Sinatra meet on a train and exchange a series of bizarre lines. Through the entire scene, I was uncertain whether they were a) having a real conversation, b) were exchanging a series of code words, or c) Leigh was a Communist dropping post-hypnotic suggestions to Sinatra.<br /><br />I was pleased to find that <a href="#topofpage">Roger Ebert had his own suspicions, writing in his Great Movies review of the film</a>: <br /><br /><blockquote><span style="font-style:italic;">Is Sinatra's Maj. Marco another Manchurian sleeper, and is Rosie his controller? If you look at their scenes carefully, you find that she broke off her engagement immediately after their awkward train meeting and before their first date. Reflect on the scene where she talks about Marco beating up "a very large Korean gentlemen," and ask yourself what she means when she calls this man, who she has never seen, "the general." I don't know. Maybe Rosie just talks funny. It would be a nice touch, though, for this screwball story to have another layer circling beneath</span></blockquote><br />In fact, I believe that their relationship suggests that there is something going on beneath the surface--either Leigh is a spy or she is attempting to drop post-hypnotic suggestions to a brainwashed Sinatra. Consider the first few lines of dialogue in their first meeting:<br /><br />Leigh: <span style="font-style:italic;">Maryland's a beautiful state.</span><br />Sinatra: <span style="font-style:italic;">This is Delaware.</span><br />Leigh: <span style="font-style:italic;">I know. I was one of the original Chinese workmen who laid the track on this stretch. But nonetheless, Maryland is a beautiful state. So is Ohio, for that matter.</span> <br /><br />This sounds precisely like an exchange of code words between spies--or a post-hypnotic suggestion. Sinatra continues:<br /><br />Sinatra: <span style="font-style:italic;">I guess so. Columbus is a tremendous football town. You in the railroad business?</span><br />Leigh: <span style="font-style:italic;">Not anymore. However, if you will permit me to point out, when you ask that question you really should say, 'Are you in the railroad line?'</span> <br /><br />Again, this is even more suggestive, as though Sinatra got the code wrong and Leigh is correcting him, or that his response to the questions is a part of the post-hypnotic suggestion and she is trying to keep him on track. Each character also asks the other--for no apparent--reason whether they are Arabic. At the end, Leigh tells Sinatra her address--Apartment 3B--then repeats her phone number twice, forcefully, as though assuring it gets marked in his hypnotically suggestive mind.<br /><br />The scene is immediately followed by the entry of Chunjin--the "large Korean man"--into Raymond Shaw's office looking for work. After this scene is a brief interlude with Mr. and Mr. Iselin, then we see Sinatra walking inside an apartment building. Over his shoulder we see a door which is clearly marked "B" in 3 distinct shots--3B?--though we never see the marking of the door he is knocking on. Is this the room Leigh was suggesting he go to? Chunjin opens the door--it is actually Shaw's apartment--and Sintara assaults him.<br /><br />We next see Sinatra in the police station. Leigh arrives after having been called by the police--Sinatra remembered her phone number! And she shows up! They get in a taxi and she mentions her apartment--"Apartment 3B" he says. On the one hand, he remembered the room number. On other hand, it seems like it is probably her real apartment number and that she did NOT send him to Shaw's, where he was already headed. She then makes a comment about "the general"--she is actually, jokingly referring to General George Washington, whom she admittedly confused with Washington, D.C., so this is a red herring. It is also here that Leigh mentions ditching her fiancee after having met Sinatra once for five minutes.<br /><br /><br /><a onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_rJYxLOsQoII/S4sCXQ0A2XI/AAAAAAAAAgE/yw_MzP8tAAQ/s1600-h/the-manchurian-candidate-shaw-and-queen-of-diamonds.jpg"><img style="float:left; margin:0 10px 10px 0;cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;width: 254px; height: 320px;" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_rJYxLOsQoII/S4sCXQ0A2XI/AAAAAAAAAgE/yw_MzP8tAAQ/s320/the-manchurian-candidate-shaw-and-queen-of-diamonds.jpg" border="0" alt=""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5443447173280749938" /></a>Shortly afterward we see Shaw's snake bite accident, where he is miraculously discovered and treated by the flirty Jocelyn Jordan (Leslie Parrish) another attractive blonde who even more miraculously has a razor but no spare cloth and so proceeds to remove her blouse to treat his wound. Is this all a coincidence or was she planning to seduce him? After having seen Leigh's strange behavior, this meeting seems almost too good to be true as well. Immediately afterward, Shaw asks Jordan's father for <span style="font-style:italic;">her</span> hand in marriage! <br /><br />Finally, note that Parrish later appears wearing a Queen of Diamonds costume, which is the symbol that causes Shaw to enter a hypnotic state. She enters immediately after Shaw is shown the symbol by his manipulative mother, saying "I've been watching you through the window." It almost seems like it is not an accident and she knows what she is doing. This is followed by a scene in which Sinatra proposes marriage to Leigh, followed by a scene in which Shaw (Laurence Harvey) and Parrish tell Sinatra that they have just married.<br /><br />Are both Leigh and Parrish stooges of some form and are their relationships setup with ulterior motives? Probably not--in fact, all of this is probably most easily explained by the "naive" reading that Leigh and Parrish are behaving honestly, if strangely. But the whole backdrop of the movie is that the "Manchurian Candidate" cannot behave honestly. His actions are hardwired and people do strange things to him in order to control his actions. The interactions with Leigh and Parrish ought to be innocent but these various connections and ambiguities create a sense of paranoia. <br /><br />It is always unclear who can be trusted in this movie, even the women that these men love.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-2396797359598021707?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-52087642941299503832009-12-01T17:30:00.000-08:002009-12-01T17:30:00.279-08:00Ebert on the Lyons debacle <span style="font-style:italic;">Months after the demise of the reborn At the Movies, Roger Ebert gives his take on the state of the show. Originally posted on <a href="#topofpage">Ebert's Sun-Times blog</a></span><br /><br /><span style="font-weight:bold;"><a href="#topofpage">Time keeps on slip, slip, slippin' away</a></span><br /><span style="font-weight:bold;">By Roger Ebert on November 25, 2009 1:22 PM</span> <br /><br />I sense it's about time to share some of my thoughts about television and movie critics, myself, and the past, present and future of my corner of the critics-on-TV adventure. My friends A .O. Scott and Michael Phillips are well into their first season as the new co-hosts of "At the Movies." Richard Roeper just announced he will be streaming reviews on his web site, and they will re-run a week later on the Starz cable channel. I wish them all good fortune. And good health.<br /><br /> This act of the saga began for me with a call from good Dr. Havey, who had some good news and some bad news. The bad news was that I had thyroid cancer. The good news was that it was the most common kind, which is usually curable by the peculiar treatment of surgery, followed by tossing back a shot glass of radioactive iodine, being isolated for 48 hours and not sitting next to any pregnant women for a month. Enough about that. It worked.<br /><br /><br /> The thyroid removal surgery left me with a slight speech impediment which I tried to deal with by punching out words more forcibly. One side of my mouth drooped a little, and it was recklessly reported online that I'd had a stroke. Diagnosis by video. No such thing.<br /><br /> Follow-up x-rays revealed I had salivary gland cancer, very slow-growing, which had returned after surgery 15 years, as I was told it probably would. I had surgery again in July 2006. Saying goodbye to Chaz in the hospital room were be the last words I would ever speak.<br /><br /> It was said reconstructive surgery would restore my speech and repair my face. I had three such surgeries. Twice it worked, and Chaz held a mirror so I could regard my face as it had been. All three times, as the doctors say, "it fell apart." No need for additional details. They did their very best.<br /><br /> It became clear I might never return to Ebert & Roeper in a speaking role. I had other ideas for participation. Richard Roeper carried on with guest co-hosts, some of whom had also done me the same favor after Gene Siskel's death in 1999. Our long-standing producer and director, Don Dupree, coordinated this, obviously with a look for good long-term candidates.<br /><br /> I believed that such as Michael Phillips, A .O. Scott, Christy Lemire, Kim Morgan, Lisa Schwartzbaum and a few others were good hopes. Roeper and Dupree thought so too. Most of the guest hosts were possibilities for the permanent job. Certain potential guests were suggested to us by friends. Many agreed, One popular recommendation however said she just wasn't interested in doing TV.<br /><br /> Disney in Burbank, who had been a good company to work with, now had a younger generation less impressed with our history. (We were Disney's first show in syndication, and therefore its longest-running.) The studio was concerned about improving its demographics in younger age segments. After Roeper and I announced we were leaving, Disney had Phillips shoot test segments with Ben Lyons, a young Los Angeles celeb-TV personality. Phillips was a good sport; he was essentially helping to choose his replacement. I heard Lyons was pretty much at sea in debates with him. In way, he wasn't to blame; he'd been recruited despite Dupree's incredulity for a job he was obviously unsuited for, but the infatuated Disney producer was dangling a prize plum.<br /><br /> Ben Lyons at that time had never published a single movie review, and to my knowledge still never has. To put him in my seat was a mistake, and it was not well-received. A full-page story in the Los Angeles Times displayed a huge thumbs-down -- not the opinion of the writer, but the general opinion. I wrote a blog entry, "Roger's Little Rule Book," that never mentioned a critic by name, but...<br /><br /> Our new Disney executive from Burbank had other new ideas. She looked at the balcony set at ABC/Chicago, one of the most iconic set ideas in the history of television history, which had survived for more than half of the life of the medium, and decided it needed to be replaced. Now workers tore at our set with sledge-hammers, and it collected in a dumpster in the alley. It was replaced by two sets, one resembling a demo counter at a trade show, the other two nice chairs at an Admirals' Club. (Siskel advised me 25 years ago to buy a Lifetime Pass to that club for, as I recall, $200 at the time. He gave me a lot of useful advice. When I pull out that ancient piece of plastic at a club, I'm treated as if I were George Clooney with his Titanium Pass in "Up in the Air.")<br /><br /> The first Ben & Ben season did not start well. "Roger," an ABC/Chicago friend called and said, "the first taping is this afternoon, and right now they're repainting the sets. They didn't like the color." Those sets could have been painted like Joseph's amazing dreamcoat and they would have been the same crappy sets.<br /><br /> The show's reviews were not kind. Two websites opened to catalogue Lyon's lapses. I e-mailed Mankiewicz in sympathy, comparing him to the victim of a drive-by shooting. That he remained polite and supportive throughout the ordeal is the mark of a gentleman. I was nowhere near that nice to Siskel, and I loved him.<br /><br /> It was clear that the two Bens would have to go. Roeper and my wife Chaz and I had announced a new show. Would Disney simply pull the plug on theirs and walk away? What, and vacate the "At the Movies" time slots for us to try to grab? Unlikely. Time slots are like chess pieces.<br /><br /> The studio announced the hiring of -- why, A. O. Scott and Michael Phillips, of all people! Michael courteously came over to our house to inform us personally. I e-mailed my congratulations to them both, and in our living room enthusiastically told Michael I would bring back the Thumbs and give the show my endorsement. Disney turned down my offer, explaining that the show had "moved on." That was a sad day for me.<br /><br /> Watching Michael and Tony on the show, I felt sorry for them being deprived of the famous set. It would have felt creepy to see Ben Lyons in one of our seats, but Scott and Phillips deserved better. It was sad to see them working on a set which, for all of the paint jobs, looked better suited to a couple of earnest preachers on Sunday morning. TV loved the movie balcony illusion. Now we no longer understand why they're sitting like that. There's no screen for them to look at. Why then are they at such an awkward angle, instead of sitting more conversationally?<br /><br /> We were not blowing smoke about our new show. Gathering up Richard, Michael and Christy Lemire (the Associated Press film critic), Chaz and I seemed to have found a welcome at a major syndicator. Unfortunately, its president left. I suspect, but do not know, we fell victim to the ancient Hollywood custom that a new executive must clean house by throwing out his predecessor's projects. Perhaps there was more to it than that. They treated us honestly and fairly, but it was not to be. At about that time, the economy went into free-fall. Roeper & Phillips & Lemire was the show that was never to be.<br /><br /> Now here we stand. Chaz and I still have plans. We still love Christy. She and Chris just had baby boy Nic. Don Dupree has caught fire as assistant news director of CBS/Chicago, helping them to a recent ratings surge. Richard has announced his own plans for his web reviews and Starz. Good luck, buddy.<br /><br /> I confess I felt a twinge that Rob Feder's column quoted you: "As much as I loved doing 'Ebert & Roeper,' this will have much more of an unfiltered, uncut, viral feel. As someone at Starz put it, they wanted 'Roeper uncut.' If a film is a piece of shit, I'll say it's a piece of shit."<br /><br /> Richard, were you not uncut at E&R? Did you never say a movie was "a piece of shit?" On the web and cable you can use that very word, of course, as you do in your web site's promo for your new enterprise, promising to review "a lot of big movies, and some smaller, shitty ones as well."<br /><br /> Things are better. Ben Lyons has returned to celebrities. Ben Mankiewicz is still at Turner Classic Movies and will prevail. Scott and Phillips are doing exactly what we all advised Disney two years ago they should be doing. Everybody still has the day job.<br /><br /> I still can't speak aloud, but I have the dear Sun-Times and write more than ever. When I try to put things in context, I remember Olympia Dukakis's wise dialogue in Norman Jewison's "Moonstruck." Her husband thinks he's been getting away with cheating on her, and she tells him: "I just want you to know no matter what you do, you're gonna die, just like everybody else."<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-5208764294129950383?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com3tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-67138726847658636002009-08-31T18:34:00.000-07:002009-08-31T18:40:51.668-07:00Criticwatch: Giving credit where credit is due <blockquote><span style="font-style: italic;">So here we are. The end of the Ben Lyons Quote of the Week in spinoff form. Criticwatch will always have an eye out when he crosses our field of vision, but no longer will he have a major network venue to inch film criticism closer to the world of Idiocracy. It’s a glorious time. Proof that the written word can make a difference after all the talk from the powers that be and Mankiewicz who said, “this is a TV show and the notion that only people who qualify to talk about film criticism are people who have written for a newspaper seems silly." Disney never wanted to cop to sagging ratings on the show, so maybe the constant criticism by this column and Scott Johnson over at StopBenLyons.com really did have a hand in the change.</span></blockquote><br /><a href="#topofpage">That is Erik Childress from Criticwatch giving his final Ben Lyons Quote of the Week</a>. He continues with a top ten list of Ben Lyons' worst quotes of the past year:<br /><br /><span style="font-weight:bold;">10. "And it seems like this is going to be the one film we’re gonna see of this franchise. It wasn’t like Zack Snyder was trying to setup the sequel. I really appreciate that.”<br /><br />9. “I like Splinter too, I just don’t have the stomach for horror movies. Life is too short. I have to say rent it.”<br /><br />8. “If someone said to you and told you this was the same directing team that did No Country for Old Men, I wouldn’t believe you unless you said it was the Coen Bros.”<br /><br />7. “It helps me improve my movie knowledge, and it's a lot of fun to play either alone or with some of the homies when they come over.”<br /><br />6. “It’s really important to tell people to go out and see W. so they can talk about it and have an opinion about it and this freedom of speech of course that allows us to go and talk about a film about a current sitting president.”</span><br /><br />That's five, <a href="#topofpage">you can click here to read the rest</a>.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-6713872684765863600?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com2tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-39105328187275692722009-08-25T08:19:00.000-07:002009-08-26T19:56:34.609-07:00Back to bad habits Ben Lyons certainly did not excel in his role as a "serious film critic" during his tenure on <span style="font-style:italic;">At the Movies</span>, 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 <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Twilight</span></span> hype.<br /><br />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 <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">New Moon</span></span>--that would be the second film in the <span style="font-style:italic;">Twilight</span> series for those of you over 13 years old:<br /><br /><embed src="http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f8/1396519019" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" flashVars="videoId=30507122001&linkBaseURL=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.eonline.com%2Fvideos%2Fv30507122001_2009_Comic-Con_Stewart__Lautner.html&playerId=1396519019&viewerSecureGatewayURL=https://console.brightcove.com/services/amfgateway&servicesURL=http://services.brightcove.com/services&cdnURL=http://admin.brightcove.com&domain=embed&autoStart=false&" base="http://admin.brightcove.com" name="flashObj" width="425" height="366" seamlesstabbing="false" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" swLiveConnect="true" pluginspage="http://www.macromedia.com/shockwave/download/index.cgi?P1_Prod_Version=ShockwaveFlash"></embed><br /><br />Unless I missed it, Lyons does not call the original <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Twilight</span></span> 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--<span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">The Spirit</span></span> and <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">The Day the Earth Stood Still</span></span> didn't even make his ten worst list) this just seems to confirm what we all thought--he really loved <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Twilight</span></span> but <a href="/search/label/Twilight/index.html">embarrassed himself by gushing all over it while pretending to be a serious film critic</a>.<br /><br />This interview was done while he was still presumably working for <span style="font-style:italic;">At the Movies</span>. Since he was fired, Lyons <a href="#topofpage">wrote this on his Twitter page on August 17</a>:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;">@wilcassettes sadly back in LaLa land. quick trip for a cameo in a @iamqueenlatifah movie with @thefatjew. Crazy!! 10 year reunion coming up</span><br /><br />That's right, <a href="/2009/04/at_movies_worst_of_both_worlds.html">we're not going to have just <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">The House Bunny</span></span> to kick around anymore</a> but some other movie as well.<br /><br />But now, we get a full defense from Ben Lyons of some of his past behavior, specifically his claim that <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">I Am Legend</span></span> 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. <a href="#topofpage">You can read his entire article here</a>, but I'll give you a few highlights. First, on being asked whether he really believes this statement about the movie, Ben says:<br /><br /><span style="font-weight:bold;">Lyons:</span> <span style="font-style:italic;">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.</span><br /><br />Erik responds:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;">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 <span style="font-weight:bold;">Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen</span> 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 <span style="font-weight:bold;">Wild Wild West</span> made over $110 million. The best of Lyons’ defense though was yet to come.</span><br /><br />It might be fun to watch Lyons try to regain the fan base that he lost by slamming <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Twilight</span></span> but life may be just too short to devote too much time to that either.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-3910532818727569272?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com9tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-89224369080690746602009-08-17T08:37:00.000-07:002009-08-17T08:46:31.184-07:00Criticwatch: Hyping till the end Just as Ben Lyons is about to go off the air, I find myself on vacation in smoky Santa Cruz, CA, and I have not yet been able to watch this weekend's episode of <span style="font-style:italic;">At the Movies</span>. So I'll hand it over to <a href="#topofpage">Erik Childress from Criticwatch to sum things up with his Ben Lyons Quote of the Week</a>:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="font-weight:bold;">Lyons:</span> And until next week, as always, we’ll be At The Movies.</span><br /><br />Erik then continues:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;">There is something perfectly poetic if those are the final words we ever hear from Ben Lyons on this show. Hyping something that cannot possibly be, said before all the facts are in. As of the Aug. 15 airing we are now officially in the two-week period before the new season of At The Movies begins with Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott. Traditionally a period where Siskel & Ebert took a couple of weeks off and either ran reruns or taped a special recap show to air, could the same be true of the now defunct coupling of Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz? My Tivo, too dumb to recognize reruns of The Daily Show but smart enough to notice an At The Movies repeat when it sees it, is showing just that. The Aug. 22/23 airing is slated to be a rerun of their Aug. 7 show. You know – the one where they had twice promised a G.I. Joe review only to be shunned from the screenings like the rest of us. If this stands that only leaves Aug. 29. Will it be a repeat, a special show, or have we indeed seen the last of Ben Lyons under the title first made famous by Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel? If it is, Junior gave us quite a sendoff, delivering his own brand of a greatest hits package reminding us why no one has anything positive to say about his tenure.</span><br /><br /><a href="#topofpage">Click here to read the entire review</a><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-8922436908069074660?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com2tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-31021955442978384732009-08-12T03:00:00.000-07:002009-08-12T08:15:30.949-07:00Criticwatch: One season wonder <a href="#topofpage">Erik Childress from Criticwatch gives us the Ben Lyons Quote of the Week</a>:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="font-weight:bold;">Lyons:</span> This is a true story so if she is a little whiny that is the character she's embodying.</span><br /><br />Erik then continues:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;">Basically what you're saying then, Ben, in your review of <span style="font-weight:bold;">Julie & Julia</span> is that because the film portrays the real-life Julie Powell as she is we should just accept that person, flaws and all, since it remains true to them - no matter how self-centered, dim, or flaccid they come off when trying to relay their thoughts on a subject. Awwww, has someone been hard on Ben lately?<br /><br />Not precisely sure when the big news came to Ben Lyons, but the public became aware on August 5 that he and co-host Ben Mankiewicz were being replaced on At the Movies. After just under a year on the air, Lyons and Mank officially aligned themselves with the Jean Doumanian season of Saturday Night Live. One and done. Cut short. After the PR tour during Oscar season to counteract all the bad publicity the show had got, the Associated Press article they finally opened to, the spin that the ratings were not on the downswing, attempts to localize them as Chicago celebrities and rumors that it would be cheaper to keep them on for another year to fulfill syndication contracts than to dump them, the Bens will be no more on the show come September. Replacing them will be hometown boy, Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune, and New York's A.O. Scott who will be flown in every couple of weeks to tape a pair of shows. Funny that the reason Scott was initially taken off the guest host roster is because producers didn't want to have to fly him every week. No, they chose instead to fly in Ben Lyons every week. Well now they can fly him out.</span><br /><br /><a href="#topofpage">Click here to read the entire article</a><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-3102195544297838473?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-4362461157621251582009-08-10T03:00:00.000-07:002009-08-10T03:00:04.614-07:00At the Movies: Ben & Ben <style type="text/css">div.inline-left{float:left;padding:0;margin:0 2em 0 0;}div.inline-right{float:right;padding:0;margin:0 0 0 2em;}div.inline .image,div.image img{line-height:0;}span.inline-left{float:left;padding:0;margin:0 2em 1em 0;}span.inline-right{float:right;padding:0;margin:0 0 1em 2em;}span.inline .image,span.image img{line-height:0;border:0;}span.caption{display:block;text-align:left;;font-size:75%;line-height:normal;color:#666;margin:0;padding:0;}.image span{margin:0;padding:0;}.image a{color:#666;text-decoration:none;}.node.image{margin:0 0 10px 0 !important;}.image</style><br /><span class="sw image inline-right" style="width: 215px"><a onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="#topofpage"><img style="float:right; margin:0 0 10px 10px;cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;width: 215px; height: 320px;" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_rJYxLOsQoII/Sn8E-tYodhI/AAAAAAAAAf0/TKpBQfiliFQ/s320/julie_and_julia.jpg" border="0" alt=""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5368014756230231570" /></a><span class="caption">Julie & Julia: A movie about a more experienced and knowledgable--if less attractive--chef and a younger, better looking newcomer who is utterly incompetent. Now that sounds so familiar . . .</span></span>Just because Ben Lyons has been fired, that doesn't mean we won't have him to kick around for a few more weeks. Phillips and Roeper continued several weeks after their replacements were announced and we can expect the same this time around.<br /><br />But wouldn't it be terribly ironic if just as his tenure was coming to the end, Ben Lyons delivered an intelligent, subtle, thoughtful commentary about a film, that enlightened us as to how the film works, displayed a deep grasp of film history and theory, and dazzled us with a poetic display of criticism that redeemed all of his past transgressions? Yes, that would be terribly ironic, but it hasn't happened yet. Don't keep your fingers crossed.<br /><br />This episode was filmed on August 4--the day before the firing was announced--as Lyons mentions on his Twitter page. The shows are filmed two shows at a time, so it will not be for another two weeks before we see Lyons' sad, post-firing face on the show. In the meantime, we get these nuggets of un-knowledge.<br /><br />On <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Julie & Julia</span></span>:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="font-weight:bold;">Lyons:</span> First off, I think we are both keen observers of the obvious when we say that Meryl Streep is terrific.</span><br /><br />I hate to say it, but that just might be a bit of an overstatement. Forget <a href="http://www.stopbenlyons.com/2008/10/what-is-greatest-movie-ever-made.html"><span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">I Am Legend</span></span></a> for a moment. I know it's hard, but just try. Now, let's take Ben's critique of the <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">G.I. Joe</span></span> movie. <a href="#topofpage">First, his positive reaction on Twitter</a>:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;">Just saw the new G.I. Joe trailer on ABC during the Mavs vs. Nuggets game...WOW! That ish looks crraaaaaaaaaazy...Go Joe! Look forward to it</span><br /><br />I don't know who in their right mind would have that reaction to the trailer--much less the ridiculous thought of even having a <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">G.I. Joe</span></span>. But <a href="/2009/05/backtracking_on_gi_joe.html">Ben later backtracks</a> and says that he does not have high hopes for the movie because it does not have the "heart-and-soul of <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">G.I. Joe</span></span>."(Devin Faraci, the critic sitting next to Lyons in the interview--who later went on to give the movie a positive review--commented that he did not realize G.I. Joe had a heart-and-soul)<br /><br />Now, those are two contradictory opinions on the same movie which he has not seen, and yet I think both of these are evidence that Ben Lyons is not a "keen observer of the obvious."<br /><br />But speaking of stupid comments with the word "soul" in them, let's try Lyons' comment on the movie <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Cold Souls</span></span>, taking on Mank's defense of the concept of the movie:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="font-weight:bold;">Lyons:</span> I agree with you, a terrific premise, but I'm not so sure about the execution of the film. When you have a film that's dealing about people's souls and trading souls, the movie's got to have a soul. It's gotta have some heart and some compassion behind the lens.</span><br /><br />Oh dear, you didn't really go there, did you? He even has a bit of a smirk on his face--slightly concealed by the director's generous cutting to a side view of both critics away from a close-up of Lyons--which seems to express how self-satisfied he is with such a clever turn of phrase. This side shot also shows Mank in his standard, steely-eyed stare across the aisle that seems to say "shut up you idiot before I smack the hell out of you!"<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-436246115762125158?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com5tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-67852024138254212472009-08-07T03:00:00.000-07:002009-08-07T12:57:25.514-07:00Malicious attacks from behind a computer screen <span style="font-style:italic;">I did not write this and no, it is not real (other than the part about the Bens getting fired) but it is pretty funny</span><br /><br /><a href="#topofpage">Lyons And Mankiewicz Fired From At The Movies<br />5 August 2009 (celebrityfreakshow.com)</a><br /><br />Disney and AMC Media Productions today announced the firing of Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz from the movie review show <span style="font-style:italic;">At The Movies</span>. The show, a descendant of the popular <span style="font-style:italic;">Siskel And Ebert At The Movies</span> show from the eighties and nineties, suffered poor ratings and the scorn of thinking people everywhere due to the complete vapidity of its hosts.<br /><br />Of the firing, maligned host Lyons managed to maintain a typically enthusiastic outlook. “This firing is the best thing that ever happened to television, movies, or entertainment media in general!!!” said the deposed host with his trademark big toothy grin.<br /><br />Lyons’ co-host on At The Movies, Ben Makiewicz, greeted the news with relieved exhaustion. “If I had to sit across from that fucking dumbshit for one more week, I swear to God I was planning on detonating a tactical nuke,” raved Makiewicz. He added: “I’ve actually heard K-Mart mannequins give more insightful film criticism than that grinning asshole.”<br /><br />A spokesperson for Disney said that the move was inevitable given the rapid decline in ratings. “We tried everything in an effort to make this show work. We tried teleprompters, sock puppets, and casual Fridays. We even attempted to replace him with a CGI version of Ben Lyons giving marginally decent reviews. In the end, we realized that the guy simply knows nothing about film whatsoever,” said Janine Freese of AMC. “In response to this catastrophe, we have also fired our entire development team. They should have known that Lyons was a wet hamburger during the first interview.”<br /><br />The response from show founder Roger Ebert, still recovering from salivary cancer, was predictably effusive. When asked for a comment, Ebert replied, “FFfffflllluccgkkking rllrlrright!”<br /><br />Makiewicz said that, with his new freedom, he intends to review films that contain no CGI effects whatsoever in an attempt to “clear his palette.” As for his counterpart, Makiewicz offers this advice: “Rot in hell, you stupid fucking retard.”<br /><br />As for the unpopular Lyons, he says that the unexpected sabbatical will do some good. “The most popular aspect of my career was being pushed aside by this reviewing thing,” said Lyons with a smile. “Now I can get back to doing what fans expect of me, namely, posing for photographs with the marginally famous.”<br /><br />No word yet on whether he knows how to spell the word “film”.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-6785202413825421247?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com6tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-14871498519824984622009-08-05T15:53:00.000-07:002009-08-05T15:57:39.811-07:00This should be awkward <span style="font-style:italic;">Heads up L.A.--this is coming at you tomorrow. Talk about bad timing . . .</span><br /><br /><a href="#topofpage">5th Annual HollyShorts film festival opening night celebration at DGA theatre hosted by E! Entertainment Television personality and co-host of the nationally syndicated, “At the Movies” Ben Lyons</a><br /><br />July 28, 2009 Hollywood, CA—Ben Lyons, E! Entertainment Television personality and co-host of the nationally syndicated, “At the Movies,” will host the 5th annual HollyShorts Film Festival (HSFF) opening night celebration, which takes place on Thursday, August 6, 2009 at the DGA Theatre in Hollywood. NBC’s “Open House” and “1st Look” correspondent, Viviana Vigil, will be the special guest presenter. The announcement was made today by Daniel Sol, Festival Director, HollyShorts Film Festival.<br /><br />“We are delighted to have Ben Lyons, one of the sharpest correspondents in the industry today hosting the HollyShorts Opening Night Celebration and can’t wait to gather the top and fastest rising talent in Hollywood all under one roof,” said festival organizers Theo Dumont and Daniel Sol.<br /><br />Ben Lyons is one of the most sought after television personalities in Hollywood. At the age of 27, Ben is the resident film critic and an entertainment correspondent on E! Entertainment Television, co-host of Nickelodeon’s “My Family’s Got Guts” and co- host of televisions most popular and respected movie program, “At the Movies.” Ben is also a regular correspondent for ABC’s Good Morning America.<br /><br />“It is a great honor to be involved with the HollyShorts Film Festival this summer. I have always respected and admired short films and find that they are a great way to get familiar with the next generation of talented filmmakers,” said Lyons.<br /><br />. . .<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-1487149851982498462?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com5tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-63357446681122789272009-08-05T14:45:00.000-07:002009-08-05T16:01:03.499-07:00BREAKING NEWS: Ben Lyons fired! <span style="font-style:italic;"><a href="#topofpage">Seriously, I am not making this up</a></span><br /><br /><span style="font-weight:bold;">Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips, N.Y. Times' A.O. Scott take over 'At the Movies'; Ben Lyons, Ben Mankiewicz out</span><br /><br />by Phil Rosenthal, Chicao Tribune (Tower Ticker blog)<br /><br />A year after its extreme makeover of "At the Movies" went over like "Land of the Lost," Disney's ABC Media Productions said Wednesday it is overhauling the Chicago-based syndicated TV program yet again in hopes of reconnecting with its respected past.<br /><br />Gone are Ben Lyons of E! Entertainment Television and Ben Mankiewicz of Turner Classic Movies, the cable hosts Disney chose last summer to front what it called "the next generation of the series," in favor of a return to dueling newspaper film critics, Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune and A.O. Scott of the New York Times.<br /><br />Both Phillips and Scott filled in for Pulitzer Prize winner Roger Ebert opposite fellow Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper in the earlier incarnation of the program, which traces its roots to Chicago public broadcaster WTTW-Ch. 11 in 1975, when Ebert was first paired on-air with Gene Siskel, the late Chicago Tribune reviewer.<br /><br />The new pair will make its debut when the series begins its new season Sept. 5 on ABC-owned WLS-Ch. 7, where the show is produced for syndication by Disney-ABC Domestic Televison.<br /><br />“We are thrilled that A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips will be lending their well-respected and influential voices to At the Movies,” Brian Frons, who oversees ABC Media Productions as president of daytime for the Disney-ABC Television Group, said in a statement. “They are regarded by millions of people as authorities in film criticism and will take the series back to its roots of one-on-one film debate that was established when the show first began with Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.”<br /><br />Ebert and Roeper split with Disney last summer as their old show underwent several changes. Some such as a new theme song and set were minor. Others, such as the hiring of Lyons and Mankiewicz and including the input of other critics, were major. Very little of it seemed to gain a foothold, particularly with those who had been drawn to the original show.<br /><br />Siskel and Ebert and later Roeper and his counterparts engaged viewers by talking about films -- both big and small, domestic and international -- in a sophisticated way that allowed them to share both their obvious love of movies as well as for spirited, well-considered debate.<br /><br />Mankiewicz would escape much of the criticism directed at the revamped "At the Movies," most of which targeted Lyons, whose inability to articulate his opinions undercut his cinematic knowledge and critical skills.<br /><br />Too often Lyons sounded as though he were dictating a blurb for an ad, rather than giving serious counsel as to whether a consumer should buy a ticket, rent a DVD or skip a film altogether.<br /><br />“We tried something new last season and we think the world of Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz," Frons said. "They did everything we asked of them and they have been complete professionals. However, we’ve decided to return the show to its original essence – two traditional film critics discussing current motion picture and DVD releases. We thank them for their hard work and dedication this past year and wish them nothing but the best on all of their future endeavors.”<br /><br />Phillips has been the Chicago Tribune's film critic since 2006. He has written for about entertainment and the arts for the Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Dallas Times-Herald and the Twin Cities weekly City Pages, and also covered movies for Minnesota Public Radio, WGN-AM and MSNBC.<br /><br />"I can't wait to mix it up with Tony, who's one of the sharpest critical voices in the nation," Phillips said. "To co-host a show with such an extraordinary legacy is a privilege and an opportunity. I know we're both humbled by that legacy, and we're eager to get people thinking--really thinking--about movies and to guide cinema lovers in the right direction. And perhaps some unexpected directions."<br /><br />Scott has been a film critic at the New York Times for nearly 10 years and been a frequent guest on PBS' "Charlie Rose," NPR’s "Talk of the Nation" and other radio and television programs. Before joining the Times, Scott was the Sunday book critic at Newsday and a freelance contributor to dozens of publications, including the New Yorker, Wall Street Journal and The New York Review of Books and Slate.<br /><br />“I’m overjoyed and honored to be joining 'At the Movies,' and especially excited to be working with my colleague Michael Phillips, one of the most intelligent and wittiest critics around,” Scott said in the announcement. “This show, with its long history and rich tradition, stands for the idea that there is a place on television for vigorous argument and independent thinking about movies.”<br /><br />Phillips, 48, and Scott, 43, have the respect of readers and their peers, but whether the new team enjoys the same kind of chemistry that Ebert shared with Roeper and can engage in the show's old brand of lively give-and-take will be among the challenges in regaining the show's standing.<br /><br />"I have the highest regard for both Michael Phillips and Tony Scott," Ebert said by e-mail.<br /><br />Siskel and Ebert were anything but polished themselves when they made their WTTW debut, but that may have been part of their charm. The pair went national on public TV in 1978, moved to commercial syndication with Chicago Tribune parent Tribune Co. in 1982 and then to Disney in 1986. Siskel died in 1999 and Roeper was named his successor the following year.<br /><br />Ebert had to leave the program in 2006 because of health issues that have robbed him of his voice, but his name and imprimatur remained with the program until the split with Disney last summer.<br /><br />A sign of trouble had surfaced a few months earlier as the show dropped its use of "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" as shorthand for a recommendation or rejection of a film. Ebert and Siskel's estate owned the trademark on the thumbs.<br /><br />"At the Movies" will continue to employ the “see it,” “skip it,” or “rent it” ratings system it adopted at that time.<br /><br />“I loved working on this show, every moment of it,” Mankiewicz said through Disney. “It was an honor to continue a broadcast legacy not merely started by Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, but created by them. No doubt the show is in good hands."<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-6335744668112278927?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com26tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-12305164450951359322009-08-04T03:00:00.000-07:002009-08-04T03:00:04.685-07:00Criticwatch: Party pooper <a href="#topofpage">Erik Childress sums up this weeks episode of <span style="font-style:italic;">At the Movies</span></a>, starting with Ben Lyons' dismissal of <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Thirst</span></span>:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;">This week’s show was a happy affair. 9 out of 10 “see it”’s and certainly some great movies to boot (<span style="font-weight:bold;">Funny People</span>, <span style="font-weight:bold;">In The Loop</span>, <span style="font-weight:bold;">World’s Greatest Dad</span>). Lyons turned out to be the party pooper this week, delivering the one “skip it” on the final film they reviewed, Park Chan-Wook’s <span style="font-weight:bold;">Thirst</span>. In fairness, I would have pooped on the perfect show too. According to the show’s review aesthetic, I would have gone with “rent it”, but I am certain that I could back it up better and maybe bring something to the discussion about why I thought it ultimately failed as a film rather than an experience. After all, we know how Lyons feels about horror fare.<br /><br />Looking over his Quote of the Week you might think he’s still reviewing <span style="font-weight:bold;">Orphan</span> from last week. <span style="font-weight:bold;">Thirst</span> is an entirely different beast though. Anyone familiar with Park’s previous work, particularly his Vengeance trilogy (<span style="font-weight:bold;">Old Boy</span>, <span style="font-weight:bold;">Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance</span>, <span style="font-weight:bold;">Lady Vengeance</span>), knows he possesses a rather dark sense of humor amidst the violence. Some critics have even gone so far as to call it a black comedy. Suggesting <span style="font-weight:bold;">Thirst</span> is unintentionally funny is so off the mark it boggles the mind, although Lyons tries to cover himself by wondering if some of the jokes were lost in translation. Yeah, that Korean vampire humor always goes right over my head too. It might be hard to label it in the video stores as anything but horror, but any student of even a decade’s worth of film is aware that there are various subsets of the genre and not all of them require giant scares. Never during <span style="font-weight:bold;">Thirst</span> was I thinking “hey, I’m not scared at all here.” Park was chasing something more than just making us jump in our seats and if that’s all Lyons was focusing on, maybe that’s why he was so bored.</span><br /><br /><a href="#topofpage">Click here to read the rest of the story</a><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-1230516445095135932?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com4tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-4980970582389096792009-08-03T03:00:00.000-07:002009-08-03T03:00:03.849-07:00At the Movies: Forgetting Ben Lyons We got a fairly uneventful episode of <span style="font-style:italic;">At the Movies</span> this week, but next week's episode promises the review of the highly unanticipated <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">G.I Joe</span></span> movie. <a href="/2009/05/backtracking_on_gi_joe.html">Recent evidence suggests that Ben will play it safe and pan the movie</a>, but it might be fun to see what sort of mental gymnastics he might pull to defend it.<br /><br />Summing up his review of <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">In the Loop</span></span>, Lyons says:<br /><br /><span style="font-weight:bold;">Lyons:</span> <span style="font-style:italic;">Stay in the loop on good movies this summer and "See" <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">In the Loop</span></span>.</span><br /><br />Oh, please don't. One Gene Shalit is at least one too many.<br /><br /><object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/veYx_ndiApo&hl=en&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/veYx_ndiApo&hl=en&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object><br /><br />At the end of the show, the Bens gives their DVD picks inspired by the newly released <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Funny People</span></span>:<br /><br /><span style="font-weight:bold;">Lyons:</span> <span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">The Cable Guy</span></span> is a bizarre and twisted character driven comedy that still remains one of Apatow's best.</span><br /><br />Now, I liked <span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="font-weight:bold;">The Cable Guy</span></span>, but it was produced by Apatow, who neither wrote nor directed. It doesn't even feature the standard Apatow ensemble--like Apatow-produced films such as <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Superbad</span></span> or <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Forgetting Sarah Marshall</span></span>. It's really a Ben Stiller/Jim Carrey movie. And it's not as good as any of the "real" Apatow movies, which are just as--or perhaps more--crude but also more grown-up and intelligent.<br /><br />If he really wanted a blast from the Apatow-ian past, he might have recommended something a bit more obscure like the DVD for <span style="font-style:italic;">Freaks and Geeks</span> or <span style="font-style:italic;">Undeclared</span>. This pick just seems a bit poorly thought through, which leads to the somewhat hyperbolic "one of Apatow's best" comments.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-498097058238909679?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com6tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-84903257716972506462009-07-28T03:00:00.000-07:002009-07-28T03:00:06.875-07:00Criticwatch - If I had a hammer . . . <a href="#topofpage">Erik Childress discusses the exchange from this week's <span style="font-style:italic;">At the Movies</span></a> on the movie <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Orphan</span></span> (among other things):<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="font-weight:bold;">LYONS:</span> “For me I don’t know what’s really fun about seeing a nine year-old girl take a hammer to somebody’s head over and over again. That’s not enjoyable for me at the movies.”<br /><br /><span style="font-weight:bold;">MANKIEWICZ:</span> “IT’S A HORROR MOVIE, BEN!”<br /><br />Thank you Mank for shouting out what so many of us have wanted to spit back in his face through all his stomach-churning logic and overly biased attitude towards horror films during this last year on the air. Oh boy, so you liked <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Drag Me To Hell</span></span>. That PG-13 rating suits you, does it? You gave a positive review to Let the Right One In? Only three people on Rotten Tomatoes (out of 144) gave it a negative. (For the record those three morons are Amy Nicholson from Box Office Magazine, Prairie Miller and Owen Gleiberman who should have his “top critic” moniker erased on the basis of this one review.) You want to knock Orphan – have at it, sir. There’s a lot to pan it for. I recommended it on the basis of pure comedy and not as a horror film. But within my review I knocked how poorly directed it was if it really had aspirations to be a true-red horror flick. All you can say is how uncomfortable you get when little Esther bashes in a skull with a hammer.</span><br /><br /><a href="#topofpage">Click here to read Erik's other musing about this week's episode</a><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-8490325771697250646?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com7tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-51790090244778725122009-07-27T03:00:00.000-07:002009-07-27T03:00:03.250-07:00At the Movies: He had me, then he lost me This week's episode of <span style="font-style:italic;">At the Movies</span> gave us a repeat of two of Ben Lyons' weaknesses--folding under criticism and objecting to horror elements in movies.<br /><br />First, on <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">The Ugly Truth</span></span>, Ben comments on the notorious vibrating underwear scene:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="font-weight:bold;">Lyons:</span> There is some physical comedy, but it seems like stuff we've seen before. There's a scene at a dinner table that is completely ripped from <span style="font-weight:bold;">When Harry Met Sally</span> . . .<br /><br /><span style="font-weight:bold;">Mank:</span> Yeah, I thought that was an ok scene.<br /><br /><span style="font-weight:bold;">Lyons:</span> [agreeing] An ok scene.</span><br /><br />Sorry, dude, you had me and then you lost me.<br /><br />Later, we get a disagreement in the review of <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Orphan</span></span>, which Mank liked because it had some funny elements in it, but Lyons (who hates horror movies) did not:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="font-weight:bold;">Lyons:</span> For me, I don't know what's really fun about seeing a 9-year-old girl taking a hammer to somebody's head over and over again. To me, that's not really enjoyable.</span><br /><br />After which Mank lights up and smiles, saying,<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="font-weight:bold;">Mank:</span> It's a horror movie, Ben!</span><br /><br />At first I thought Lyons had a decent point, but this time around Mank actually won me over: I've laughed my ass of at over-the-top horror movies with scenes like this plenty of times. It's all fun and games until somebody gets bludgeoned to death by a 9-year-old girl. Then it's just fun.<br /><br />Finally, Mank gives us his 3-to-see: <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Harry Potter</span></span>, <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Orphan</span></span>, and <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">The Hurt Locker</span></span>. <br /><br />He even says "This is my favorite Potter movie and the most adult Potter." If by "most adult" you mean "lots of silly flirting" and by "best" you mean "worst," then I completely agree!<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-5179009024477872512?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-19399473008011587302009-07-20T21:25:00.000-07:002009-07-20T21:32:04.123-07:00Worse than Ben Lyons: Cambridge police <a onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="#topofpage"><img style="float:left; margin:0 10px 10px 0;cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;width: 320px; height: 191px;" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_rJYxLOsQoII/SmVEWeVnINI/AAAAAAAAAfs/vMrP0c_CwZU/s320/gates.jpg" border="0" alt=""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5360766084345962706" /></a><span style="font-style:italic;">"Driving While Black" is a "crime" for which many African-Americans are pulled over. To this we can add the "crimes" of "Swimming While Black" (from a recent incident in Philadelphia) and "Breaking into your own house while Black." To make matters worse for the Cambridge police, the victim of this racial profiling is Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a highly respected Harvard professor.</span><br /><br />BOSTON — Police responding to a call about "two black males" breaking into a home near Harvard University ended up arresting the man who lives there – Henry Louis Gates Jr., the nation's pre-eminent black scholar.<br /><br />Gates had forced his way through the front door because it was jammed, his lawyer said. Colleagues call the arrest last Thursday afternoon a clear case of racial profiling.<br /><br />Cambridge police say they responded to the well-maintained two-story home after a woman reported seeing "two black males with backpacks on the porch," with one "wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry."<br /><br />By the time police arrived, Gates was already inside. Police say he refused to come outside to speak with an officer, who told him he was investigating a report of a break-in.<br /><br />"Why, because I'm a black man in America?" Gates said, according to a police report written by Sgt. James Crowley. The Cambridge police refused to comment on the arrest Monday.<br /><br />Gates – the director of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research – initially refused to show the officer his identification, but then gave him a Harvard University ID card, according to police.<br /><br />"Gates continued to yell at me, accusing me of racial bias and continued to tell me that I had not heard the last of him," the officer wrote.<br /><br />Gates said he turned over his driver's license and Harvard ID – both with his photos – and repeatedly asked for the name and badge number of the officer, who refused. He said he then followed the officer as he left his house onto his front porch, where he was handcuffed in front of other officers, Gates said in a statement released by his attorney, fellow Harvard scholar Charles Ogletree, on a Web site Gates oversees, TheRoot.com<br />Story continues below<br /><br />He was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge after police said he "exhibited loud and tumultuous behavior." He was released later that day on his own recognizance. An arraignment was scheduled for Aug. 26.<br /><br />Gates, 58, also refused to speak publicly Monday, referring calls to Ogletree.<br /><br />"He was shocked to find himself being questioned and shocked that the conversation continued after he showed his identification," Ogletree said.<br /><br />Ogletree declined to say whether he believed the incident was racially motivated, saying "I think the incident speaks for itself."<br /><br />Some of Gates' African-American colleagues say the arrest is part of a pattern of racial profiling in Cambridge.<br /><br />Allen Counter, who has taught neuroscience at Harvard for 25 years, said he was stopped on campus by two Harvard police officers in 2004 after being mistaken for a robbery suspect. They threatened to arrest him when he could not produce identification.<br /><br />"We do not believe that this arrest would have happened if professor Gates was white," Counter said. "It really has been very unsettling for African-Americans throughout Harvard and throughout Cambridge that this happened."<br /><br />The Rev. Al Sharpton is vowing to attend Gates' arraignment.<br /><br />"This arrest is indicative of at best police abuse of power or at worst the highest example of racial profiling I have seen," Sharpton said. "I have heard of driving while black and even shopping while black but now even going to your own home while black is a new low in police community affairs."<br /><br />Ogletree said Gates had returned from a trip to China on Thursday with a driver, when he found his front door jammed. He went through the back door into the home – which he leases from Harvard – shut off an alarm and worked with the driver to get the door open. The driver left, and Gates was on the phone with the property's management company when police first arrived.<br /><br />Ogletree also disputed the claim that Gates, who was wearing slacks and a polo shirt and carrying a cane, was yelling at the officer.<br /><br />"He has an infection that has impacted his breathing since he came back from China, so he's been in a very delicate physical state," Ogletree said.<br /><br />Lawrence D. Bobo, the W.E.B Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard, said he met with Gates at the police station and described his colleague as feeling humiliated and "emotionally devastated."<br /><br />"It's just deeply disappointing but also a pointed reminder that there are serious problems that we have to wrestle with," he said.<br /><br />Bobo said he hoped Cambridge police would drop the charges and called on the department to use the incident to review training and screening procedures it has in place.<br /><br />The Middlesex district attorney's office said it could not do so until after Gates' arraignment. The woman who reported the apparent break-in did not return a message Monday.<br /><br />Gates joined the Harvard faculty in 1991 and holds one of 20 prestigious "university professors" positions at the school. He also was host of "African American Lives," a PBS show about the family histories of prominent U.S. blacks, and was named by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential Americans in 1997.<br /><br />"I was obviously very concerned when I learned on Thursday about the incident," Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust said in a statement. "He and I spoke directly and I have asked him to keep me apprised."<br /><br /><a href="#topofpage">Originally posted at The Huffington Post</a><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-1939947300801158730?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com12tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-17390115553959689192009-07-20T03:00:00.000-07:002009-07-20T03:00:02.229-07:00At the Movies: Growing old gracefully <style type="text/css">div.inline-left{float:left;padding:0;margin:0 2em 0 0;}div.inline-right{float:right;padding:0;margin:0 0 0 2em;}div.inline .image,div.image img{line-height:0;}span.inline-left{float:left;padding:0;margin:0 2em 1em 0;}span.inline-right{float:right;padding:0;margin:0 0 1em 2em;}span.inline .image,span.image img{line-height:0;border:0;}span.caption{display:block;text-align:left;;font-size:75%;line-height:normal;color:#666;margin:0;padding:0;}.image span{margin:0;padding:0;}.image a{color:#666;text-decoration:none;}.node.image{margin:0 0 10px 0 !important;}.image</style><br />This week on <span style="font-style:italic;">At the Movies</span>, Lyons and Mankiewicz give their lists of the five best films of the year so far (plus the single worst film so far):<br /><table><tr><td><span style="font-weight:bold;">Lyons</span></td><td><span style="font-weight:bold;">Mank</span></tr><tr><td>1. <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Sin Nombre</span></span></td><td>1. <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Sin Nombre</span></span></tr><tr><td>2. <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Tyson</span></span></td><td>2. <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">The Hurt Locker</span></span></tr><tr><td>3. <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Up</span></span></td><td>3. <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Every Little Step</span></span></tr><tr><td>4. <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">(500) Days of Summer</span></span></td><td>4. <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Sugar</span></span></tr><tr><td>5. <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Star Trek</span></span></td><td>5. <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">I Love You, Man</span></span></tr></table><br /><span class="sw image inline-right" style="width: 166px"><a onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="#topofpage"><img style="float:right; margin:0 0 10px 10px;cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;width: 166px; height: 258px;" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_rJYxLOsQoII/SmOGYo51RXI/AAAAAAAAAfk/SKyPq-_nnag/s320/old.jpg" border="0" alt=""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5360275739355989362" /></a>Ben Lyons' view of a 40-year-old</span>On Mank's number 5 pick, Lyons says "When comparing it to the <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">The Hangover</span></span>, both very funny, both incredibly well written, and also both starring older cast members. They don't play like frat-boy comedies." <br /><br />Oh boy. "Older cast members?" Meaning in their 30s? Both are about guys who are about to get married--are they supposed to be just out of high school? Now, I'm not one to put Lyons down for his age, but this does not exactly help his credentials as a "mature" film critic. And by the way, <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">The Hangover</span></span> doesn't play like a frat-boy comedy? Not sure about that.<br /><br />Lyons also mentions--twice--the "grace" in <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Star Trek</span></span>. First saying that the two lead actors "take on iconic roles with an ease and a grace that will surely drive the franchise for years to come." Later, he adds that it is "really difficult to walk that line of the hard-core fans of the franchise and people who are not familiar with the franchise, but [director J. J. Abrams] did so gracefully." Of all the adjectives that I might use to describe the movie, that is probably one of the last.<br /><br />Their "worst" movies were <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Bruno</span></span> (Mank) and <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">I Love You, Beth Cooper</span></span> (Lyons). After listing these, and wrapping up the show, Lyons and Mank discuss the new rule for the Oscars which will result in ten (instead of five) nominations for Best Picture. Mank adds,<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="font-weight:bold;">Mank:</span> So I think a movie that just opened a few days ago, the sixth Harry Potter, <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince</span></span>, it's dark, it's much more grown up, I think that's also a possibility for a nomination.</span><br /><br />First off, <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Half-Blood Prince</span></span> is doing crazy business, so it does stand a good chance for a nomination. But does it really deserve it? Everybody I know thinks that it is by far the most mediocre--and boring--in the Harry Potter series.<br /><br />But they also provide no commentary about the economics behind the decision. Clearly, the Academy hopes that expanding the number of films that get a nomination will improve their success at the box office and improve DVD rentals. But how about improving the movies themselves? The big blockbusters this year have been retreads based on already established brands outside the movies <span style="font-style:italic;">and</span> are sequels--<span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Harry Potter</span></span> and the <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Transformers</span></span>. <br /><br />How about some motivation for something unique and different? I would hope that expanding the number of nominations actually helps smaller films that have a more difficult time finding an audience--like <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">The Girlfriend Experience</span></span>, my pick for the best movie so far this year. If the new rule just benefits <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Harry Potter</span></span>, it is hardly worth it.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-1739011555395968919?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com9tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-14820246143846556702009-07-14T03:00:00.000-07:002009-07-14T03:00:06.962-07:00Criticwatch - Who's he crappin'? Erik Childress cites many of the moments that I cited in this week's episode of <span style="font-style:italic;">At the Movies</span>, so I'll highlight one of Erik's points that I did not mention, regarding a movie I did not see:<br /><br /><span style="font-weight:bold;">Lyons (on <span style="font-style:italic;">I Love You, Beth Cooper</span>):</span> <span style="font-style:italic;">It condones drinking and driving.</span><br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;">Really, Benny? Are you really going to go there? The guy who praised <span style="font-weight:bold;">The Hangover</span> to the hilt? The guy who put it second on his list of 3-To-See on the June 20 show? The film where three completely messed up guys in Vegas steal a police car, drive it to Mike Tyson’s house, steal his tiger, put said tiger IN THE CAR and then drive back down the strip to Caesar’s Palace. You mean drinking and driving like that? Beth Cooper has maybe a beer or two by comparison and is shown to be primarily the worst teen driver since Kelly Jo Minter in Summer School. Anyone? Whomever was driving the police car in The Hangover had not only been drinking all night, but jacked up on rufies. But I guess you don’t care if it’s real or if it’s fake. You just wanna find out if it’s funny. Ben Lyons, who in the hell do you think you’re crappin’?</span><br /><br /><a href="#topofpage">Read the entire Ben Lyons Quote of the Week here</a>.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-1482024614384655670?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-70781632737007021102009-07-13T03:00:00.000-07:002009-07-13T03:00:01.804-07:00At the Movies: Ben Mankiewicz and the Half-Wit Prince <a onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="#topofpage"><img style="float:left; margin:0 10px 10px 0;cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_rJYxLOsQoII/SP0rahhpxrI/AAAAAAAAAA8/XgbMv_I0M3s/s320/293.radcliffe.lyons.021208.jpg" border="0" alt=""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5259407674514720434" /></a>On this week's episode of <span style="font-style:italic;">At the Movies</span>, we get an early review of <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince</span></span>. Mank tells us how the movie is much more rooted in the lives of real-life teenagers, and Ben Lyons agrees:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="font-weight:bold;">Lyons:</span> Mank, I love how this film establishes that it takes place in the real world. It opens in London, but then of course goes to the world of Hogwarts and wizards.</span><br /><br />No shit? It starts in the Muggle world, and then moves into Hogwarts later? Wow, that would make it EXACTLY LIKE EVERY OTHER HARRY POTTER MOVIE. A stunning grasp of the obvious there, Ben. Next you are going to tell me that "the Transformers do something really cool. They are these giant robots that transform into cars! And they make a cool sound when they do it!" Ben Lyons gets early access to not only seeing but reviewing the movie, and he tells us something we already know--even if we have not already read the book.<br /><br />Then we get to <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Bruno</span></span>, which has a surprisingly high 70% rating on the Tomatometer. Although it is worth pointing out that the Top Critics rating is only 53%, a surprisingly vast difference compared to most movies' Tomato ratings.<br /><br />Anyway, Mank, like me, loved <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Borat</span></span> but hates <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Bruno</span></span> and rightfully tears it apart, saying that it is offensive and simply drags innocent bystanders into scenes with Bruno's crude actions. Some of these people are homophobic, but all too often they're just disgusted and often rightly so. <br /><br />Ok, I didn't hate it quite as much as Mank did. I thought about two-thirds of the movie was exactly what he says, and about one-third--mostly in the latter part of the film--has Bruno mocking homophobes and other idiots--people who will do anything to get their babies into modeling and a couple of celebrity charity consultants who are total morons. But the rest is, yes, stupid.<br /><br />Ben Lyons would disagree with me--as he did with Mank:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="font-weight:bold;">Lyons: </span>I think you and I are looking at it differently. While you are maybe sympathizing with some of the people that you say he exploits on camera, I'm holding those people accountable for their actions and what they say and how they conduct themselves. And I'm laughing at Bruno more so than I'm really laughing at their ignorance. I mean Borat, you're really looking at the people around him as much as him.</span><br /><br />So which is it? Are you holding those people accountable or are laughing at Bruno? And who are you holding accountable, exactly? There are some who really deserve to be mocked--the people I mentioned above, the Israeli lynch mob, the Fred Phelps "God Hates Fags" neanderthals, even Ron Paul. But what about the hotel workers who are asked to untie Bruno and his friend from each other after a night of S&M? Or the unsuspecting focus group forced to watch Bruno's crude, penis-wagging TV show? Or, worst of all, an African-American audience rightly outraged at Bruno's carrying around an adopted African child as an accessory, a la Madonna?<br /><br />Sorry Lyons, you are not making much of a case for your opinion here. It seems more like you are just more willing to laugh at crude stereotypes than Mank is.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-7078163273700702110?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com2tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-74938459865931680302009-07-08T08:00:00.000-07:002009-07-08T09:45:40.904-07:00Smile Jermaine Jackson sings what Brooke Shields called Michael Jackson's favorite song: <span style="font-style:italic;">Smile</span>, written by Charlie Chaplin<br /><br /><object width="560" height="340"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/bm05jsdWR3k&hl=en&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/bm05jsdWR3k&hl=en&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="560" height="340"></embed></object><br /><br /><a href="/2009/04/happy_birthday_charlie.html">As a Chaplin fan</a>, I couldn't help posting this. But I have also been deeply moved by Jackson's death--after years of seeing the increasingly erratic behavior and unnecessary cosmetic surgery, his death is a reminder of what incredible talent he had. I was only 5 or 6 years old when <span style="font-style:italic;">Thriller</span> was released, and not interested in music at all at the time, but this was a different sort of phenomenon. Listening to his music again today is a revelation, stripping away all the negative press and accusations to reveal something far too extraordinary to ignore.<br /><br />If you have any doubts or lingering hostility toward Jackson, watch the clips from the making of the <span style="font-style:italic;">Thriller</span> video where he appears with a Mickey Mouse sweater and a huge smile, clearly loving every beautifully creative moment of the experience. Perhaps that was just hiding deeper insecurities that would be more clearly revealed and enhanced by years of media scrutiny. But if you were young in the early 1980s, I defy you to listen to this music or watch the videos and not remember a time when this beautiful, extraordinary young man stole our hearts.<br /><br />It is fitting that Jackson loved Chaplin's song, as the two have much in common. Both came from quite modest working-class backgrounds looked down upon by society at large--African-American in Jackson's case, Cockney in Chaplin's. Both became performers at a young age, displaying an innate ability to entertain people on the stage, later trailblazing new media and becoming the greatest international stars of their eras. After their meteoric rise, both were dogged by scandal and saw their popularity drastically decline as a result, with many calling for legal action against them.<br /><br /><a onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="#topofpage"><img style="float:right; margin:0 0 10px 10px;cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;width: 222px; height: 320px;" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_rJYxLOsQoII/SlTMCiDCPKI/AAAAAAAAAfc/UAxXzlwzTII/s320/mj_smile.jpg" border="0" alt=""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5356130200721702050" /></a>Those not familiar with Chaplin's life will probably scratch their head in wonder at what all this could have been about, and while Chaplin was a deeply flawed individual, there is no question that the campaign against him was hysterical, short sighted, and utterly reactionary. It is a shame that it took exile and a changed political climate for Chaplin to win the hearts of American movie-goers again, but at least he was able to live a long life with his family while attitudes change.<br /><br />Jackson has not been nearly so lucky, succumbing to the pressure of success with a drug addiction that appears to have killed him. He will not live to see the warm acceptance that might have been bestowed upon him late in life, nor the changing tone from a press that has dogged him mercilessly for decades. The vultures that devoured and destroyed him will likely be none the more introspective about their future victims, but the rest of us will at least have the privilege of enjoying his work for the rest of our lives.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-7493845986593168030?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com3tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-17564748765593035262009-07-06T19:56:00.001-07:002009-07-06T20:04:38.499-07:00So good it's bad I spent all weekend at the Socialism 2009 conference in San Francisco, and though I finally got a chance to watch <span style="font-style:italic;">At the Movies</span> on Monday night, I'll forgo my own lengthy commentary about the episode and hand it over to Erik Childress. His Ben Lyons Quote of the Week is:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="font-weight:bold;">Lyons:</span> Depp is so good that in the moment he holds your attention and I’m along for the ride and it’s a good adult summer movie. However, I wanted an awards show contender and its just not that.</span><br /><br />Erik continues:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;">Lyons was brutal this week. On the movies. Without the immediate benefit of a show-by-show breakdown, this may have been the first time during his tenure on At the Movies that Junior failed to recommend a single title; a prospect that even surprised Mankiewicz during their recap. The closest he came was on Michael Mann’s Public Enemies which got the dreaded “rent it” despite Lyons calling it a “good adult summer movie.” Having spent a part of this weekend on the other side of Criticwatch determining the correct use of the word “masterpiece”, here we have another lesson in choosing your words carefully.</span><br /><br />I concur--if you ever wanted to watch 22 minutes of a grumpy, furrow-browed Ben Lyons with little positive to say and struggling to maintain his fake smile, this was the week to watch. Not that I would recommend it. As Erik quotes Ben in the Quote of the Week, he even raised his usually low standards, giving a "Rent it" to a movie just because it wasn't Oscar worthy. Well, we'll see how Ben's turn to high standard maintains itself in the future . . .<br /><br /><a href="#topofpage">Read the rest of the Criticwatch Ben Lyons Quote of the Week here</a>.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-1756474876559303526?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-1487995091626388462009-06-30T03:00:00.000-07:002009-06-30T11:48:20.936-07:00Criticwatch: Revenge of the sequel Erik Childress gives us the Ben Lyons Quote of the Week:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="font-weight:bold;">Lyons:</span> I found that the filmmakers were really irresponsible in ignoring the younger fanbase of this franchise. You mention the 14 year old boys love the action and Megan Fox but the language and drug references completely unnecessary.</span><br /><br />And then continues with his own commentary:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;">Hearing statements like that from Ben Lyons is enough to make you want to watch a reality show of his exploits at the Hard Rock in Vegas. The movie in question is not <span style="font-weight:bold;">Land of the Lost</span>, but <span style="font-weight:bold;">Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen</span>, a film that only accentuates everything that passed as action and humor the first time around. Why didn’t those PG-13 elements violate his delicate sensibilities back in 2007? Maybe because he was just on the E! Network then and not playing to a more adult audience on ABC that has found ways to work his age into the criticism of him?</span><br /><a href="#topofpage"><br />Click here to read the rest</a><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-148799509162638846?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-9218032304234379989.post-61094882070071255172009-06-29T03:00:00.000-07:002009-06-29T19:48:59.392-07:00At the Movies: Becoming numb to the noise <style type="text/css">div.inline-left{float:left;padding:0;margin:0 2em 0 0;}div.inline-right{float:right;padding:0;margin:0 0 0 2em;}div.inline .image,div.image img{line-height:0;}span.inline-left{float:left;padding:0;margin:0 2em 1em 0;}span.inline-right{float:right;padding:0;margin:0 0 1em 2em;}span.inline .image,span.image img{line-height:0;border:0;}span.caption{display:block;text-align:left;;font-size:75%;line-height:normal;color:#666;margin:0;padding:0;}.image span{margin:0;padding:0;}.image a{color:#666;text-decoration:none;}.node.image{margin:0 0 10px 0 !important;}.image</style><a onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="#topofpage"><img style="float:right; margin:0 0 10px 10px;cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;width: 320px; height: 283px;" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_rJYxLOsQoII/SkfwWhwEBBI/AAAAAAAAAfM/yGpHy23sGKQ/s320/lyons_labeouf.jpg" border="0" alt=""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5352510951960871954" /></a>Ben Lyons has not been so egregious lately in gushing over his friends--or rather, "friends"--at least not at every possible moment. Take this week's episode of <span style="font-style:italic;">At the Movies</span>, in which the new <span style="font-weight:bold;"><span style="font-style:italic;">Transformers</span></span> movie is reviewed. Lyons doesn't even let on that he and Shia are buddies--or "buddies," as in Lyons says "See, we are totally best friends, look at this picture we took together," and Shia says "Ben who?" He has even removed <a href="#topofpage">the link on his Web page to the "Ben Lyons Poses with Famous People" gallery</a> that he was so ridiculed for. The gallery, however, still exists.<br /><br />But we do get this exchange on the movie:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="font-weight:bold;">Lyons:</span> I was a fan of the first film, and I think part of the reason why it worked is there was so much anticipation to see these robots for the first time. And Michael Bay and the team at ILM, the graphics studio that does the special effects, really delivered in that first movie. Here it's excessive, and overkill, and your eye and your brain becomes rather numb to it rather quickly . . .<br /><br /><span style="font-weight:bold;">Mank:</span> Particularly your brain.</span><br /><br />Yes, so much anticipation. Just like he said last week that <a href="/2009/06/at_movies_some_rules_are_sacred.html">this is the most anticipated movie of the summer</a>. Lyons continues:<br /><br /><span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="font-weight:bold;">Lyons:</span> Oh my goodness, because it's endless, and it just sort of looses the mystique that the first one had of seeing these things for the first time. You become numb to it. And I found that the filmmakers were really irresponsible in ignoring the younger fan base of this franchise. You mentioned the 14-year-old boys loved the action and Megan Fox <span style="font-weight:bold;">but</span> the language and drug references, completely unnecessary.</span> [my emphasis]<br /><br />Wow, what a noble and controversial statement. Alright Hollywood, listen to this important message from Ben Lyons: We need less drugs and more female eye candy! Hey, anything less would be irresponsible.<br /><br />Mank, <a href="http://www.stopbenlyons.com/2009/06/at-movies-real-definition-of-rent-it.html">who to his credit has generally been better at pointing at sloppy, stereotypical content in Hollywood films</a>, put it a better:<br /><br /><span class="sw image inline-left" style="width: 242px"><a onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_rJYxLOsQoII/Skfyn8hYldI/AAAAAAAAAfU/nWqXWu1VkHU/s1600-h/TR_grin.jpg"><img style="float:left; margin:0 10px 10px 0;cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;width: 242px;" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_rJYxLOsQoII/Skfyn8hYldI/AAAAAAAAAfU/nWqXWu1VkHU/s320/TR_grin.jpg" border="0" alt=""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5352513450228094418" /></a><span class="caption">Lyons: Dude, Megan Fox is <span style="font-style:italic;">so</span> hot!</span></span><span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="font-weight:bold;">Mank:</span> I know why Megan Fox is in the film, no question. But at some point as you're trying to save the world and you're in the Egyptian desert, maybe jeans and a t-shirt. I mean enough, I get it, she's literally just there to run in slow motion and to be eye candy.</span><br /><br />Unfortunately, we get this frat-boy grin (left) from Lyons as Mank is making this comment.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/9218032304234379989-6109488207007125517?l=www.stopbenlyons.com' alt='' /></div> Scotthttp://www.blogger.com/profile/15534672945058769050scott@stopbenlyons.com0