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Mudcat
06-16-2009, 05:30 PM
Just wondering if people here watch this and what you think.

I watch it every week. I am a big movies buff so I appreciate the show for keeping me up to date and giving me a sense of things.

Maybe the perspective I am coming from is I know a lot of people are angry about Ben Lyons. The general accusation is that he is a pretty-boy lightweight who is too buddy-buddy with the people he is supposed to be critiquing - and therefore not objective.

I gotta be honest. I can be as snooty as anybody about movies but I don't find him bad. I disagree - sometimes strongly - with his opinions but I don't think I disagree as often as I did with Roger Ebert. A Roger Ebert thumb was worth basically zero to me in deciding if I should see a movie. At least I have developed a sense of how a Lyons review will relate to my taste.

I find Mankiewicz solid. He is growing on me.

I liked Richard Roeper better than both Bens. I was on a pretty close wavelength to Roeper. That's what you want in a critic.

Jcomp
06-16-2009, 06:23 PM
The problem with Ben Lyons is that he's let himself essentially become a shill. Even many other critics find him to be lacking in integrity. The average fan is not aware of this so the show goes on, but the people who find him insufferable have solid cause.

For instance, he called I Am Legend "one of the greatest movies ever made." Now, that's his opinion (overblown as I may find it, and I liked the movie), so there's nothing wrong with that in and of itself.

However, as Roger Ebert wrote in an article basically aimed at Lyons (http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2008/10/eberts_little_rule_book.html):


Keep track of your praise. If you call a movie "one of the greatest movies ever made," you are honor-bound to include it in your annual Top Ten list. Likewise, for example, if you describe a film as "the most unique movie-going experience of a generation," and "one of the best films of 2007, and of the last 25 years," it's your duty to put it in the Top Ten of 2007. This is doubly true if you have published two separate lists naming 14 of the year's top 10 films."

Lyons, at best, can be accused of being far too "in the moment" with his reviews and not giving things proper thought, distance or perspective. And at worse he's whoring out praise-quotes to keep being friends with the filmmakers he's so chummy with, like the nerdy kid who lets everyone in the neighborhood use his pool whenever so long as they'll pretend to like him.

Mudcat
06-17-2009, 12:59 AM
Everything you're saying there makes sense in theory but I don't see it in practice. I find Lyons' reviews okay.

I wonder if people are looking for problems, maybe because he is young/photogenic/TV friendly. I am not deep inside the world of movie critics but I suspect that's a plum job he's got there. A little jealousy at work perhaps.

I agree that the thing about I Am Legend isn't good but how much of that is really going on? I watch the show every week and don't notice it with any kind of regularity. Many critics end up with goofy praise-quotes attached to movies.

I don't know. Why weren't people calling Roger Ebert a shill and nerdy guy desperate for friends when he gives thumbs up to Garfield and Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties? What happens to the nerdy kid analogy with the many films Lyons pans and rates SKIP IT?

It just feels like the standards are applied unevenly, like there was a conclusion that people want to reach and they are working very hard to make the facts fit.

childeroland
06-17-2009, 02:30 AM
I don't get all the Lyons hate. He's often not very good (Mankiewicz -- an ex-TMZ staffer, btw -- is indeed fantastic) but he's not exactly a quote whore, or no worse than some others. And he gets overenthusiastic about some films, so what? If Ebert can praise Garfield, and Ian Pugh can praise The Uninvited (um, no), shouldn't a lesser critic like Lyons be allowed his mistakes?

Delhomeboy
06-17-2009, 03:06 AM
I don't get all the Lyons hate. He's often not very good (Mankiewicz -- an ex-TMZ staffer, btw -- is indeed fantastic) but he's not exactly a quote whore, or no worse than some others. And he gets overenthusiastic about some films, so what? If Ebert can praise Garfield, and Ian Pugh can praise The Uninvited (um, no), shouldn't a lesser critic like Lyons be allowed his mistakes?

Am I the only one who thought Garfield wasn't that bad?

No, seriously, I think Roger Ebert operates on the idea that most movies are, believe it or not, good. Or at least decent. That's why he uses a "thumbs up" thing instead of an actual score. A movie would have to have the potential to be hated by practically everybody to get a thumbs down from him.

Jcomp
06-17-2009, 04:02 AM
I don't know. Why weren't people calling Roger Ebert a shill and nerdy guy desperate for friends when he gives thumbs up to Garfield and Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties? What happens to the nerdy kid analogy with the many films Lyons pans and rates SKIP IT?

It just feels like the standards are applied unevenly, like there was a conclusion that people want to reach and they are working very hard to make the facts fit.


I don't get all the Lyons hate. He's often not very good (Mankiewicz -- an ex-TMZ staffer, btw -- is indeed fantastic) but he's not exactly a quote whore, or no worse than some others. And he gets overenthusiastic about some films, so what? If Ebert can praise Garfield, and Ian Pugh can praise The Uninvited (um, no), shouldn't a lesser critic like Lyons be allowed his mistakes?

That's not the point though. It isn't about whether or not he likes a certain movie--tons of critics like stuff that gets panned by other people, and pan stuff that gets praised by other critics, Ebert definitely being one liable to praise something others hate (as recently as Land of the Lost). Critics have argued with each other over these sorts of things as well, but hardly anyone calls out someone's credibility solely based on a person's opinions on a film.

If you read Ebert's blog linked above, it's basically a chastisement of perceived lack of objectivity. And when you can't be troubled to list one of the "greatest movies ever made" in your top ten for just the year, it was either one ridiculously good year, or you're saying one thing on TV when the film comes out that you may not actually mean. When you're taking pictures and partying it up with actors whose movies you'll be reviewing, people are going to start wondering about your objectivity.

Respectable critics are all about integrity, and the moment you seem to lack it / have sold it, they're going to be all over you. This isn't news...

childeroland
06-17-2009, 05:11 AM
Lyons's gushing is probably just that -- using hyperbolic language and not being particularly seemly -- unless he has maintained his contradictory stance. I'm not sure it indicates his lack of objectivity so much as a want of professionalism, failure to use his words as carefully as he should and being more than a little fanboyish. On some level, of course, those two faults may be the same, so I might be splitting hairs.

Mudcat
06-17-2009, 06:07 PM
Well anyways, I don't like Lyons enough to go on some crusade. But I think if you watch any critic really closely, there will be lots to pick at.

A lot of critics wish they had his job, I feel sure of that. They will probably still be trying to get mileage out of the I am Legend thing 5 years from now if he's still there.

I do like Mankiewicz more and more. I like the low-key approach. My trust in his recommendations grows.

Claudia Gray
06-17-2009, 06:33 PM
The measure of a critic isn't whether or not you agree or disagree with their opinion, IMHO -- it's the depth of analysis that the critic brings to the review. Even when I disagree with Roger Ebert, I can tell he's really thought about his opinion, that he's familiar with the entire genre and the careers of almost everybody involved and that his points of discussion are usually good ones. Lyons' reviews are brainless blather, no different than you might get from your buddies when you go out for pizza after the movie. (And, depending on your friends, quite possibly Lyons is much LESS thoughtful.)

My favorite movie critic of all time is Pauline Kael -- not that I agreed with her all the time, but wow, what a writer, and what a thinker. Her single greatest review might be her review of "The Sugarland Express," aka Steven Spielberg's first theatrical release. This is what she wrote at the time:


"The Sugarland Express is like some of the entertaining studio-factory films of the past (it’s as commercial and shallow and impersonal), yet it has so much eagerness and flash and talent that it just about transforms its scrubby ingredients. The director, Steven Spielberg, is twenty-six; I can’t tell if he has any mind, or even a strong personality, but then a lot of good moviemakers have got by without being profound. He isn’t saying anything special in The Sugarland Express, but he has a knack for bringing out young actors, and a sense of composition and movement that almost any director might envy. Composition seems to come naturally to him, as it does to some of the young Italians; Spielberg uses his gift in a very free-and-easy, American way—for humor, and for a physical response to action. He could be that rarity among directors—a born entertainer—perhaps a new generations’ Howard Hawks. In terms of the pleasure that technical assurance gives an audience, this film is one of the most phenomenal debut films in the history of movies. If there is such a thing as a movie sense—and I think there is (I know fruit vendors and cabdrivers who have it and some movie critics who don’t)—Spielberg really has it. But he may be so full of it that he doesn’t have much else. There’s no sign of the emergence of a new film artist (such as Martin Scorsese) in The Sugarland Express, but it marks the debut of a new-style, new-generation Hollywood hand.”

And with that -- she basically summed up everything that would be great and everything that would be flawed in Spielberg's whole career. On the basis of one movie, which is far from typical of Spielberg's work and not his best by a long shot. And when she called this "one of the most phenomenal debut films in the history of movies," you know she meant it; Kael didn't throw around those phrases lightly.

I don't require every movie critic to be Kael's equal, but I do ask them to be better than Ben Lyons.

Jcomp
06-17-2009, 07:31 PM
Well anyways, I don't like Lyons enough to go on some crusade. But I think if you watch any critic really closely, there will be lots to pick at.


But will those things to "pick at" be matters of questionable integrity or just a perception of poor taste? The latter they say there is no accounting for, but the former amounts to a fairly grievous offense in the life of a critic.

There's a local guy here, whose name I won't tarnish, but he's been around a while, and I was at one point fully convinced that there were some movies he wasn't actually seeing but still reviewing. I actually still believe that, but it's not so serious now, but at the time I was ready to write in to his editors with the evidence, which was terribly blatant.

The thing is, he's a guy in San Antonio working at a relatively unknown paper (from a national standpoint) so the larger population of critics and audiences wouldn't know, because they're not reading his stuff. Now if he had the gig reviewing flicks at Rolling Stone (Peter Travers has been called out for seeming to be a quote-whore at times) or on a national television program, someone would've called him out on it long ago.

Lyons gets more attention because of his position, that much is true, but that's to be expected when you step into the spotlight. More eyes are on you then.