Why Ben Lyons is indefensible.

6 January, 2009

I found a curious editorial today that attempted to defend Ben Lyons, the worst film critic with a public forum. From The Huffington Post:

First, I got news for you – the whole entertainment industry is built around sucking up to celebrities. You think Ben Lyons is uniquely responsible for this? Are you mental? Have you watched any entertainment “news” in your life?

And the whole point of film criticism is to remain as objective as possible. Obviously there is no exact science as to what makes art good or bad but it doesn’t help when you take pictures with the very personalities you are supposed to be evaluating.

Second, I don’t give a damn how old he is. I just care if he does a good job of reviewing movies on TV.

I agree. And he’s rubbish at it.

Third, yes he reviews movies – on TV. That means he has to be good on TV – and he is. He’s personable, engaging and comfortable. In an ideal world, the best print film critics would make the best movie reviewers on TV. We don’t live in that world (just as many of the best political writers and sports writers are disasters on television).

In other words — above all else — a good guy to have a beer with. Sound familiar?

Fourth, frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn that he doesn’t have Roger Ebert’s encyclopedic knowledge of film history. Who does? (Other than Roger Ebert). I just want to know whether I should see Benjamin Button this weekend. The two Bens will give me the information I need and entertain me while they do it. In fact, I think Ben and Ben have made this show watchable for me now in a way that it never was before.

Then he goes on to explain that the show was worse off with Siskel and Ebert because they were too academic and cerebral and couldn’t relate to average moviegoers. Right, because anyone who could co-write Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is sooooooooo superior. In fact, Ebert’s trump card has always been the fact that he has a soft spot for junk in spite of his encyclopedic knowledge of film.

Here is the critical thing that the critics are missing – these guys weren’t hired to be the best film critics in the country, they were hired to be the best movie reviewers on television. And they are. They’ve got me watching the show every week. You know why? Because for 99% of America, watching movies isn’t an exercise in showing off your intellectual elitism or waxing nostalgic about comparative cinema history. It’s a movie.

Enter Mark Kermode, a film critic in the UK with a PhD, a slew of articles written for The Guardian and The Observer, and regular appearances on radio and television. Mr. Kermode is a man I don’t always agree with but one I can always respect. Like Ebert, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of film. Like Lyons and Mankiewicz, he has the kind of charisma and energy that popular media eats up. And here’s the kicker, Mr. Uygur; Not only does he appreciate crap films, he sometimes cries at them. He absolutely adored High School Musical 3 and even had the guts to say it was a better film than Quantum of Solace. Sounds like a real elitist snob, don’t you think? Observe his review of Mamma Mia:

At what point did Western civilization become so comfortable with mediocrity? So Lyons isn’t a stuffy academic snob. That doesn’t make him any more qualified to review movies than it makes me qualified to play Major League Baseball. And when there are critics like Kermode out there with the kind of intelligence, insight, and individuality that a critic on TV should have, why should we have to put up with this snivelling git.


One Response to “Why Ben Lyons is indefensible.”

  1. Wine Blog said

    Most movie critics are full of it, but that;s why we read their reviews, so we can agree and most the time disagree.

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