I grew up watching Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert sit in the balcony of their nationally syndicated television show and review films. They didn’t do celebrity interviews, they didn’t suck up to stars and they had a great knowledge and passion for cinema. When Gene Siskel died, it was a major blow to the field of film criticism. He was replaced with Richard Roeper who was more of a columnist than a film critic, and though I was disappointed with the choice, Roeper seems like Pauline Kael these days. Due to thyroid cancer, Ebert required surgery on his throat which has left him incapable of speaking to this day. That, coupled with a legal dispute over ownership of the “Thumps Up/Thumbs Down” review system led to the demise of the show as we know it. Roeper left the show and Buena Vista tried to take the show in a different direction.
The result was new hosts, Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz. This, along with the advent of the Rotten Tomatoes “Tomato Meter” and the decline of many major newspapers has pretty much led to the death of film criticism. Mankiewicz is not a true critic himself, and perhaps he looks passable simply because he’s sitting next to Lyons. However, what makes the new incarnation of the show so unbearable and embarrassing is the presence of Lyons, a frat boy buffoon who hasn’t any legitimate background or qualification to be a film critic. Some of my favorite Lyons moments:
-He referred to I AM LEGEND as “one of the greatest movies ever made.”
-He stated that GOLDENEYE was his favorite James Bond film. When asked to explain, he replied “”It was the first one for Pierce Brosnan,” Lyons said. “And that was also. . . when the first-person action video game Bond franchise was launched, which I wasted many hours of my childhood playing.”
-He called 300 “the most unique movie-going experience of a generation. One of the best films of 2007, and of the last 25 years.” 300 was not included on his 10 Best Films for that year.
-He referred to THE GOLDEN COMPASS as “amongst the great fantasy films of all time.”
-He called HORTON HEARS A WHO “Brilliant from top to bottom.”
Lyons was the subject of a scathing LA Times article this week in which he was referred to as “a joke”, having only gotten his job through “nepotism” and a “quote whore.” For those unfamiliar with the term, certain critics earn the moniker of “quote whore” when their sole purpose as a critic is to deliver a soundbite that can be used as a quote by the studio to promote the film. The most famous quote whore of all time is Earl Dittman of Wireless Magazine, who is responsible for the following quotes:
RACING STRIPES: “Soon to take its place as one of this generation’s most hilarious, smart and entertaining family classics.”
SON OF THE MASK: “Hilarious! Wonderfully witty. A comedy for the child in all of us.”
GUESS WHO: “Outrageously funny! Absolute comic perfection!”
INTO THE BLUE: “A heart-stopping, edge-of-your-seat thriller. Jessica Alba gives a knockout performance.”
Lyons isn’t much better if you watch the show, only he stands out more because he inherited such an important throne in the world of film criticism. You can watch the show for free online if you’d like, but instead of linking you to that awful garbage, I thought it would be better to provide some links to some quality critics, for they are a dying breed.