MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Why Ly'?

The LA Times did a hit piece on Ben Lyons today… Saturday… two days after Christmas… pretty much a burial…
But what really struck me about the mostly cut-n-paste story was that there was not a single full-time critic quoted. Stu van Arsdale came closest to making the point that is basically missed by the existance of a piece like this…
Who Fucking Cares?
While it is, indeed, something to have a syndicated platform, powered by Disney O&Os, after four months of this embarrassing Disney experiment – though not close to being as embarrassing as Ebert’s exit was mishandled – there has been ZERO impact by either host or the thumbless show. If Disney took the show out of prime slots in LA, NY, and Chicago, the ratings would be comedically low (as they are for the pater Lyons’ show) and Disney would be “no commenting” instead of defending a show that was hamstrung not only by hack hosts, but by a lack of a philosophy behind the show or the meager prduction budget needed to have behind-the-scenes talent to drive the machine.
I intensely disagree that there is not a syndication movie review show that can work. Really, that is a stupid argument made only by people who don’t understand television. The big mistake by Disney was thinkng that youth and cable celebrity was a way to draw. Dumb. If that were true, E! would not have programmed itself into a whorehouse and still be getting soft ratings and you’d all be talking about G4.
The shame is that opportunities like this – and Roeper… and Shoot Out, which never figured out how to turn so many good elements into the fun show it always wanted to be – poison the well for “the next show.”. Not only is there a flop, but this will be a flop that signals that such a show should never be tried again. Maltin’s show failed. Lyons Sr and Bailes will be on the deathwatch as soon as NBC has a few months post-At The Movies to see no ratings increase, Shootout is out at AMC. And while I love Elvis Costello and much of the Sundance Channel programming, they are signalling for TV what we see on fashion mags on the racks every day… why just have someone who can deliver when you can have a celebrity deliver with some built-in awareness?
Regardless… Lyons and Mank3 will be gone and forgotten soon enough… like Dixie Whatley and Bill whateverhisnamewas and so many others. Even Roeper, who like him or not had years sitting right there with Roger, was unable, with the support of Roger and other backstagers from the old show, was unable to get a show started that would have had the thumbs and all. No one wants that show. No one wants this show (but Disney wants to role the dice to try to hold valuable syndication slots). If it were a lame animal, we’d shoot it in the head.
But do we really need another column inch used to watch it shoot itself in the foot?
I don’t.
(via iPhone… from Atlanta)

14 Responses to “Why Ly'?”

  1. Josh Massey says:

    What are you doing in my neck of the woods, DP?

  2. Joe Leydon says:

    He’s coming for you, Josh. Just like Terence Stamp in The Limey. You can run, but you can’t hide.

  3. Roman says:

    Who cares if he’s not “fit” to be a “critic”? (Ben Mankiewicz isn’t that much better if you ask me. TCM could have done better.) Not that I’m watching anything this guy’s doing but the real question is does anyone have any idea what kind of ratings the show is getting?

  4. Roman says:

    By the way, the simple truth was that Ebert has alaways been a better print critic than he was a TV host. It was fascinating to watch him bickering with Siskel and once that was lost, it just wasn’t the same. Roeper, and I kind of like him overall, was always a bit toothless so the arguments were never particularly being and the range of views presented wasn’t as big.
    Nowadays, it is clear, that Disney is trying to position the show as the more youth oriented, “hipper” type of show for the RT ready generation (as can be witnessed in the useless “Critic Roundup” segment”). It’s not harder to produce than any other movie show and as long as it gets decent views for the hour it will be fine.
    Lyons is as good as any to fill that spot. So he cares if that’s not really any good at all in an objective way? We are not watching it anyway, right?

  5. LexG says:

    You know what would be awesome, is if NEAL GABLER also has an awesomely toolish frat-reviewer son in his mid-20s.

  6. Krazy Eyes says:

    I Tivo’ed a bunch of SHOOTOUT episodes a few weeks ago and thought they were generally pretty good. Has it really been canceled?

  7. Cadavra says:

    It’s gone from AMC, but Bart said it will continue elsewhere (probably on the ‘net).
    One note of correction: Maltin’s show (HOT TICKET) did not fail in the normal sense of the word. It was in fact picked up for a fourth season and contracts were signed. Then someone high up at Paramount felt that THE INSIDER’s weekend show should expand to an hour. With no other half-hour shows to pair up HT with, they simply jettisoned it and paid everyone off.
    The irony is obvious.

  8. movieman says:

    If there was any justice in the world, Little Benny Lyons would still be living in his parents’ basement and attempting to pass Algebra 1 just so he could (FINALLY!) collect his high school diploma.
    Of course, if “fair” mattered, his old man would have been an unsuccessful, Willy Loman-ish Long Island insurance salesman
    instead of a nationally syndicated “movie critic.”
    I can’t believe Disney hasn’t cancelled that abomination yet: they dumped it from my local station’s line-up after two weeks.
    Shit-for-brains/arrogant-poseur-prick Roeper is beginning to look like the reincarnation of Gene Siskel right about now.

  9. LexG says:

    Since my awesome Neal Gabler joke was overlooked, I’m going to take an additional second to bemoan the lack of vintage Lyons/Gabler footage on YouTube. Gabler was definitely rockin’ the Kenny Loggins groover look back in those days.
    It’s very odd that both guys Lyons Sr. was partnered with are now thought of as partisan political blowhards– at best, they were and are “culture commentators.” I don’t know, it just seems like the modern equivalent would be a “Sneak Previews” starring Peter Travers and Brent Bozell.

  10. jflix says:

    For me, the most telling commentary on the current nepo-tized version of “At the Movies” is simply this: I used to watch “Siskel & Ebert” religiously. I even watched the end-of-days “Roeper and Phillips” version of “At the Movies” religiously. But I hadn’t seen one second of footage from the “Ben” version until I re-read this post today.
    Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that my local Ohio affiliate dropped “At the Movies” once The Roeper walked and Ebert washed his hands of the whole ordeal, thereby underscoring another important fact: no one cares and no one’s watching. Even the few people who still CAN watch aren’t watching.
    Ben Lyons is pretty ridiculous…he was only positioned as a “movie dude” because his father has been a “syndicated movie dude” for years. The guy just wanted to get into television hosting, and movies was the most reliable way to do so given his family history. You know he’s also the host of (the much more prominent and more widely viewed, by the way) Nickelodeon’s “My Family’s Got Guts”? The proof is in the pudding…Lyons will pharm himself out as a host-for-hire, and has become fairly good at doing so, which is why he gets jobs. But consider the sources of said jobs. The revamped tabloid-fabulous E! Entertainment? The level-one kid zone Nickelodeon? The openly budget-conscious, youth-whoring Buena Vista TV? These make up the core of Ben Lyons’ professional turf. Nuff said.
    I would agree with movieman that Roeper is looks more and more like Siskel with every passing second Lyons appears on the show. But in the few minutes of the show I watched online, something interesting occurred in my brain: Disney has repositioned the show with what they are trying to turn into younger proxys of Ebert and Roeper. Lyons is about as genial, dorky, and awful as Roeper was when he first appeared with Ebert. Mankiewicz is certainly no Ebert, but he is when compared to Lyons, and he sometimes seems to barely tolerate the kid, which I’m sure is exactly what Disney was aiming for.

  11. jflix says:

    For me, the most telling commentary on the current nepo-tized version of “At the Movies” is simply this: I used to watch “Siskel & Ebert” religiously. I even watched the end-of-days “Roeper and Phillips” version of “At the Movies” religiously. But I hadn’t seen one second of footage from the “Ben” version until I re-read this post today.
    Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that my local Ohio affiliate dropped “At the Movies” once The Roeper walked and Ebert washed his hands of the whole ordeal, thereby underscoring another important fact: no one cares and no one’s watching. Even the few people who still CAN watch aren’t watching.
    Ben Lyons is pretty ridiculous…he was only positioned as a “movie dude” because his father has been a “syndicated movie dude” for years. The guy just wanted to get into television hosting, and movies was the most reliable way to do so given his family history. You know he’s also the host of (the much more prominent and more widely viewed, by the way) Nickelodeon’s “My Family’s Got Guts”? The proof is in the pudding…Lyons will pharm himself out as a host-for-hire, and has become fairly good at doing so, which is why he gets jobs. But consider the sources of said jobs. The revamped tabloid-fabulous E! Entertainment? The level-one kid zone Nickelodeon? The openly budget-conscious, youth-whoring Buena Vista TV? These make up the core of Ben Lyons’ professional turf. Nuff said.
    I would agree with movieman that Roeper is looks more and more like Siskel with every passing second Lyons appears on the show. But in the few minutes of the show I watched online, something interesting occurred in my brain: Disney has repositioned the show with what they are trying to turn into younger proxys of Ebert and Roeper. Lyons is about as genial, dorky, and awful as Roeper was when he first appeared with Ebert. Mankiewicz is certainly no Ebert, but he is when compared to Lyons, and he sometimes seems to barely tolerate the kid, which I’m sure is exactly what Disney was aiming for.

  12. jflix says:

    Oops…sorry for the accidental double-post.

  13. LexG says:

    Does a newspaper that employs that hapless buffoon Ken Turan really have any room to be bagging on anyone else’s film critics?

  14. great scott says:

    I’ve got a gigantic crush on the British babe (can’t remember her name)Lyons Sr. hosts Reel Talk with so I hope David’s wrong and that show isn’t put on “deathwatch” any time soon.
    Replacing Roger Ebert with Ben Lyons was like replacing Frank Langella on Broadway with John Stamos.

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin