Thursday, July 24, 2008

"At the Movies" Reincarnated

By now you've almost surely read the news about Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz taking over for Ebert and Roeper on "At the Movies."

Why do we go to the movies in the first place? To live in some kind of alternate world. So, let's pretend we lived in alternate world for a moment. Which two critics would you love/like/be interested in seeing take the coveted seats to argue with one another every weekend for half an hour?

I still have awful memories of Jeffrey and Ben Lyons, father and son, giving a stamp of approval to every piece of merde dished out by Hollywood on a short-lived MSNBC Saturday morning movie show in 2005. You have not wallowed in excruciatingly tedious and banal nonsense until you've seen those two talk about the newest releases (they never quite got to the arthouse films). Why did I watch that? I think I could feel braincells wither and die from it.

Mankiewicz is an amusing, light but seemingly intelligent fellow whose main shtick is his solidly irreverent humor. But if you pair him with Lyons, he's the de facto heavyweight--which is not exactly how I would ever have thought of him before this news. Oy.


Craig Kennedy said...

This is a tough call because for the show to be at its best, I don't think you can draw from the pool of audience friendly people who are already working on TV. And just becuase you like a certain print critic doesn't mean they'd make good TV.

Siskel and Ebert was a good show because of their personality differences, their relative intelligence and passion. You need that spark of chemistry and you need people who know what they're talking about and can convey it on camera.

It's hard to tell that just from people's writing.

Daniel G. said...

I'd like to see Craig vs. Wells. Straight up.

Alexander Coleman said...

I agree with those several points, Craig. Some people have said Michael Phillips, who was on with Roeper a good deal recently, was getting better and better on TV. I had never seen him until this past week, actually, and I thought he brought both charisma and smarts to the discussions. But that was just one episode, so I don't feel very justified in endorsing him.

"...I don't think you cna draw from the pool of audience friendly people who are already working on TV."

I agree, Craig, and sadly it looks like that's exactly what they've done. They went with two safe, presumably vanilla guys (Mankiewicz being, I assume, a little less so, as his knowledge of film history has to be greatly superior to the hapless Ben Lyons). The show will suffer as a result.

Daniel, Craig vs. Wells would be great. Wells could go on about the fumes of a certain movie and Craig could tell Wells he's sick and tired of the fumes emanating from him.

Nick Plowman said...

"Craig vs. Wells."

Hell yeah!

Ben Lyons sucks and I hate him. That's my input.

christian said...

There's a lot of great critics and cinephiles and I can't see it being so hard to cull folks together.

Alexander Coleman said...

Maybe it should be an hour-long foursome with a format kind of like the old CCN show Crossfire before it went to hell around eight years ago or so.

Imagine the shouting! Imagine the way that on any given week, two guys who completely agreed with each other the previous week against the other two, now found themselves on opposing sides with the newest releases!

Hey, it would at least be different.

Nick--completely agree. Ben Lyons is a chump.

Christian--I agree. It's a shame they've dropped the ball here so badly.

K. Bowen said...

People were speculating Phillips and A. O. Scott. I thought, no way. Two dweebs. I owuld have been happy to see Phillips and Wilonsky, because Wilonsky is made for TV. Instead, we get at least one non-entity telling us how wonderful everything is. I don't know about Mankiewicz.

Craig vs. Wells would be a blast.

Alexander Coleman said...

That's a great point about Wilonsky, K.B.

Craig Kennedy said...

Hahah...Craig vs. Wells. That'll be the day!

Christian is right which makes it all the more galling they went for the middle of the road.

Alexander Coleman said...

I read someone say that nowadays, with Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic and everything else, the point of a TV show where a couple of critics give thumbs up or thumbs down and argue about movies is passe.

But is it, really? I think the idea has merit, but you need a couple of fellows who have smarts and Lord knows a much firmer sense of film history and appreciation than Ben Lyons.

Just food for thought.

Alexander Coleman said...

A friend recorded one of the shows and made me watch it, and I felt like I was going to vomit at any second.

Proof positive that things can always get worse.

Sam Juliano said...

Oh God, I completely agree.

Those two are buffoons and a blight on the artistic community.

Derick said...

Well, I don't actually think this is likely to have effect.
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