Roger Ebert savages rule-violating film critics (one critic in particular)

Ebertlyons_lOne point I wished Roger Ebert (left) had addressed when he apologized last week for reviewing a movie after watching just eight minutes of it is that his rare lapse into unprofessional behavior reflected badly on the professionalism of film critics everywhere, at a time when embattled critics facing a massive wave of layoffs and buyouts don’t need to give editors any more reason to replace them with syndicated review copy. Now, however, Ebert has recognized that point in a follow-up blog post that tries to lay out a professional code for critics. It’s a very good list of rules, one that should be followed by anyone who reviews movies, whether you’re a paid movie critic, a movie enthusiast on a blog, or anyone trying to convey to another person the experience of watching a particular movie or DVD and to tell that person whether or not said film/DVD is worth their time and hard-earned money. Ah, but there’s one other, less altruistic aspect of the list, in which Ebert gets some secret payback.

A lot of Ebert’s "don’ts" (don’t effusively overpraise a movie and then forget that you did so, don’t pose for photos with the stars you cover, don’t accept lavish freebies) are rules routinely violated by other critics and entertainment journalists (not here at EW, of course), but the examples he uses for illustration are dotted with frequent specific references to Ben Lyons (right), who now sits in his old chair on At the Movies. Ebert never mentions Lyons by name, but when Ebert quotes a reviewer who cites 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" but who then fails to include that film on his annual top 10 list, he’s quoting Lyons’ review of 300, which nonetheless failed to make Lyons’ list of last year’s best movies. When Ebert cites a critic who lets entertainment moguls throw him a birthday party attended by such celebrity guests as "the Britney Spears of Korea," he’s also talking about Lyons. And when he mentions critics who offer themselves for commercial endorsements, well, who’s done that lately?

Ebert’s evisceration of Lyons seems to have gone unnoticed by his blog’s commenters so far, but I’m not the only one who’s noticed it. Not sure who should be more insulted, Lyons or the Disney folks who hired him and Ben Mankiewicz this summer to replace Ebert and Richard Roeper, but props to Roger for a dish of revenge served up ice-cold. And for reminding his own critics (including me, last week) that not only are there many worse things a movie critic can do than write up a review of a film based on just eight minutes, but there are other critics he could name (but won’t) who do such things far too often.

More on Roger Ebert:
At the (first eight minutes of) the movies with Roger Ebert
EW movie critic Lisa Schwarzbaum on the end of Ebert & Roeper as we know it
Snap judgment: The new At the Movies with Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz

addCredit(“Ebert: Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images; Lyons: BenLyons.com”)

Comments (9 total) Add your comment
  • Eric Friedmann

    You know, given the amount of absolute sh*t that is on the screen today, I’m surprised critics can even sit through the first 8 minutes of some of them! I actually feel for them, having to do their job which (tragically) includes sitting through horrible remakes and movies with a roman numeral attached to it. It’s enough to probably make you want to give it all up and do something drastic and desperate with your life…like join the blog team at EW!

  • DanOregon

    I don’t blame Ben Lyons. He’s not a movie reviewer any more than Entertainment Tonight is a “news” show. I doubt Lyons even considers himself a movie reviewer, or journalist, but that most ugly of euphamisms, a “TV personality.”

  • NineDaves

    i didn’t think it possible, but this actually makes me love roger ebert even more! bravo to him for showing ben lyons who’s boss.

  • Jason Marcel

    Ebert’s review of the first 8 minutes of “Tru Loved” was fair play, since he didn’t hide that fact by the end of the review.
    He was making a point by doing that this one time, as sort of an object lesson, and isn’t a sign of him slipping or regressing as a critic.
    His blog is one of the most thoughtful of blogs online. Go to any post, and then read through the comments. Unlike most blogs, you can read every single one. His readers reflect higher standards and it’s a treat to check in there every day.
    My big problem with the new “At the Movies” program is that the reviewers haven’t come into it with that much film knowledge the way Siskel and Ebert did.

  • Devon D.

    Gotta be honest- I have a hard time watching Ben L. I started out a fan of Ben M. from Turner and think he’s doing great. And he’s just very cute and funny when his lines are not drowned out. Gave Lyons the benefit of the doubt, but he never seems to listen, engage or interact with Mank or other critics on the show. It’s liek he knows what he wants to say and responds that way no matter what his partner says. And none of it seems very thoughtful. Also, I am really surprised there has been zero publicity for this show and I go to the website and their reviews are not posted- weird. But there is all this weird Lyons stuff, posing awkward with celebs. He looks like a star f’er. Not cool. I want to read the reviews from Mankiewicz and him and get extras from the show. The critics thing is also better now. I’d love to see Mankiewicz with a new host while Lyons was on “vacation”. I’ve grown to like parts of the show more and more, but some parts could change.

  • Sean

    Ebert moderates comments before they’re posted … I put something up there in re how some of this seemed to be touching on Lyons, but the comment was never posted.

  • anne

    Problem with ben Lyons is that he is not just a “movie reviewer” but a “tv personality”. while he reviews movies he also visits the sets, does cameos and helps with the hosting duties for a weekly E! party at a Las Vegas nightclub. he’s also “friends” with celebrities including Nikki Blonsky, Emile Hersh and Shia Lebeouf among others. I don’t even know if Ben Lyons considers himself a film reviewer first and foremost as his career is so much more than that. Problem with Ebert is that he is old school – with so many ways for people to get their film reviews these days its more about convience than integrity. Not saying its right just saying thats the reality of the situation. However, Ben Lyons should know better than to compromise himself. As the son of Jeffrey Lyons you’d think he’d value integrity of reviewing.

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  • bunyan 10

    It’s 2010 —and Ebert is about 3 dedades clueless and stale.

    STILL entranced with the ‘dance your abortion’ self-sensitive
    slop of decades ago he’s missed
    entirely the significance of

    -the ‘end’ of the Cold War
    and the revelations of 62 million
    murdered in Russia since 1918
    —largely in ‘peacetime’

    -the REALITY of consumer-sex
    and the onslaught of the HIV plague
    which to date has killed 40 million
    and 100 million currently infected worldwide. (i.e. not a single
    cautionary tale from our movie industry when it might have mattered —or even NOW)

    or our other pathologically denied
    legacy of 45 million exterminations
    of the unborn —also largely the
    result of consumer-me think ‘convenience’

    OR most disturbing of all the
    quiet suck up and sell out by Hollywood and media to the most
    gargantuan genocidal machine
    history has EVER seen —-across the Pacific! (70 million murdered
    in ‘peacetime’ FACT)

    Has any generation EVER come up SOOOO sleazy and soooo short morally and artistically —as
    the Boomer generation on down?

    AMEN

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