We Won't Be Seeing You "At the Movies" Much Longer
I'm sad today, and most people will think it's stupid why, but "At the Movies," after 35 freaking years, was cancelled (It will keep airing till August). I've been a fairly consistent follower since the late eighties. So I was there after Gene Siskel died and after a rotation of new critics, Richard Roper finally took the vacant seat for good. I was there for Roger Ebert's bout of cancer which eventually took him off the show for good since he no longer had a voice and eventually it was Richard Roper and Michael Phillips doing an admiral job at filling the renowned seats.
I stuck around for that awful late 2008/2009 duo of Ben Mankewicz (Turner Classic Movies) and that big pussy known as Ben Lyons (E Entertainment) who seemed more concerned with getting catch phrases in the movie ads than actually giving an honest and well thought out opinion of a film. My personal favorite cringe worthy moment was in his review for 2009's "Orphan" where he said "I wouldn't adpot this movie." Holy Shit, Really?
Lately it's been good again with Michael Phillips returning and A.O. Scott of the New York Times joining him for the latest incarnation. But I guess for whatever reasons the ends aren't there to justify the means to keep the show going. I can't imagine the thing is that expensive to produce nor can I imagine they are having to pay Phillips and Scott a lot of money to do what they love to do, but for whatever reason it's going off the air.
Love it or hate it, the show is an institution. And I would go as far as comparing it to the "Today Show," "Tonight Show," "Saturday Night Live," or hell, "Jeopardy." It's one of those shows that while you might not have watched it every week, it was comforting knowing it was there. It has spawned off many imitators that have never been able to last a season or two. Most recently, these shows have taken "Politically Incorrect" type formats for a younger audience. You will have some "E" reporter tag teamed with Jeffery Lyons or Leonard Maltin looking more uncomfortable than the people watching the show. Who wants to hear Leonard Maltin talk about how hip something is; just let him talk about the damn movie.
It also makes you wonder what the state of film criticism is. The internet has made way for a whole new generation of film critics, most of whom can't even spell a word correctly, but dammit, they have an opinion. There is also this guy spouting his crazy film gibberish on a weekly basis.* And now many papers are firing their film critics; of course in a few years what will the state of the newspaper be?
You can still go to the websites and read the likes of Roger Ebert (Still going strong with a new energetic love of film that borders on insanity), Peter Travers, or A.O. Scott, but for this film lover I always enjoyed watching the critics battle it out on the tube. I will miss the year end best and worst, the "We Pick the Oscar Specials," and just the weekly rapport between two intelligent film lovers (excluding Ben Lyons of course).
One of my fondest memories is of a "We Pick the Oscars" special from 1994. This was when Gene Siskel was still alive and well and he was going off on a tangent about "Maverick" being nominated for "Best Costume." I don't remember the exact verbage but it was something along the lines of: "They're wearing cowboy hats! So What? It's a Western!" In that same special, Roger Ebert went off on less of a tangent about Susan Sarandon being nominated for the awful movie, "The Client." Letting it be known that while Sarandon was one of the best actresses working today, how many lesser known and better performances have to get looked over for a phoned in performance by a bonafide movie star? This is an opinion shared by many film lovers today when discussing the state and importance of the Academy Awards.
Maybe the fact that this will matter to so few people is comment enough on the state of film criticism, and that's fine. To each his own. I just wanted to pay tribute to the show that really broadened my interest in film and partly made me the film lover I am today. I will miss you, "At the Movies." It's been fun.
* For anyone reading this that is not a regular reader, this film review site is one run by our fellow blogger Chris, and should be read by anyone with a love for film or tall men who look like Blake Shelton.