Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Happy days are here again.

From the "Thank God somebody came to their senses" file, the Chicago Sun-Times reports that A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips, film critics for the New York Times and Chicago Tribune, respectively, will replace the two Bens (Lyons and Mankiewicz), after their one-season experiment as hosts of "At the Movies", the movie-review show originated by Roger Ebert and the late Gene Siskel.

After a couple of episodes of the Bens' version of "At the Movies", it was clear to me that the show that had as much to do with my love of movies as anything else had turned into a joke and apparently the execs at Disney-ABC only needed a season to see things the same way. (I'm sure the infinitesimal ratings had something to do with it too.) Read my full diatribe on the initial hiring of the Bens here.

But why did it take a disastrous season for anybody to realize this was and would be the case? After Mr. Ebert lost his ability to speak, both Scott and Phillips (who, by the way, are in my opinion two of the very best mainstream film critics this country has to offer) filled in and co-hosted with Richard Roeper. And both were as articulate and insightful on camera as they have been in print.

Now I realize a syndicated television show reviewing movies isn't going to win a large Nielsen share, but when (legitimately or not) there seems to be a constant lament about the death of film criticism or the dwindling relevance of film critics, this feels like something more than a minor victory.