One of the happiest memories I have is when Danny and I started plowing through the archives of At The Movies during the period where Disney had them all available on-line. We were thinking of the best and worst movies possible and with the speakers cranked laughing and marveling at Siskel, Ebert, Roeper, and the revolving line of critics that served in Ebert's stead while he was sick. As a direct counterpoint, nothing was sadder than seeing the husk that the show became between Ben Lyons' empty hyperbole and Ben Mankiewicz's eyes silently pleading for a gun. It was a dark time.
That's why I'm signaling the 2010 reboot attempt for At The Movies over the past and future reboots, including Ebert's own attempt to bring the show under his umbrella with Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky. The failure of the Lyons / Mankiewicz era proved that there was still an audience out there who wanted something a bit more in-depth than whatever Lyons was doing and Makiewicz was tolerating. I was excited seeing those first promos featuring A.O. Scott, who I preferred sitting opposite Roeper, and Michael Phillips, who I still enjoyed quite a bit.
Part of my appreciation stems from the fact that the advertisements were basically apologizing for the Lyons / Mankiewicz era. They were so over-the-top in making sure the viewer knew that it was serious about criticism this time. It was adorned with phrases like, "Real critics, real reviews," while Scott and Phillips made generic great movie talk in those wonderful matching black suits. This is probably the closest we'll ever come to a commercial masquerading as a massive apology, trying to comfort those few fans left by saying, "Come on back! We're serious this time."
And, as the choir rang out, it was a great show again. It took a little while for them to find their footing but once Scott and Phillips aren't ones to make every film the best or worst movie they'd ever seen. Phillips was a bit brasher in his presentation than Scott, but their back and forth was always fun to follow and very informative. I liked seeing the analogues between their discussion and the ones I was having with Danny, as he was cool like Scott where I tended to embrace the emotion a bit more like Phillips. We never did quite get to do our Scott / Phillips cosplay but there's still years ahead.
There were still a few old zingers left in the cabinet as well. One of my favorites involves the Mira Nair biopic about Amelia Earhart. Michael Phillips, introducing a clip between Richard Gere and Hilary Swank, said that the conversation was, "...filled with enough foreshadowing to blanket the world in darkness." It was a good time to be watching At The Movies again.
Alas, it was not long for this world. But the excellent effort that Scott and Phillips put in, combined with Disney's thinly veiled apology to long-time fans, makes it stand out against all the other reboots, rehostings, and reimaginings of the show. I appreciate them all for giving it their best.