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Jeffrey Lyons - Film & American Values

Film and American Values. What a surprising juxtaposition!

The phrase conjures up the best and the worst of American culture: The best for our creative genius and technological prowess; the worst for our pervasive addiction to mediocrity, superficiality, and our not-always-honorable pursuit of the almighty dollar.

Indeed, film or the motion picture is one of the most mercurial aspects of our contemporary world. At times, cinema is a fickle and changeable creature with the characteristics of both angels and demons.

Film is complicated by its nature, existing as technology, industry, communication, and most of all, an art form.

Since the early experiments of Eadweard James Muybridge and Thomas Alva Edison, the public has been fascinated with motion picture magic. From the first silent films, to talkies, to color motion pictures and video, to the latest computer generated and enhanced productions, we continue to be amazed by the medium.

Film is big business and strengthens our economy. Box office grosses for the United States and Canada have increased almost $10.5 billion per year, not including revenue from video, music and publication. Add to these the contributions film makes to industry, education, mass communication and other facets of our economy, and the impact is immense.

Film is arguably the richest, most effective, compelling, and persuasive of all media. It imposes a degree of legitimacy and reality unrivaled in other forms of communication. Slick images, delightful animation, and stunning visual effects entertain us, educate us, and tell the stories of our lives, irresistibly holding our attention and molding our attitudes and values.

Further, film is a composite of other art forms including literature, music, dance, and architecture. The process of making motion pictures involves creative professionals breathing life into action, comedy, drama, horror, science fiction, and documentary films. Add to this, film’s ability to promote the exchange of ideas on a worldwide basis, and we recognize one of America’s most diverse and potentially egalitarian art forms.

Given the rich and complex nature of film, we might pause to consider its impact on our lives, the decisions we make, and the values we hold

We hope you will join us as the 2012 E. James Holland University Symposium Values brings to the ASU campus Jeffrey Lyons, one of America’s preeminent film and theater critics, to enlighten us on Film and American Values.

Distinguished Speaker

Jeffrey Lyons has reviewed more than 15,000 movies, 900 Broadway and off-Broadway plays, interviewed nearly 500 actors, written or co-authored six books, co-hosted three national movie review shows on PBS, MSNBC and the NBC stations, and received two honorary degrees so far. He’s lectured at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., four times at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, in venues all over the country, and has enjoyed a career on television, radio and print spanning 42 years.

After graduating from Syracuse Law School with a Dr. of Jurisprudence degree in 1969, he conducted his first professional interview for NBC radio’s iconic “Monitor” program with Debbie Reynolds. Since then, he’s interviewed nearly every movie star of the past four decades.

He began his journalism career working summers for the Newhouse Newspapers, then the New York Times, then Westinghouse Radio, where he covered both national political conventions on the convention floor in the turbulent summer of 1968.  Two years later, he joined New York’s WPIX-TV, where he would review movies, theater and conduct interviews for 21 years. He began to be seen nationally on “The Independent Network News” via Tribune Broadcasting in 1980. In 1982, he was chosen over 300 aspirants to co-host “SNEAK PREVIEWS,” the famous PBS movie review program, and during his 12 seasons on that show (1982-92, 1994-96,) they often out-rated the more publicized competing shows.

On radio, he reviews movies, Broadway shows, and conducted interviews with major stars for WCBS and CBS stations from 1974-92 and recently rejoined the station reviewing movies. He’s also heard on WNYM radio in New York . He was also the critic for the Mutual Broadcasting System and CBC Radio Canada. “LYONS DEN RADIO” is his current nationally-syndicated outlet. and he has returned to WCBS Radio as well.

In 1995, he wrote the A&E biography of James Earl Jones, conducting a five-hour-interview with the revered Tony Award and honorary Academy Award-winning actor.

Then in 1996 he joined WNBC as their film and theater critic, and began brining movie stars to his studio; something he’d done regularly at WPIX but which few if any competitors in the #1 TV market did with such regularity. Thus he interviewed everyone from Clint Eastwood to Dame Judi Dench, George Clooney, Peter O’Toole, Sir Alec Guiness,  Penelope Crúz (in her first English interview and subsequently he interviewed here in Spanish for Telemundo), Javier Bardem and Antonio Banderas (also in Spanish); Sir Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Sir Ben Kingsley, Dame Helen Mirren, Dame Julie Andrews, Morgan Freeman, Salma Hayek,  Seth Rogen, Robin Williams Sir Anthony Hopkins, to name just a few. He was the NBC critic for 13 years.

In 2004 he reviewed movies with his son Ben Lyons on “MSNBC’s ‘At The Movies’”, then in 2005, he created and co-hosted “REEL TALK,” a ratings winner on all 154 NBC stations, for five years, co-hosted with Alison Bailes. It featured a major movie star every week in on-the-set interviews. 

He’s written six books to date. The latest is “Stories My Father Told Me, Notes “From the Lyons Den” a collection of anecdotes from his father Leonard Lyons’ iconic Broadway columns spanning 1934-74, culling stories from 12,400 columns, along with his own interviews. Jeffrey’s family friends growing up included Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, two-time Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, Joe DiMaggio, Ingrid Bergman, Her Serene Highness Grace Kelly, Richard Burton, Sofia Loren, Salvador Dali, Marc Chagall, John Steinbeck, President Harry S. Truman, and dozens more, all chronicled in this book, which has received rave reviews from, among others, the Wall Street Journal and in articles in the New York Times, New York Post and the respected industry publication Kirkus Books. Famed CBS journalist Charles Osgood wrote the introduction, and Kirk Douglas provided a quoted endorsement, along with tribute quotes to his father by Carl Sandburg, America’s greatest historian and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who issued a proclamation on the 100th anniversary of Leonard Lyons’ birth.

As a teenager, Jeffrey trained as a field goal kicker with the New York Football Giants, studied bullfighting in Spain (arranged by Ernest Hemingway), spent seven summers touring with Spain’s greatest matador, Antonio Ordoñez, and sang in the Boys’ Chorus  of the Metropolitan Opera for three seasons. Later, he studied acting with the famed “Method” teacher Lee Strassberg (founder of the revered Actors’ Studio and teacher of, among others, Marilyn Monroe, Lee J. Cobb and Paul Newman), and portrayed himself (“unconvincingly!’) in the movies “The French Connection” and “Deathtrap”, and on TV’s “Wiseguy.”

He is the father of the TV personality, corresp[ondent  and film critic Ben Lyons, formerly of the E! Channel  and now with the syndicated TV series “Extra!” who along with his own duties, appears with Jeffrey touting upcoming movies.

Jeffrey has lectured all over the country on movies, his baseball books, and television techniques. He also lectured on American film and film criticism in Spanish in Venezuela, Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile  and lectured on bullfighting in Madrid.  He lectured on baseball three times at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. and at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

To date, he’s received two honorary degrees from Hofstra University and St. Mary’s College, both in N.Y. state.

Jeffrey’s other books are pictured below: (the latter four he co-authored with his brother and the last with former Yankee hero Jim Leyritz) His baseball books had introductions by Bob Costas and Oscar winners Robert Redford and Billy Bob Thornton and quotes from Billy Crystal, Hall of Famers Dave Winfield, Bob Feller and Willie McCovey, and actress Rosie O’Donnell.

E. James Holland and the History of the Symposium

In 1984, Dr. E. James Holland established the Symposium on American Values that is held annually at ASU and named in his honor.

During his 36 years at ASU, Holland served as professor of government and head of the Government Department, Director of Curriculum Development, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts. With degrees from Southwestern University, Yale Divinity School and the American University in Washington D.C., Holland was instrumental in developing ASU’s international student and faculty exchange programs and establishing new degree programs in international studies, communications, studio arts, and criminal justice.

Holland is an active member of the San Angelo community, serving as president of Adult Day Care, Concho Educators Federal Credit Union, and United Campus Ministries, and as a member of the Ancillary Manpower Planning Board of the Concho Valley Council of Governments. He is also active at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, where he chaired the Administrative Board of the Finance Committee.

Since its inception, the symposium has brought more than 50 nationally prominent scholars, academicians, and policymakers to the ASU campus to provoke thought and discussion on a wide range of themes. A collaborative presentation by students, faculty members, and administrators, the symposium is dedicated to improving the overall academic environment of the university and is committed to exploring the national character as expressed in issues related to American values.

The symposium is sponsored by the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. It is the central event in a broader program of related activities that includes class visits by the featured speaker, a video production of the symposium itself, and a creative contest with cash awards for students.