By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
Last but certainly not least, there was the curious case of the proverbial chick flick, which roared back with a vengeance this summer in the form of Sex and the City and Mamma Mia! — but not exactly to everyone’s liking. It’s here that I must devote a few column inches to my colleague Ella Taylor, who weighed in negatively on both of those estrogen-heavy hits, and who took a mighty tongue-lashing from our readers for it. As Ella herself noted in a blog post following the Sex and the City intifada, those who took umbrage with that particular review saw fit to assail Ella’s physical appearance, fashion sense and anger-management skills — before someone finally stopped beating around the bush and flat out called her “a real bitch.” But by far my favorite reader mail of the season came from the Mamma Mia! partisans, whose many messages included the following: “Ella, we always knew you had no soul — that you can’t possibly enjoy a movie without having your snobbish shrugs and condescending attitude spew out of your mouth like that girl in The Exorcist”; “Thanks for making your corner of the world just a little bit darker with this review, miserable one”; and (this one sent by an online reader identifying herself as “smurfette”), “Hey, Ms. Taylor, Ebenezer Scrooge and Darth Vader called. They want their personalities back.” Ouch!
This is ordinarily where I would feel compelled to step in and referee by offering my own opinion of these contentious films, but the truth of the matter is that I haven’t seen them, and as one who has never seen so much as a frame of the SATC television series or heard a single ABBA song that didn’t make me run for my noise-canceling headphones — well, I’m not exactly the target audience for either. What is indisputable is that Ella was hardly alone, even among female reviewers, in her criticisms of the two movies (both of which received just over a 50 percent “fresh” rating at that venerable review Web site Rotten Tomatoes), but the vitriol of the reader feedback was nearly on par with the personal attacks New York critic David Edelstein reported receiving in response to his negative assessment of The Dark Knight. The difference is that, as a critic, you know you’re wading into hazardous waters whenever you pan some sacrosanct totem of the socially maladroit fanboy crowd. But chick flicks? Who knew?
Actually, it’s not so surprising when you pause to consider that women — like blacks, Latinos and many other minorities — are so chronically underserved and underrepresented by Hollywood (even in an era that has seen many studios and production companies run by women) that when a movie finally comes along unapologetically targeted at them, it almost doesn’t matter whether it’s any good or not. The mere fact that it’s there is enough. Call it the Tyler Perry syndrome — certainly, a subject deserving further exploration.
Now, as the mercury drops, the leaves brown and many in the industry head north for that unofficial fall-movie-season kickoff party known as the Toronto International Film Festival (September 4-13), Hollywood will put away its action figures for a little while and indulge in another seasonal pastime — the Oscar derby. Already, the Internet is alive with rumors and prognostications, most of them based on movies that even their own makers haven’t seen yet. So the hype begins, and we critics must once more don our battle armor.
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