Monday, March 07, 2005

Their Eyes Are Watching Oprah

I mean, maybe it isn't a total friggin' albatross. Maybe tonight's TV film adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston's resplendent novel Their Eyes Were Watching God turned out just fine, despite the sigh-inducing posters, atonal TV ads (is this a Noxzema commercial?), and the wacked-out sight of how Halle Berry looks in this photo. But I'm pretty sure this is a mess.

And how is Oprah going to splash her name on top of yet another classic book? This woman is losing control. Last weekend, she managed to make the Oscars as much about her as humanly possible for a non-presenting non-nominee, and now she's made herself infinitely more conspicuous in the ads for Their Eyes than Zora Neale Hurston is. Does she really need to be on the book cover, too? Oprah has some great qualities, but the megalomania is getting the best of her. Will she be happy the day she has burned an image of herself and what she likes right into all of our retinas? Did the title of Their Eyes Were Watching God simply get her to thinking, "Well, why aren't they watching me?" I don't really believe that about Oprah, but she's gotta calm down if she expects to be interpreted generously.

To make matters worse, the dumber-every-day New York Times ran this review that cynically and stupidly takes down Zora's book along with the drossy-looking movie. If you don't know how to read, lady, and if you can't find any meaning behind the "dialect" and "plot gaps" in this novel, you need to sign over your ID badge and get a job where you aren't secretly trying to cover over your lack of credentials. I love critics with whom I agree or disagree—it's the whole point of the profession—but critics who flaunt that they don't know what they're writing, thinking, or talking about really get me mad.

At least Their Eyes... finally answers the question of whatever happened to Darnell Martin, one of those rare black female directors in Hollywood, who tore up the joint with the funny, serious, lusty, and charismatic I Like It Like That back in '94 and then went off the radar. Hopefully, she'll be back with something else that Oprah hasn't glossed and micro-managed before she could even get into it.

But now I'm doing the other worst thing a critic can do: razzing something I haven't even seen yet. Mea culpa. But discussing this thing over at fecundmellow's has got me nervous.

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