Pick the Critics of Tomorrow
Most recently, we have been reading several writers from the 1970s through the 1990s who place heavy emphasis on the politics of identity and representation on screen. For reasons best known to the students, and to James Baldwin, Molly Haskell, bell hooks, and Paul Rudnick, aka Libby Gelman-Waxner (whose styles they were invited to study and to mimic), the films eligible for response in their most recent assignments were Lady Sings the Blues, Dances with Wolves, Edward Scissorhands, and Pulp Fiction. As an additional wrinkle of this assignment, I asked the students to isolate a single sentence from their reviews that they would choose to represent or advertise the rest of the piece, as happens institutionally on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic and in the pages of most urban newspapers as the films reach the end of their release cycles and the reviews shrink from essays to capsules to bite-sized M&Ms.
Here's where you come in! I'd like my students to have more responses than just my own, especially since they're working in a form that aspires to a large and diverse audience, so I solicit your feedback: Which two or three of the following sentences most tempts you to want to read the rest of the review? You can express your preference because the sentence is witty, thought-provoking, sophisticated... for any reason at all, really. If you'd like to clarify why you selected the sentences you did, please do so. I have grouped their sentences by film, but you don't have to do this in your responses: if your three favorite taglines are all from Edward Scissorhands reviews, for example, then vote that way. The reviews with the most votes will get an extra bump upward when I grade them.
You do not need to be a registered user of Blogger in order to vote; simply choose the Anonymous option from the Comments page, below the text window, and register your opinions that way.
Please limit your comments to expressions of enthusiasm. The point is to encourage good writing and reward interesting effort. If you absolutely feel the need to fire off a sling or an arrow, by all means, direct it toward any of my other reviews or posts on this blog or this site. I'm already mother-hennish about these students, but don't make me get full-on Lioness on their behalf. I know it's the Web, but act right, people!
So, without further ado: the contenders. Vote your hearts out, and encourage your friends to do the same! Any and all expressions of readerly enthusiasm will be warmly welcomed by me, and even more by the writers themselves.
Lady Sings the Blues
A Fan Favorite!
#1 "Yet the scenarios the filmmakers concoct in order to evoke audience pity make Billie into some kind of black 1930s version of Lindsay Lohan: a beautiful, talented girl whose ingratitude and irrationality make us view her less as a victim of society and more as a victim of stupidity."
#2 "[Billie] also goes through a duckling-to-swan transformation, only while mine included extensive dental work and an individualized diet/workout regime to plump up my curves, Billie's involves moving into the city and working as a prostitute."
Dances with Wolves
The Runaway Winner!
#3 "Dances with Wolves represents the Native American experience about as well as Julia Stiles captures the essence of urban blacks in Save the Last Dance; a scripted fantasy, made more for entertainment than truth."
#4 "Ironically, for a director who professes an affinity for freaks and geeks, Burton has no handle on how to create individualized subjective perspectives."
A Fan Favorite!
#5 "John Waters mastered the trash aesthetic; Tim Burton just trashed it."
#6 "Edward Scissorhands, Tim Burton's 1990 holiday fairy tale about an android getting a taste of suburban life, is a story about difference. But it's also a story about being into kinky boots, dog collars, and black leather."
#7 "Poor, sweet Edward Scissorhands ... considering your deafening silence and seeming incapability of uttering more than one word at a time, one would think your scissors weren't the real 'handicap'rather, your tongue seems to be what is truly binding you to helplessness."
#8 "The movie attempts to critique society, but what is this society? Just imagine instead if we had Asians and blacks and Hispanics [on screen]; rich CEOs and poor families on social security; a mother with an autistic child; [one woman] abused and abandoned by her husband... poor Edward would hardly raise an eyebrow."
#9 "It's amusing that a complete freak can move from the outside to the inside, but that's the power of being new."
#10 "As Edward is rescued from his secluded castle and integrated into a non-specific but probably Californian suburban community, Burton uses him as the ultimate tabula rasa to test the values of the idyllic yet creepy white ideal."
#11 "The theme of acceptance is so well-trod that Burton has to give his protagonist scissorhands to bring anything new to the story."
#12 "Brought to life by the mechanical innocence of a pallid Johnny Depp and embellished with the whimsical humor of soft parody, the film manages to intertwine lighthearted fairytale with a resounding emotional depthquite an achievement, given its incongruous premise and sometimes scattered storytelling."
#13 "But Scissorhands does not simply tell a story of a man who does not belong; it is more about the community among and upon which he exists, and furthermore, the viewers' acceptance of this story."
#14 "In many ways, the film is like a less confrontational companion piece to The Catcher in the Rye, a story that speaks to alienation, but even after rereading the book, it's still the alienation of an upper-middle-class white boy at a time when there were many others far worse off."
#15 "This film is a modern and twisted retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale that teaches us that it may not be the Beast's physical deformity that scares us; rather, it is his ability to show us the evil in ourselves that we find so frightening."
#16 "Jimmie's played by Quentin Tarantino, the film's director, who infuses the role with so much dorkiness you would think the film has a nerd-quota, and because no other character wants to help, he has to meet it on his own."
#17 "[The film] is about the uncomfortable silences, where a glimmer of humanity shines out from behind the thickened carapaces of people metamorphosed by the brutality of the inescapable world they inhabit."
#18 "Tarantino's bottom line seems to be that dollars let white people escape from reality with nostalgia, drugs, or a permanent vacation; the desire for money, however, binds black people to a never-ending quest for glowing briefcase after glowing briefcase."
A Fan Favorite!
#19 "It's crude, it is violent, it's witty, it's charismatic, and while it doesn't speak softly, it certainly carries a big stick."