Rogerebert.com’s New Gender-Balanced Critics Line-Up

Posted on August 3, 2018 at 9:16 am

Copyright rogerebert.com 2014

I’m thrilled to announce that I am  joining Rogerebert.com as its first female Assistant Editor, and will be contributing reviews regularly to its newly gender-balanced roster of critics.  I am deeply grateful to Editor in Chief Chaz Ebert and to Matt Zoller Seitz, Brian Tellerico, Matt Fagerholm, and Nick Allen for giving me this opportunity.  It was reading Roger Ebert’s reviews in the Chicago Sun-Times that first made me want to be a movie critic and his support for my work meant the world to me. Rogerebert.com is the finest movie site on the Web and I am thrilled to be able to contribute to it.

My other reviews and features will continue to be published at moviemom.com and I’ll continue to add links here for the pieces I do for rogerebert.com, thecredits.org, medium.com and others.

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SDCC 2018: Leonard Maltin

Posted on July 30, 2018 at 4:48 pm

The name of the panel was “You’re Wrong, Leonard Maltin,” and the audience was invited to argue with one of America’s most respected and beloved film critics. Disagreement there was, but all presented with affection and good humor, delightful moderated by Jessie Maltin Hadfield, his daughter.

Maltin began by quoting Steven Colbert: “opinions are like mixtapes–I don’t want to listen to yours.” He continued by citing Harlan Ellison: “Everyone is entitled to an informed opinion.” He also cautioned us about ranking movies in top ten lists, top one hundred lists, etc. “They have one purpose only — for people to argue.”

All images copyright 2018 Nell Minow

The first challenge was to one of his most controversial reviews, just two stars for “The Dark Knight.” Remember this was at Comic-Con, where people have very strong feelings about superhero movies. “Each film is rated on how well it meets its own goals,” Maltin said.” (That’s my approach as well.) He stuck with his verdict on “Deadpool 2” as well. “We’ve seen it before. Mildly amusing but not cause for celebration.”

Maltin said that he always wants and even expects a movie to be good. Even when it is disappointing, he looks for a good moment or a good performance he can highlight in his review.

Maltin shared some good stories, especially one about shooting a five minute segment with Warren Beatty, dressed as Dick Tracy. “He will reshoot until somebody turns out the lights. He may still be shooting.”

By the end of the panel it was clear that people had very strong opposing views about movies but everyone loves Leonard Maltin.

Just as much fun — Maltin also appeared on a delightful panel paying tribute to the delightfully trashy Queen of Outer Space, starring Zsa Zsa Gabor and celebrating its 60th anniversary, and of some of the other cheesy Warners films of the era.

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Critics Festivals

Are Rom-Com Heroines Just in Need of Therapy?

Posted on July 15, 2018 at 4:22 pm

Copyright Fox 2000 2008
The Belladona wonders what the ending of romantic comedies would be if the heroines just got some therapy.

For example, take the Katherine Heigl/James Marsden film “27 Dresses.”

After telling her therapist the story of how she met Kevin, Jane comes to the understanding that he may be right about the mindless consumerism of the wedding industry (and he’s definitely right about the markup on wedding cakes), but stealing someone’s planner and stalking them under a fake name is not charming, no matter how amazing his cheekbones are. Files a restraining order.

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Critics

Kristen Lopez on The Rock and The Ghost and Disabled Characters in Movies

Posted on July 14, 2018 at 5:17 pm

Copyright Universal 2018

My friend Kristen Lopez is also one of my favorite critics, knowledgeable, forthright, passionate, and always willing to engage on issues of representation. Recently, she stared down a bunch of rabid fanboys who were upset (“Hey, it’s a MOVIE!”) on Twitter because she called out “Ant-Man and the Wasp” for the tired trope of the disabled bad guy, driven to do bad things because of the disability.

Ant-Man and the Wasp’s treatment of disability will go under the radar. But in a landscape where disability remains marginalized, particularly for women of color (and people of color in general), a character like Ava could have helped opened the door. Chronic pain remains a hot-button issue in the disabled community, and having Ava live with it could have presented something relatable. Instead, Ava is stripped of her problem in order to make her rational, quantifiable, and controllable.

I was interested to see how she would react to Dwayne Johnson’s portrayal of a disabled character in “Skyscraper.” While I prefer to see disabled characters played by disabled actors, I also recognize the idea that any actor should be able to play any part. Until ordinary characters — teachers, accountants, doctors, scientists, parents, children — are shown with disabilities that are not central to their identity and are played by actors with disabilities, I think we should be careful about putting able-bodied people in those roles. And no body is more able than The Rock.

Lopez called Johnson’s portrayal “surprisingly nuanced” and “far better” than what we usually see.

First, she says, “the adversity is the building itself, not Will’s disability….By not making a big deal of his disability, Will is a character who represents a marked improvement in representation. People with disabilities don’t want their disability to define them, and Will’s doesn’t define his character. It adds to it…. His character doesn’t walk away a changed man appreciating being disabled. He gets his family back and seemingly ends the film the same way he started. It’s just a facet of his personality he deals with in order to overcome this great challenge.”

But, she has some concerns as well. “The character is also written to fall into the “able-bodied buffer” category, a term I use to describe any character shown as previously able-bodied before a traumatic event. This ‘buffer’ is created as a means of helping the able-bodied audience bond with the newly disabled character, under the belief that disabled people are so mysterious that there’s no point of entry for the audience short of reminding them the character was one ‘like you.'”

I wasn’t the only one who appreciated this review.


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Critics Disabilities and Different Abilities Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Sara Benincasa’s List of Great Reviews

Posted on July 14, 2018 at 4:51 pm

Copyright 2016 Paramount
Sara Benincasa wrote on Longreads about great reviews of movies she hasn’t seen. I was delighted to see that she included my recommendation of the hilarious, NSFW, and stunningly accurate review of Fences by Dustin Rowles. It’s a great review, as are all the others on her list.

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Critics
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