The 15 Pimp Commandments

The 15 Pimp Commandments

The 15 Pimp Commandments

Highlights from the week in criticism.
June 9 2000 11:30 PM

The 15 Pimp Commandments

Movies

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Gone in 60 Seconds (Buena Vista Pictures). With action fiend Jerry Bruckheimer producing, Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie starring, and a fantastic trailer filled with hot cars, expectations were high on this one. The actual product is a letdown: "[T]he only emotional reaction Gone got from the audience members I saw it with was when the side-view mirror had been knocked off a 1967 Shelby Mustang. They gasped as if Bambi's mother had been shot again" (Elvis Mitchell, the New York Times). There are too many characters and too much weak dialogue, but a few critics say the final car chase is a treat: "It's a relief when the movie goes on autopilot with a fabulous chase sequence and an obligatory final confrontation inside a flame-and-steam factory" (Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times). Most revolting description of Jolie: "All she does in this movie is stand around, cooling down, modeling those fleshy, pulsating muscle-tubes that nest so provocatively around her teeth" (Stephen Hunter, the Washington Post). (Find out more about the 1967 Shelby Mustang here.)

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Love's Labour's Lost (Miramax Films). A grim response to Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of the Shakespeare play as a 1930s-style musical: "We come to bury Branagh, not to praise him … it's time to wonder what happened to this Great Hope of the British Theatre" (Richard Corliss, Time). Some are more blunt: "Has Branagh lost his mind? The play hasn't just been butchered, it has been lobotomized" (David Edelstein, Slate). "Uneven" and "amateurish" are words that crop up over and over in reviews. Matthew Lillard and Alicia Silverstone struggle with classic show tunes, and the dance numbers are half-baked: "Watching Adrian Lester, as Dumaine, trying a half-successful split on a high wooden library table, you can only admire his effort" (A.O. Scott, the New York Times). One critic confesses to enjoying the high-school-production feel of the movie, claiming that "you leave the theater tipsy on Shakespeare's raillery and Ira Gershwin's wit, as though you'd had a glass or two of cheap champagne. There are worse ways to feel" (Scott). (Read the rest of Edelstein's review in Slate here.)

American Pimp (Seventh Art Releasing). The Hughes brothers' documentary interviews 16 pimps on their profession, resulting in "a strange amalgam of the disturbing and humorous" (Erik Lundegaard, the Seattle Times). Critics are fascinated as well as horrified: "The movie bends over backward to be nonjudgmental. But there is simply no getting around the reality that urban, street-level prostitution is a nasty game that exploits and degrades the women who get caught up in it. … The mood built up by the film might almost be called nostalgic" (Stephen Holden, the New York Times). The pimps "strive to project a sort of outlaw charm as they recount their stories," but what shows up on the screen is "a portrait of crudely patriarchal males, harshly exploiting pathetically damaged women, then perversely wasting their profits on childish displays of outrageous clothes and cars" (Richard Schickel, Time). (The film's official site includes a trailer and the "15 Pimp Commandments.") 

Book

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Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris (Little, Brown & Co.). The NPR commentator and essayist-about-town gets wishy-washy reviews for his latest collection of previously published material. Yes, it is laugh-out-loud funny, but now the critics get greedy and want more: "At the risk of sounding patronizing, I suspect there is a better writer in there than he is as yet willing to let out" (Jonathan Reynolds, the New York Times). While his look-at-my-crazy-life schtick was funny the last few times around, now "[h]is need to hang onto his neuroses permeates his fourth collection of comic pieces" in a sour way, with sections that sound like "someone clinging to a professional and practiced 'craziness' " (Reynolds). Others fear his domestic bliss (he's now happily settled in Paris with his partner, Hugh) has taken away his bread-and-butter material—his own pathetic life. "A happy romantic relationship is one of life's great gifts but also one of humor writing's biggest challenges" (Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly). (Read Sedaris' "Diary" in Slate.)

Music

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The Marshall Mathers LP, by Eminem (Uni/Interscope). Superlatives abound in reviews for the white rapper's blockbuster follow-up (1.7 million copies in its first week, the second-largest debut ever) to The Slim Shady LP: "Eminem has not only become the legitimate heir to Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G., he's arguably the most compelling figure in all of pop music" (N'Gai Croal, Newsweek). ... "Eminem may be the harshest social critic in American music and his new album is a bitter pill that has car-crash attraction you can't turn away" (Dan Aquilante, the New York Post). ... "[M]ay be among the most objectionable albums ever to receive mainstream release, but that does not make it a bad album" (Alona Wartofsky, the Washington Post). ... "[I]ndefensible and critic-proof, hypocritical and heartbreaking, unlistenable and undeniable; it's a disposable shock-rap session, and the first great pop record of the 21st century" that shows Eminem to be "a peerless rap poet with a profound understanding of the power of language" (Will Hermes, Entertainment Weekly). It has all the mother-raping, girlfriend-killing, homophobia-laced rhymes the first album had, but somehow critics are so stunned by his poetry and wit that they give him a pass. Aside from condemning his offensive lyrics—his own mother is suing him for defamation—only one criticism surfaces: "The one thing the album lacks—other than, of course, a moral compass—is great beats. … Dancing to this album would be like dancing to a Lenny Bruce routine" (Christopher John Farley, Time). (Check out his lyrics at this fan site.)

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Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant, by Belle & Sebastian (Matador/Jeepster). The fruity Scottish band dishes up another helping of effete, trippy, twinkly melodies graced by cellos and tubular bells. Critics offer a conflicted reaction: This may be Belle & Sebastian's best album to date, but now that they have good distribution and promotion, they've fallen off the hipster radar screen: "[R]ight now, at this cultural moment, it is undeniably cool to be talking about how much you hate Belle & Sebastian … somewhere post-The Boy With the Arab Strap [1998] and pre-Lazy Line Painter Jane box set [2000], a call went out from smelly lofts everywhere, and Belle & Sebastian were, officially, over" (Beth Wawerna, Spin). After all, once the Daily News is writing up your "oddly precise and dainty … jingle-jangle melodies and fussy arrangements" (Jim Farber), you know your moment in the secret spotlight has ended. (The band's U.K. publisher's site includes photos, samples, and lyrics.)

Eliza Truitt, a former editor at Slate, now works as a wedding photographer in Seattle.