Highlights from the week in criticism.
June 18 1998 3:30 AM



Franklin Foer Franklin Foer

Franklin Foer is a Slate contributing editor and the author of World Without Mind.


Six Days, Seven Nights (Buena Vista Pictures). Lipstick lesbian Anne Heche wins praise for her first leading role since coming out. Though some had doubted she'd make a convincing straight woman, the Washington Post's Rita Kempley gibes that "[s]he seems to have mastered the nuances of heterosexuality." A few reviewers say Heche and co-star Harrison Ford, marooned together on a tropical island, lack chemistry. Others say comic director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters), who made last year's bomb Fathers' Day, has lost his touch and is now just recycling old lines and plots.

The Opposite of Sex (Sony Pictures Classics). Critics call rookie director Don Roos' romantic comedy one of the most original in years. "A happy exception to the rule that any movie with 'sex' in the title must be mediocre" (Andrew Sarris, the New York Observer). A precocious 16-year-old, played by Christina Ricci--"Lolita's evil twin" (Janet Maslin, the New York Times)--runs off with her gay brother's lover. Reviewers like the unpredictable plot twists, witty asides about sexual identity, and the casting. Many predict stardom for Ricci (The Addams Family and The Ice Storm). Dissenters fault the film for turning sentimental at the end. (Click here for the official site.)

High Art (October Films). Eighties Brat Packer Ally Sheedy revives her career playing a cult lesbian photographer. But apart from Sheedy's melancholic portrayal of the doped-up photographer, the film is said to be "full of itself and its artistic pretension" (Jack Mathews, the Los Angeles Times) and saddled with clichéd depictions of bohemianism. Critics say it uses saucy lesbian love scenes simply to attract viewers and to make up for its insubstantial plot.



Not About Nightingales (Alley Theatre, Houston). A long-lost Tennessee Williams play from 1938 makes its American debut. Critics say it offers fresh insights into the playwright's tortured mind. They're shocked by the violence in the 27-year-old's portrait of a prison revolt. "The sensitive Williams would be the last writer you would associate with this play," says Newsweek's Jack Kroll. Detractors call the dialogue overwrought: It "sounds like bad Tennessee Williams" (Richard Zoglin, Time).



The Magic Hour (click for local listings).Applause for Magic Johnson as a role model, jeers for Magic Johnson as talk show host. While critics find the ex-basketball star irresistibly likable, his show "is a crashing bore" (Marvin Kitman, Newsday). His monologues are judged clunky and not funny, and "his mode of interviewing consists mainly of salivating over guests for being on the show" (Howard Rosenberg, the Los Angeles Times). It uses the same A-list of stars who appear on Leno and Letterman, leading critics to wonder, "How many talk shows does any viewer need?" (Caryn James, the New York Times) (Click here for the official site.)



Gain, by Richard Powers (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Mixed reviews for the latest from the hyperintellectual author of The Gold Bug Variations. Powers tries to shed his reputation as inaccessibly scholarly by writing a straightforward novel about a soap company and an employee who gets ovarian cancer. Some critics praise his insight into the dark nature of American business and his riffs on subjects from chemotherapy to free markets. Others say his characters just deliver long, boring speeches on esoterica. "It hardly seems fitting ... to call it fiction" (Gail Caldwell, the Boston Globe).

Recent "Summary Judgment" columns

Movie--The Truman Show;


Movie--A Perfect Murder;

Movie--Kurt and Courtney;

Television--Sex and the City (HBO);

Theater--The Tony Awards;


Art--"Edward Burne-Jones, Victorian Artist-Dreamer";

Book--Cold New World, by William Finnegan.

Movie--The Last Days of Disco;

Movie--Hope Floats;

Television--More Tales of the City (Showtime);

Television--A Bright Shining Lie (HBO) and Thanks of a Grateful Nation (Showtime);

Art--"Mark Rothko";

Theater--Corpus Christi.


Movie--Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas;

Movie--Cannes Film Festival Roundup;

Book--Freedomland, by Richard Price;

Books--Remembering Mr. Shawn's "New Yorker": The Invisible Art of Editing, by Ved Mehta; Here But Not Here: A Love Story, by Lillian Ross;

Television--The Larry Sanders Show (Showtime).

Death--Frank Sinatra;

Television--Seinfeld finale;


Movie--The Horse Whisperer;

Book--The Everlasting Story of Nory, by Nicholson Baker;

Book--Cities of the Plain, by Cormac McCarthy;

Book--Identity, by Milan Kundera, translated by Linda Asher.

--Franklin Foer