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Quotes of the Week: Dark Knight and Mamma Mia

posted by Nell Minow

The Dark Knight has inspired some very thoughtful reviews. Anonymous DC critic “J.J.” wrote that the film moved him to tears:
Perhaps it’s because the film has characters I grew to care about, scenes that soaked my heart in adrenaline and sociological themes that range from the unsettling to the horrifying. This movie moves beyond good and evil and enters into our world, which is much more complicated than comic books. This is the first film-with-terrorism-metaphor that our age of terrorism deserves. And it will stop your heart.
His description of Heath Ledger’s performance is one of the most astute I’ve seen:

Everything you hear about Heath Ledger is true. And we should’ve expected it. He was the best actor of his generation, and his ability to mash depravity and hilarity into something compulsively watchable…The Joker has never made more sense than he does here…As played by Ledger and as written by the Nolans, the Joker is walking anarchy, cackling sadism, crime for the sake of crime. He is a terrorist without a god to kill for. His actions are beyond random; they are perpetrated not in the name of something but solely for the consequences. And he is capable of understanding (and exploiting) our suppressed desires for this type of anarchy. Ledger makes you root for him, then, inexplicably, makes you feel utterly depraved for doing so.

The moment I saw Mamma Mia! I knew critics would not be able to resist one of my least favorite contemporary terms: “cougar,” used to describe a sexually active woman over 40, usually portrayed as desperate, predatory, and interested in much younger men.
Tanya in the movie, as portrayed by Christine Baranski, is a sexually active woman over 40, but she is far from desperate or predatory and has an entire musical number about resisting the advances of younger men. And yet, she was called a “cougar” by a number of critics including Bill Gibron of Pop Matters and Mike Russell of the Oregonian (who did not like the movie), James Ward of the Visalia Times-Delta (who did), and Chris Hewitt of the Twin Cities’ Pioneer Press (who liked it a lot, and who includes a nice assessment of ABBA’s tunes and lyrics).
If you must, use ABBA lyrics in your headlines. “Take a chance on this movie.” “This winner doesn’t take it all.” But let’s retire the word “cougar,” all right?

  • Christian Toto

    Not sure how long ‘cougar’ will stay in the vernacular, but it is a depressing term. How odd that a slightly older woman has a chance to date a younger man? Crazy. Yet we don’t so much as blink when Jack Nicholson gets the girl (Helen Hunt) in “As Good as it Gets.”

  • Alicia

    I am in hearty agreement about the term “cougar,” Nell. It certainly goes along with the stereotype of the sexually rapacious older woman. “Samantha,” of “Sex and the City” comes to mind.
    I’m single, 53, and female, but as I get older, rather than hankering for younger men (except maybe for Viggo Mortenson, who is only a few years younger!) I am more interested in intimacy, as opposed to sex. Also, I don’t have the kind of money that would enable me to “keep” a younger man. I would imagine that, outside of Hollywood stereotypes, there are a lot fewer “cougars” and “sugar daddies” out there than is popularly thought.

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