Summary Judgment

Enchanted Broom

The vibrational spell of the Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 Broom; plus other bits from the week’s reviews.

Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 Broom. Sly Amazon reviews for this supposed child’s toy reveal other possible uses: “I’m 32 and enjoy riding the broom as much as my 12-year-old and 7-year-old. The vibrations, along with the swooshing sounds make for a very magical journey!” Some parents complain the toy is a mite too educational, but this one seems charmingly clueless (or perhaps deeply satirical?): “My only problem I see with the toy is the batteries drain too fast and his sister fights him over it, so now I need to buy her one.” (the Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 Broom.)

City by the Sea (Warner Bros.). Great acting lodged in hokey melodrama.“An astounding true story has been so overembellished and packed with cop-movie clichés that it often plays like a parody,” writes David Edelstein in Slate. In Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman defends the square appeal of this “heartfelt mediocre movie”—and raves about James “Freaks and Geeks” Franco’s performance as a “wormy man-child.” (Buy tickets for City by the Sea.)

Swimfan(20th Century Fox). A teeny-bopper Fatal Attraction with “sloppy plotting, an insultingly unbelievable final act and a villainess who is too crazy to be interesting” (Jonathan Foreman, the New York Post). In the wacko-bitch role, Erika Christensen “seems to be auditioning for the Bette Davis role in the prequel to ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’  ” (Buy tickets for Swimfan.)

The MTV Video Music Awards. Accidental ironist Eminem responded onstage to Moby’s criticism of the rapper’s misogyny by calling the tea-loving musician “a girl.” (An attack that wussy MTV quickly snipped out of repeat presentations.) While the mainstream press mainly described Britney’s dominatrix-wear, online commentary consisted of minute-by-minute critics: from Television Without Pity’s bitchy communal pile-on (“Carson Daly? Nobody told me it was tool time.”) to Ryan McGee’s milder bloggery. (“Head to toe side shot of Pink. 34 more eating disorders just began.”)

Nobody’s Perfect: Writings from The New Yorker, by Anthony Lane (Knopf). In the New York Times, Laura Miller writes says that despite the “sublime, rhythmic concoction of glide and snap, lightness and sting” in the New Yorker critic’s writing, there’s icy indifference lurking beneath the wordplay. While Miller compares Lane unfavorably to the hotter-blooded Pauline Kael, in the San Francisco Chronicle, Edward Guthmann does applaud one notable quality: Lane’s “detachment from hype“—oddly faint praise, or perhaps acknowledgement that the critical environment is so debased that even The New Yorker might tilt any minute into Sixty Second Preview-type gushing. (Buy Nobody’s Perfect.)

If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, by Sappho, translated from Greek by Anne Carson (Knopf). Classical literature doesn’t cross over—with the exception of the passionate Greek poet who is “always fresh and thumping with life,” writes Jamie James in the Los Angeles Times. Fellow poet Anne Carson brings out the best in the few “bits of papyri as small as postage stamps” that remain of the poet’s writing, transforming these erotic scraps so that “the words seems like a cry of anguish, the missing line, the blank space, like a freeze, or a death.” (Dinitia Smith, the New York Times.) (Buy If Not, Winter.)

Lost in Space, Aimee Mann (SuperEgo). “As always, her withering one-liners deepen rather than diminish the atmosphere of bittersweet melancholy,” writes the Onion’s Nathan Rabin of Mann’s follow-up to glorious breakup soundtrack Bachelor No. 2. Some critics note a bit of same-old, same-old (Bachelor No. 3?), but in a good way: “It’s hard to fault Mann for repeating a formula that works this well,” writes Chris Dahlen on (Bonus Mann lyric: On Bachelor No. 2, Mann berates a boyfriend for acting like a reviewer: “Critics at their worst could never criticize/ the way that you do./ No, there’s no one else, I find, to undermine or dash a hope/ quite like you./ And you do it so casually, too.”) (Lost in Space.)

Department of Critical Consequences. In the Village Voice, Thulani Davis defends Wanda Coleman—she who slammed Maya Angelou and hence got banned from her own book signing—and uses the case as a jumping-off point for some tough intra-community critique: “Black publications rarely print tough reviews, and those who write them in mainstream publications will hear from everyone involved. But most black publications are sensitive to the fact that black readers are famously thin-skinned, and so they rarely give any occasion to be deluged with e-mail.”