Friday, May 4, 2012

When Actors Attack Critics: Hell Hath No (Nick) Fury Like an "Avengers" Star Scorned!

Stars are people, too. Which means that they are incredibly insecure, and they don't take criticism well. They all would like us to believe otherwise, but no matter what they say, performers read their own press. Some of them even take the time to respond.

I recently received a lovely tweet form R&B singer Stephanie Mills after I posted a video on this blog's Facebook page of her on American Bandstand in the mid-'80s. A few years ago, the legendary record producer Peter Asher commented on one of my True/Slant posts after I wrote some complimentary things about his work with Linda Ronstadt and 10,000 Maniacs in the '70s and '80s.

Most memorably, I once received a handwritten note from John Waite after I panned Tina Turner's 1996 cover of his 1984 No. 1 single "Missing You" in Entertainment Weekly. I wrote that Turner's version failed because she overdid it vocally, totally, um, missing the inner-struggle of the song Waite had written and performed flawlessly. It's not a defiant do-you-believe-in-life-after-love song. The protagonist is clearly talking to himself/herself and lying through his/her teeth. Waite thanked me for my kind words about his performance of his own song. He was thrilled that somebody actually "got it."

Thank God, I've never felt the wrath of a pop star after writing terrible things about one of them, though I was once told by a former People magazine colleague who interviewed Gloria Estefan that she wasn't thrilled about my negative People review of her 1996 album Destiny. "Who's this Jeremy Helligar guy?" she asked, before concluding, "I don't think he understands my music," obviously unaware that I'd practically worn out my copy of her Mi Tierra CD just a few years earlier.

But I digress. The point is this: I'd hate to find myself on the Perez Hilton side of a feud with Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am. I once bought along my review of the Church's 1990 album Gold Afternoon Fix that ran in my college paper to an interview with the band a few years later. As I passed it around the table for the members to sign, I remembered that I'd been critical of the vocal contributions of guitarist Marty Willson-Piper. He didn't say anything, but he was the only one who didn't sign anything more than just his name.

Fair enough. Now here's the thing I don't understand: If your latest album, or movie, isn't for everyone, aren't you just making yourself look bad by shooting the messenger for pointing out the obvious? According to the Hollywood Reporter, after A.O. Scott of the New York Times panned The Avengers, star Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Nick Fury and should be accustomed to taking critical hits (Snakes on a Plane?), flipped -- on Twitter, of course!

"#Avengers fans,NY Times critic AO Scott needs a new job! Let's help him find one! One he can ACTUALLY do!"

A Twitter war of words followed, but what for? The Avengers has already made a ton of money overseas before its U.S. release today, and the majority of film critics clearly don't agree with Scott. So what's one lousy review in the New York Times? It's not like Jackson won't work again. And it's not like he probably wouldn't jump at the chance to do Snakes on a Plane 2. His career has never been strictly high-brow, but neither was Laurence Olivier's (The Last Days of Pompeii?).

It's not like he's Maggie Smith, who doesn't know the meaning of the word slumming. (Hey, I loved the original Clash of the Titans, which, incidentally, also starred Olivier). Let it go, Mr. Jackson.

God, I hope he doesn't come after me now!
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