Queen of keenly observed, hilariously rendered cultural criticism, West (The Witches Are Coming, 2019) offers this delicious distraction from reality ... Infused with West’s commentary, which is colored by her rewatching during the COVID-19 lockdown, what emerges is a cathartic, joyful exploration of entertainment ... In true West form, she reads like your smartest, funniest, and warmest friend. A perfect blend of substance, escapism, and laughter—a gift from West to the rest of us.
In Lindy West’s new book, S—, Actually: The Definitive, 100% Objective Guide to Modern Cinema, many important cinematic questions are asked ... Yes, this is a very silly book — in the best of ways — and West, the author of the best-selling nonfiction books Shrill and The Witches Are Coming, knows it. In the introduction, she describes the book as an 'inconsequential, ornery, joyful, obsessive, rude, and extremely stupid book.' But it’s exactly what we need these days, particularly when we can’t gather our friends to giggle and throw popcorn at a TV screen ... Reading the essays — which are long, sprinkled with ALL CAPS and filled with delicious asides — feels like being on West’s couch with her.
West isn’t trying to uncover deep truths about American prejudices through these movies, even though calling out bigotry is central to her brand. Instead, she identifies and catalogues various filmic failings, from plot holes to bad acting and cringeworthy dialogue. West is at her best when she links these weaknesses to her life experiences ... She also occasionally provides broader insights, many of which appear in her entertaining and incisive takedown of Top Gun...In such moments, West’s essay collection feels funny, fresh and incredibly timely ... The problem — and it’s a significant one — is that the movies West focuses on affirm the very White male hegemony she typically critiques. Of the 23 films West addresses, only one is directed by a person of color. Only one is directed by a woman. And only a few feature actors of color in leading roles. West likewise never analyzes any films by or about queer people ... in so doing, she keeps her reader focused on films by and about White men. Granted, most Hollywood films are by and about straight White men, but authors like West have a lot of leeway to decide which movies they want to consider ... This metric is a joke, of course, but marginalizing movies by women, people of color and queer folk within popular film criticism isn’t funny. It’s what feminist film critics have been fighting since the 1970s. And before you dismiss me as a feminist killjoy, recall that West herself identifies as such. Pointing out ways that White feminists can — indeed must — combat and counter racism and homophobia isn’t anti-feminist; it’s part of the work of creating a better, more equitable society ... West’s essays are little more than plot summaries sprinkled with snark ... I wish I could recommend this book, because I take no pleasure in criticizing it ... Shrill and The Witches Are Coming both feature thoughtful, funny essays that demonstrate how important it is to think hard about popular culture. I would never have expected the author of those essays to ask readers not to reflect seriously on her work. Let’s hope she demands more from her readers — and herself — in the future.
I was not exaggerating when I said that this collection made me laugh until I was crying ... My favourite jokes in the whole collection were about movies that I don’t like, because who doesn’t love dunking on a movie that you hate? ... My other favourite thing about Shit, Actually is that it is as sharp as it is funny. If a movie has a problem, that problem is named and discussed in a way that invites us to think about it and join in on the frustration ... Something that is to its credit, but might mean Shit, Actually doesn’t age well, is that it’s firmly grounded in 2020 ... This book is a perfect balm for how hard and scary and awful it can feel to be a human this year ... We may not be able to have movie nights together, but we can all enjoy this book.
Revisiting her early career as an acid-tongued film critic, New York Times columnist West deconstructs 22 blockbusters in this nostalgic, laugh-out-loud romp ... Like catching up with a dear and funny friend, this insightful and irreverent book is a soothing balm for turbulent times.