Readers have posted some interesting comments on my review of “El Cantante.” Four people (so far) have completely misunderstood my very easy-to-understand review, one just seemed really angry, and another went off the deep end entirely.
“El Cantante” is a biopic about Hector Lavoe, a salsa singer who started in New York in the 1960s, rose to fame in the ’70s, and burned out in the ’80s. What I said about the movie was that it failed to “show us why the performer was so beloved.”
I went on: “To put it bluntly: Why should I care who Hector Lavoe was? ‘El Cantante’ does nothing to answer that question.”
My intention was not to say that Hector Lavoe wasn’t worth knowing. The opposite, actually: He probably has an interesting story, and there were probably some excellent reasons for his popularity. But the film fails to convey any of that.
The first comment came from Eddie, and he wrote very thoughtfully and sincerely.
Why should you care who Hector Lavoe was? I will attempt to give you an answer… The reason you should care to learn about Mr. Lavoe’s life is the same reason why we should learn about Oskar Schiendler. Oscar Schiendler was a great man who saved thousands of jews from the Nazis. A jewish man named Steven Spielberg brought his life to the silver screen. Mr.Spielberg in his movie, educated us about the life of Schiendler,and he also capitalized from this movie. Perhaps, the Anglo and Jewish world had heard about Oskar Schiendler, but the Latino World was unaware of who he was. Now, Jennifer Lopez is giving the world an opprtunity to learn about the life of a great salsa singer. In her film, Mrs. Lopez is attempting to educate the anglo world about the Master of the salsa music. I feel that through music we educate the masses, just like Beetoven, Bach and Mozart did. Be open to a new experience, so you and the rest of the world can learn something. The same way that I truly respect the jewish people and their religion and culture. This is the way you should respect Jennifer’s effort, her music, culture and her people. Hector Lavoe’s music educates us because each of his song has meaning and tells us a story about life.
All well and good, and I don’t necessarily dispute any of it. The problem, of course, is that Eddie shouldn’t have to tell me. The movie should have taken care of that.
A little farther down the page, someone named Bingin said this:
If you want to actually find out about Hector Lavore (which I doubt you do) I suggest you not rely on Hollywood and buy some salsa dvd’s and watch Hector in concert, try the Fania All Stars Live in Africa. And then I suggest you learn Spanish so you can actually grasp the content of his songs. But I’m pretty sure you’re not a salsa fan- so yeah, why should YOU care who Hector Lavoe is???
Bingin’s comment is both stupid and belligerent — pretty much the worst combination of traits for a person to have. My review never suggested that I had no interest in getting to know Hector Lavoe. In fact, once again, my review suggested the opposite — that I WOULD like to know more about him (or at least know why people think I should know more about him), and I’m disappointed that the movie didn’t tell me!
You’re blaming the wrong guy, folks! It’s the movie that screwed up here, not me!
Next up, Roberto misses the point of what I was saying, but at least he’s civil about it:
Why should anyone care who Hector Lavoe is ? Same reason people should care who Johnny Cash, Bob Marley, Tina Turner, Ray Charles, etc. As a latino living in Texas, i did not know anything about Johnny Cash or Ray Charles but now I do because of the movies that were based on their careers. Many people do not know or care who Hector Lavoe is, the same way alot of people do not care who Ray Charles is or Johnny Cash or Elvis Presley or Ozzy Osbourse, Frank Sinatra, etc.
Roberto seems to be saying that the reason you should care about Hector Lavoe is that a movie has been made about him. What more reason do you need, really?
Next: Someone called Deivito took issue with this statement in the review: “Yet Hector’s singing ability and general stage presence are merely average.”
This of course falls under opinion, but I have to say that Lavoe’s singing and stage presence were so unbelievably electric, I daresay it could almost prove be stated as fact. That’s how much of a lightining bolt his voice (and stage personality) was. My guess is that the reviewer concluded the opposite based on Marc Anthony’s rendition.
That is a very good guess! Especially considering I said as much in the review! Here’s what I wrote:
Yet Hector’s singing ability and general stage presence are merely average. So why was he a big deal? Was it because he was one of the first? Or was the real Hector Lavoe far more charismatic than Marc Anthony is playing him? I think the latter might be the case. Anthony is a pop star, but he’s not exactly a charmer, nor is he exactly an actor. As Hector, he comes across as grim, sullen, and uninteresting.
I don’t claim to be a great writer, but are my opinions really so vaguely stated that no one can understand them?
A reader named Maria Rodriguez took a different tack, relying on the old “you’re not [race of people in the movie], so you have no business reviewing it!” philosophy:
Uhhhh were we watching the same movie here? Because I saw El Cantante and it was amazing!! [Maybe we weren’t watching the same movie. I didn’t see you there.] Great acting by Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez. [OK, we definitely weren’t seeing the same movie.] They couldn’t have picked a better person to play Hector Lavoe because Marc Anthony looks just like him! He sings just like him too! They are both amazing singers. The movie was well made and I would go and watch it again. Everytime Marc Anthony would sing, I felt like getting up and dancing! I truly believe it was a well made movie. All you people criticizing the movie are probably gringos who don’t even know who Hector Lavoe is!! [Yes, I believe I implied that in the very first sentence of my review.] How can you criticize a movie about someone that you’ve never even heard of!? [I am dumbfounded by the idiocy of that statement. Honestly dumbfounded. I have literally found dumb … and I’m looking at it right now.] You probably don’t even know what salsa is (and no its not a sauce for your chips) and you for sure cannot dance to it! [Ooh, BURN!] Trust me I’m Puerto Rican and I KNOW that that movie was awesome!
Well! When in doubt, ask a Puerto Rican!
So we’ve had our ups and downs, some well-meaning but off-target comments, and some dumb ones. But the cake-taker is Pablo, who went beyond missing the point straight into the land of being a jackass.
The film was a good portrail of Hector Lavoe and a true tail of a musical legends downward spiral through life. However, it seems that unless the movie is about a white musician played by a white actor the critics will always give these bad reviews. On the other hand, if it were a movie about an african american musician it would get great reviews becasue, you dont want to get them angry. Its unfortunate that the first major film that was released by two great puerto rican actors by a subcompany of newline and was in limited release would be bashed by the critics. I mean people lets face the facts how dare a puerto rican actor and actress play puerto ricans on the screen with so many italian actors awaiting a role in hollywood. The point of the film was to portray the man that Mark Anthony and Jlo owe their careers to. Last word for the latino communities stick together and support one another or accept second class citizenship.
Let’s go point by point here.
“it seems that unless the movie is about a white musician played by a white actor the critics will always give these bad reviews.”
I’d be curious to know which movies Pablo is referring to. The only other biopic about a Latin singer that I can think of is “Selena” — also starring Jennifer Lopez, coincidentally — which was released in 1997 to mostly favorable reviews. It’s at 82 percent positive at Rotten Tomatoes.
Which other movies about Latin stars have critics trashed? That’s not a rhetorical question. I really can’t think of any others. So I don’t know what Pablo is basing this generalization on.
“On the other hand, if it were a movie about an african american musician it would get great reviews becasue, you dont want to get them angry.”
Right. That’s why “Ray” got such great reviews: because critics were afraid of making The Blacks angry.
Pablo, for a guy who plays the race card so much, you sure are a racist.
“Its unfortunate that the first major film that was released by two great puerto rican actors by a subcompany of newline and was in limited release would be bashed by the critics.”
First of all, I question whether J-Lo and Marc Anthony are “great” actors, and I’m certain this is not the first major film to star two Puerto Rican performers. But the main point is this: What’s unfortunate is that “El Cantante” is lousy. What, the critics should give it a pass because it’s the “first” one? Baloney.
Every minority group goes through these problems when they first start making movies that speak directly to their culture. Gays, Mormons, blacks, Puerto Ricans, whoever — all their movies tend to be kinda bad at first. You can support the movie regardless of its quality if you want to, if you think doing so will help the community. But don’t expect everyone else to do the same thing.
“I mean people lets face the facts how dare a puerto rican actor and actress play puerto ricans on the screen with so many italian actors awaiting a role in hollywood.”
Here Pablo is attempting to use something known as “sarcasm.” He is commenting on the fact that so many people are played by actors of a different race when their biopics get made. There are strong, reasonable arguments to be made on both sides of that issue. But Pablo has taken the stupid route and seems to be suggesting that reviewers just don’t like Puerto Ricans in movies. Maybe we thought the Ricans were gettin’ too uppity, makin’ this movie about one of their kind without even bothering to bring in some white actors to legitimize it. How dare they! If they’d had some non-Ricans play the leads, then for sure we’d have loved the movie.
(That, my friend, is sarcasm.)
“The point of the film was to portray the man that Mark Anthony and Jlo owe their careers to.”
Agreed. And my opinion is that the film failed to portray him in any kind of meaningful way. You may have a different opinion. You are entitled. Race has nothing to do with it.
You know who I don’t like, though? The Jews. Seriously, what is with those people?