“A new voice in the critical conversation”
I’m not a Rotten Tomatoes visitor, and IMDb ratings hold no sway over me. I don’t like the idea of judging movies based on aggregated scores that are little more than a number. That number is meaningless to me; it contains no nuance, no depth, no detail, no emotion. I don’t just want to know whether critics loved or hated a movie, I want to know how they loved or hated it. For that, I turn to the film critics I’ve read and loved for years—whose opinion I respect, insights I value, and voice I admire. They include AO Scott at the New York Times, Richard Brody at the New Yorker, and Kyle Buchanan at Vulture. As you may have noted, these are all men. (TV critic Emily Nussbaum at the New Yorker being a notable—and glorious—exception in my list of go-tos. I tear up over, save, and re-read her work often.) But the general lack of female voices in my self-curated canon of cultural criticism isn’t something I’d really thought about—until now.
The launch of Cherry Picks, an all-female version of Rotten Tomatoes, was announced at South by Southwest in Austin this week and it’s one of those things I didn’t know I needed until it was in front of me. Obviously there’s a difference between how men and women perceive a given concept, plotline or even premise. Of course one’s personal experiences and distinct points of view colour how they react to a story. Female critics, to be sure, would have had rich and varied responses to Lady Bird, for example, as to be fair, did all the male critics I follow, but I didn’t realise until this very moment that I hadn’t actually read any reviews of it that were written by women.
Film producer/director Miranda Bailey, founder of Cherry Picks, knows how easy it is for that to happen, for a whole swathe of voices to be lost in the overall noise.
“We’re creating a platform [that] women can go to and see what other critics that are their gender think about art and media,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter. “This is a way for us to cherry-pick out female opinion, because there’s not enough of us.”
The site is due to go live this fall, and will aggregate movie, music and video game reviews, all written by critics who identify as female and come from a diverse range of backgrounds. Another thing that sets it apart from Rotten Tomatoes is its spectrum of ratings, as opposed to binary ‘good’ or ‘bad’ ratings.
“For us, it’s not always splat versus tomato, or black and white,” she tells John Horn of the radio show/podcast The Frame. “There is a range in between, and so, with CherryPicks, we want to be able to do a bowl of cherries, which is like, ‘You can’t miss it,’ [and] the pits, which is like, ‘Don’t bother.’ But there are also one cherry and two cherries, which are kind of in between — like, ‘That movie was great to see, but don’t bother going [to the theater] to see it,’ or like, ‘Oh, it’s awesome if you have strep throat and you’re watching Bridget Jones’s Diary [kinds of movies],’ or whatever.”
In addition to review aggregation, the site will also offer something dubbed the Cherry Check: A score for each movie based on the level of female involvement, both in front of and behind the camera, as well as trigger warnings for certain kinds of content. They’ll also be doing a biweekly newsletter in which they plan to regularly feature female critics (the first newsletter shines a spotlight on Claudia Puig from the Los Angeles Times and Ann Powers from NPR). “It’s a great way to get to know the critics themselves as people, and ideally CherryPicks will be a place where women can go and find the certain women that they identify with, that they have a similar voice to, and you can be like, “Oh, I really relate to this person and these are the people I want to listen to,” Bailey tells Mashable.
Exactly what I was looking for.