Cherry Picks Reviews (CPR) is the much-anticipated upcoming critical site for all things women-in-media launching this fall! The gender equality issue has been making the headlines for the past couple of months, particularly in filmmaking. As a female film critic (over 50), Cherry Picks Reviews is a welcome change from the predominantly white male critical terrain which had been painting a skewed picture for film lovers.
Women comprise more than 50 percent of the population, yet less than four percent of the top 100 grossing films have been directed by women, according to Sundance.org. Times are changing, and Cherry Picks Reviews co-founders Miranda Bailey and Rebecca Odes talked to me about this “new voice in the critical conversation.”
Pamela Powell (PP): Why did you decide to create Cherry Picks Reviews?
Miranda Bailey (MB): Cherry Picks came about because of the lack of representation that was happening across the critical landscape in media itself, whether it was film or television, music or video games or any of the above. And now that we’re doing these aggregated sites and scoring systems that consumers are using [and] not having an equal opportunity playing field, it was really skewing the score...skewing the scores as to whether something was worth consumers’ money or not. We started Cherry Picks to specifically cherry pick out the female critical voice across media to shine a light on it to support it...and also just for women to know what other women think about something...whether or not they should spend their money on it. I think a lot of what is out there right now is from a very specific point of view that doesn’t represent all of the consumers...Men worry that [CPR] is perhaps skewed in some sexist way, but it’s really not. It’s about support, not segregation. It’s really no different than any other website that would be for females.
Rebecca Odes (RO): I’ve been in the web world since the beginning and since doing Gurl.com...I had some amazing opportunities to be creating something when there wasn’t anything else out there...like the Wild West. I believe in the possibility that the internet [can] change the world and create new kinds of media...That gives me the vision to say we’re going to redefine the critical landscape by leaning in on this specific voice that has not been heard...
PP: Take me to the moment in time when this idea was conceived.
MB: I remember when it happened exactly. It was in late August. I was driving down Melrose Avenue. It came in through the window. It’s called Cherry Picks and you have to start it and this is what it’s going to do. (Laughs) I knew one person...who was in the space of websites and also female issues and I said to myself, I’m going to ask Rebecca if she would want to be a part of this and if she says no, I’m not going to do it. And if she says yes, I will do it...She said yes. I said, ‘Ahhh F*$#.’ (Laughs)
One of the things that happened was that summer there was a lot of talk in the newspapers about Rotten Tomatoes and filmmakers [being] unhappy with it and some studios were unhappy with it because it was too binary — this sucks and this is awesome and there was no in between. And it was affecting the box office...There was also...a movie called The Zookeeper’s Wife [which] didn’t do well in the box office, but women critics and females who were able to see the movie, who were able to end up hearing about the movie, really enjoyed it. I was like, “That’s just so not fair!” So many women didn’t hear about this movie because the critics gave it a splat. [Click HERE for FF2 Media review of The Zookeeper's Wife; Click HERE for FF2 Media interview with director Niki Caro.]
I also produced and distributed a movie that was Lake Bell’s second film called I Do Until I Don’t. It’s a really cute movie. I mean, it’s no Moonlight, but it’s a really cute, fun film for women over 30.
PP: I loved it!
MB: There aren’t many female critics over 30. It’s mostly men and the reviews that I read...were so critical of her almost as a person... It was this weird ‘mansplaining’ personal attack, that she should have done x, y and z...It’s OK to not like the movie, but to sabotage the career or to attempt to sabotage the career of a female filmmaker is pretty nasty.
PP: What will be the criteria for a critic to be a part of Cherry Picks Reviews?
RO: I think this is a really important part of how we want to differentiate ourselves. We feel that the internet has really opened up the opportunity for critical voices...it just happens that people coming from the outside are going to be using alternate outlets. They’re not going to always be accepted in the established outlets. There are obviously more women in the world looking at films critically, and have articulate, smart things to say about the media. What we want to do is continue to look at criticism as an art form and to show respect to people who are professional critics, but we also want to create a continuum of voices so that people can hear from more women...we’ll be showing more than just a narrow clip of voices at sites like Rotten Tomatoes.
MB: And a priority for us is to make sure that minorities within women which include women over 50 (chuckle)...We definitely want to make sure that those women are covered [and] any race... We want to make sure as long as they’re good writers, because they still have to be good writers, that they are represented. The kind of Rotten Tomatoes aspect of it is we will be aggregating female criticism that is already published in other places. Anywhere from the New York Times to ‘Black Girl Nerds,’ we’re going to grab it if it’s worthy...We’re also going to have our own original content which will come from female writers... that pitch us an idea...we will pay them to write the article and everyone will be paid equally...I mean not a lot, we’re still a startup (laughs), but everyone will be paid equally... and women should get paid for writing!
PP: Will CPR help in opening the doors for female-driven films, filling the mainstream theaters?
MB: Over the last two years there’s been a lot of hollering that we need more female voices in the film industry...I don’t know if anyone was jumping in that quickly to make it...The only way we can make it go faster is to affect the consumer. Producers and distributors...they make movies for consumers, for audiences, and if the audience is being told what is good and bad by a specific view of Caucasian males, or just males as a whole, but mostly Caucasian, then that’s the kind of product distributors are going to distribute...Hopefully Cherry Picks will be able to show people and women what women like so that those producers and distributors will [realize] there is a market for this because it got two cherries or a bowl full of cherries and there are all these women who want to see it. As a distributor, I would have loved to have been able to license whatever the score and cherries for Lake’s movie [was] and put that on my poster. Or have that be something in my trailer like ‘Two Cherries’ or ‘Cherry Picks loved it.’ [Click HERE for FF2 Media review of I Do ... Until I Don't]
RO: If the media doesn’t get made by the women, then the women who are watching it don’t get to see themselves, or see characters that they relate to or stories that they relate to. I mean it really affects the entire culture.
PP: What have been your biggest hurdles so far?
RO: We’re trying to change the status quo...and a lot of the men who have been responsible for creating the critical voice...perhaps feel threatened by it.
MB: We’re definitely not taking away something from males...I’ve had some interviews about this say, ‘Do you think this is really needed? Don’t you think it would be better to have a critical website for everyone?’ And I’m like, yeah, absolutely! And that’s called Rotten Tomatoes...We’re just trying to help the female voice right now. We’re not interested in taking away any voice from the males because they are here, too...I care about their opinions as well, but women need a little lift. We want to equalize the opportunity for women to be heard in these media places because media represents all of us.
PP: Tell me about Cherry Checks.
RO: Cherry checks is... the lens that women look at media through like the Bechdel Test, on-screen representation and off-screen, are there potentially disturbing scenes that you might want to know about, is there a lot of objectification? I think it’s about, ‘How would a woman or girl see this?’
PP: Until you launch your site, what information will you be publishing?
RO: We have a newsletter that we are publishing until we launch our site...we showcase different critics and interview them so that people can get to know them which is how we really feel like people will start to understand the voices that they relate to...We really want Cherry Picks to be personal...as a user...to find the reviewers that you most identify with.
MB: It’s fun! In the newsletter, we have pie charts...focusing on film festivals, to also call into them a responsibility that’s needed for them as well. We did SXSW and Cherry Checked that one.
PP: Tribeca Film Festival?
MB: We’ll do ‘em all! All of the film festivals need to know that we’re listening.
To sign up for CPR’s newsletter or learn more about the site, go to https://www.cherrypicksreviews.com
© Pamela Powell (4/5/18) FF2 Media