Cher Once Did Needlepoint; Now She Valiantly Defends the United States Post Office

Cher Works to Save the Post Office

Excuse my title up there. I really didn't know how to tie all these disparate stories together.

First off, fans have been delighted to see Cher fighting for the U.S. post office in recent protests, phone calls and Twitter pics.

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I hope if she starts volunteering for the post office, Bob Mackie designs her some "sensible shoes."

Cher and Needlepoint 

Months ago someone was requested photos of celebrity needlepointers like Dinah Shore and Rosey Grier. I found as many as I could but one photo I remembered proved elusive to locate. Then Cher scholar Drew asked me a question and I went searching for the answer to that but instead found the missing needlepoint pic. Maybe someday I'll locate the answer to Drew's question while I'm looking for something else. 

Anyway, Cher once did lots of needlpoint. She did so much she joked, "Then I took up needlepoint—my God, I needlepointed everything. I could have made a needlepoint stove!"

Cher needlepoints on airplanes:

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Cher needlepoints circa 1978/9.

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I also captured an image of Sonny pretending to needlepoint in episode #49 of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour:

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And here are some needlepoints of Cher:

Sandcneedles Sandcneedles

 

 

 

 

 

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The Time Magazine pillow belonged to Bob Mackie and sold for $448 on Julien's Acutions.

You can buy the Moonstruck needlepoint pattern on Etsy with a companion Nicholas Cage!

What is a Silkwood Shower?

For the Chersonian Institute, I was filing old magazines and found something interesting. Remember when Entertainment Weekly did a Bullseye pieceon the last page? Do they still do that? Anyway, one I found had a disparaging arrow regarding a rumor that Bret Michaels and Miley Cyrus’ mom were dating. ET says the rumor has sent them “running for a Silkwood shower.” Ok, that's a big rude. And I wondered if that was like…a saying. Apparently it is. Urban Dictionary has a listing for it with this example:

“I had to take a Silkwood shower when I got home from that party since I smelled like an ash tray cooked on an open flame BBQ grill covered in hot sauce.”

So "snap out of it, Moonstruck eggs and the Jack speech are not the only iconic references from a Cher movie.

Here are some shots of a Silkwood shower. It's a pretty serious and scary thing and Meryl rocks it (as did Sudie Bond earlier in the movie). 

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1999showCher Concert Reviews

Concert reviews have changed. I've learned this lesson over the last year from various sources from current reviewers and from the deceased reviewers. Is this overwhelming evidence of capitalism taking over PR? Probably. Which is no such a great thing. Buyer beware, there are no objective reviews in the land of corporate conglomeration. 

So it’s good to look back at a positive review and interview from 1999 (when bad reviews still existed) and this one was by T’cha Dunlevy at the Montreal Gazette is one of those. She was 30 when she reviewed the Believe-era concert and said she

“regularly feels aversion to refuse-to-die ‘60s rock acts. I had no convulsions of revulsion at the Camp Queen’s coup. Maybe it’s her synthetic, timeless beauty or her go-with-the-flow versatility, but Cher has somehow kept her proverbial cool over her three-and-a-half decades in the spotlight…a repetoir of personae, including pop-ditty princess, serious actor, 'I’m-in-love-with-a-man-half-my-age' bachelorette, reactionary mother of a lesbian [remember this was 1999] and, in her 50s. back to the top of the pops without coming off like a circus side-show act.”

“...'How many fingers and toes have you got?’ she asks, queried about whether she’s ever thought of giving up. ‘(It happens) all the time. It’s frustrating. I’m a very mercurial, emotional person, more childish sometimes than grownup. I’m not very calculating. But it’s the only think I know how to do and really love.’”

The end of the interview also notes that both Cyndi Lauper and Wild Orchid were opening for Cher at the time, the same Wild Orchid that produced Stacy Ferguson a.k.a. Fergie Duhamel a.k.a Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas. 


Odds and Ends: Believe Cover, Cher Hair Care, Acting vs. Singing, Fan Stuff

OkaykayaI've been collecting quite a big of odds and ends to report. My last few weeks have been tied up with doctor appointments and electronic poems. So here's some catch-up.

Believe

There was a new "Believe" cover in 2019 from Okay Kaya – and the pattern shows there's always the temptation is to slow that sucker down in the revamp. But it's a nice cover. 

Puzzle!

Meanwhile, Cher has come out with some new "Chicquitita" merch, including a puzzle and a face mask, both a must for Cher merch collectors during Covid.

Puzzle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I must admit, I sought out a bootleg Cher puzzle before this one came out. I'm not at all a "puzzle person" but I'm fascinated by people who are. And since puzzles are such a rage right now, I decided I should try it again. What else could temp me to do a puzzle, but a Cher picture. I found a picture of Cher that I love (from her trip to Armenia) and it took a very long time to arrive, at which time I found out it was from the Ukraine. (I'm probably on a list now). Other puzzle solvers I know laughed at me because it was only 175 pieces. But it was hellaciously hard because it was a mostly gray and black pieces. I could have sworn there were times putting it together I actually felt dizzy. But I did it and shellacked the finished product as a testimony to my hard labor. The new sanctioned puzzle also looks challenging with all the white pieces! I'll start on it as soon as it arrives.

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GqfanFan Psychology

If you're a fan of Galaxy Quest (that nerdy fan is so charming) you may also appreciate parts of the movie Cruise of the Gods although the fans are way less attractive in this made-for-Brit-TV movie with an unlikable Rob Brydon, a very likable Steve Coogan, and a very young and impressive James Corden. Sadly, I felt I could relate too much to the "scholarly fan" character and the "lovelorn girl fan." I've been very wary of fan cruises (and after covid, hell no) but this movie let me experience the scene vicariously.

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CherhairCher Hair

Filing stuff in the Chersonian Institute I  found this email from Cher scholar Tyler from 1999! That’s back when Cher fans were just finding each other on the Internets. Anyway….it was a conversation between Cher scholars Tyler and Meghan about whether or not Cher dyes her hair black (from the warm Armenian brown original color). He paraphrased an article he had from the 1970s, an interview with early Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour hairstylist Jim Ortel about how handy Cher was with her own hair with top knots and whutnot, and how she knows what styles look good on her juxtaposed with her nose, chin and teeth. She had the ends trimmed every three weeks back then and in between salon visits, she wrapped her hair overnight occasionally in olive oil!

In Cher Zine 3, we talked about beauty fads like this. Over the last few years, the fads were avocado and coconut oil and now I’m seeing Kelp and castor oil everywhere. When they move to little baby seal oil, I’m out.

Anyway, the end of the story is funny, the interviewer asks about the olive oil night wrap, “How does this set with her husband Sonny?” And Ortel says, “He’s Italian. He didn’t notice.”

That’s somewhere between an Italian slur and the fact that during this era Sonny probably wouldn’t have noticed Cher’s hair if it had been on fire. 

Tyler, if you see this, thank you. Were there pictures with the article?

Acting V. Singing

In 1999 Entertainment Weekly posted an online argument between Dave Karger and Jessica Shaw about whether “Cher is better suited for the airwaves or the silver screen.”

Imagine! Here are the pertinent excerpts:

Dave: “Watching her strut around with her unique reckless professionalism confirmed to me that the concert stage is where she belongs.”

Jessica starts by saying “Believe” going to #1 in 23 countries was “no great feat” considering Alyssa Milano and David Hasselhoff received hits in countries like Japan and Germany. (Really?) She says, “Cher’s acting, on the other hand, is purely her own talent and skill.” And she’s looking forward to Cher’s role in Tea with Mussolini playing an eccentric Jewish American.

Dave then says Cher’s Oscar win over Holly Hunter in Broadcast News was a “travesty” [ how about over Meryl Streep in Ironweed and Sally Kirkland in Anna?] and he mentions her real bad films like Faithful. He says more people watched Divas Live 99 than will see Tea with Mussolini.

Jessica then goes off on Cher’s bad concert banter, her collagen and face lifts, her “morphing into another person.” She says high viewership means nothing and trashes the Home Improvement TV show. She ends with, “I have one word for you: Mask.”

Dave: He brings up Cher the actress who gave us hair infomercials.

Jessica: “And your hair has been looking much better since you invested." [snap] 

And the squabbling went downhill after that.


Mark Patton's 2019 Documentary

ChermarkSomeone posted a paragraph on Facebook in 2016 about Mark Patton and an upcoming novella he was outlining about his experiences working on the Broadway play and movie Come Back to the 5 and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. He talks about Cher’s perspective being mostly about Cher-centric about Kathy Bates being dismissive of the experience. Patton was 22 at time time, he says, and Cher was 37. They were besties for a while during production. I went online this week to find out if the book came to fruition and found this cool documentary about Patton from just last year.

The movie is primarily about Patton's experiences working on the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise and the issues it raised in his life. But he also talks about his time working with Cher.

From syfy.com:

"In Scream, Queen!, Patton recounts his Broadway debut in Come Back to the Five & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, which was directed by Robert Altman and co-starred Karen Black, Kathy Bates, and Cher. (Yes. THE Cher!) With such big names onstage and off, celebs frequented the playhouse often. And on one special occasion, David Bowie came by and kissed Patton. It's a story he mentions in the movie, but we FANGRRLS needed the full scoop.

"How that happened, actually," Patton began with a smile. "We were rehearsing. There was only one electrical outlet, right? And it was in Bob [Altman]'s office. So I had to do my James Dean hair and I needed a blow dryer. So I was just sitting there all self-involved." At this point, he mimed doing his hair into a Dean-worthy pompadour. "And Bob said, 'Oh Mark, this is my friend David. David, this is Mark.' I'm like, 'Hey, how are you doing?' Still blow-drying my hair."

In telling the story, Patton re-enacted. At this point, he paused in his pantomime of blow-drying to glance over her right shoulder. Then he said, "That's f***ing David Bowie." After this brief introduction, Bowie went out to the house to watch the show. "Many people did this, [and] then would give us notes and everything," Patton explained. "But as [Bowie] was running down the stairs, he grabbed me, kissed me and said, 'Oh, you're fabulous.' And then went off to see Cher."

Speaking of Cher, Patton had another story to share. "I had one experience," Patton began. "Me, Cher, [hockey player] Ron Duguay, [Studio 54 co-owner] Steve Rubell, and [American fashion designer] Halston, who everybody called 'Pussy,' we were in a limousine going to Liza Minnelli's house, where nobody wanted to go. They were like, 'Oh, that b*tch does nothing but talk about herself all the time.' And so we get to her house, and it's a black-and-white fantasy. It's all Liza everything and Oscars. And by the end of the night, she's dancing up a storm to 'New York, New York.' And I'm fascinated.

"And then my favorite experience ever of all of those," Patton continued, as this reporter sat jaw-dropped and deathly envious, "Was when Cher and I went to Studio 54. We were sitting in Studio 54, and again it was the same crew of people, like some ballet dancers and some famous people. And Liza came in. And the songs are playing, and she was like, 'Oh, I wish somebody would dance with me.' And she kept saying this, 'I wish somebody would dance with me.' And I was like, 'Well, I'll dance with you. Like nobody else is, so like I'll dance with you.' She says again, 'I wish somebody would dance with me.' I mean, like I didn't even exist. Right? So finally Cher leaned over, and she said, 'She wants to dance with me because she knows when we go out on the floor that every photographer will come out. And we'll be on their front page of every newspaper in the world. But I'm going to make the b*tch beg for it.' And those pictures are in the documentary."

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From Rage Monthly

"Scream, Queen! reveals much about Patton’s personal life, including his own HIV+ status, his longtime self-imposed exile in Puerto Vallarta, and his enduring friendship with singer/actress/goddess Cher.

Speaking of gay icons, here a question some of our readers will consider the most important: Do you still speak with Cher?

I do. (Laughs) I used to live near Chaz (Bono, Cher’s son) in West Hollywood. Cher lives in a particular world, surrounded by people at her level of success, but she’s always been kind to me. We met when we did the play Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean on Broadway in 1982. We were very close and are still friends and we would go out to Studio 54 after the show. At the time, she always had a dark-haired young man she would be interested in and a blonde young man at her side, so I was her blonde “wing man” at the time. (Laughs) She remains very supportive and I really hope she comes to see the film at some point.

More info about the film in HIVPlus Mag.

Here's the movie website and trailer.  It supposedly came out in March 3 on Amazon. I will be watching for this.


Cher Scholar Digs: Mad Magazine, 1967 Interview, Moonstruck

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The picture to the left is Cher reading Mad Magazine in the mid-1960s,

So I've been organizing Cher loot during the Great Shut-In and I'm finding some good stuff....and some not-so-good stuff, like this Mad Magazine spread from March of 1973, which is ironically exactly where we're up to in cataloging the TV episodes

Mad Magazine loves to take the piss out of popular things. So the tone of this isn't surprising. I don't tend to enjoy their sense of humor, although I enjoyed Spy vs. Spy as a kid. There's another clipping I once ripped out of one of my older brother's 70s-era issues that had a predictive age-progression for Cher's face. It was wildly inaccurate (looking back as it assumed she would never change her hair style) but I remember feeling a sense of dread about it (and not just because I destroyed a possible eBay sale from my brothers' future). I'll post it here if I come across it.

Here is the comic I was able to locate online. Click the thumbnails to enlarge. Prepare to be underwhelmed.

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I think part of the un-funnyness is knowing that the premise of the critique (Cher being a bitch who pushed Sonny around) was based on a tragically false assumption. I also think this is a macho response to an emerging feminist subtext occurring in this show. And I'm not just trying to be an academic wonk. (Liar!) This kind of response sort of proves that something unnerving was happening. It's like that disturbing quote from Chris Hodenfield in the 1973 Rolling Stone piece where the author's male friends were hoping Sonny "beat the shit out of her with a tire iron" which was also a macho-Rolling Stone-reading male response to seeing a woman (a wife, no less) like Cher on television daring to act assertive and critical when, at most, macho male audiences were used to seeing only the challenges of tentative but cautious characters like Marlo Thomas' Ann Marie or Mary Richards or Gloria on All in the Family. And then there's Maude. Look, Cher isn't even included in the list: https://www.thoughtco.com/sitcoms-of-1970s-3529025. But she got this kind of blowback. Why was that?

InsidepopThere's an interview with Sonny & Cher in the book “Inside Pop” book by David Dachs (1967). The most interesting parts describes a Cher modeling shoot for Vogue and calls out the uniquely packaged deal of Sonny being a writer, producer, provider of arrangement ideas (if not fully the arranger), music editor, and the one who chooses the master. The author says they were able to keep a lot of their royalties this way. The article also states that in his pre-music-biz life, Sonny was a masseur. I wonder if Cher got free massages during their time together. The interview also references Sonny's early compositions including “Koko Joe” Larrywilliams2 and “You Bug Me Baby," recorded by Larry Williams, which I first heard on my local oldies station a few months back.

There are also lots of mistakes in book: describing Georganne as Armenian, completely misrepresenting Sonny & Cher's age difference.

The author calls them an ingratiating couple and talks about their upcoming planned movie Ignaz (never came out)  and says the movie was concerned with “mind expansion.” The author finally concluded that they “aren’t all 'camp' and kooky clothes.”

What a hip word to use. Susan Songtag's essay "Notes on Camp" had just come out in 1964.

Moonstruck

I found an old local newspaper from when I was living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in the year 2000. The American Film Institute had came out with this list of the funniest movies of all time.

Moonstruck is #47.
https://www.brainerddispatch.com/news/3372065-some-it-hot-tootsie-top-list-100-funniest-american-movies


Watch Moonstruck for Christmas

XmasmoonMeg Sheilds has a great article about Moonstruck and why it's a great holiday movie.

Although it's not about the holidays per se, it's good a holiday vibe. She calls it a “glorious late-80s comfort food” and she likes Cher’s “frumpy chic.”

First, there's the sense of cold and warmth in the movie, scenes of insight are "bathed in cold, lunar spotlight that gives [them] a chilled supernatural feeling." Alternatively, the ”inviting domesticity of the interior spaces…radiate a warmth [both] physical and emotional with coloring of “dark cherry, rosy glows and deep crimsons."

Secondly, there's an emotional abandon about the movie, “the willingness to be emotional, both in bombast ('CHRISSY BRING ME THE BIG KNIFE') and in subtler, gentler ways ('I love him awful')…”tapping into that special kind of existential upheaval that runs rampant during the holidays when your routine is shaken and you discover new parts of yourself.”

She says, “Moonstruck loves it’s characters and refuses to reduce them to punchlines.” The movie has dark, wintery parts “of hard ground, dead trees, and precipitous existential dread.”

MoonstruckeggsFinally, there's family, a family which “feels terribly, terribly real…homey as those eggs that Rose makes.”

Oooh. I love that fried egg scene. I also love how the dish formerly known as Eggs in a Hole is now very often called Moonstruck Eggs.

Cher just gets into the cracks of culture, even the food. 

Which reminds me, why isn't there a Sonny cookbook out yet?

 


The Definition of Kibitz

KibbitzRemember this scene in the movie Good Times? Sonny is playing chess with their pet monkey? This is shortly after Cher orders out for "chicken delight" while saying, "You knew when you met me I wasn't the domestic type." 

I often say this phrase at home.

Anyway, Sonny, Cher and the monkey are waiting for their takeout and Cher is watching the chess game and making suggestions for Sonny, who is losing the game to the monkey. This annoys Sonny and he complains to her, "Don't kibitz."

Well, I've always wondered what that word meant. Like from the year 1981 when I first saw this movie at age 11 until this year. So for like 38 years I've been sitting here wondering. 

Recently I was listening to a Way with Words podcast and they explained this was a Yiddish word meaning "meddlesome bird." This is awesome because I love Yiddish.

Practically, it's defined as "to speak informally, chat, kibitz with friends" or alternatively "to look on and offer unwelcome advice, especially at a card game." (Google)

Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino also use the word in a recent GQ interview:

GQ: I wonder if you guys are friends in part because so few other people can really relate to your respective life experiences.

Pacino: We get together. And there’s a trust there. There just is. We understand this thing together a little bit better. And you go there sometimes just to get some feedback. We talk about things.

De Niro: Kibitz. I don’t know if you know that word.

GQ: I do.

Pacino: We kibitz.

They kibitz. That's adorable.


Revisiting Good Times and 3614 Jackson Highway

Good-timesI totally missed this when it happened in 2017, but there's been a re-release of the movie Good Times. My friend Dave alerted me to the situation while we were in Amoeba Records in Los Angeles this spring. It's quite amazing and has me rethinking the movie.

It's extras include an interesting interview with William Friedkin describing how he came to the project and how it all came together. Friedkin talks about their guerrilla film-making (they had no permits) and how they filmed skits first in studio. Afterwards, they only had 45 minutes of film, so they padded it.

There's also a fabulous commentary track across the movie with film historian Lee Gambin who highlights things you’ve never noticed (or at least I never noticed): Friedkin’s mark on the movie, for instance with the chaotic edit of the wrestling scene, typical angles and shots, and subversive low shots. He comments on George Saunder’s "faustian" performance.

He categorizes all 1960s films into dark films, Elvis films, avant guard cinema and rock docs. He feels Good Times is very meta.

He references the western skit to the spaghetti western Ringo movies of 1965, A Pistol for Ringo and The Return of Ringo. He labels Friedken as a  documentary realist at that time, who dabbled in fantasy (The Exorcist). Sonny liked the hard edge of Friedkin and shared his sense of humor (note the Los Angeles parking signs on the Western street). He notes the crane work and says that, in fact, Good Times went crane happy.

He notes the "incredible dancing" in the western musical, saying the choreographer (who's name I couldn't catch: Andre T?) was one of the sharks in West Side Story. I like how they keep the whole body of the dancer in frame and long shots of the whole dance, which was the unfortunate issues with dances in Burlesque.

Gambin says the movie got a few good reviews. The LA Times said there were moments of Woody Allen brilliance and The Hollywood Reporter said it was the best directorial debut since Coppola. It might shock fans to hear that.

Gambin calls it a fun tributes to genre movies, full of beautiful colors. He said originally a Sonny & Cher fan was to write initial script but that took too long.

He describes he movie as a tension between artistic integrity vs. commerce, turning artists into commodities which is exactly what they don’t want to become. Cher is trying to get control of her own trajectory. S&C are reclaiming their turf. They are decidedly here not a rags to riches story, although I think it's curious that their variety show would recycle a rags to riches mythology for its “behind the scenes” fake documentary reels and skits.

Gambin relates the movie to the backstage musical similar to Vincent Minnelli's The Bandwagon, a genre about The Hollywood Machine. As always, Gambin insists that Cher owns her own presentation. He also doesn't deny the camp sensibility of the "It's the Little Things" video reel, and use of Batman iconography.

He also loves the studio lot scene where Sonny & Cher discuss their dilemma with the big studio and play with backstage costumes and props. Gambin calls this a place "where costumes have lost their meaning." The Hollywood Tzar, the studio wants to fix them." Note the part where they tell Sonny, “This nose will have to go” and remember the ongoing teasing Sonny gave Cher's nose on their variety show four years later. Interestingly, Gambin says that women in clown garb is rare. Is this true?

He equates the S&C script scene here with the one in The Exorcist.

Jungle Geno is Mikey Dolenz. I always wondered about that. Gambin notes that all Tarzan movies always had a “boy” who was young and athletic. So their elderly son is a joke on that convention. Animal trainer Ray Halfaster was used and Gambin says he was better than some (I'm assuming he means regarding abuse of his animals). Gambin reminds us that Saunders' role in this skit is a nod to the Great White Hunter and his coldness and malevolence. He notes the moving camera work in the chase scene.

He notes Sonny's interesting phrasing and chord progression in his favorite musical number, "Don’t Talk to Strangers."

Gambin says the detective story is a nod to Film Noir and was also the seed of Cher's Vamp. He likes the texture palette in this skit.

He says some Friedkin fans feel the songs in this movie drag on the momentum. But Gambin feels they give film time to breathe and are like soliloquy moments. They give the characters space to grow.

Overall, Gambin notes Cher's fiery acting performances in strong female roles (Jimmy Dean, Moonstruck, Silkwood, Mask) and says she is underappreciated as both a vocalist and an actress, having worked with many greats including Friedkin, Altman, Nichols, Bogdanovich, and Jewison. He says, "Cher songs are institutions" about race relations, the occult and people on the fringe.

After this, Gambin says, Sonny & Cher were hired to do the Speedway movie, but were replaced by Elvis and Nancy Sinatra.

I also noticed two things in rewatching this movie. First, how their LA house (in Encino) is surrounded by undeveloped land! Second, this is another movie with Cher playing herself and showing a disinterest in show business. What an amazing foreshadowing of the Cher story, as if her life were scripted. Gambin talks about how she later reinvented herself as a multi-medium business woman decades later.

20190612_144147There's also a new release of 3614 Jackson Highway on purple vinyl.

The same Ward Lamb essay from the CD re-release booklet years ago is also included in the vinyl release. 

 


R.I.P. Franco Zeffirelli

Zeff

One of Cher's directors has passed away: Franco Zeffirelli, most famous for his 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet. 

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2019/jun/15/franco-zeffirelli-obituary

Many Cher directors have passed: Robert Altman, Mike Nichols, Peter Yates, Franco Zeffirelli, Paul Mazursky and Sonny Bono (if you believe he was really the direction behind Chastity),  These are the Cher's directors still with us: William Friedkin, George Miller, Richard Benjamin, Ol Parker, the Farrelly brothers...

 


Cher Scholarship in the Wild

Cher-2019-tour

This is a photo of Cher's latest arena tour, fifty years into her concert career.

It’s curious how many essays there were last year’s about Cher. Women and gay men have been writing stories about how Cher helped them be more assertive or survive hard times. But now we're seeing a surge of people writing about Cher as a phenomenon. There have been a few reviewing a song here or there, some reviewing her entire oeuvre, some quite-personal essay about how Cher influenced them in some way, or about how they never thought about Cher much until recently and are discovering things about her they find profoundly misunderstood or inspiring.

No one can even get at what she’s doing, really. She’s flinty and strong, hard and soft, but can we really parse the craft of it? The mystery of the mechanics of Cher? Writers are trying to figure out what Cher means.

Recently a friend of mine found a local course on Cher from a catalog called Oasis.

OasisOasis offers programs for senior citizens. I’m was very bummed that I missed it, but the offering, you bet I am going to cajole one of my 55+ friends into sneaking me into it. This teacher runs courses on multiple acts including Neil Diamond, Harry Belafonte, Cole Porter, Dinah Washington, Oscar Levant, Carly Simon, Bobby Darin, Sting, Tina Turner, Hank Williams (called the Hillbilly Shakespeare), and on categories like showtunes, African American music history, music and the holocaust, among other interesting topics. In the class description, she calls Cher out as a super-diva activist and philanthropist who has sold over 110 million records and has had a #1 single in each decade.

The evolution of Cher” by Justin Elizabeth Sayre had great commentary around authenticity and bling.

“I’ve never disliked Cher or thought of her as anything other than a dynamic and talented performer. But I have long taken Cher for granted. I simply assumed that many artists have had multiple hits in multiple decades, won Oscars and Grammys and been cultural icons clad in Bob Mackie for over 40 years. Cher was just one person of note on a short but powerful list….But the truth is that there is no list. There is only Cher."

Things Sayre singled out for what makes Cher particularly authentic, her immediate sense of presence: 

"Even on film, this woman was the real thing, the genuine article, poised, gorgeous, talented, brilliant — all things that mean Cher."

This is an important point because Cher has always been accused of being a false front, a clothes hanger, a fake hippie, a false singer, a false folk act and that her bling has been used simply to hide the falseness.

Sayre claims it was Cher’s authenticity that actually saved scenes of the movie Burlesque for him:

“The scenes with Stanley Tucci, who plays just the sort of gay men I like, were all funny and touching. The relationship between two friends who are deeply committed to each other, slightly in love, trying to keep a part of the world for themselves, was so genuine that my friend choked up. For the rest of the movie, Cher became a life preserver. I relaxed when she was onscreen, knowing full well that I would no longer drown in a sea of the average. It wasn’t camp, but it was good. Camp needs more of a threat.  It’s always about the push and the pull; it has the frenetic energy of failure mixed with the knowing achievement of beautiful destruction. In a way, Cher can’t do camp. That may be a strange thing to say, seeing how much camp is inspired by her, but I think it’s true. There is such a sense of authority in her performing (she’s Cher, dammit!), but there is also her undeniable sense of truth. In Burlesque, the song may be outlandish, the setting bizarre, but she somehow comes off present and honest in the eye of this glittery storm...Things that would appear garish or over-the-top on a host of other divas seem absolutely appropriate on Cher, even demanded. Cher deserves lighting. And glitter. This is how her world should be. And there in that dream, Cher sits down and sings to you about the joys and sorrows of life that you both share. She’s just like you, even with all that surrounds her.  And you believe it, because Cher is something real.”

At first this is what I thought might the the problem with all Cher impersonations and (before I saw it) the Broadway show: glitter without Cher just doesn't fulfill the Cherness. Gitter doesn’t hold you up even if you’re adept at doing all the Cher ticks. Because the glitter is an add-on and not the architecture.

And for those who say authenticity is impossible to apply to a career involving auto-tune or plastic surgery, Sayre has a message for you too:

“Now, of course, there will be some who say that this is not an accurate assessment of Cher: How can you call someone “real” who has had that amount of plastic surgery, or used auto-tuning as she’s done? To that I would reply, “Who told you about those things? Cher did.” Cher has never denied having plastic surgery. She’s been upfront and honest about her “work.” She’s also been forthcoming about a desire to look good. And we love her for it, so why should we be upset when she does things to make herself look and feel great? As for the auto-tuning, she used it as an effect, not as a crutch. It was a sound, a look, almost, that turned “Believe” into a huge hit. The pipes are still there, trust.”

Anna Swanson did a movie survey with some great commentary, too.

“Cher’s work on the silver screen has reached across a wide variety of genres, from musicals and fantasy films to serious dramas. She’s worked with some of the most iconic directors in the industry, often portraying women who are difficult to pin down. Her roles frequently simultaneously play up her larger than life public persona and react against it, rendering it impossible to easily define her characters or to put them in a box.”

About Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean:

“The film, which also stars Sandy Dennis and Kathy Bates, has been frequently praised for its feminist themes and for its empathetic depiction of the character Joanne (Karen Black), a trans woman….Not only is Cher’s performance integral to the film, she also received acclaim for it and was nominated for a Golden Globe ”

About Silkwood:

In Silkwood she is stripped down and her performance is grounded in realism. In playing a lesbian character, Cher’s portrayal of Dolly offers an incredibly humane and nuanced look at the experiences of a marginalized woman.”

About Mask:

“Though the film is at times a touch schmaltzy, Cher’s performance is once again grounded and nuanced.”

About Moonstruck:

"In addition to being a romantic masterpiece, director Norman Jewison’s Moonstruck is a vehicle for Cher’s best screen performance to date, and the one that won her an Oscar. ...Cher has heartfelt and witty material to work with and she knocks it out of the park….Moonstruck, though it has just the right amount of melodrama, is also honest and unpretentious, especially in scenes with Olympia Dukakis as Loretta’s mother. Between Jewison’s direction, Shanley’s script, and the performances, Moonstruck is pitch perfect. Simply put, they don’t make rom-coms like this anymore, and that is a goddamn shame.”

About Witches of Eastwick:

“What makes this film most memorable is the relationship between the three women. Just as Miller would famously go on to do with Mad Max: Fury Road, here he foregrounds these complex women and the strength of their bonds. The women have their struggles, but it’s never doubted that they are at their strongest and their best when they are committed to helping each other.”

Matthew Jacobs takes another tour through her movies...

“Of all the pop stars who have attempted to act, Cher’s track record is arguably the best…As her post-Sonny & Cher solo career waxed and waned in the ’80s and early ’90s, Cher’s movie career flourished ― a true achievement, given the ostentatious displays that had made her a walking glitter bomb since the mid-’60s.”

He breaks her acting career into eras, the beginning (1967-1985), the gold (1987), the wobble (1991-1999), the redemption (2000). 

About Chastity:

Chastity, released in June 1969, tried to be a gritty derivative of the French New Wave, packing big ideas ― Bono apparently said it was about society’s sudden “lack of manhood” and “the independence women have acquired but don’t necessarily want” ― into a whiplash-inducing downer involving a lesbian romance and childhood molestation...But bad movies can be testaments to good actors’ skills. Cher is at ease in front of the camera, never letting her fame announce itself before she opens her mouth. The same qualities accenting all her best film work — a scrappy confidence that reads as a proverbial middle finger to anyone who crosses her — become the highlight of “Chastity.””

About Mask:

Mask proved her acting was bankable…. The role earned her a third Golden Globe nomination and the Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious best-actress prize, but she was snubbed by the Oscars...At the Academy Awards, she donned her infamous midriff-bearing Bob Mackie getup, complete with a cape and a spiky headdress. The look was more punk rock than Tinseltown elegance ― an oversized fuck-you to the fusty Academy and an ebullient reminder that she wouldn’t tidy up her image to appeal to Reagan-era conservatism.”

About Witches of Eastwick:

“In 1987, at the critical age of 41, Cher landed a troika of commercial hits in which she was the centerpiece, starting with the delicious lark The Witches of Eastwick,...she held her own against Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jack Nicholson.”

He calls her Moonstruck performance “career-defining.”

Of the [Witches, Suspect, Moonstruck 1987] trifectata:

“In each, Cher captured a quotidian version of American life ― and what’s more transformative than Cher pretending to be quotidian?”

All the while, Jacobs reminds us, Cher was making pop-rock hits like “I Found Someone,” “We All Sleep Alone,” and “Turn Back Time,” hits that would “place her in the same league as Madonna, Paula Abdul and Whitney Houston.”

About post-Mermaids work:

“She was too decadent to disappear into the same down-home movie roles, and Hollywood no longer saw her as a profitable actress. Cher played along with the joke, though, portraying exaggerated versions of herself (see: The Player, Will & Grace, Stuck on You) even when she wasn’t actually playing herself (see: Burlesque).

The Redemption Jacobs considers as her appearance on Will and Grace:

“There’s no movie-star move more powerful than playing yourself with an ironic wink, and Will & Grace, like The Player before it, let Cher poke fun at herself in a refreshing way. She is treated as an empire, at once pointedly self-aware and deliciously aloof ― a perfect way to master her own narrative without being beholden to it.”

He concludes,

“If pop stars are meant to be mythological and actors are meant to be aspirational, Cher has mastered both domains. She did so by never shying away from how the world metabolized her iconography, and by forever laughing at the absurdity of fame.”

Abby Aguirre in Elle Magazine wrote a very good interview piece (actually a long one) with Cher in November and I thought this exchange was very indicative of Cher's attitude about achieving this level of notoriety after so many lean spells:

“Before I leave, I ask Cher why she thinks following fun and acting on instinct has, in her case, produced so many pivotal moments. “It doesn’t always,” she says. “Look, I’ve had huge failures in my life. Huge dips and ‘Oh, you’re over. You’re over.’ This one guy once said, ‘You’re over,’ every year for I don’t know how many years. And I just said to him, ‘You know what? I will be here when you’re not doing what you do anymore.’ I had no idea if I was right or wrong. I was just tired of hearing him say it.””

 


Mama Mia 2: Here We Go Again


Mm2I know. I know. The movie is like a half a year old already and BluRay and DVD are already out with awesome features, very Cher-flattering stuff on the extra features, not to be missed (more on that later)! 

But literally, this is where I left off blogging last year during all the drama that was last year. So we have to start here so I can catch up. But I have to admit, complaining or genuflecting for Mama Mia last season just felt wrong, even when I tried to do it. While we were going through the U.S. midterms, the constant shootings and hate crimes, kids dying at the border, it just felt extremely not-kosher to be discussing whether or not the movie Mama Mia 2 was high art or cotton candy.

Similarly, I’ve been reading a lot about lost American languages, mostly American Indian languages, especially the work of writers like Mohave poet Natalie Diaz, and it came up that Yiddish was another dying language. I’m not Jewish but I love Yiddish so I decided to start reading more about the language. But then the Synagogue shooting happened and it didn’t feel right to be interloping into a language that wasn’t mine and I felt this way for a few months. 

Pop culture can be helpful in dark times but it can also be a distraction. And I don’t claim to know where the borderline is there but...

Could I stop thinking and writing about poetry and Cher. I think I would go crazy maybe. (Too late!) Besides, 2018 was the wrong year to give up Cher scholarship. It was the busiest Cher year since 1987 or 1975 before that or 1965 before that. This was finally the year everyone realized the cultural work that Cher product does, what Cherness is. And we’re all beginning to realize how it might work on some level, thanks to the failures (and successes) of the Broadway show ironically. We’re all beginning to figure out how the Cher effect works outside of the mediums and products they spin out on. Bigger than the music and the movies and the merch. Bigger than the costumes. 

But I’ll get more into that in the next few weeks when we start to talk about Cher essays and the Broadway show.

Today I just want to catch up on that little movie that was Mama Mia 2, what interviews came out around it, what critics said and what I thought about it.

General Interviews

So Cher did a lot of press for the movie and some general interviews about all things Cher (which included discussions around the new album, the Broadway show, and her latest “I swear this is my last” tour.

She appeared on Ellen. Watch this funny clip they did at the salon. You can also find more show excerpts on Youtube.

The Today Show appearances

https://www.today.com/video/cher-opens-up-about-career-and-new-abba-album-1314064451541?v=raila& Cher makes a comment about having a favorite shirt for 40 years and of course everyone wanted to know, what shirt is that? People Magazine found out: https://people.com/style/cher-wears-same-tshirt-for-30-years/

https://www.today.com/video/-it-shows-women-being-in-control-of-their-life-cher-talks-mamma-mia-here-we-go-again-1278419523965

The New Zealand Herald: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501119&objectid=12088673

With Kathie Lee Gifford: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-KMgR39Eck&feature=youtu.be

With Lorrraine: https://youtu.be/ZSEvcvcImls

Interviews even happened about Cher interviews: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8aEhHAEvyU

An interesting panel discussion with the Mama Mia 2 cast and creators: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfEHEiIKPQM&feature=youtu.be 

A story about her wig in the movie: https://www.dailystar.co.uk/showbiz/719705/cher-mamma-mia-hair-wig-film-musical-abba-fernando-super-trooper

Why We Love Cher

The Press Junket

Cher’s part of the press junket involved her in an interview-duet of sorts with Andy Garcia. I didn't like him at all at first but he grew on me. The first few interviews I watched, he seemed bored and irritated with all the gay men interviewing and genuflecting for Cher. When one obviously Cher-happy interviewer asked him if he had a Cher impression in him, he expressed mild alarm and Cher defended him by calling him a serious actor.

Which reminds us of Cher's famous moment blowing about the definitions of the conflation of words serious and actor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ptvz4DGrK4  

So ironic, that. And then the fact that maybe he is a serious sort o factor, except that he just made Mama Mia 2.

But things got better and who knows what the interviewing sequence was. Maybe he was just getting irritable before his lunch break. Anyway, you can imagine them sitting there all day while tens of tens of interviewers floated by with hundreds of questions. Here are some of the clips:

Alternatively, look how Meryl Streep behaves during at the premiere, much more befitting the tone of the movie: https://dorothysurrenders.blogspot.com/2018/07/my-my-how-can-i-resist-you.html

Which brings us to...

The Red Carpet Premiere


Cher by the Cast Actresses

“She’s the funniest, most honest person I’ve ever met,” Seyfried said of her legendary co-star. “I was so nervous; I was so intimidated that the first day I met her, I didn’t want to be in her way.”

'She was amazing, there was a crackle of anticipation on the set when she was coming in.” Piers Brosnan

Behind the Scenes

How Andy Garcia was hand picked: http://www.vulture.com/2018/07/why-mamma-mia-here-we-go-again-cast-cher-as-meryls-mother.html

You can get these on the DVD/BluRay too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6sJ3M2H2Xo&feature=youtu.be

The Reviews and Box Office

Rotten Tomatoes compilation of reviews: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/mamma_mia_here_we_go_again/

Box Office overview (#2 in opening week!):

The reviews were almost a whiplash-inducing gamut in their range from good to bad...

Dazed Digital, the best review, mostly about Cher:

“Like God, or time, Cher is a concept so ineffable and expansive she cannot be fully encapsulated by the imperfect semiotics of human language. If Madonna and Lady Gaga and Kylie and Cyndi Lauper were playing football, Cher would be the stadium they played on, and the sun that shone down on them. Explaining his decision to cast Cher, 72, as the mother of Meryl Streep, 69, in Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, despite a mere three-year age gap between the two actresses, writer-director Ol Packer explained simply that “Cher exists outside of time”. A fascinating hypothesis. Perhaps she finally found a way to turn it back...You’ll notice I referred to Cher as an ‘actress’. This is because there are two great injustices of our times: firstly, the machinations of late capitalism, which allows the labour of the weak to be exploited by a narrowing group of a global super rich elite, and secondly, the cultural tendency to acknowledge Cher merely as a ‘singer’ despite the fact she has appeared in several critically acclaimed film roles.” Shon Faye

The New Yorker

“...for all its faults, has a musty charm and even, for reasons that involve Meryl Streep, a hint of heartbreak. There’s also a secret weapon. Not the special effects, which include the worst fake moon in modern cinema, or Colin Firth’s dancing, but the appearance—one might call it the annunciation—of Cher, who steps from a helicopter and takes control of the film. In the role of Sophie’s grandmother, and in a voice still throbbingly low and lusty, she belts out “Fernando.” For the first time in two installments of “Mamma Mia!” I plucked the cotton wool from my ears and found myself doing something quite extraordinary. I listened.” Anthony Lane

Chicago Reader

“Cher is the cherry on the sundae”

The Globe and Mail

“Yes, Meryl Streep has left the building and only appears in a cameo at the finale; her energy is much missed. Instead, we get Cher as Sophie’s supposed grandmother, and you have to at least admire the chutzpah – and laugh happily as the script finds an excuse for her to break into Fernando (the lady looks as though she’s mistaken a taxidermist for a plastic surgeon).” Kate Taylor

Ouch!

Alternate Ending

Airquotes“a deeply inorganic Cher cameo much too late in the movie for the marketing team to feel like they've done good work by pretending she's a major character - also, fuck the hell out of the sound team for mixing Cher so loud as to suck all the texture out of my favorite ABBA song, for no other reason than because she is Cher - and a Streep cameo so ill-motivated that it goes back around to being funny. All this being said, Here We Go Again is hardly the grueling misery that the first film was, and while I still don't think that watching people being this strenuously gleeful is "fun", the new film is trying much less hard than its predecessor to be a karaoke party. It's trying to be a musical, and while I don't think that's a particularly good one, that important shift in emphasis is very much appreciated.” Tim Brayton

Newport This Week

“The new addition to the cast is Cher, as Sophie’s long-lost grandmother, a Vegas showgirl. When she finally appears, it’s a movie star entrance on the order of Rita Hayworth in “Gilda.” But with her Lady Gaga platinum hair and her waxworks face, it’s a bit too campy and a distraction. Sure, it’s fun to hear Cher belt out “Fernando” opposite Andy Garcia, whose presence is purely a plot point for Cher’s character, but it’s wholly unnecessary.” Loren King

Film Inquiry

“On the other end of the spectrum, latest cast member Cher essentially plays herself, which effectively balances the sadness with a healthy amount of whimsy, particularly during her performance of Fernando.” Zoe Crombie

The LA Times

“And what of Cher? Let’s just say that like any diva worth her salt, she takes her time — first by arriving late into the proceedings and then by drawing out “Fernando,” her indisputable musical highlight, with a deliberation so breathtaking that even the accompanying fireworks seem to be erupting in slo-mo. In these moments, the honey-toned pop artifice of “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” becomes so overwhelming, you forget all qualms, all appeals to reason and logic — which is not to say your inconvenient questions won’t resurface later. What year is this taking place again? Couldn’t they have given Colin Firth a boyfriend? Why cast Cher as Meryl Streep’s mother? I understand that Cher, not unlike ABBA, transcends such petty concerns as time, space, age and physics, but that’s one mysterious parental back story I’d pay to see. Can we get a third movie out of this? Honey, I’m still free. Take a chance on three.” Justin Chang

NPR

Cher is in this thing, playing the late Donna's mother, and Sophie's grandmother. That's no secret; it's in the trailer. (As a thought experiment, try to imagine how much money they must have thrown at Cher to portray Donna's mom, given that she is just three years older than Streep. Go ahead, try — you will find the puny human brain insufficient to the task.) What may not be clear is that her screentime clocks in at just over sixteen minutes. Also, according to a passage of Streep dialogue in the 2008 film ("Somebody up there [point to the heavens] has got it in for me. I bet it's my mother.") Cher's appearance at the film's climax should logically inspire, among the other characters, a good deal more existential dread, if not screaming terror, than it does here. Look, it's no secret that Cher is a supernatural force. But if we accept that line of dialogue as Mamma Mia! canon, she may in truth be a Vampyr. The script is not forthcoming, but what other conclusion is possible? She does get a number to do, though, and it's really pretty great. So, you know: undead, schmundead — at the end of the day it's Cher singing in a exquisitely tailored pantsuit, so it's a win.” Glen Weldon

Glen Weldon also muses on when in the movie he should pee to not miss Cher.

Time Magazine

“Late in the movie, Cher–the only soupçon of tinsel you could add to this already extreme glitter-platform fest–appears as Sophie’s diva-times-10 grandmother Ruby. The finale of Here We Go Again is a go-for-broke version of “Super Trouper” in which every cast member gets to don a shiny silver space outfit and go wild. The young actors shimmy up to their older counterparts, the past meeting the present in one glam hootenanny. Everyone has a sense of humor about everything. Cher emerges, singing in that dusky, magic-hour voice and wearing a pair of bell-bottoms so extreme, she looks like a psychedelic upside-down lily. So yes, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is atrocious. And wonderful. It’s all the reasons you should never go to the movies. And all the reasons you should race to get a ticket.” Stephanie Zackarek

Roger Ebert.com

“And then Cher shows up. Now, it would seem impossible for this superstar goddess ever to be restrained. But as Sophie’s frequently absent grandmother, Cher seems weirdly reined in. Again, it’s the awkwardness of the choreography: She just sort of stands there, singing “Fernando,” before stiffly walking down a flight of stairs to greet the person to whom she’s singing. (As the hotel’s caretaker, Andy Garcia conveniently plays a character named Fernando, which is an amusing bit.) But if you’re down for watching A-list stars belt out insanely catchy, 40-year-old pop tunes in a shimmering setting, and you’re willing to throw yourself headlong into the idea of love’s transformative power, and you just need a mindless summer escape of your own, you might just thoroughly enjoy watching “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.” Don’t think, and pass the ouzo.” Christy Lemire

Slate

“And to the audience’s whoops of glee, there is the Velveeta-layered revolutionary anthem “Fernando,” delivered by Cher with a pleasantly tuneless assist from Andy Garcia as the smoking-hot hotel employee Señor Cienfuegos—with whom Cher’s character, the resolutely ungrandmotherly Ruby, apparently shared a sultry night many years ago. One disappointment of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again: In a musical as gay as the last gay train to Gayville—and one that takes a Shakespearean pleasure in pairing up all its characters by the final scene—there should be a romantic storyline for Colin Firth’s Harry, who came out to both himself and the world at the end of the first film. The most he gets is the suggestion of a missed connection between his younger self and a gruff security agent at the island port. Given the amount of cash queer audiences are likely to pony up to escape the summer heat in this pleasure-loving, sex-positive, Cher-starring Ramos gin fizz of a movie, it seems like the least the writer-director could have done to provide Harry with his own fair share of island lovin’.

Enjoying musicals is a necessary but not sufficient condition for appreciating the Mamma Mia! movies. You must also believe in the foolish yet empowering myth a good musical propagates: the notion that you, given a backup track and enough time to rehearse, might plausibly star in a musical yourself. Among my daughter’s and my favorite moments in the original Mamma Mia! is a line in the song “Super Trouper” that Donna, performing onstage in her full glitter-pantsuited glory, delivers directly to her daughter: “ ’Cause somewhere in the crowd, there’s you.” In this sequel’s reprise of that song, the line is delivered directly to us, the audience. It’s enough to send you out of the theater singing, imaginary feather boa held aloft, ready to grab a few friends and dive off the nearest pier.” Dana Stevens

Vogue Magazine

“I can’t tell you about the ending of Mamma Mia 2 without actually spoiling it, but I can tell you that we finally do see Cher, as Sophie’s grandma/Donna’s mom, and that she is decked out in silver with platinum hair like a tall chrome Dolly Parton, and that she sings, her beautiful moonlit face wholly unmoving except for her mouth. And that there is a subsequent scene that brought me to tears even as I thought to myself, This is so incredibly absurd. And that the film’s curtain call is one of the finest showstopping musical numbers and general feel-good fan pandering since goddamn Grease. If I sound passionate, it’s because I’m not used to feeling anything anymore. I await Mamma Mias 3 through 10.” Briget Reed

Leonard Maltin.com

“One by one, all the familiar characters from the first movie show up, uttering dialogue out of the Cliche Handbook and joining in song. But it doesn’t add up to much. The much-heralded arrival of Cher at the end is treated like the Second Coming, and the superstar gets to warble two songs, one with a surprise lover from her past, the other as a kind of curtain call for a film that doesn’t really have a finale.” Leonard Maltin

The Boston Herald

“In a snow white wig, Cher, the only genuine pop star in the cast, belts out “Fernando,” a number culminating in onscreen “woos,” applause and fireworks. In addition to being a musical with many of the same songs as the original film, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” features a cast that ,for the most part, is made up of actors not known for their singing and dancing skills. The result is kind of like 114 minutes of plodding footwork and the aforementioned karaoke without the cocktails, although you will need a drink afterward.” James Viniere

Rolling Stone Magazine

Not even the mighty Cher can keep this jukebox-musical from from feeling like an S.O.S.And finally it comes, in the ab-fab person of Cher, basically playing herself in the role of Ruby, Donna’s livewire mom. The Dancing Queen enters the movie as if on a magic carpet, wearing a platinum wig and attitude for days, aghast about becoming a great-grandmother. “I’m not putting that part in the bio,” says Ruby, and Cher...brings out every ounce of sass in the line. With the singer/icon on screen, the audience enters kitsch nirvana. She imbues the essence of Cher into “Fernando,” making the Abba song soar and flirting outrageously in a duet with a moonstruck Andy Garcia, who plays Rudy’s great love from the past. Naturally, his name is Fernando. The last part of the movie, which brings the whole cast together on “Super Trouper,” is almost worth the price of admission. Millions will happily get drunk on the film’s infectious high spirits. For the rest of us, who can’t get with the program, Here We Go Again will go down as more of a threat than a promise.” Peter Travers

And this funny piece by Daily Mail that asks, "isn't Cher's character supposed to be dead?

One major inconsistency pointed out by fans on Twitter was that one of the film's integral characters appeared to have returned from the dead. Cher makes a cameo appearance in the sequel playing Sophie's grandmother Ruby. However, viewers took to social media to point out that she, Donna's mother, was listed as dead in the first film.”

 

My review from seeing the movie one measly time, (I feel like Charlie from the Chocolate Factory buying only one candy bar), and after never finding the time to see Mama Mia 1 is that I enjoyed parts of the movie without fully enjoying the whole. I did appreciate the visual transitions between the scenes and the dance numbers were more more fun and inclusive than those found in Burlesque. Also, the music felt more organic to the story and itself than the soundtrack of Burlesque. Let’s face it, it was a better musical.

However, some things took me out of the fantasy. It seemed like too much of a nod to Cher when Christine Buranski’s character said “have him washed and brought to my tent.” This alludes to the famous rumor that Cher once said this very thing upon first seeing boyfriend Robert Camiletti. The quote has been attributed to Cher whether it happened or not. And including it in the movie felt like Cher-pandering and something possibly stolen from a rehearsal of the new Broadway show. It was completely out of place and took us away from the idea of Cher playing another character beyond herself.

I found the flashbacks completely confusing (and that’s saying something because the flashbacks in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean actually made sense to me). This might be cranky old lady of me but the young actresses looked so similar I needed some persistent date labeling to stay on track.

In some numbers, the dances and blocking seemed stiff and over-architected. Actors over-acted like someone was behind the camera yelling “Smile big, Donna!!” and therefore the hyper, fun-loving story was performed to an annoying pitch.

Image three young, sexy men...without any charisma. It wasn’t their fault. Charisma just wasn’t written into it. We got generic boys who became generic men. Only slight efforts were made to differentiate them. And yes, on some level maybe this is karmic payback for all the generic female leads strung as boy toys in a plethora of Hollywood films, but two wrongs have never made a right.

Right at the moment when “Knowing Me Knowing You” was played, Mr. Cher Scholar leaned over and gave me an Alan Partridge impression. So that was fun.

But we never did learn or understand why Donna was living at the abandoned house in the first place, who owed it, and who owned that horse. Explanations came around later but they felt very unsatisfying and underwritten.

Jessica Keenan Wynn performed a miraculous impersonation of Christine Buranksi and I would have bet my shirt that the lead actress, Amanda Seyfried, was long lost kin to Veronica Cartwright.

ChertapCher’s main scene was brief and stoic. If you remember the study I did of Cher tapping in movies from Cher Zine 1, you’d have recognized some new Cher tapping with Cher and her glass of booze. Cher also tears up in one small shot (when Meryl is singing) giving us Cher tears in almost 100% of Cher movies.

Someone in the movie describes the voice of Cher’s character as being "sweet like sugar cane." That didn’t seem right. Sugar cane seems more like the voice of Snow White: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45r2t1pGGyQ

Cher’s a party crasher but she didn’t seem to be in any of the wide shots of the party.

Cher also calls her granddaughter Soph, short for Sophie, employing the Cher tendency to nickname everyone, another Cherism that took me out of the story. Cher also calls Soph pitchy, reminding us of her guest appearance on The Voice. She also does her Cher walk. I'll be the first to admit, this a very cool walk, but it's still more Cher than something else.

Cumulatively, this makes you wonder whether this is just Cher onscreen or a character in a fictional story? Because it can’t be both. Either Cher is not "in character" or there wasn’t any character for Cher to be in.

And I’m not arguing that the character of Cher herself makes a movie necessarily bad, but there have been so many (Good Times, Stuck on You, Sonny might say Chastity, arguably Burlesque, those two Robert Altman bit parts) that those appearances might actually be staring to overshadow Cher's actual character work. And that would suck.

So the movie was too derivative of Cher, stiff and the set was distractingly pretty. I wanted to vacation there but without all these singing, smiling people. The next time I watch the movie, it will most likely be for travel planning and interior decorating ideas. The set was literally a scene-stealer.

SupertrouperI did laugh out loud during the appearance of "the most interesting man in the world" as brother of Fernando. But then I felt cheap afterwards. But then I watched it again on the DVD extras and laughed again.

But I loved listening to Cher sign Fernando and Super Trooper. Those were highlights for sure.