Selena

For the third season of Ten Movies we’re watching the films of Jennifer Lopez. Though today she is acclaimed, celebrated and beloved, in 1997 she had yet to star in a major film. Her first big role was Selena, the true story of the Mexican-American pop singer whose meteoric rise to fame was cut short by her tragic murder at the age of 23.

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So here’s the thing. The story of Selena is important, one about Americans whose stories are not often told, especially in such a positive, celebratory way. However, the movie of Selena is … not great? There’s some stellar performances, especially Edward James Olmos as Selena’s father, and Jennifer Lopez really makes you believe that Selena was a world-class performer.

But the movie was made with so much reverence for its subject that it becomes an extended exercise in hagiography – it’s the canonization of a saint. On the one hand, it’s easy to see why, given that her family – who had just lost their young, beautiful, talented daughter – was closely involved and what she represented to so many Mexican-Americans and other Americans from Latino backgrounds.

On the other hand, it makes it tough to judge this solely as a feature film. But judge it thusly we must, here at the distant remove of 2020.

Are we wrong in our criticisms? Or are they, perhaps, simply beside the point? Join us and see.

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