Monday, July 28, 2008


While I continue to consider the ampersand to be one of the most brilliant forms of typography in human history, I think the worst member of the keyboard family (besides the option to use Comic Sans) is the exclamation point. There are times it and 120 point type are warranted -- end of times, new Scott Walker album, death of Jesse Helms -- but rarely in a movie title. Was it "Hello, Dolly!" or "Hello, Dolly! "?

Thus, I was pleased to see these quotes in Anthony Lane's review of Meryl Streep's latest outing in the current issue of The New Yorker which will help the rag be forgiven of any sins committed against the Obama campaign:

"Like many people, I was under the impression that the new Meryl Streep film was called 'Mamma Mia.' The correct title is, in fact, 'Mamma Mia!', and, in one keystroke, the exclamation mark tells you all you need to know about the movie. Billy Wilder tried the same trick with 'Avanti!', in 1972, but that felt like Chekov compared with this ferocious onslaught of obligatory good cheer.

And further:

"The legal definition of torture has been much aired in recent years, and I take 'Mamma Mia!' to be a useful contribution to that debate."

When a friend dragged me to this atrocity in its pre-Broadway staging a number of years back, I think it was being billed as some sort of feel good fest insured to blast people out of their post-9/11 funk. It only made me want to run to a cave in Central Asia, especially when there was an audience clap along encore in which the audience was expected to stand, an action I refused to participate by claiming my Constitutional rights to not be moved.

And then there is the ellipsis.

I'm going to go read some Chekov to get me out of this feel good funk.

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At 11:54 PM, Blogger Bryce Digdug said...

I think Fowler says the exclamation mark should only be used by school girls.

My favorite Abba-related movies are, Pricilla, of course, but above all Muriel's Wedding. Toni Colette and Rachel Griffiths are unbelievable.

At 6:52 AM, Blogger marxsny said...

Although I admit the movie didn't work, I can never understand how a person could not like Mamma Mia! I found it completely enjoyable all 3 times I saw it and if that makes me seem dumb or shallow, so be it. It was conceived and first produced long before 9/11 so I don't really think it had anything to do with that.
Like the Disney Broadway shows (all of which were completely enjoyable) it has become a cash cow bringing $ to the industry making other things possible that otherwise may not have been.

In the same manner that Harry Potter made kids excited about reading books, shows like Mamma Mia made theater accessible to multitudes of people who normally would not have gone. Unless we are advocating an elitist, "you don't know Bukowski?" sort of theater snobbery, I don't know how it could be seen as something bad. (Just my opinion)

At 8:11 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Bryce - I think the last third of most of Hitler's speeches ended each sentence with an exclamation point. "I see Poland! I see France!"

Mark - I sort of think we should reserve theaters for snobs. That will keep the chattering kids from the 'burbs with laser pointers from coming. I think that will improve the experience. That's just my opinion.

At 8:58 AM, Anonymous Huntington said...

But how do you feel about the semicolon? After overusing it for years while in parentheses recovery, I'm now crushing on the em-dash.

At 9:02 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Huntington - I reserve the right to use the semicolon when editing Henry James. I have no problems with the em-dash as long as it does not get confused with the en-dash.

At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Hutntington said...

Wait! I've been trying to come up with a movie title in which an exclamation point is OK, nay, essential. I have it!



At 9:46 PM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Huntington - You are correct, sir. Sir! It features significantly as in inside joke in Godard's "Contempt".

At 9:37 PM, Blogger jason said...

oh dear, I'm an ellipsis addict.
I have no right casting stones.

At 9:41 PM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Jason - Oh, in the list of crimes, that's way below LOL and emoticoms or whatever they're called.


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