(Photo by Everett Collection)
In March of 1995, a young rising music star’s life was tragically cut short when Selena Quintanilla-Pérez — better known as simply Selena — was fatally shot by her business partner and agent Yolanda Saldivar. Not only was Selena a beaming icon in the Hispanic community, but her career was on the brink of mainstream superstardom, and her fans passionately mourned the loss. It wasn’t long before people eager to capitalize on her popularity began releasing unauthorized biographies and documentaries and developing unapproved feature films. As a response, Selena’s father, Abraham Quintanilla Jr., sought to make the definitive film about her life, and together with director Gregory Nava, he helped usher 1997’s Selena into existence.
As it happened, they were able to secure the talents of another rising star to play the ill-fated singer, and the result was a breakout performance from a ready-for-the-big-time Jennifer Lopez. By that point, Lopez had appeared in a handful of films but hadn’t yet begun her pop music career, and she was arguably best known as one of the Fly Girl backup dancers on the sketch comedy show In Living Color. Lopez lit up the screen in Selena, announcing herself as a worthy Hollywood star and earning the respect of critics who felt she was the best thing about the film.
Speaking of the critics, Selena sits at 67% on the Tomatometer, against a 77% Audience Score. Admittedly, that’s not such a terrible score, and the writers who had a bone to pick with the film focused on the film’s by-the-numbers storytelling and overreliance on genre clichés more than anything else. Still, there are some, particularly who grew up on Selena’s music and those in the LatinX community, who feel the film, anchored by Lopez and filled with authentic performances by supporting players like Edward James Olmos, Jon Seda, and longtime character actor Lupe Ontiveros, deserves a reappraisal.
One of those people is this week’s special guest, Harvey Guillén, who chose Selena for this episode. Guillén recently appeared in several TV series like Syfy’s The Magicians and more recently in the film Werewolves Within (the best-reviewed video game movie ever, by the way), but he’s best known as the fan-favorite “familiar” Guillermo on FX’s What We Do in the Shadows, the mockumentary comedy series adapted from Taika Waitit’s comedy of the same name. Guillén explains how the music of Selena is woven into his childhood, as his mother was a huge fan, and what it meant to see his culture validated on the big screen in the film.
Guillén joins regular hosts Jacqueline Coley and Mark Ellis to talk about the film and its impact on his life, as well as the cultural phenomenon that was Selena herself. They discuss favorite scenes, favorite supporting characters, and favorite lines (“We don’t need the dress.”), and Guillén reminisces about listening to Selena’s music as he and his family cleaned house on the weekends (it was like “nursery rhymes”).
Check in every Thursday for a new episode of Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong (A Podcast From Rotten Tomatoes). Each week, hosts Jacqueline and Mark and guests go deep and settle the score on some of the most beloved – and despised – movies and TV shows ever made, directly taking on the statement we hear from so many fans: “Rotten Tomatoes is wrong.”
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Meet the hosts
Jacqueline Coley is an editor at Rotten Tomatoes, with a focus on awards and indie coverage but with a passion for everything, from the MCU to musicals and period pieces. Coley is a regular moderator at conventions and other events, can be seen on Access Hollywood and other shows, and will not stand Constantine slander of any kind. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter: @THATjacqueline.
Mark Ellis is a comedian and contributing editor for Rotten Tomatoes. He currently hosts the Rotten Tomatoes series Versus, among others, and can be seen co-hosting the sports entertainment phenomenon Movie Trivia Schmoedown. His favorite Star Wars movie is Jedi (guess which one!), his favorite person is actually a dog (his beloved stepdaughter Mollie), and – thanks to this podcast – he’s about to watch Burlesque for the first time in his life. Follow Mark on Twitter: @markellislive.