Film Reviews For The Cine-Literate

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Mike Canning saw his first movie at four at the Grand Theater in Fargo, North Dakota, and has never lost his childlike fascination for the “flickers.” He has been the regular movie reviewer for the Hill Rag newspaper on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. since August 1993. He is also a freelance writer on film, politics, and public affairs. For ten years, beginning in September 1999, he was involved as a programmer and commentator for the series of classic movies entitled “Films on the Hill” shown at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop.

Combining his interests in film and national politics, Canning has researched, written, and lectured on the depiction of Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Congress in American feature films. He presented a formal paper—“The Hill on Film”—on the latter subject at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in 1997. He has also contributed film articles and literary pieces to Films in Review, The Hill, The Washington Review, and the Foreign Service Journal. He has also lectured on American film for students at the Foreign Service Institute.

Mike also has a particular interest in independent and foreign-language films, on which he has written regularly, including a study of the presence of such films on U.S. screens. This bent nicely matches his core reading audience of aware, literate adults who hardly need Canning’s opinion on something like Spiderman 7.

Prior to his reviewing gig (which he realizes is the “Best Job in the World”), Mike served for 28 years as a press and cultural officer with United States Information Agency (USIA) overseas, serving in eight countries on four continents before retiring in 1993. In several of those countries he organized thematic programs based on American classic motion pictures. From his service overseas, he developed a particular interest in the cinema of Germany, Italy, Iran, and Latin America.

His reviewing tenets favor literate, believable scripts fashioned into coherent, compelling stories, peopled by competent, credible actors who are directed with pace and weight appropriate to the material. The other accoutrement of filmmaking—cinematography, production design, lighting, music, effects, etc.—all are finally secondary to good scripts, acting, and direction. Period.

Mike is also very proud of having been a film mentor for his two daughters, who—from early ages—went with Dad to witness some of filmdom’s greatest, like Laurel and Hardy, John Ford, the Marx Brothers, Disney, and Fred Astaire, perform on the big screen. He hopes to eventually do the same for his several grandchildren.