Film Reviews For The Cine-Literate


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· 2009
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2020 · 2021

An Introduction

    Some hard-core movie fans decry the phenomenon of feature films on video, feeling that nothing can really match the full-screen, enveloping experience of a dark movie house.  They also think that video proliferation itself cheapens the films that get made, as studios and producers often fashion their films for the inevitable small screen exposure (both TV and video) instead of creating explicitly for the unique cinema ambiance.  This reviewer, I confess, has some sympathy for these cinephile views, yet I must admit that the video phenomenon has, among other benefits, offered one clear and overriding boon to those who savor the moving image in any form: an easy way to see at home the worthy stuff you may have missed the first time around at the movie house.

    Having written about and talked about movies for several years now (since 1993), I have learned that many people, many of them older adults,  almost never go to the movies.  There are plenty of these folks in my own neighborhood on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, for instance.   My intent in “A Second Look” is to highlight worthy films for precisely those movie fans who never get around to seeing the more offbeat movie on the big screen.  Many of these motion pictures, although they had intriguing stories, ingratiating qualities, and solid performances, simply never had enough screen time to be widely seen or appreciated.  They are the kinds of films that get good reviews, films  you meant to get to once you had the time--but never quite saw before they disappeared.  Thus, my second look offers readers a chance at a first look.

    “A Second Look” basically eschews the commonplace Hollywood film product, especially the standard mainstream fare from the major studios—i.e., loud blockbusters, starry romantic comedies, dripping horrow flicks, routine animations, and—fairlly often these days--skanky teen comedies.  It doesn’t mean these genres can never produce a worthy film in my estimation, but I find I am much more drawn to more modest and genial—and intelligent--entertainments.  My own criteria for what matters to me in filmmaking can be found elsewhere on this site in my personal essay  “The Best Job in the World.”

    These annual listings (originally written for the Hill Rag newspaper) aim to incorporate films that have been available at standard neighborhood video outlets, although that is not always possible for the more obscure titles.  Thankfully, there is now the video-mail market, with companies like Netflix, that have the geographic reach and massive volume to provide most any title that has ever had a commercial release in this country.  I have produced “A Second Look” every year since 1994 for readers of my column in the Rag, with the exception of 1997 and 2003, when I offered instead a “Top Ten” film list for my first decade of reviewing (see my essay “One Decade and Counting…”) .  My film round-ups are typically written in September, at the end of the summer movie sason.

     These are capsule recommendations that—as one of my reader’s once helpfully suggested-- you can cut out and stick on the refrigerator door to remind you of what to look for the next time you go to the video store or order a DVD...

                                Mike Canning