A Critic's Manifesto

Why I saw it, why I didn't

TV programs such as "Entertainment Tonight" offer to take you "behind the scenes" and show you how a movie is shot. For Commonweal’s seventy-fifth anniversary, and in anticipation of my tenth year as its film critic, I’d like to take my readers a bit behind the scenes of my reviews. This, I hope, will give you a sense of the place movies occupy in today’s culture, of the current importance and unimportance of film criticism, and, finally, of the specialness of writing for this magazine.

Clearly, I don’t review the majority of released movies, for that’s impossible to do in depth for any biweekly in which space is at a premium. So, how do I choose?

Each film I write about must fall into at least one of three categories: (1) a much discussed work (Schindler’s List, Titanic) which can’t be overlooked without ignoring what’s happening in the culture at large; (2) relatively unpublicized films of quality that should be brought to the reader’s attention (The Rapture, Citizen Ruth); (3) movies that deal directly with religious matters and/or institutions (Priest, Entertaining Angels). Films that can brace the spirit often fall into more than one category. Many popular movies don’t fall into even the first category because, though they’re well attended, there’s nothing in them that can be discussed even by the teen-agers who have made their success. The current hit, Blue Streak, is an instance of this. What’s to...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.