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Mess or Masterpiece?

Our Critics Make the Case for Once-Reviled Movies

Posted 8/8/2001

What do movie critics know? Ultimately, nothing more than you do. No matter how astute a critic's grasp of the medium, no matter how solidly his or her critical criteria rest upon a foundation of historical research and aesthetic theory, there's no way to factor out pure human emotion. All of us--even veteran film reviewers--have had the experience of loving a movie that was trashed by the critics or loathing one that others showered with praise. Cinema history is dotted with examples of features that left critics and/or audiences indifferent, baffled, even hostile upon release, only to achieve classic status once their adoring public finally found them. (Famous former flops include The Wizard of Oz, It's a Wonderful Life, Sweet Smell of Success, and Touch of Evil.) And then there are films too quirky to make the canon, movies that never quite shake their naysayers' slings and arrows, but which eventually garner an appreciative cult anyway. We asked City Paper critics to make a case for films they adore that they feel got the bum's rush from reviewers and/or audiences the first time around. If you haven't already, we hope you give these second-chance movies a first chance on video or DVD.

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