Here, for your edification and/or irritation, are my reviews of the 1997 films I've seen to date. These began in mid-1995 as ludicrously brief analysis-free opinions, but have steadily lengthened over the course of the past couple of years; this year, I switched from an individual review format to a weekly column, which allows me to vary the time and energy I invest on each picture. The analysis quotient has risen concurrently, to the point where these reviews now might conceivably be of interest to people who don't happen to be close personal friends of mine. My tone, however, remains fairly informal (even if I am fond of $0.50 words like "abstruse" and "invective").

In addition to my brief comments, I have given each film a rating, using the four-star rating system popularized by Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide. These ratings are not intended to indicate how "good" or "bad" a particular film is; rather, they indicate how much I personally liked or disliked it. As a general rule, I only see films that are well-received by professional critics, so almost every film reviewed here is admired by a lot of other people, regardless of what I thought. Just because I don't like a film doesn't mean that I don't recommend it.

The key to my ratings is as follows:

****    I loved it.  I want to own it on laserdisc and watch it repeatedly.
***1/2  I liked it very much, and would happily see it again.
***     I liked it, either mildly or with some major reservations.
**1/2   I wanted to like it, and liked some aspects of it, but it didn't
        really work for me overall.
**      I didn't really like it, but it wasn't painful to sit through.
*1/2    It was painful to sit through.
*       I seriously considered walking out before it ended.
zero    I walked out before it ended.

Four-star ratings are pretty rare; in 1996, I allotted four stars to only three films, out of 128 seen. (For the record, those films were Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, Citizen Ruth, and Dadetown; I would probably retroactively upgrade the ratings for Lone Star and Chungking Express from 3.5 to 4.0, after seeing them again.) The vast majority of my ratings are in the two-to-three-star range, with 2.5 being the most common. Because I tend to skip films that are lambasted by professional critics, ratings below two stars are also rare; a 1.5 will often mean not that a film is bad, but merely that its narrative is sketchy or nonexistent, as my disdain for non-narrative film remains my major aesthetic blind spot. The "zero" rating has only been given once in my entire moviegoing life, to a 1988 adaptation of Isaac Asimov's short story "Nightfall," called, appropriately, Nightfall. I left after five minutes and snuck into another theater to see Midnight Run for the third time. Yes, it was that bad.

My column appears every Monday evening, Eastern time, unless it appears a day or two later, or not at all.