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I just finished Joel E. Siegel’s review of You’ve Got Mail (12/18), and I’m reminded again why I read the City Paper even though I’m probably 30 years older than the paper’s target audience. Mr. Siegel spends 1,000 words praising the wonderful 1940 movie—The Shop Around the Corner—that served as the basis for You’ve Got Mail. Few editors of large newspapers would permit its critic to review a movie so indirectly, yet I agree with what I understand Mr. Siegel is trying to say: that it is difficult to appreciate just how banal You’ve Got Mail is unless your compare it to The Shop Around the Corner.

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The Shop Around the Corner and The Apartment are my favorite holiday movies. Both deal with romantic love in the workplace, and they encourage us to try to understand and sympathize with the way imperfect, sometimes neurotic, yet basically hopeful characters (like ourselves) cope during much of our waking hours. The yuppie comedies of today, like much of pop culture, want us to envy the protagonists—who have perfect homes (the Seattle beach cottage in Sleepless in Seattle) and workplaces that are safe and attractive—and, although they are occasionally predatory, nevertheless, and invariably, permit the cute to win.

I also like Bob Mondello’s theater reviews. He obviously loves theater—which would seem to be a prerequisite in a critic, but seems not to be in the Washington area. He strives for fairness, I think, even when the subject matter is not exactly to his liking (which I imagine must take considerable restraint) and is properly charitable where writers and directors take risks. In any event, I like his pieces a lot. He led me to the Signature Theatre, where I have been a subscriber for several years.

I understand relatively little else in the City Paper, however. I have never heard of any of the groups whose music is reviewed. (Not unsurprising, probably, since my musical taste was formed in the ’60s and pretty much calcified then). I cannot begin to understand the sensibilities of those who choose the books to be reviewed, for example. The trendiness that the movie and film critics carefully avoid and so eloquently criticize seems to be celebrated elsewhere in the City Paper.

Anyway, I wanted to thank Mr. Siegel for the wonderful review, and for reminding all of us what film at its best can do, and how it can make us feel.

Arlington, Va.

via the Internet