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Everything here feels routine—more like an inevitability than a work of art or even a piece of entertainment.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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An 'Inconvenient' statement

Dear Readers,

I've received so many messages about my review of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" that, frankly, I don't see how the Answer Man can process them. I could print a dozen or a hundred, but that would lead us into an endless loop.

Many are supportive. More are opposed to the movie and just about everything in it, and are written by people who have not seen the movie and will not see it for a variety of reasons, including the theory that it is "liberal propaganda." What I fail to understand is why global warming should be a liberal or conservative issue. It is either happening or is not, and we can either take action to try to slow it, or we cannot. That is why a great many conservatives have agreed with Gore on this.

When I am told "this is another one you're trying to blame on Bush and Halliburton," all I can say is, somebody is listening to way too much talk radio on which they are told global warming is being blamed on Bush and Halliburton. Actually, Gore blames neither and mentions neither. "It got worse on his watch as vice president." Yes, it did. "He flies around on a jet to warn against it." Yes, one of thousands of jet flights every day.

One person says that when Gore finds a "100 percent agreement" among scientists about global warming, that proves he is wrong, because 100 percent of scientists do not agree on anything. Then they quote scientists who disagree with Gore. What he said was, a random sampling of 935 recent articles published in peer-review scientific journals shows agreement with the basic findings reported in his film.

Many people inform me that they just read a story saying that the South Pole was tropical many eons ago. So it was, as reported in "March of the Penguins." I don't know what they want me to do with this factoid. Applaud our actions to bring that condition around again as quickly as possible?

I cannot get into a scientific discussion here. There will be no end to it. All I can say is, the Gore documentary made a deep impression on me. I urge you to see it. You will not be seeing a "campaign film," or "sour grapes," or "Gore still being bitter." George W. Bush has repeated for six years that global warming "requires more study." If Gore has spent six years studying it, aren't his findings worthy of attention? Yes, I'm "being political." But saying the issue "needs more study" is a political statement when energy groups are among your major supporters and your family is in the oil business.

Q. Re: your mention of what little boys are made of in your review of "The Omen" (2006), it's "snakes" (not snips) "and snails and puppy dog tails."

Rick Allen, Doylestown, Pa.

A. Searching the Internet for "snips," etc., I got 28,900 hits, but with "snakes," etc., I got 119,000. You must be right. However, it's "snips" in a crucial line from "Rosemary's Baby."

Q. As "X-Men: The Last Stand" was wrapping up I couldn't help asking, shouldn't Magneto (played by Ian McKellen, right) have been in jail? I mean, here is someone who has killed hundreds or thousands of people and destroyed a national monument. Shouldn't there at least have been a trial?

Jerry Roberts, Birmingham, Ala.

A. Yeah, it's gonna take a lot of work to get that Golden Gate Bridge back in place, now that Magneto has lost his powers.

Q. In your review of the film "Overlord," you mention a machine to clear mines on beaches, which was powered by rockets on its wheels. The name of this machine was "The Grand Panjandrum" and one of the engineers involved in its development was Nevil Shute, who later wrote the novel On the Beach. There is a film of a prototype Panjandrum in action with Shute operating the control cables. In the film, the Grand Panjandrum goes straight for about 15 feet, then Shute engages a brake. The infernal engine makes a 540-degree turn and heads straight toward an audience of VIPs. Things get rather exciting at that point. There were no casualties, except to the egos of various admirals, generals and bureaucrats.

John Hobson, Bolingbrook

A. At www.nevilshute.org there's a discussion of the Panjandrum, a photo of it upright and another after it overturned. (You can see a photo of the Panjandrum from nevilshute.org here.)

Q. OK, I've gone around my college asking my professors where I can locate poetry in film. I figured film is a language and every language has a poetry. No one could tell me anything. No explanations, no examples. I think there are scenes of perfect poetry within a lot of narrative films. Can you think of any offhand?

Adam Judd, Visalia, Calif.

A. Two effective uses of verbal poetry in the movies: Victor Mature as Doc Holliday, in John Ford's "My Darling Clementine" (1946), reciting Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" soliloquy in the saloon. And Cameron Diaz, in "In Her Shoes" (2005), reading poetry to a blind professor and later reciting some e.e. cummings at a crucial point.

But I suppose you mean the poetry of visuals or dialogue, rather than quoted poetry. The list could be endless, but some examples come to mind. Bonnie's farewell to her mother in "Bonnie and Clyde." The death of the young cowboy on the suspension bridge in "McCabe and Mrs. Miller." The corridor with candelabra held by living arms, in Cocteau's version of "Beauty and the Beast." The night the children capture fireflies and use them to illuminate their cave in "Grave of the Fireflies." The boy and the horse approaching each other from opposite sides of the screen in "The Black Stallion." And Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) to Grimsrud (Peter Stormare), the killer in "Fargo": "So that was Mrs. Lundegaard on the floor in there. And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper. And those three people in Brainerd. And for what? For a little bit of money. There's more to life than a little money, you know. Don't you know that? And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day. Well, I just don't understand it."

Q. Re: the Vince Vaughn character who refers to the "16th Chapel" in "The Break-Up" -- when I studied Italian in Rome, one of the funny things they told us was that the actual meaning of Sistine Chapel, or Cappella Sistina (which both sound so lovely) is actually Chapel No. 16, or the Sixteenth Chapel!

Stan Blair, Miami

A. Unfortunately, what the movie needed was Love Potion No. 9.

Q. I read today that Fox is releasing a special edition of "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" on June 13th, featuring a commentary by you [Ebert co-wrote the screenplay] and some docs, etc. I'd read that "BVD" was due for a fully packed Criterion release at some point. Has the Criterion release been canceled and replaced by this new Fox special edition?

Greg Vickers, Hamilton, Ontario

A. Yes, but through cooperation between the two companies the commentary track I recorded for Criterion is the one used on the Fox disc. I've received a copy of the two-disc Fox special edition, and (warning: conflict of interest!) was very impressed by it, especially by how many of the original cast members and other artists they got to collaborate on a series of docs on Disc 2. What comes across is nostalgia for the experience of making the movie, and a genuine love for Russ Meyer.

There are also several critics, from such as Newsweek, the Village Voice and the Onion, saying the movie is actually very good, broke new ground, invented the MTV editing style, etc., and a surprising amount of admiration for the songs. Also a sweet conversation between Cynthia Myers and Erica Gavin about their love scene.

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