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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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'Antichrist': The video game that starts where the movie ends

Q. In a recent Answer Man response you stated: "The three great world cinemas are American, French and Japanese." Wouldn't a certain Oscar-winning director, about whom you wrote a recent book, strongly disagree with that statement? Keith Nelson, Arlington, VA

A. Scorsese might revise it: "The four great world cinemas are American, French, Japanese and Italian. And Scorsese might be right.

[Readers: And then my Internet went down and I couldn't get more questions, and had to fax this to Jim.]

Q. I own and write for the movie based web site RopeofSilocon.com. After I posted the satirical "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" video you linked to from your Twitter account, some of my readers were steamed. You once wrote: "Those who think 'Transformers' is a great or even a good film are, may I tactfully suggest, not sufficiently evolved. Film by film, I hope they climb a personal ladder into the realm of better films, until their standards improve." I plan to address this issue in an editorial, asking how far is too far when painting the picture of a film's intended or eventual audience? Brad Bevert, RopeofSilicon.com

A. Yeah, I heard plenty about that comment of mine. I believe it. If you think, as some of its fans have actually stated, that "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" is better than "Citizen Kane," then there's no getting around it. In terms of your taste in movies, you have a heap of evolving ahead of you. Sorry, but that's just the way it is.

Q. I don't know if you use Comcast, but if you go to its "Movie Collections" On Demand section and then to the new "Holiday Movies" section, you will find such titles as "The Godfather," "Die Hard" and "Three Days of the Condor." True, at least parts of those movies occur at the Holiday season. And, come to think of it, is there anything like the CIA postman delivery scene to make a person feel Christmassy? I dunno. Maybe it will help if I take another look at "Lethal Weapon," another Comcast holiday movie. Zay N. Smith, Chicago, IL

A. How did they overlook "Antichrist"?

Q. Given your admiration of "Antichrist" and your distaste for video games, do you have any thoughts on the reported video game sequel, called "Eden"? When you asked me, I said my shot-in-the-dark guess is that it would be a dark, moody, horror-themed game wherein you played some random character trapped in the forest, attempting to survive or escape through solving puzzles and finding the correct "passageways." And then, of course, there's the possibility that the article was just a hoax to start with. Steven Koczak, Rensselaer, NY

A. First off, I do not dislike video games. But I'm in hot water for not believing they are likely to evolve into an art form.

Wikipedia reports: "According to the Danish newspaper Politiken, a video game called 'Eden,' which is based on the film, is in the works. It will start where the film ends. 'It will be a self-therapeutic journey into your own darkest fears, and will break the boundaries of what you can and can't do in video games,' says video game director Morten Iversen."

I'm thinking, "self-therapeutic?"

Q. I love the new "At The Movies" with Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott (good riddance to you know who), but I must say that I still don't get the "See It/Rent It" distinction. Either a movie is worth seeing, or it's not, right? I mean, I think it does work on the show as a sort of "thumbs sideways" to deal with the two-and-a-half star movies that can't quite be recommended, but still have some value that deserves to be recognized.

What I really don't understand is why our standards are supposed to be lower for rentals rather than theatrical releases. When you go out to see a current release is when you have to make compromises. Maybe the movie you really wanted to see sold out, or just finished its run, so now you have to pick the second best thing at that theater. Or you're with a large group that doesn't want to see a foreign film, so you have to settle on the most tolerable current blockbuster.

When you rent a movie, however, you have nearly the entirety of cinematic history at your disposal. That makes the competition for rentals much more fierce. Looking at Time Out New York, I see that there are 51 movies out here right now. That's a lot, but compare that to the thousands of choices available on Netflix. Why would I rent a marginal film like "New York, I Love You" when I still need to see "Killer of Sheep," "Au Hasard Balthazar," "Mishima" and "The Grey Zone"? Rhys Southan, New York, NY

A. Amen. I've been against "rent it" from the first time I was exposed to the concept. It makes no sense. Either a film is good enough to see, or not good enough to see. Here's my theory about the invention of this ersatz category: It's an attempt to pander to those who would rather die than rent a great film like, say, Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" rather than a "rent it"-style dim bulb like "Couples Retreat." I think some editors, not mine, are terrified that readers might get the idea a critic is stuck up. If you'd rather rent "Couples Retreat" than the new restored "North by Northwest," "Bonnie and Clyde" or "Cool Hand Luke," that's what I am, stuck up, and happy to be.

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