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Heaven Is for Real

Faith-based film tries reaching past its audience, but falls back on preaching to its own choir way too much.

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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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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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The story of a dog named Stanley

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David Lavery writes about the nature writer Loren Eiseley: In All the Strange Hours, as he watches growing packs of wild dogs prowling along Market Street in Philadelphia, Eiseley imagines that the takeover is very far advanced and that the very same dogs he watches may even outlive their masters and "still be waiting when the first wild oak bursts through the asphalt of Market Street. " Yet these and all dogs may, Eiseley thinks, retain even then at least a memory of a "dim hand that they all feel but have never known, " a "dim memory of a visiting god who could not save himself but whose touch wrought something ineffable. " But when that "racial memory" is no longer experienced, " then man will in truth be gone."

One of those dogs, however, brings a message to Eiseley, a message he communicates only through the licking of his tongue, but which Eiseley, a scientist on a vision quest into knowledge, is able to translate into human language: " If you would come out of your doors and stonework, " the dog pleads with Eiseley, "we could lie here in the dust and be safe, as it was in the beginning when you, the gods, lived close to us and we came in to you around the fire. "

This dog delivers a summons, Eiseley discerns, because he simply "did not understand the gods nor why they persisted in going so far away."

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If you were a teenager in the 1950s...

The appeal of The Stroll is that (1) everybody could do it, and (2) it was the luck of the line who your partner turned out to be, unless you cheated and traded places in line.

Now here is the very same generation in 2010. I filmed this at a Platters revival concert in Three Oaks, Michigan. What a difference 62 years can make.

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Superheroes always make three-point landings.

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There must be a reason why. Not a physical reason, but one involving style or artistry. It creates a more compact character shape, implying tension. Better than just plain landing on your feet. This nifty video was edited by Duncan Robson, with music by Joel Robson. It was first shown at ROFLCon III, a con I've never heard of, and why not?

Thanks to reader Chris Swanson for the link.

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Strategies of a Pub Dog

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Marie Haws found this cartoon for the latest issue of the Ebert Club Newsletter. She writes: "It's by the British cartoonist/animator behind the Daily Express' cartoon strip "Bewley." Ant Blades has designed a series of clever shorts for BBC Comedy and various commercial clients under the signature "Sketchy" as produced by Bird Box Studio, an indie animation house in London, England." Marie is herself an artist and animator.

Go here to join the 6,000 subscribers to The Ebert Club Newsletter. Your subscription directly supports the Far-Flung Correspondents and the Demanders (critics of On Demand videos) on my site.

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"Helicopter." A film about his mother's death

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From Ari Gold:

When I was twenty, my mother was killed in a helicopter crash with rock music promoter Bill Graham, whom she had recently begun dating after a nearly two-decades courtship. To many rock musicians and fans, Graham was a god; to my brother, my sister, and me, who hardly knew him, it seemed his death was so big it just took our mother with it.

"Helicopter" is a recreation of the emotional aftermath of sudden loss. Nothing could have prepared me for the loss of the person who knew me better than anyone in the world. Nothing could have prepared me for the absurdity of a "famous" death.

My sister Nina performed the voice of our mother, and my brilliant twin brother Ethan composed the music for the film, but, not wanting a documentary, I used actors (actually friends of mine) to play the three of us on film. The movie combines re-enacted scenes--and a few photos and videos from reality--with several kinds of animation which are close to how I actually experienced the truth.

I made "Helicopter" with so many different unreal elements in order to draw a chalk circle around a very personal event, in the hopes that by the last frame of the film, a viewer sees through the circle to his or her own life. I wasn't interested in presenting objective reality--I preferred the subjective reality of a young man, still wanting to talk to his mother about romantic troubles, who suddenly finds that his mother no longer exists. This is the reality of a person trying to comprehend death.

Finally, the film is about the way the mind can filter through any cacophony to find life's core, the one thing that matters: love.

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Anne Keegan was a newspaper reporter

And a friend. And a great human being. And the best dancer I ever rock-and-rolled with. When I think back on those years, she embodied what the newspaper business was all about. And in Leonard Aronson, a producer and writer who made this tribute, she found her soulmate. That era is fading away. But I was so lucky to have known it, and to call them friends.

Memories in The Reader by Michael Miner, who covers Chicago journalism.

The Tribune obituary by Rick Kogan.

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