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Guardians of the Galaxy

In many respects, “Guardians,” directed and co-written by indie wit James Gunn, and starring buffed-up former schlub Chris Pratt and Really Big Sci-Fi Blockbuster vet…

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Finding Fela

Alex Gibney's "Finding Fela," about the legendary African pop star and political activist, feels like the rough draft of a very good movie.

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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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* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.

Margaret: The masterpiece that (almost) got away

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Kenneth Lonergan's "Margaret" was written in 2003, filmed in 2005 and stuck in post-production for six more years. The 150-minute version briefly released theatrically last year was an inchoate masterpiece, perhaps, but a masterpiece nevertheless. The DVD/Blu-ray release, July 10, will feature two versions of the film -- the theatrical release and a new "extended cut" by Lonergan that, he says, better reflects his current vision for "Margaret." As he told Indiewire, "The cut that was released was the cut I delivered. They're both the director's cut; they're just different cuts."

Paul (teenage Patti Benton's boyfriend in Paul Mazursky's 1978 "An Unmarried Woman" -- a specimen of living, breathing upper-class urban cinema that belongs in the same genus as "Margaret") would no doubt observe that Lonergan's movie is "flawed." (Or, as Patti says: "I liked it. Paul thought it was flawed.") And it is. "Margaret" rapidly unravels in the last third or so, along with the turbulent world of its teenage protagonist Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin). I don't want to get into the plot or characters at all here (I want to wait until I see Lonergan's "extended cut"), but let me say that this movie features four of the most mesmerizing and complex characterizations I've ever seen in any movie: Paquin's Lisa, Jeannie Berlin's Emily, J. Smith-Cameron's Joan and Allison Janney's Monica (the latter a one-scene cameo).

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#122 July 4, 2012

Marie writes: If you're anything like me, you enjoy a good book cover as much as a good story; the best often speaking to inspired graphic design. Indeed, I know I'm not alone in my admiration...Welcome to "The Book Cover Archive" for the appreciation and categorization of excellence in book cover design; edited and maintained by Ben Pieratt and Eric Jacobsen. On their site, you can gaze lovingly at hundreds of covers complete with thumbnails and links and even the name of the type fonts used. Drool....

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Slutgate: Limbaugh backs wallet-based free speech

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Rush Limbaugh's so-called "slutgate" brouhaha reminds me of a scene in Kenneth Lonergan's great film "Margaret." After a heated classroom argument about 9/11, a student says: "I think this whole class should apologize to Angie because all she did was express her opinion about what her relatives in Syria think about the fact that we bombed the shit out of a practically medieval culture... and everybody started screaming at her like she was defending the Ku Klux Klan!" Whereupon, one of the teachers says that jumping down someone's throat when you disagree with them is "censorship." Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin) goes ballistic: "This class is not the government!"

Lisa's point is significant -- and it's one of the movie's many sharp insights into how Americans argue. We have a hard time separating our personal feelings from the legal system, a conflict that's goes to the core of Lisa's moral dilemma. (And for some reason we think it's a rational defense to say that someone else did something just as bad but didn't get punished for it as much.) The classroom of teenagers, reacting spontaneously and having a free discussion (even if it became raucous and uncivil) was not an attempt to prevent, modify or control the expression of Angie's ideas, but an attempt (by some, at least) to refute them. And while censorship isn't limited to government, church, commercial or social repression, the phrase "freedom of speech" (as outlined in the First Amendment) applies to government restrictions on what "the people" can say.

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The Best Films of 2011

Making lists is not my favorite occupation. They inevitably inspire only reader complaints. Not once have I ever heard from a reader that my list was just fine, and they liked it. Yet an annual Best Ten list is apparently a statutory obligation for movie critics.

My best guess is that between six and ten of these movies won't be familiar. Those are the most useful titles for you, instead of an ordering of movies you already know all about.

One recent year I committed the outrage of listing 20 movies in alphabetical order. What an uproar! Here are my top 20 films, in order of approximate preference.

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#79 September 7, 2011

Marie writes: I've always found the ocean more interesting than space and for invariably containing more delights and surprises. Case in point, discovering the existence of an extraordinary underwater museum...

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#25 August 25, 2010

The Grand Poobah is still working away on his memoirs from his quiet retreat in Harbour Country, Lake Michigan and where last week, we caught glimpse of Roger's assistant Carol Iwata, visiting the soda fountain at Schlipp's Pharmacy in Sawyer for a chocolate milkshake. Leading me to wonder "exactly where is that milkshake?"  See map. Smile.

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Notes on my homework: The Prestige and Signs

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Knowing that the summer would bring new releases by two of today's most "controversial" (as Entertainment Weekly might put it) auteurs -- M. Night Shyamalan and Christopher Nolan (one with a critical reputation on a downward slide, the other on the upswing) -- it seemed like a good time to plug some notable gaps in my experience of their filmographies. I still haven't seen Shyamalan's pre-"Sixth Sense" features, "Praying with Anger" (1992) or "Wide Awake" (1998), or Nolan's pre-"Memento" chronology-shifter, "Following" (1998) -- which, the credits reveal, features a thief named Cobb, like "Inception." More significantly, I suppose, I hadn't seen (all of) Shyamalan's hit "Signs" (2002), or any of Nolan's "The Prestige" (2006) -- the former because it just hadn't held my interest the first time I tried to watch it and the latter because my critic-friends who'd seen it were unanimous in finding it dull and uninspired.

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Movie Answer Man (11/03/1996)

Q. On a recent "Siskel & Ebert" program you showed Hollywood's frequent use of scenes where characters outrun shock waves from blasts. There was a true-life instance of this, the day Mt. St. Helens erupted, and trees were felled like match sticks for miles around. At the moment of the blast there were two cars driving near each other and away from the volcano. One was a station wagon and the other a Jaguar (I think). When the volcano erupted the station wagon accelerated to about 80 mph and reached its limit. The Jaguar accelerated into the 100's. The station wagon was knocked off the road; the people in the Jaguar escaped. (David Shapiro, Libertyville, IL)

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Movie Answer Man (10/06/1996)

Q. In "The First Wives club," when the women are discussing plastic surgery, Bette Midler says to Goldie Hawn, "Did you have just a little done, or did you get the full enchilada?" If memory serves me correctly (and I'm sure it does), in the theatrical preview containing this scene, Midler says "or did you get the full Ivana?" During the actual film, it is very apparent that they did an audio dub over "Ivana" to replace it. I'm wondering if, considering Ivana Trump was in the movie, they felt that they should change it. (Matt Thiesen, Maple Grove, Minn.)

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Triumph For 'Schindler'

LOS ANGELES -- Everyone expected Steven Spielberg and his great film, "Schindler's List," to dominate the 66th annual Academy Awards here Monday night, and they did - with seven Oscars, including best picture and director. But there was no sense of anticlimax; it was one of the most thrilling nights in Oscar history. As academy members rose for two standing ovations, they were obviously moved by Spielberg's triumph.

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Oscar will finally pay its respects to Spielberg

For years, the word around Hollywood has been that Oscar voters have some kind of a grudge against Steven Spielberg. He makes good movies and he makes popular movies, and sometimes he makes both at the same time, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has never awarded its best director award to the most successful director in history.

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'The Piano' Plays On the Inner Voice

Jane Campion's wonderous film "The Piano" arrived at this year's Cannes Film Festival so already wreathed in glory that another director, Abel Ferrara, groused: "They might as well have met her at the airport and given her the prize, and let it go at that."

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