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The Congress

"The Congress" is a roll call of the orgiastic pleasures and bountiful comforts that art provides, and, a reminder of what waits for us when…

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As Above, So Below

It's that rare found-footage film with a strong premise, a memorably eccentric style, and plenty of energy to burn. It's also poorly conceived, and hard…

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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.

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Scorsese, De Niro reuniting on a new gangster film; Zadie Smith on life, death, Warhol; Spike Lee speaks; our ancestors didn't sleep like us; Van Sant to headline a LGBT film fest in St. Petersburg.

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The odds are with the house

I'm fairly certain most Martin Scorsese fans prefer his Robert DeNiro period to the current one with Leonardo DiCaprio. The later entries may include the film that won him the Academy Award for Best Picture ("The Departed") and they've surely displayed signs of greatness, but I don't think any of them can be discussed as pinnacle achievements like his earlier ones.

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Goodfellas & badfellas: Scorsese and morality

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[This was originally published at MSN Movies in 2006, but MSN has taken down their archives.]

"You don't make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets. You do it at home. The rest is bullshit, and you know it." -- Charlie (voiceover by Martin Scorsese) in "Mean Streets" (1973)

If I do bad things, am I a bad person? Can I be a good person despite the bad things I've done? Can I compensate for the sins I commit in one part of my life by doing good works in another? Is forgiveness possible? Is redemption achievable? Or does it even matter if there's not really anyone, or anything, watching over us and keeping track?

Those are some of the Catholic concerns that have preoccupied filmmaker Martin Scorsese throughout his career. His latest film [circa 2006], "The Departed," is based on "Infernal Affairs," a 2002 Hong Kong thriller directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, about two moles: an undercover cop who has infiltrated a criminal gang, and a crook who is embedded in the police department. So, who's the good guy and who's the bad guy? Frank Costello, the gangster kingpin played by Jack Nicholson, says: "Cops or criminals: When you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?" And what about when you're pointing one? In the cosmic sense, we're all facing that loaded gun, and brandishing one, every day. And the difference -- if there is any -- is what Scorsese makes his movies about.

Watching certain Scorsese pictures today ("Mean Streets," "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull," "The Last Temptation of Christ," "GoodFellas," "Casino" and others), you can appreciate the ways they both reflect and question the prevailing moral climate in early 21st-century America. It's a topsy-turvy universe in which the President of the United States himself insists that judgments about "goodness" and "badness" are not to be based upon actions, but are simply pre-existing existential conditions. Good or bad, right or wrong -- it just depends on which side you're on.

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Will "Mean Girl" Palin herself appear on SNL?

And, if she does, how many viewers will be able to tell the difference? Is this gonna be the talent portion?

Bill Zwecker reports in the Chicago Sun-Times:

It's looking more and more likely that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will appear on ''Saturday Night Live'' -- to have some fun with Tina Fey.

As the comedian's impressions of the GOP vice presidential candidate draw laughs from Republicans and Democrats alike, a top honcho from the John McCain campaign tells me there's a debate going on about how to respond.

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Call him "Mr. Contrarian"

Latest Contrarian Week News:

In his New York Observer year-end wrap-up (and ten-best list), Andrew Sarris attempts to steal the thunder of one of his New York "alternative weekly" rivals.

Sarris writes: Fortunately, modern technology makes it almost impossible for a good movie to get “lost” because of end-of-the-year mental exhaustion. So, with the proviso that I still have a great deal of catching up to do, here are my considered choices for the various 10-best categories, and one of my patented 10-worst lists under the provocative heading of “Movies Other People Liked and I Didn’t.” I am not at all deterred in dishing out my annual supply of negativity by the correspondent who informed me last year that he preferred all the films on my 10-worst list to all the films on my 10-best list. I have long ago become resigned to my fate as a reviled revisionist ever since my first column in The Village Voice in 1960 hailed Alfred Hitchcock as a major artist for "Psycho," and inspired more hate mail than any Voice column had received up to that time. That clinched my job at the ever-contrarian Voice, and I have simply gone on from there.So, how contrarian is the "reviled revisionist" 46 years later? Let's see:

"The Departed" as best film of the year. (Only in New York!)

"Blood Diamond" as #5.

Best Supporting Actresses: 1) Jennifer Connelly, "Blood Diamond" 2) Gong Li, "Miami Vice" 3) Maggie Gyllenhaal, "World Trade Center"

And then there's this: Other striking male performances were provided by: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Alec Baldwin and Anthony Anderson in The Departed; Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber and Toby Jones in The Painted Veil; Wim Willaert in When the Sea Rises; Leslie Phillips and Richard Griffiths in Venus; Clive Owen, Denzel Washington, Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe, and Chiwetel Ejiofor in Inside Man; Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase and Shido Nakamura in Letters from Iwo Jima; Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin and Paul Dano in Little Miss Sunshine; Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti and Rufus Sewell in The Illusionist; Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley, Noah Emmerich, Gregg Edelman and Ty Simpkins in Little Children; Keanu Reeves, Christopher Plummer and Dylan Walsh in The Lake House; Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena and Stephen Dorff in World Trade Center; Tim Blake Nelson, Pat Corley, Jeffrey Donovan, Stacy Keach and Scott Wilson in Come Early Morning; Ryan Gosling and Anthony Mackie in Half Nelson; Jason Schwartzman, Rip Torn, and Danny Huston in Marie Antoinette; Matt Damon, Michael Gambon, Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, Billy Crudup, Robert De Niro, Keir Dullea, Timothy Hutton, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Ivanir and Joe Pesci in The Good Shepherd; Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones and Ben Foster in X-Men: The Last Stand; Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Simon Abkarian, Sebastien Foucan, Jesper Christensen and Tobias Menzies in Casino Royale; Ebru Ceylan and Mehmet Eryilmaz in Climates; Adrien Brody, Ben Affleck and Bob Hoskins in Hollywoodland; Jamie Foxx, Danny Glover, Keith Robinson and Hinton Battle in Dreamgirls; Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes, Trevor Fehrman, Kevin Smith and Jason Lee in Clerks II; Justin Kirk and Jamie Harrold in Flannel Pajamas; Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker and Adrian Grenier in The Devil Wears Prada; Will Ferrell, Dustin Hoffman and Tom Hulce in Stranger Than Fiction; Samuel L. Jackson, Curtis Jackson, Chad Michael Murray, Sam Jones III and Brian Presley in Home of the Brave; Harris Yulin, Ty Burrell and Boris McGiver in Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus; Max Minghella, John Malkovich, Jim Broadbent, Matt Keeslar, Ethan Suplee, Joel David Moore and Nick Swardson in Art School Confidential; Joseph Cross, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes and Alec Baldwin in Running with Scissors; Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, Ciarán Hinds, Justin Theroux, Barry Shabaka Henley, Luis Tosar and John Ortiz in Miami Vice; Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Alex Jennings, Roger Allam and Tim McMullan in The Queen; Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Eldard, William Forsythe, Anthony Mackie, Marlon Sherman and Clarke Peters in Freedomland; Vin Diesel, Peter Dinklage, Linus Roache, Alex Rocco, Ron Silver and Raul Esparza in Find Me Guilty; Josh Hartnett, Bruce Willis, Stanley Tucci, Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley in Lucky Number Slevin; Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid, Chris Klein, Shohreh Aghdashloo, John Cho, Tony Yalda, Sam Golzari and Willem Dafoe in American Dreamz; Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson and Rory Cochrane in A Scanner Darkly; Adam Beach, Ryan A. Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, John Benjamin Hickey, Jon Slattery, Barry Pepper, Jamie Bell, Paul Walker and Robert Patrick in Flags of Our Fathers; Chow Yun-Fat in Curse of the Golden Flower; Sergi López, Doug Jones, Álex Angulo and Federico Luppi in Pan’s Labyrinth; Bill Nighy in Notes on a Scandal.Take that, A----- W----!

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Movie Answer Man (10/05/1997)

Q. You mentioned the time-slippage in "Cop Land," where the characters are betting against the five-time champion Bulls even though it was not yet the season after their fifth championship. Are all movies going "back to the future?" In "Conspiracy Theory," at the end we see a death certificate which says "10-2-97." Were the producers planning a release later in the year? (Casey Anderson, Schaumberg)

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Movie Answer Man (02/23/1997)

Q. My take on the new Jabba the Hut scene in the refurbished "Star Wars" is, how come Jabba is so short? Did he double or triple his size in the next six years? 'Splain that one to me please, Mr. Ans. Man. Eating too many froglets? All Huts do that? What? (Don Howard, San Jose, CA).

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Mission Probable: Oscar for Landau

The biggest upset at the Academy Awards tonight will come if Martin Landau does not win the Oscar for best supporting actor. It's this year's sure thing. Although the movie he's been nominated for, Tim Burton's "Ed Wood," didn't set records at the box office, Landau's performance as the broken-down horror star Bela Lugosi was widely admired: He got the look right, and then added whole dimensions of pathos and dignity.

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DeNiro reverses roles in 'Bronx Tale'

Toronto, Canada -- A kid is sitting on his front stoop in the Bronx when two guys get into a fight over a parking space. One pulls out a baseball bat. The other one pulls out a gun and shoots the first guy dead. The kid sits there wide-eyed and sees everything, and the killer notices him, and looks at him, hard, and the kid gets the message: In the neighborhood, nobody is lower than a squealer.

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Joe Pesci Moves Up from the Ranks of Supporting Players in `Public Eye'

Legend has it that Joe Pesci is an actor today because Robert De Niro was watching the late show and saw Pesci in some horror movie that should have been cut up to make ukulele picks. This was in 1979. De Niro and Martin Scorsese were looking for someone to play the brother in "Raging Bull." They called Pesci for an interview, which was just as well for his career, because he had decided to retire from acting and try something that paid money. In the 12 years since then, Joe Pesci has developed into one of the two or three best character actors in American movies, not to mention winning the Academy Award.

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