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Office Christmas Party

Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…

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Harry Benson: Shoot First

The filmmakers are themselves too celebrity besotted to comment in a meaningful way on how Benson’s career balanced depictions of the rich and famous with…

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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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The death of a talk host

May Contain Spoilers

Roger Ebert writes: Alan Berg was a Denver talk-radio host who was murdered on June 18, 1984. He was a goofy-looking bird, with a thin face and a bristly white beard that hid the ravages of teenage acne. He wore reading glasses perched far down on his nose, and he dressed in unlikely combinations of checks and stripes and garments that looked left over from the 1950s. When the members of a lunatic right-wing group gunned him down in the driveway of his home, they could not have mistaken him for anybody else.

I was on Berg's radio show three or four times. I listened to him as I drove down from Boulder to Denver. He was chewing out some hapless housewife whose brain was a reservoir of prejudices against anyone who was the slightest bit different from her. Berg was telling her that no one in his right mind would want to be anything like her at all.

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A.O. Scott is on a roll!

View image "Squeal like a hog": The Not-Gay Gang, John Travolta, William H. Macy, Tim Allen and Martin Lawrence.

Two of A.O. Scott's reviews today in the New York Times had me laughing out loud. From "Wild Hogs": The main thing about these guys — the main source of the movie’s fumbling attempts at humor — is that they’re not gay. Really. Seriously. No way. They may worry about people thinking that they’re gay, and they may do things that might make people think that they’re gay — dance, touch one another, take off their clothes, express emotion — but they’re absolutely 100 percent not gay. No no no no no no. No sir, I mean, no ma’am. That’s what makes it funny, see.

After camping out one night, for example, they have a conversation that’s overheard by a highway patrolman (John C. McGinley) who decides, based on his misunderstanding of the perfectly innocent things they’re saying, that they must be gay. But the thing is — get this — he’s the one who’s gay! You think he’s a stereotypical homophobe, but he turns out to be a homophobic stereotype. It’s magic! It's also "American Beauty" -- the cheapest kind of reversal gimmick.

From Scott's review of "Black Snake Moan": Don’t be fooled though. Underneath the surface of racial and sexual button pushing, behind the brandished guns and bared breasts, is a heart of pure, buttery cornpone. Like “Hustle & Flow,” “Black Snake Moan” joins a dubious stereotype of black manhood to an uplifting, sentimental fable. In the earlier movie the hero was a soulful pimp with dreams of hip-hop glory.

This time he is a retired blues singer with woman troubles and a vegetable farm. Really, though, the character, played with his usual fearsome wit by Samuel L. Jackson, is a tried-and-true Hollywood stock figure: the selfless, spiritually minded African-American who seems to have been put on the earth to help white people work out their self-esteem issues. No doubt “Black Snake Moan” is a provocative title, but a more accurate one might be “Chaining Miss Daisy to the Radiator in Her Underwear.” [...]

To their great credit, Mr. Jackson and Ms. Ricci understand that the relationship between Lazarus and his prisoner has its comic side, and some of their scenes together... play out like kinky screwball. Whether Mr. Brewer is in on the joke is less clear. That's the way I felt about most of "Hustle & Flow," which was phony and ludicrous in ways I wasn't sure the filmmakers were intending -- especially when it came to the relationships between the pimp and his sex slaves, and the little white guy giving the pep talk about telling the story of " The Black Man."

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