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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Some of the images sit there unmoving for too long, but that very same stasis also helps create and enforce the underlying tension, the tormented…

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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.

Oscars: The king vs. the nerds vs. the Rooster

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The 2011 Oscar race seems to be shaping up among the King of England, two nerds, and Rooster Cogburn. "The King's Speech," about George VI's struggle to overcome a stammer, led all nominations with 12. The nerds won eight nominations each for "The Social Network," the story of the founder of Facebook, and "Inception," about a man who hacks into other people's dreams. "The Fighter" followed with seven.

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No pain for "Hurt Locker," Bigelow

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HOLLYWOOD — "The Hurt Locker," a film that was made with little cash but limitless willpower, defeated the highest-grossing film in history and won the best picture Oscar here Sunday night. The director of the spine-chilling war drama, Kathryn Bigelow, became the first woman to ever win the best director Oscar. James Cameron, director of "Avatar" — and her former husband — cried all the way to the bank.

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'Precious' wins as many Indie Spirits as it possibly can

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LOS ANGELES -- I wonder what this might mean. "Precious" did about as well as it possibly could have Friday might at the Independent Spirit Awards. It won for best picture, best actress (Gabourey Sidibe), best supporting actress (Mo'Nique), best director (Lee Daniels) and best first screenplay (Geoffrey Fletcher). Supporting actor Lenny Kravitz was in the house, but couldn't win because he wasn't nominated.

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What it takes to win the Best Picture Oscar

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Traditionally (or, perhaps a better word is "statistically"), in order for film to win the Best Picture, it has to also receive director, screenplay, editing and acting nominations. Of the ten BP nominees this year, only "The Hurt Locker," "Inglourious Basterds" and "Precious Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire" were nominated in all the winning categories.

Sure, there have been exceptions. James Cameron's "Titanic" screenplay didn't get nominated, either. And remember the stink when "Driving Miss Daisy" won Best Picture without even a nomination for its director, Bruce Beresford?

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"Avatar" wins Golden Globes

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AP -- BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – The science-fiction blockbuster "Avatar" won best drama at the Golden Globes and picked up the directing honor for James Cameron on Sunday, raising the "Titanic" filmmaker's prospects for another Academy Awards triumph.

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Precious Based on the Movie Female Trouble by John Waters

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My previous post, Impressions Based on the Hype for the Movie Precious Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, was an account of exactly that -- how even limited exposure to advance word for the movie over 11 months, from Sundance in January to theatrical release in November, created expectations that made me not want to see it. What follows are my impressions when I finally did.

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UPDATE (12/24/09): "I didn't have the sensibilities of your ordinary filmmaker, let alone your ordinary African-American filmmaker. My heroes were John Waters, Pedro Almodóvar, and actors that were part of that world. Different." -- Lee Daniels, June 2009

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None of us is immune to movie publicity, unless we're lucky enough to see the picture well in advance of its theatrical release (perhaps at an early film festival screening) -- or stay away from publications, television, radio, the Internet and any form of communication with other people until we can see it. In the case of "Precious Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire," I reluctantly came to feel that I knew all-too-well what to expect: a grueling torture-fest of a movie that would culminate in an equally manipulative upbeat ending.

Turns out, it is all that, but it's also something else I hadn't anticipated: funny. Yes, it's a rags-to-redemption "social problem" movie, but at the same time it's a consciously camped-up fairy tale, complete with Evil StepMother. It's a showcase for two heartfelt bravura performances (by Mo'Nique and Gabourey Sidibe) and an often laughably overwrought melodrama -- not just because of the horrors it depicts but because it's fully aware of how shockingly high it stacks the decks against its heroine. "Precious" is a virtual remake of John Waters' 1974 "Female Trouble," which makes for a crazy, volatile clash of tones and textures.

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The best films of 2009

Since Moses brought the tablets down from the mountain, lists have come in tens, not that we couldn't have done with several more commandments. Who says a year has Ten Best Films, anyway? Nobody but readers, editors, and most other movie critics. There was hell to pay last year when I published my list of Twenty Best. You'd have thought I belched at a funeral. So this year I have devoutly limited myself to exactly ten films.

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Impressions Based on the Hype for the Movie Precious Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

This is the first of two posts about the movie "Precious Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire." In this one, I talk about the impressions I got from the movie's press coverage, advertising, reviews and word-of-mouth, and why they put me off the film. In the second part I'll write about my response to the movie when I finally, reluctantly, went to see it... (Part II: "Precious Based on the Movie Female Trouble by John Waters")

I put it off as long as I could. For months I tried not to read about it, but I knew it had won a bunch of awards at Sundance back in January, 2009, when it was called "Push." That, in itself, is enough to make me want to avoid it. The Sundance Film Festival is notorious for hailing a certain type of dilettantish formula movie -- the feel-bad/feel-good story of degradation and redemption, set in a colorful, semi-exotic subculture -- and the picture eventually known as "Precious Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire" sure seemed to fit the profile. There's nothing I hate more than a voyeuristic lesson-movie that goes slumming and then presents itself as an inspirational triumph of the spirit. By the time Oprah (Winfrey, that is -- promoter of bogus New Age twaddle like "The Secret") and Tyler Perry (maker of amateurish chitlin' circuit teleplays) signed on, with great fanfare, as "presenters" I was beginning to think (as I used to tell my newspaper editors about movies I was fairly or unfairly predisposed to despise) that nobody had enough money to pay me to see this thing.

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CIFF 2009: The winners! And our reviews

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Tina Mabry's "Mississippi Damned," an independent American production, won the Gold Hugo as the best film in the 2009 Chicago International Film Festival, and added Gold Plaques for best supporting actress (Jossie Thacker) and best screenplay (Mabry). It tells the harrowing story of three black children growing up in rural Mississippi in circumstances of violence and addiction. The film's trailer and an interview with Mabry are linked at the bottom.

Kylee Russell in "Mississippi Damned"

The winner of the Audience Award, announced Friday, was "Precious" (see below). The wins came over a crowed field of competitors from all over the world, many of them with much larger budgets. The other big winner at the Pump Room of the Ambassador East awards ceremony Saturday evening was by veteran master Marco Bellocchio of Italy, who won the Silver Hugo as best director for "Vincere," the story of Mussolini's younger brother. Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Filippo Timi won Silver Hugos as best actress and actor, and Daniele Cipri won a Gold Plaque for best cinematography.

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TIFF #11: A precious winner

"Precious," the story of a teenage girl who seems to have everything going against her, won the coveted Audience Award here Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival. Toronto has no jury awards, but last January at Sundance, "Precious" swept both the jury award and the Audience Award. Both festivals invite audiences to vote as they leave after a screening, and use systems to correct for audience and theater sizes.

Gabby Sidibe as "Precious"

This could not be a better omen for the Oscar chances of "Precious;" it is all but certain to win a place on the expanded list of the Academy's 10 "best picture" nominees. Its star, Gabourey (Gabby) Sidibe, is also a real possibility for an acting nomination.

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A girl named Precious goes from nobody to the toast of Toronto

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TORONTO -- It was a hit last January at Sundance, and now the intensely emotional indie drama "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire" is gathering more applause at the Toronto film festival. Here to support it are two of the biggest names in media, Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. Both actually signed on as executive producers after seeing the completed film.

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TIFF #3: Some of the films I've seen

I have a quirky policy about writing of films from a film festival. In the early years, I tried to avoid an actual "review," especially negative, because I believed a film deserved a chance to open before I laid into it. This was grandiose--as if the world was awaiting my opinion. Then I began suggesting my thinking, without going into detail. Then, being human, I allowed that approach to enlarge into specific descriptions of films I really loved, or hated.

Alex Vo, editor of Rotten Tomatoes: No Meter when he needs it most.

That's now the strategy I use, with amendments. I can only review a film for the first time once, and if I've used all my energy in rehearsal, what have I saved for opening night? I'll reflect the general reception of certain films, however, if only in the spirit of providing news coverage. The first year I was here, I was one of four members of the American press. These days, with half the audience members filing daily blogs and twittering immediately after a film is over, it's simply all part of the festival process.

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Cannes #4: What were they thinking of?

There are few prospects more alarming than a director seized by an Idea. I don't mean an idea for a film, a story, a theme, a tone, any of those ideas. I'm thinking of a director whose Idea takes control of his film and pounds it into the ground and leaves the audience alienated and resentful. Such a director is Brillante Mendoza of the Philippines, and the victim of his Idea is his Official Selection at Cannes 2009, "Kinatay." Here is a film that forces me to apologize to Vincent Gallo for calling "The Brown Bunny" the worst film in the history of the Cannes Film Festival.

After extensive recutting, the Gallo film was redeemed. I don't think editing is going to do the trick for "Kinatay." If Mendoza wants to please any viewer except for the most tortured theorist (one of those careerists who thinks movies are about arcane academic debates and not people) he's going to have to remake his entire second half.

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