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Amy

Sometimes, it feels as if we are eavesdropping on day-to-day conversations rather than just hearing the usual litany of platitudes and regrets.

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Stray Dog

"Stray Dog" largely succeeds because Granik's technique complements her subject. Both he and the film are modest in their goals and cherish the value of…

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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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A precious American girl, a Japanese love doll, Iranian rockers, and a Korean vampire

May 15, 2009--The most gutsy, powerful film I've seen here so far is without doubt "Precious" by African-American director Lee Daniels. "Precious" already had its world premiere at Sundance in February, where it was greatly acclaimed by audiences and critics alike. If the comments I've heard today are any indication, it promises to be an even bigger success in Cannes.

Based on the novel Push, by Sapphire, "Precious" is the story of a Harlem teenager who is severely abused by her mother, habitually raped and twice impregnated by her father, and treated like garbage by just about everyone in her life. The one thing Precious's abusers don't succeed in killing is her imagination, and for instance, while being raped, in her mind's eye she sees herself making a grand entrance at a film premiere. The pictures in her photo album talk to her, and this large, awkward girl looks in the mirror and sees a beauty queen with cascading blonde hair. This is not a preachy film, but one that grabs you from beginning to end as Precious comes back from the edge of desolation to discover the immovable force of her own willpower.

After seeing "Precious" last night at an invitational press screening, this afternoon I attended the press roundtable interview event with director Lee Daniels, screenwriter Damien Paul, and actors Gabourey Sidibe, Mariah Carrey, Lenny Kravitz, and Paula Patton. It was held at the outdoor restaurant Beach VitaminWater, which I can't say without laughing. Typical of these events, a lavish lunch is served, and the talent is brought in.

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5/14: Swanky 3-D goggles for the chic cineaste

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The programming director of the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago is blogging from Cannes for us.

Thursday, May 14--You can't beat the weather here in Cannes. After the cold rain and dark skies in Frankfurt, where I changed planes yesterday, the perfect, summery temperatures and extravagant displays of flowers makes this town seem even more like a Mediterranean paradise than usual.

The festival kicked off to the world Wednesday night with the first red-carpet walk by the jury, and the Pixar folks with their 3-D animated feature "Up", but for most of us in film-industry jobs, the festival is already well underway with press screenings, market screenings, and press conferences.

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A lament for high-quality projection

Although I have long since given up hope when it comes to the quality of the movie-going experience in the US (as well as elsewhere), I was encouraged t read Mr. Williamson's letter of complaint to IMAX. As one of the last bastions of a high-quality film-going experience, it is truly sad to see the IMAX Corporation giving in to current market forces. (Mike Todd would be rolling in his grave).

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Up, up and away: The Outguess Ebert Oscar contest winners

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With a perfect score, George E. Barletta is the top prize winner of a trip for two to the world premiere of Pixar's "Up" at Disney's El Capitan Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. Ten other winners get each get ten DVDs of films by 2009 Oscar nominees or winners, and autographed copies of Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook 2009. The 11 winners were selected in a drawing from the perfect entries.

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