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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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Writer Profiles: Sheila O'Malley

We have some amazing writers, film critics and video essayists at, and as we head into the home stretch of this year, we would like to remind you of some of their work. Although we have many talented critics who contribute reviews and articles occasionally during the year, these particular profiles will highlight the work of our critics who have contributed the most reviews and/or video essays. Here is our critic Sheila O'Malley, whose breadth of knowledge spanning theatre and film I greatly appreciate.Chaz Ebert, publisher


Thoughts on 2016 (so far):

This summer there was the usual Strum-und-Drang about awful and/or empty summer blockbusters. What did the fact that these movies tanked at the box office "say" about the movies? The industry? (Movie-making is a business. Of course. But it is also an art. Rating the health of cinema purely on box-office receipts is a depressing internalization of the capitalist value-system. Maybe the "summer blockbuster" model of success is passe now. Maybe those movies just sucked. There are a multitude of reasons why one thing "hits" and another one doesn't.) Cinema is declared dead every 10 years or so, anyway. That's just slightly shorter than the cicadas' infestation-cycle. Speaking in terms of 2016: Right from the jump, it's been a tremendous year. There have been a couple of really great films from first-time directors, showing just how much can be done on a small- or micro-budget. There have been extremely personal films, passion projects. Some are comedies, some are dramas, there's one old-school musical too. These are just some of the titles, off the top of my head, that knocked my socks off this year. "The Witch," "Cemetery of Splendour," "Krisha," "Everybody Wants Some!!," "Disorder," "American Honey," "Hunt for the Wilderpeople," "The Lobster," "The Fits," "Wiener-Dog," "Don't Think Twice," "13th," "Kicks," "Under the Shadow," "Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids," "A Bigger Splash," "Moonlight," "Certain Women," "Queen Katwe," "Love & Friendship," "The Nice Guys" ... It's a hell of a list. I know I'm missing many. A couple of the bigger movies, with A-Listers at the helm - "Sully" and "Deepwater Horizon" come to mind - were also crafted with care and a deep respect for the humanity of the individuals involved in those stories. And then there are the films that haven't opened yet, but will in the next couple of months: "Elle," "20th Century Women," "Things to Come," "Loving," "Manchester by the Sea," "I, Daniel Blake," "Always Shine," "The Love Witch," "La La Land" ... I've seen a couple of these and eagerly look forward to the rest. There is always room for improvement, in terms of encouraging new voices to emerge, and - even more important - helping smaller films to find their audiences. But all in all I've had a wonderful time "at the movies" this year.  

Excerpt from Sheila's Movie Love Questionnaire (read the full Q&A here):


[My first R-rated movie was] "Dog Day Afternoon," which I saw on late-night television while I was babysitting, age 12. I could feel at the time that it was too grown-up for me to be watching and much of it (like the sex change) went over my head. But I can say without too much exaggeration that that film changed how I looked at life, and certainly changed how I looked at the art of movies and acting. I was so rocked by the film that I actually considered writing a letter to the real "Sonny," in prison. I remember the father of the kid I was babysitting driving me home that night, and I was already plotting and scheming in my head how I could find out what prison "Sonny" was in so I could write him a letter of support. That's how much that film got under my skin. I've never forgotten what it was like to see it for the first time.

Sheila's reviews from 2016 (so far):

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