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Unlocking the Cage

As its title suggests, Unlocking the Cage is a kind of advocacy journalism, not an attempt to weigh the cons as well as the pros…

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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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Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert became film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967. He is the only film critic with a star on Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame and was named honorary life member of the Directors' Guild of America. He won the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Screenwriters' Guild, and honorary degrees from the American Film Institute and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Since 1989 he has hosted Ebertfest, a film festival at the Virginia Theater in Champaign-Urbana. From 1975 until 2006 he, Gene Siskel and Richard Roeper co-hosted a weekly movie review program on national TV. He was Lecturer on Film for the University of Chicago extension program from 1970 until 2006, and recorded shot-by-shot commentaries for the DVDs of "Citizen Kane," "Casablanca," "Floating Weeds" and "Dark City," and has written over 20 books.

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V/H/S

(2012)

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Frankenweenie

(2012)

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The Well-Digger's Daughter

(2012)

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The Paperboy

(2012)

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About Cherry

(2012)

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Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare

(2012)

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Snowman's Land

(2012)

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Head Games

(2012)

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

(2012)

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Won't Back Down

(2012)

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Pitch Perfect

(2012)

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Looper

(2012)

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How to Survive a Plague

(2012)

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Liberal Arts

(2012)

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Trouble with the Curve

(2012)

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The Master

(2012)

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End of Watch

(2012)

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Hello I Must Be Going

(2012)

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Detropia

(2012)

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Arbitrage

(2012)

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Beloved

(2012)

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Samsara

(2012)

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Alps

(2012)

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The Words

(2012)

The third most important story of the year

HYDERABAD, India, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- About 6,000 Muslim clerics from around India approved a fatwa against terrorism Saturday at a conference in Hyderabad.

The Muslim world has not been eager to hate America. For many Muslims, America with its religious freedom represented for decades a refuge against what all were pleased to call "godless Communism" and the USSR persecution of its Islamic republics. After the 9/11 attacks, there was a candlelight march in the streets of Tehran in mourning for the victims.

American flags were waved. No flags are waving now. I visited Tehran once, in 1972, for the film festival. My Iranian guide took me home for tea with her parents. There was a point that her family members wanted to make. "We are not Arabs," her mother said. "We are Persians. We speak a different language. We are Muslims, but we are modern Muslims. You do not see our women covered up in the streets or locked up in their houses. America is our ideal, where all are left to worship in peace." Then the Shah was overthrown, and the fundamentalists took over. Moderate candidates have been elected to national office in recent years, but the ayatollahs have veto power over moderation.

That was an Iran I hope still exists beneath the hostile stance they are taking against us. When we sent an army to Kuwait to throw back Saddam, Iran rejoiced, because Iraq was their ancient enemy. It was after we invaded Iraq after 9/11 that feelings began to sour. The sight of our occupation of a Muslim country disturbed the entire region. If we would invade its neighbor of our own volition, was Iran next? Until very recent months it seemed as if Iran was next. The White House reportedly ordered a military plan to be drawn up.

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Bonnie Hunt's couchside manner

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I've sort of known Bonnie Hunt for awhile, from Second City and here and there, and I really like her. She's funny, direct, down to earth, and has real feelings. What you see is what you get. She's one of seven kids from an Irish Catholic family in Chicago and hasn't missed a home opener at Wrigley Field since 1977.

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O, Synecdoche, my Synecdoche!

Fair warning: I begin with a parable, continue with vast generalizations, finally get around to an argument with Entertainment Weekly, and move on to Greek gods, "I Love Lucy" and a house on fire.

The parable, The lodestars of John Doe's life are his wife, his children, his boss, his mistress, and his pastor. There are more, but these will do. He expects his wife to be grateful for his loyalty. His children to accept him as a mentor. His boss to value him as a worker. His mistress to praise him as a sex machine. His pastor to note his devotion. These are the roles he has assigned them, and for the most part they play them.

In their own lives, his wife feels he has been over-rewarded for his loyalty, since she has done all the heavy lifting. His children don't understand why there are so many stupid rules. His boss considers John Doe as downsizable, and fears he may also get the axe. His mistress asks herself why she doesn't dump this creep and find an availableman. His pastor has a pretty good idea what goes on during the other six days of the week.

Eternal sun shines on the Malkovich mind

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Robert Altman (1925 – 2006): His dangerous angel remembers

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Virginia Madsen played the significant role of the Angel of Death, named "The Dangerous Woman," in Robert Altman's last film, "A Prairie Home Companion." She wrote down these memories at my request. Altman died on Nov. 20, 2006. I was still in intensive care, and Chaz withheld the news from me. Did Bob guess how near the end was? He was a very intelligent man, a realist, with leukemia and a heart transplant from 11 years earlier.

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How to write a screenplay

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Frank Cottrell Boyce's teleplay "God On Trial" plays on PBS at 8 p.m. CST Sunday, Nov. 9, and will repeat. It's based on the true story of Auschwitz prisoners weighing the case against God. I met Frank online in the 1980s in my old CompuServe forum. He was in his 20s. Now he has become a leading British screenwriter. His credits follow this piece. After reading my blog "Roger's little rule book," he sent this article that appeared in the Guardian on June 30, 2008.

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Your flag decal won't get you into heaven any more

Here I was all set to go Elitist on the country singer Lee Greenwood, and I pulled the rug out from under myself. I shared Rachel Maddow's incredulity that the limping duck George W. Bush had appointed Greenwood to the National Council of the Arts. I even had my first two sentences written in my head: "Remember how the Bush takeover squad at the White House complained the Clintonites had unplugged all the PCs on their way out the door? As he steadfastly marches toward his own sunset, it is Bush himself who seems unplugged."

Zing! Totally unfair, but snappy, Bush had two vacancies to fill on the NCA, one for three years, one for six. Greenwood got the six-year term. He'll be the gift that keeps on giving every day during Obama's first term. The Council's job is to advise the National Endowment for the Arts on how to spend its money. I assume Greenwood will support the endowment's Shakespeare in American Communities Initiative, but you can never be sure about those things.

Da-ding! I was just getting warmed up. I was going to sympathize with Bush because fate has set a limited table for conservatives in the arts department. Liberals get Paul Newman, conservatives get Chuck Norris. We get Bruce Springsteen, they get Cousin Brucie. Does such a thing as a conservative dancer even exist? To be sure, Greenwood was a member of a dance ensemble, but that was when he was nine. Look at Thomas Jefferson, founder of the Democratic party, who was a philosopher, author, architect, violinist , inventor, sketch artist and culinary expert, and still found the time to found another branch of the family. JFK told an assembly of U.S. Nobel Prize winners: "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House -- with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." I imagine George whispering to Laura: "Why didn't anyone want to eat with him?"

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