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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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We are all Untouchables: A Bollywood Ballad:Discussed by Omer Mozaffar

May Contain Spoilers

After commenting on George Clooney as Hollywood star, and as star of the very excellent Jason Reitman film UP IN THE AIR, I decided to shift attention to a similar figure in Bollywood cinema: Aamir Khan. Aamir Khan is the star of the most successful Bollywood movie in history, the comedy THREE IDIOTS. Like Clooney (and perhaps Redford before him) he uses his star power to make serious movies, with the most famous being LAGAAN. Here, in MANGAL PANDEY: THE RISING we look at this story of one of the respected heroes of Indian cultural memory.

On the surface, the film continues the popular David vs. Goliath anti-imperialist genre we find in such films as THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, KING OF KINGS, LION OF THE DESERT, THE BATTLE FOR ALGIERS, some revisionist westerns like THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, the TV miniseries MASADA, BRAVEHEART,

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Grace Wang of Toronto discusses "The Hurt Locker"

May Contain Spoilers

I am a dreamer, a traveler, a student, a teacher, a friend, a stranger, an Asian, a Canadian, a daughter, a woman, a photographer, a model, an immigrant, a citizen, a writer...but these are all just labels, and they wouldn't begin to tell you why I have an infinite love for hole-in-the-wall bars and coffee shops and black & white everything, or why live music of any kind just captivates me, or how Chinese novels move me in a way so deep that I wish every person in the world could understand the language, or why I can never ever hold back a smile watching the sun rise on a different continent.

Traveling is a huge part of my life, as is writing. With a pen and a backpack, I've had some of the most memorable moments of my life at some of the most random corners around the world.

If traveling is how one experiences reality, then writing is how I weave my dreams. It has always been the most natural, intimate, and truest expression of myself. And we all just want to tell our own stories in this lifetime, don't we?

It's like breathing, and as clichéd as that sounds, how can you explain why you need to breathe?

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'Ponyo,' the missing Oscar nominee,by Michael Mirasol of Manila

May Contain Spoilers

The Oscar nominees have been announced, now cinephiles everywhere have begun nitpicking amongst the nominations. Some will note those that should have and shouldn't have been nominated, but one almost criminal omission from the Best Animated Film category was the absence of PONYO, Hayao Miyazaki's latest work for Studio Ghibli.

In terms of filmmaking mastery, one can mention the name Miyazaki in the same breath as Spielberg or Scorsese. His works are beloved by animators, audiences, and critics around the world.

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"The Messenger" discussed by Omar Moore of London and San Francisco

May Contain Spoilers

Hello, I'm Omar Moore. I was born and raised in London, where I grew up before moving to New York City with my parents. After branching out in the Big Apple on my own for a number of years, I moved west to San Francisco. I love America and its promise. We all need to do our small part to make this great country even better for all. Where a film is concerned, it is never "only a movie." Images mean something. They have unyielding power and influence, whether in "Birth of A Nation", "Un Chien Andalou", "Night Of The Hunter", "Killer Of Sheep", "Persona", "Psycho", "A Clockwork Orange", "Blazing Saddles", "Straw Dogs", "Soul Man", "Chameleon Street", "Do The Right Thing", "Bamboozled" or "Irreversible". A filmmaker generally doesn't put images in a film if they are meaningless.

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The masters of disaster, by Gerardo Valero of Mexico

May Contain Spoilers

The source for our love of movies is different in each and every one of us. It may date back to our childhood, it may be about a particular film we saw under certain circumstances in our lives. Mine clearly come from one specific genre: the Disaster Film.

I realize they may have never been the most meaningful or profound of all, but they were certainly the one kids my age were discussing in school patios in the early '70s.

Back then hey had the hype, they had the long lines at theaters, they had the awesome John Williams scores, they had Sensurround, they had that unexplicable Best Picture nomination for "The Towering Inferno", they had the posters with the great artwork and the main actors boxed in little squares, depicted in various states of pandemonium.

"Earthquake" was even promoted as "an Event," believe it or not.

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Kathryn Bigelow's uncanny "Strange Days," by Michael Mirasol of the Philippines

May Contain Spoilers

2009 was a great year for Kathryn Bigelow. After a 7-year hiatus from filming K-19: The Widowmaker, she returned to direct The Hurt Locker, a suspense and war film set in Iraq that has deservedly been recognized by critics and award bodies alike, and is expected to be one of the primary contenders for the Academy Awards. Bigelow is known for her superb work in the action genre, which is rarity among female directors. Her skill in filming tension and violence is as good as any of today's directors.

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Omer Mozaffar from Karachi and Chicago: Travels with Clooney in Search of America

May Contain Spoilers

I always look forward to George Clooney's movies. I have to admit, however, that in most movies, he seems to be playing "the George Clooney version of X" or some sort of anti-George-Clooney, who is still that astonishingly handsome man, though weak, withered, and flawed. Perhaps the exception is Syriana, where he is hidden behind whiskers and adipose.

So, even though I greatly appreciated Jason Reitman's previous films, this film - Up in the Air - was going to be another George Clooney celebration. Then, I saw the movie. Jason Reitman stole the show.

Up in the Air is a richly textured movie that invokes a spectrum of our prime emotions. It is a sharp, biting, mirror on society, observing the role that our professions take in defining our lives. When we speak romantically of the American Dream, we speak often of the ability to choose your profession, to choose your destiny. We are taught that you are

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Gerardo Valero of Mexico City on "The Hustler"

May Contain Spoilers

There are great movies and there are others which can only be described as special; movies with philosophies we can't help but apply to our daily lives. Robert Rossen's "The Hustler" for me is such a movie.

A film with a great, main subject (pool) that is secondary in importance to character. A film with unforgettable characters who have unforgettable names. A film with more classic lines than you can count. A film that made me feel disappointed about the hero over and over until the moment arrived when I couldn't feel any prouder.

It has four great performances: Paul Newman, George C. Scott, Jackie Gleason and Piper Laurie, all in top form and all four nominated for Oscars.

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Lisa Nesselson from Paris: On the man who made you think you spoke French

May Contain Spoilers

Paris, Jan. 11 -- The phone rang at 5:30 p.m.. It was France's around-the-clock cable news station France24 asking if I could speak about the death of Eric Rohmer, live, in about 10 minutes. The news was very fresh in France and this was the first I'd heard of it.

Except for François Truffaut and Louis Malle, who both died relatively young, the most prolific talents of the French New Wave era are still at it. Claude Chabrol makes at least one film a year; Jacques Rivette and Alain Resnais released new features in 2009; Agnes Varda is busy mounting conceptual installations when she's not making her delightful documentaries; Jean-Luc Godard is still tinkering away on digital video.

You begin to think they're immortal -- that much like symphony conductors who live to ripe old ages because waving their arms around is excellent exercise, that "pointing into the distance" pose so characteristic of film directors may be a boon to their longevity.

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Omer Mozaffar, a Pakistani-Chicagoan, revisits "The Five Deadly Venoms" (1978)

May Contain Spoilers

After following the discussions of my review of "Avatar," I decided to revisit a movie I so thoroughly enjoyed in my younger days. If you have not yet seen it, I hope you soon get the chance to watch "The Five Deadly Venoms," directed by one of the great Martial Arts directors, Chang Cheh (1978). And, tell me what you think of it.

"The Five Deadly Venoms" has an interesting premise: A teacher has trained a team of five martial arts fighters, each in a specific deadly martial arts style -- centipede (striking at high speeds), snake (able to strike while lying on the ground), scorpion (with powerful kicks), lizard (able to scurry along walls), and toad (thick skinned). Which of these five styles most resembles you? I, obviously, am most like the toad.

This movie has now taken on a new life for me, appealing in a different way than in the past.

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