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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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Elevating the Oscar Winners Part #1: Best Motion Picture

Elevating the Oscar winners:

My annual Outguess Ebert contest will kick off Feb. 8. That's when I do my best to accurately predict the Oscars, combining info, instinct, and the various odds. Today I'm starting an experiment with a much different approach. In a series of five articles, I will abandon all logical thought and focus entirely on my emotions.

by Roger Ebert

Of course I can't know how deeply anyone else felt about this years nominees. I'm going to try predicting the winners entirely on the basis of my feelings. No "reasoning." No scuttlebutt. Not even any discussion of the other nominees. Just Elevation. Here goes:

Best film: "Milk." I was truly shaken by how deeply I was moved by the closing shot of the candlelight parade down San Francisco's Castro Street, the memorial to the murdered Harvey Milk, who had started here and become the nation's first openly gay public official.

I was touched first of all by the idea, the sight, of the parade. I assumed it was done with special effects. These days we have, sadly, learned to mistrust all unlikely events on the screen, assuming they're done digitally. Only gradually did I realize the shot was reality, film taken at the time. All those thousands, as far as the eye could see. That's when I lost it.

They were marching not only for the spirit of Harvey Milk. They were marching for all the lives he touched— including a closeted Mormon teenager named Dustin Lance Black, who later would write this screenplay. They were marching for pain in the past, and hope in the future.

Of the five nominees, "Milk" was far and away my personal leader in Elevation. I think it worked because Gus Van Sant's direction, Sean Penn's performance and Black's screenplay earned the right to that final shot. It didn't exploit it, it deserved it.

The blog entry on elevation is here: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2009/01/i_feel_good_i_knew_that_i_woul.html

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