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

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.

Barletta tells me he lived in Chicago for 35 years before moving to Cleveland Heights 18 months ago. He's a retired elementary school teacher, last at Apollo School in Des Plaines. His pastimes are films, theatre, photography and working on his 109-year-old house.

He makes his predictions "after careful and detailed consideration of ten barometers" including the Chicago, NY, LA and Broadcast Film Critics; Golden Globes; SAG; BAFTA; the Producers, Directors and Writers Guilds and even me. He'd seem the work of most of the nominees and all of the ultimate winners.

He's a member of Cleveland Independent Movie Goers and sees approximately one movie a week (“Wendy and Lucy” last night, “The Class” later this week, last week the director’s cut of “Lawrence of Arabia”). "To me," he says, "movies are a span of magic, from the first second to the last credit."

He has entered Outguess Ebert since its inception and have been “in the mix” twice before: the 57th Awards in 1985 (“Amadeus”) and the 64th in 1992 (“The Silence of the Lambs”). "This was actually the worst of those three years for me; I missed three of the 21 Awards (I don’t attempt to guess the shorts)."

The hardest category. "Best actor could have been the most difficult since Mickey Rourke won the Globe and BAFTA but Penn’s performance was, in my opinion, much more complicated and pretty perfect."

The ten winners of books and DVDs, also with perfect scores, are: David Shuey, Chicago; Tom Fleischhacker, Chicago; Julie Marion, Guntersville AL; Paul Jarnagin, Denver; Rodney Worsham, Winfield KS; Donna Stephenitch, Sublette, IL; Spencer Schein, Sterling, IL; William Booher, Chillicothe IL; Adam Wells, Ft Wayne IN; and Charles Hagopian, Jr., Chicago.

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