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Finds that laughter-through-tears sweet spot, often in the unlikeliest of places.

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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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Mel's expensive adventure

Outside the Paramount hotel suite in Chicago last weekend, there was a big poster of Mel Gibson starring in "Braveheart." Someone had added a mustache and goatee to Gibson's face, and drawn an arrow going through his head.

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Gregory Nava: Living in el Norte

Why don't we ever see Latino families in the movies? All the other American ethnic groups have given us movies about their march through the generations, but Latinos, until now, have been represented mostly by crime movies and comedies, neither presenting their culture in an especially positive light. A Chicano I know went to see "American Me," a film by Edward James Olmos that is brave and powerful but unremitting in its portrait of a man destroyed by prison, and came out saying, "If I wasn't Chicano, this movie wouldn't have made me want to know any."

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'Exotica' Pleases Filmmaker in Us

Pieces of time. That's what the movies have been called. Usually they begin with the first piece and continue with the second piece, onward to the inevitable conclusion. But currently there's a small group of filmmakers who don't think that way. They shuffle the deck. You can't put all the pieces together until the movie is over. It's challenging, and it can be fun.

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The 'Rain' maker

A kid in Macedonia wants to be a movie director, but there are no openings in the official film school in Belgrade. One day a professor from Southern Illinois University comes to lecture in his home town, and the kid gives the professor a pitch about how he wants to go to film school, and the professor says, "Fine, send me some of your work," and the kid mails his writings and some of his short films off to Carbondale, and they give him a scholarship.

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'Strawberry' harvest tastes better than making a mint

PARK CITY, Utah--Here is a Cuban film about a flamboyant homosexual who is freely critical of his government and society. It was shot on location in Havana. It is now in release around the world. How, I asked myself - how was it possible that this film was financed and produced in Cuba, and actually shown there, and the filmmaker was not disciplined by the government?

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Sigourney Weaver: A woman of action and drama and comedy

NEW YORK There was an article not long ago in Variety, the show-biz bible, saying that Sigourney Weaver was third on the list of stars who could "open" a movie, worldwide. That placed her right up there with Arnold Schwarzenegger and the other male action heroes, mostly on the basis of her work in the "Alien" series. But the article didn't make much of it.

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