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Maps to the Stars

David Cronenberg's film of Bruce Wagner's Hollywood satire-nightmare turns ludicrous situations into operatic tragedy.

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The Lazarus Effect

The Lazarus Effect is such a limp excuse for a horror movie that it cannot even get a rise out of a couple of kids…

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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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My egotistical "Grindhouse" review

From Joe Blevins, Arlington Heights, IL:

I appreciate the fact that you are reviewing movies you missed while you were out sick, but I think your "Grindhouse" review was an unnecessary act of vanity and ego on your part, a gratuitous kick in the ribs to a picture which had already received plenty of undeserved abuse from the critics and viewers. You couldn't even get through one sentence without quoting your own (admittedly clever) movie dialogue. Did you really feel it was necessary to get Tarantino and Rodriguez ONE more condescending, egotistical lecture after their movie met with box office failure? I'm glad you knew and worked with Russ Meyer. I'm glad you've been to the Cannes film festival and met Sam Arkoff. I'm glad you were around for the original era of grindhouse movies. Good for you. Kudos for surviving all of this, Mr. Ebert. But this is a movie review, not a testimonial dinner in your honor! I give your resume an A and your review a D minus.

I believe that what Rodriguez and Tarantino set out to do -- and accomplished brilliantly -- was to evoke the spirit of the old grindhouse pictures, not as they actually were but as we WISH they had been. The dirty secret behind old exploitation and sexploitation pictures is that, for the most part, they're boring: dull and unimaginative, and filled with dead air time and shameless padding, peppered only with a few moments of excitement (breasts, explosions, etc.) Don't you see, that's what makes a filmmaker like Russ Meyer so exciting to young film geeks seeking thrills? It's because Meyer's films generally DELIVER the promised thrills we are hoping for. Most real drive-in pictures of the 1950s-1970s are dull disappointments. Meyer's films stand out because they're so action-packed, in every sense, and you can tell that they're made by a filmmaker with a sense of rhythm, pacing, and composition -- in other words, style -- instead of by an indifferent schlockmeister who just has a "get it on film somehow and move on" philosophy. For this reason, Meyer's films are NOT especially representative of that era. They stand out. They're weird. Meyer's films are what film geeks HOPE TO FIND when they go slumming into the world of B pictures but rarely ever get. Rodriguez and Tarantino wanted to give us two more films like that.

By the way, if you were unamused by the fake trailers, then you (to quote your review of Tarantino's Jackie Brown) "have lost the will to be entertained."

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