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The Farewell Party

High drama and lowbrow, morbid humor get stitched together in this successful tragicomedy about terminal patients and assisted suicide. Works better than expected.

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Sunshine Superman

I found Jean Boenish’s philosophical musings less than persuasive. And I don’t think my fear of heights was the reason for my bias.

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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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Chicago Film Critics announce awards

After years of speculation and delays, "The Tree of Life," Terrence Malick's long-awaited film that took viewers from the beginning of time to 1950s Texas, proved to be worth the wait, according to the Chicago Film Critics Association. The CFCA gave "Tree of Life" four awards including Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actress for newcomer Jessica Chastain and Cinematography for Emmanuel Lubezki.

The violent neo-noir "Drive" won Supporting Actor for comedian Albert Brooks for his change-of-pace turn as a ruthless crime boss, and Original Score for composer Cliff Martinez. With two wins, "Drive" tied with "Martha Marcy May Marlene," the moody indie drama about a young woman haunted by her experiences with a cult. Star Elizabeth Olsen won Most Promising Performer. Director Sean Durkin receiving the Most Promising Filmmaker award.

Michael Shannon was named Best Actor for his performance as a man tormented by visions of the possible apocalypse in the drama "Take Shelter." Michelle Williams won the Best Actress award for her stunning turn as Marilyn Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn."

"The Artist," the black & white silent comedy from France about an actor unwilling to make the transition to talkies won Original Screenplay for Michel Hazanavicius. Screenwriters Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin won the Adapted Screenplay prize for "Moneyball." (This marks Sorkin's second consecutive victory in his category. He won last year for "The Social Network.") The Iranian drama "A Separation" won Foreign-Language Film. Chicago critics named the trippy comedy "Rango" Best Animated Film. "The Interrupters," the powerful film following a group of people trying to stamp out violence Chicago's most violent neighborhoods, won Best Documentary.

The CFCA will be handing out honorary awards to some well-known recipients to celebrate their contributions to cinema. Legendary actress Shirley MacLaine will receive the Commitment to the Craft Award. James Earl Jones will be presented with the Oscar Micheaux Award. The Commitment to Chicago goes to beloved character actor Dennis Farina. The Big Shoulders Award will be given to Chicago's comedy institution Second City. Finally, the newly created Commedia Extraordinaire Award to acknowledge work in the often over-looked field of screen comedy, will be given to Jason Segel for his past achievements and for his efforts to bring the Muppets back to the big screen.

The award ceremony is scheduled for 6 p. m. Jan. 7 at Chicago's Broadway Playhouse, 175 E. Chestnut St. Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased through Ticketmaster at www.ticketmaster.com.

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