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Jimmy's Hall

This movie, as it happens, smooths out quite a bit of material in order to make its story points and moods conform to that of…

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Stray Dog

"Stray Dog" largely succeeds because Granik's technique complements her subject. Both he and the film are modest in their goals and cherish the value of…

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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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The best bar in the world that I know about

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The first Chicago bar I drank in was the Old Town Ale House. That bar was destroyed by fire in the 1960s, the customers hosed off, and the Ale House moved directly across the street to its present location, where it has been named Chicago's Best Dive Bar by the Chicago Tribune.

I was taken to the Ale House by Tom Devries, my fellow college editor from the Roosevelt Torch. It was early on a snowy Sunday afternoon. I remember us walking down to Barbara's Bookstore to get our copies of the legendary New York Herald-Tribune Sunday edition. Pogo. Judith Crist. Tom Wolfe. Jimmy Breslin. I remember peanut shells on the floor and a projector grinding through 16mm prints of Charlie Chaplin shorts. I remember my first taste of dark Löwenbräu beer. The Ale House was cool even then.

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Outguess Ebert? I may have them all right

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This year's Outguess Ebert contest seems a little like shooting fish in a barrel. For the first time in many a year, maybe ever, I think I've guessed every one correctly.A few years ago, I came across an article about the newly identified psychological concept of Elevation. Scientists claim it is as real as love or fear. It describes a state in which we feel unreasonable joy; you know, like when you sit quiet and still and tingles run up and down your back, and you think things can never get any better.

I tried applying it to that year's Oscar nominees. Did it work any better than any other approach? You need Elevating nominees. An example of Elevation would be when the bone morphs into a space station in "2001." Did I feel Elevation in making any of my Guesses this year. That doesn't mean it was a bad year at the movies. Harvey Weinstein, accepting his achievement award from the Producers' Guild, said he thought 2012 was the best in 90 years. Maybe he felt Elevation when he gazed upon the Weinstein Company's box office figures.

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A boy, his dog, and a puddle

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I believe it was the writer W. G. Sebald who said: "Men and animals regard one another across a gulf of mutual incomprehension." No animal seems to comprehend us better than the dog. For that matter, I comprehend them more than any other. Like the Nicolas Cage character in Herzog's "Bad Lieutenant," I have no idea what an iguana is thinking. Does an iguana?

Growing up on the books by Albert Payson Terhune, I developed an early love for dogs. It didn't bother me that one bit me on the cheek at Mrs. Meadrow's Play School. It was my fault. I'd tried to ride her like a horse.

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"Sheep, Galloway, Sheep!" Paul Galloway, a beloved legend

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We will never hear the Sheep Story again. Nor will we enjoy his presence in a room, which was an invitation to good cheer. Paul Galloway, the most incomparable raconteur I ever met in a newsroom, is dead. Everyone who knew him will know what a silence that creates.

I loved the guy. I introduced him to his wife, Maggie. I couldn't see enough of them. It will be impossible to share with you the joy of his company, but I am going to try. Let others write the formal obituaries. All I know is, Paul died at about 3:30 p.m. Monday, at their "winter home" in Tulsa, Okla. There's a Winter Home Story. With Paul, there was a story about everything. He was somewhere in his 70s. When you get to be our age, "somewhere" is close enough.

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Weaker at the broken places

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They are two people accustomed to ruling their physical domains with muscle, sex and beauty. They don't ask themselves a lot of questions about what could stand some improvement in their inner lives. They will rely the powers given them. Ali is powerfully-built and roughly handsome. He dreams of becoming a champion of mixed martial arts fighting. At present he is a nightclub bouncer, firmly exercising control over the hopefuls swimming out of the night. Stéphanie is a trainer at a seaquarium, using body language and dead fish to command a tank filled with whales to rise up from the water. They live near Cannes, celebrated for launching more successful people up a red carpet.

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Gabby Giffords made me cry. America? And you?

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I sense the debate over gun control is entering into a new phase and the gun lobby is losing. After Obama's second victory, the wind changed. Republicans are suffering uncertainty, and many of them grow restless. We have absorbed years of mass murders, random violence and accidental shootings. If the nation is no longer is no able to absorb those deaths, then Congress will act first against multiple-shot magazines for guns intended for in war.

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The great ecstasy of the sculptor Herzog

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A man said to the universe: "Sir, I exist!" "However," replied the universe, "The fact has not created in me "A sense of obligation." --Stephen Crane

That man can be found at the center of Werner Herzog's films. He is Aguirre. He is Fitzcarraldo. He is the Nosferatu. He is Timothy Treadwell, who lived among the grizzlies. He is Little Dieter Dengler, who needed to fly. She is Fini Straubinger, who lived in a land of silence and darkness since she was 12. He is Kaspar Hauser. He is Klaus Kinski. He is the man who will not leave the slopes of the Guadeloupe volcano when it is about to explode. He is those who live in the Antarctic. She is Juliana Koepcke, whose plane crashed in the rain forest and she walked out alive. He is Graham Dorrington, who flew one of the smallest airships ever built to study the life existing only in the treetops of that rain forest.

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Pacino, Walken and Arkin: Three stand up guys in a one-act play in an empty noir city at night

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• As told to Roger Ebert

Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin walk into a hotel room, and that sounds like the set-up for a joke. It's more like a long-delayed punchline. These guys have been stars for more than 40 years, but until "Stand Up Guys," they've all three never been in a movie together. Arkin and Pacino were in "Glengarry Glen Ross" together, and Walken and Pacino were both in "Gigli," but that's as far as it goes.

I mention they go way back.

"Yes, absolutely," Walken says. "I've known Al for decades, from New York and from, you know..."

"He didn't know I was an actor," Pacino says, "until we did this movie. He'd just see me around the street a lot."

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Jeni le Gon: The first black woman signed by Hollywood was livin' and dancin' in great big way

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My good Sun-Times pal from the 1970s at the Chicago Sun-Times, Cynthia Dagnal, wrote me today:

"A friend in London sent me this, obituary from the London indpendent and I was stunned to see that Jeni Le Gon attended the same Southside dancing school in Chicago that I did. It was probably the most reputable one on that side of the "color line," and not very far from my house. So I studied with the younger "protégés" of Mary Bruce, and all those cute pics of me in little but EXPENSIVE tutus and whatnot that I sometimes use on my blogs are reminders of those days! I took tap, jazz and ballet as a wee one, and loved to walk around en pointe all day long in those danged--and also expensive--toe shoes!"

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Orson Welles young, old, drunk, sober, and plenty pissed off about frozen peas

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Booked into the Auditorium Theater in Chicago in the 1930s, Orson Welles was confronted by a snowstorm of historic proportions. Most of his audience couldn't make it to the theater.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen," he said. "My name is Orson Welles. I am an actor. I am a writer. I am a producer. I am a director. I am a magician. I appear onstage and on the radio. Why are there so many of me and so few of you?"

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