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Transcendence

"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.

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Bears

"Bears" could have used a lot more science; more substantive information in the place of wacky one-liners. Still, the images trump everything.

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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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Doing the right thing

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The Supreme Court has done us all a kindness. Obamacare shows the human community working at its best. For me, that's what it finally comes down to. If all of us, even the least fortunate, have access to competent medical attention, isn't that a wonderful thing? The poor, the old, the unemployed, those with pre-existing conditions?

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Quvenzhané. A small force of nature.

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She is the small, determined center of Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild," which opens July 6 and seems destined for a Best Picture nomination from the Academy. Quvenzhané Wallis was six when she filmed the role. She and all of the other actors were non-professionals. Incredible.

I interviewed Quvenzhané, her co-star Dwight Henry and her director Benh Zeitlin during their Chicago visit. This video was edited by Paul Meekin. My print interview with Quvenzhané follows.

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Movies don't stream themselves

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This will be the year that revenue from streaming passes revenue from DVD sales, according to a recent article in the Hollywood Reporter.

How do we feel about this? I ask as a movie-watcher who subscribes to Netflix, Hulu and Fandor, and also rents online from Amazon and Vudu. iTunes gets none of my business because the iTunes Store has been misbehaving on my computer. I average three streaming movies a week and three or four on DVD. I'm not an average consumer, because a lot of my viewing is for work. But often of an evening I'll stream for pleasure. All of my streaming happens through a Roku Player on HDTV.

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Are women better than men?

Sometimes I think so. Sometimes, not so much. If the blog I wrote a few weeks ago had started that way, I would have been spared a lot of grief. It better expresses what I was unsuccessfully trying to say.

The actual headline was "Women are better than men." And that called down upon my head 408 comments, at least 80 percent hostile, and many surprisingly angry and insulting. This blog has traditionally been known for the civil tone of its comments, and now I was informed, for example, that I was a "feminist bitch."

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Shall we gather at the river?

The first time I saw him, he was striding toward me out of the burning Georgia sun, as helicopters landed behind him. His face was tanned a deep brown. He was wearing a combat helmet, an ammo belt, carrying a rifle, had a canteen on his hip, stood six feet four inches. He stuck out his hand and said, "John Wayne." That was not necessary.

Wayne died on June 11, 1979. Stomach cancer. "The Big C," he called it. He had lived for quite a while on one lung, and then the Big C came back. He was near death and he knew it when he walked out on stage at the 1979 Academy Awards to present Best Picture to "The Deer Hunter," a film he wouldn't have made. He looked frail, but he planted himself there and sounded like John Wayne.

John Wayne. When I was a kid, we said it as one word: Johnwayne. Like Marilynmonroe. His name was shorthand for heroism. All of his movies could have been titled "Walking Tall." Yet he wasn't a cruel and violent action hero. He was almost always a man doing his duty. Sometimes he was other than that, and he could be gentle, as in "The Quiet Man," or vulnerable, as in "The Shootist," or lonely and obsessed, as in "The Searchers," or tender with a baby, as in "3 Godfathers."

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A symphony of voices

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The video on this page was an undercover project, I learn, at Ebertfest 2012. Most of my Far-Flung Correspondents and Demanders were there in person, and those who couldn't be contributed their voices via audio files. The idea originated with Kevin B. Lee, who did the audiotaping and editing. It was the inspiration of Michael Mirasol to use the foreign languages of those who spoke one.

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Women are better than men

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Women are nicer than men. There are exceptions. Most people of both sexes are probably fairly nice, given the nature of their upbringing and opportunities. But in terms of their lifelong natures, women are kinder, more empathetic, more generous. And the sooner more of them take positions of power, the better our chances as a species.

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Everyone knew Betty

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I want to tell you about a woman named Betty Brandenburg. You've not heard of her, but her passing must not go unremarked. I've written many times about the Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She made it run. She dealt with the most impossible man in Colorado. She was a young widow who raised two children on her own. I met her the first year I went to Boulder, in 1969, and saw her the last time a few years ago at one of the annual Wednesday night dinners our little group held at the Red Lion Inn.

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A natural history

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In those years we lived close to the ground. My earliest memory is lying flat on my stomach on our front sidewalk, my nose inches from a procession of ants. When you are short and a child, the earth is close and the world of adults towers above. You'd like to climb to the top shelf where you think the Oreos might be, but a more reliable entertainment is to use a sheet to make a cave out of a side table. I listened to the Lone Ranger while hiding under my bed, where I felt safe.

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