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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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A film critic packs it in

Frustrated with the constraints of watching films as a critic, the strange new world of publishing in HTML, and the diminishing returns of the movies themselves, critic Duncan Shepherd of the San Diego Reader, after 38 years, says "So Long":

And yet, he sees new possibilities ahead, watching movies "without notepaper and pen in my lap," guided by free will and "personal preference instead of professional obligation." I went through this years ago, and though I am still thrilled I get to make choices like any other moviegoer, I do wish there were more mainstream movies that I actually wanted to see. I still feel the occasional obligation to buy a ticket at the multiplex for something I wouldn't choose to see if I weren't still writing about movies, but I haven't been on what my editors used to call "the review treadmill" for years.

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When Pauline Kael retired in 1991, she joked that "the prospect of having to sit through another Oliver Stone movie was too much." Shepherd says he won't miss a few things he'll be leaving behind, either:

The timing is such that Harry Potter and the "Twilight" people will have to finish their respective courses without me. But that's one of the benefits. I won't be standing in line to find out how it all turns out. This is, for me, virgin territory. Up to now, and for a lot longer than thirty-eight years, my goal has been to go to as many movies as possible. First it was a habit, then a job, finally a slog. All of a sudden the goal requires adjustment. My romance with movies, if that's what it was, has cooled. Hasn't, heaven forbid, ended. And it will be interesting indeed to discover how often I am willing to fork over the price of a ticket, brave the cellphones and the iPods, endure the preludial advertisements, attempt to blend in with the crowds of kids, etc. We shall see. Correction: I shall see. Franchisewise, it is with somewhat greater regret that I'll miss out on writing about the forthcoming chapter in "The Chronicles of Narnia," but I'll not miss out on seeing it (in 2‑D if given a choice). There will always be, would always have been, ­something.

(tip: Matt Zoller Seitz)

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