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"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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Flagging Fathers

foof.jpg

Ted Turner called. He wants his crayons back.

I meant to see Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers" last weekend -- and I'd meant to see it at a couple of press screenings in the weeks before that. But...I don't feel like it. And -- as a civilian moviegoer who'd just go buy a ticket without being obligated to write about the picture -- I'm struggling with why I feel that way. All I know is that I was looking forward to it up until I saw the first images in the trailer, with that artsy desaturated color and lemon-chiffon-tinted cannonfire that reminded me of the early days of Ted Turner and his colorization crayons. (The marketing has been exceptionally trite and schizophrenic -- alternating between rah-rah battle action and equally sentimentalized sap, both of which seem false and trivializing in a time of such dire news from Iraq. But I'm fully aware how rarely the marketing for a movie actually resembles the movie itself -- which is why I routinely fast-forward through TV spots, except when I'm watching "The Daily Show" or "The Colbert Report" live!)

The movie opened to a "disappointing" $10.2 million on 1,876 screens and now everybody's writing about how the "expectations" they had for it being a leading Oscar contender are now "jeopardized" -- or something like that. I find it difficult to care about Oscar buzz or box office grosses. But one thing in this morning's New York Times semi-post-morem (Omigod! They might have to spend more money on the Oscar campaign!!!) struck me as, well, a little... odd:

... [Paramount distribution exec Rob] Moore said Monday morning that Paramount, DreamWorks and Mr. Eastwood had agreed to expand by 300 screens nationwide this week. He cited the movie’s reviews, as well as exit polls of audience members that were 50 percent better than average — a sure gauge of word of mouth, he said.

Copy desk! What do you suppose that tortured phrase about exit polls "50 percent better than average" is supposed to mean? That 50 percent of moviegoers surveyed said "Flags of Our Fathers" was above average -- compared to another 50 percent who said it was... average, or below average? That doesn't sound very good. That the average rating for "FoOF" was 50 percent higher than the average for all movies? Even that doesn't sound so impressive. What's the median score?

Anybody else either reluctant to see, or eager to see, "Flags of Our Fathers." If you contributed to that $10 million over the weekend, what did you make of the movie?

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