In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”


Alice Through the Looking Glass

There is no magic, no wonder, just junk rehashed from a movie that was itself a rehash of Lewis Carroll, tricked out with physically unpersuasive…


Unlocking the Cage

As its title suggests, Unlocking the Cage is a kind of advocacy journalism, not an attempt to weigh the cons as well as the pros…

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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…


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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Obama's Declaration of Independence


By Tom Shales

There was the tense sensation that actual news might break out at any moment -- but we knew it would be just as well if it didn't. The Second Inaugural of President Barack Obama, which occupied most of Monday on broadcast networks and cable channels, was actually rather compelling for an event which had little reason to exist.

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Late-Night: Later Than You Think


By Tom Shales

Jimmy Kimmel still comes across like a guy who crashed a party and got caught at it, yet adamantly refuses to leave. He has no real business being there -- hosting a late-night network talk show, that is -- and may even know in his dark little heart that he's out of his depth, but he's gotten away with it for ten years, so why pull out now? Since he's probably making $25 million a year or so, and ABC has agreed to underwrite the subterfuge, it's hard to imagine Kimmel voluntarily getting the hell out of Dodge.

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He plays the President on TV, too


(AP photo)

We can be very glad Barack Obama won his bid for re-election for reasons that have nothing to do with politics. Unlike Obama, his defeated opponent is, to put it gently, not a gifted public speaker. He actually has a warm and semi-mellifluous voice when speaking in a normal tone into a microphone; the best parts of his TV commercials were when he said he was Mitt Romney and he "approved this message. " Up on stages and platforms, however, he displayed little talent for galvanizing a crowd, or even holding attention.

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Early returns: The ascent of the Stephanopoulos


Polls may be open somewhere, results in many races remain inconclusive, but I am willing to make one fearless projection: ABC News is the winner in 2012's Election Night coverage. In fact, ABC's coverage of the entire campaign has generally left competitors red in the face if not green with envy, though that hardly means it was without its own fumbles, stumbles and wretched excesses.

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The final debate: Whoppers and bayonets


(AP photo)

It was almost as if President Obama's advisors had said before the debate, "Don't agree with Romney on anything," while Romney's advisors might have said to their boy, "Agree with Obama as much as possible." After all, this third and final presidential debate of 2012 was supposed to be about foreign policy, an area in which Obama is expert and seasoned and in which former governor Romney has no enviable credentials.

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Presidential mud and oil wrestling


(AP photo)

by Tom Shales

"What I try to do is be consistent," said President Barack Obama. He was talking about energy policy -- not about debating strategies, because as all the world knows by now, Obama projected a far more aggressive and engaged persona at his second debate against Mitt Romney than he did at the first. He managed to do it without being self-conscious, a neat trick since the reviews of his previous performance were so unanimously negative.

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Biden vs. Ryan: "More real"


by Tom Shales

Consensuses form so quickly now -- faster than frost on a window pane. The vice presidential debate had barely ended last night when agreement emerged from within the vast media morass that Joe Biden had forcefully redeemed the honor of the Obama Administration, Paul Ryan did all right by himself and running mate Mitt Romney, and Martha Raddatz of ABC News had done a much better job at moderating than puffy and pompous Jim Lehrer did at the presidential debate earlier this month.

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Obama vs. Romney and Punxsutawney Phil


Network commentators and reporters fell all over each other in declaring Mitt Romney the winner of the first presidential debate Wednesday night, but maybe Romney didn't so much win as Barack Obama surrendered. Obama all but handed it to Romney by mistaking "presidential" behavior for half-hearted diffidence. He acted over-confident when all indications are he has no reason to be over-confident.

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The Emmys: Everyone but his parakeet


Rarely does a TV show arrive with lower expectations than the annual Emmy Awards telecast. It's a given that the thing will suck. Even so, this year's -- the 64th -- managed to come up short and disappoint. And it wasn't one of those "so bad it's good" campy things you can enjoy making fun of, either. It was more like one of those "so bad it's lousy" things that leave you incredulous and drained of the will to live.

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Good Morning, Muppets


And the Emmy for Best Family Comedy Goes to -- "Good Morning, America"? Well, why not? ABC's weekday 7 a.m. "news" program is about as newsy these days as "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo." It's also as warm, cuddly and cute as were "Ozzie and Harriet," "The Smurfs," "My Pink Pony" or the Muppets. In fact, the Muppets were busy overrunning the cast and set of "GMA" just the other day, although having them on hand only served to remind viewers that several of those in the "GMA" cast seem to have morphed into Muppets themselves.

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