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A fascinating piece of filmmaking that challenges the form in new ways as it recalls themes its director has been interested in his entire career.

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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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Chaz's Journal Archives

The 'Da Vinci' woes

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Q. Why did you refer to the novel The Da Vinci Code as a "preposterous" work of fiction, yet fail to label the Bible as such? Do you honestly believe the Bible is a work of non-fiction? Aren't parts of the Bible "preposterous"? If your devotion to institutionalized religion colors your ability to write logically, perhaps you should recuse yourself from reviewing films that require an unbiased view.

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Balancing the brain

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Q. In your anecdote in the "Silent Hill" review about children's brain activity and video games, you cite Dr. Leonard Shlain describing the monitoring of brain activity by young children learning to play video games: "At first, when they were figuring out the games, the whole brain lit up. But by the time they knew how to play the games, the brain went dark, except for one little point."

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'Wild' theory has merit

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Q. I think you may be onto something with your critique of "The Wild," when you say the animals fall into the Uncanny Valley of being too realistic. I think it may extend beyond the lip-syncing. The day I saw the poster, I told one of my friends that it left me vaguely unsettled, because the animals looked simultaneously real and not real, which is, in essence, the basic idea behind the Uncanny Valley.

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'Basic' rules of criticism

May Contain Spoilers
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Q. In your review of "Basic Instinct 2," you struggle with whether to give it a favorable rating; you know it's not a good movie, but it's very watchable and you enjoyed viewing it. Doesn't that contradict a rule you usually apply: You have to be true to the moviegoing experience? If you got into the film, shouldn't you give it a positive review, even though you know it's flawed? Michael Hart, Staten Island, N.Y.

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'V' for vagaries

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Q. In your review of "V for Vendetta," you write: "There are ideas in this film. The most pointed is V's belief: 'People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.' I am not sure V has it right; surely in the ideal, state governments and their people should exist happily together. Fear in either direction must lead to violence."

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Voter fraud?

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Q. I was rooting for "Brokeback Mountain" to win the Best Picture Oscar. I thought it was a great film. I haven't seen "Crash," but I'm curious now to see it and be able to make a comparison. I wish the Academy voters had done the same. For the major categories, there is no requirement that Academy voters have seen all nominees. Or that they've even seen any of the nominees. Or that the Academy member is the person actually filling out the ballot. The process is a sham.

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A 'Grizzly' matter

May Contain Spoilers
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Q. Any comment on the story that they're talking to Philip Seymour Hoffman about playing you in a proposed biopic about Russ Meyer? Bill Zwecker, Chicago

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Q. I'm amazed at how the movie theater experience degrades every year, yet the movie industry has resisted all feedback from moviegoers on how to improve it, apparently preferring to sue large groups of them instead. After being expected to sit through extended commercials, dirty conditions, outrageous prices, poor projection on outdated equipment, appalling behavior from other theatergoers and the annoyance of cell phones, I have decided to avoid theaters as much as possible.

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On naval-gazing detail

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Q. I noticed in your review of "Annapolis" some errors and maybe a misperception of what the Naval Academy is about. Tyrese Gibson plays Midshipman Lieutenant Cole; he is not a "drill sergeant" and is not "on loan to the academy." Prior-enlisted Marines and sailors are a regular occurrence at USNA. I think, however, that your misperception of the Naval Academy illustrates what any other viewer would think and how the filmmakers didn't care about detail or a well-made story. Why make a movie about a unique institution like the United States Naval Academy if you can't do it right?

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Re: 'Glory,' 'Crash,' 'Geisha,' etc.

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Q: Re: "Glory Road" and coach Don Haskins. Thought you would be interested to know that Mr. Haskins received roughly $375,000 for the movie. The players received about $7,500 apiece. When Haskins found out how little the players received, he insisted that his portion be divided evenly amongst all. Everyone then received roughly $37,000, including Mr. Haskins. What a man. Leta Mohrman, El Paso, Texas

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