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The Guilty

With its single setting and real-time story, The Guilty is a brilliant genre exercise, a cinematic study in tension, sound design, and how to make…

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Do you know the biggest sin of the new Halloween? It’s just not scary. And that’s one thing you could never say about the original.

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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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How Michael Caine Speaks

My interview with Michael Caine in Budapest: "The hardest thing for an actor to do is to do nothing.".

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Aaargh! I'm turning into a monster!

This film is by Krishna Shenoi, one of the Far-Flung Correspondents on my site. He is now 17, having started with these demos some years ago. Krishna is surely one of the most gifted young filmmakers and writers on the internet, Two years ago: Here is Krishna Shenoi's YouTube channel. var a2a_config = a2a_config || {}; a2a_config.linkname = "Roger Ebert's Journal"; a2a_config.linkurl = ""; a2a_config.num_services = 8;

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Who goes there? A map of science-fiction

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You'll definitely need to click to expand. Sent to me by Chris Swanson, who blogs on science at wily badger. He found it here, where, incredibly, there is no credit line for the artist. Let me know who drew it. var a2a_config = a2a_config || {}; a2a_config.linkname = "Roger Ebert's Journal"; a2a_config.linkurl = ""; a2a_config.num_services = 8;

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A photo of a little girl, and memories of two beloved aunts

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I did a review for our TV show this week of a new film named "I Will Follow," written and directed by Ava DuVernay. I admired it very much. It told the story of a woman who spends a day packing up the house where her beloved aunt has recently died. It was inspired by the director's Aunt Denise, who the film is dedicated to, and stars Salli Richardson-Whitfield as the "favorite niece" who must therefore be inspired to some degree by DuVernay.

Writing the review, I assumed I had never met Ava DuVernay. It turns out I had, back in the 1980s. Today she sent me an e-mail with this photo:

She explained: "When I saw you look into the camera with a smile and give your 'thumbs up,' I felt a joy and a pain, desperately missing my aunt, my love Denise, on whom the film's central relationship is based...and celebrating the approval that I've hoped for. Both emotions at the very same time. I didn't know that was possible.

"I just wanted to let you know. And to show you the attached picture of us, from many years ago. I was a little girl whose aunt took her to stand outside the Shrine Auditorium to watch the stars go to Oscar rehearsal. It was one of our many silly rituals."

I wrote her back that the dedication of one of my books reads, "For my Aunt Martha, who took me to the movies." Here is my Sun-Times written review for "I Will Follow." The film opens March 11 in AMC theaters in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta and Philadelphia, and March 18 in Chicago. It will then open wider.

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A cry from alone

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This comment was posted by "Marg" on my blog today.

Hi Zach, Your right I do believe we are just in need of companionship. They tell me get a dog and that would be nice but it's not what I need it would only be a patch. I have lost all my family and I try to keep busy with church and bible studies and anyone who will befriend me but when the day ends or the holidays come I am alone. When the summer comes everyone is planning their vacations with there families and talking about children and grandchildren which I will never have since my only child died. I would love even a special girlfriend to be a true friend one that feels like a sister. It is raining today and I can run to the gym and talk at people for companionship but what hurts the most is no one ever calls to see how you are not even my christian friends....I wonder sometimes if there is something unpleasant about me or are people not interested because I am alone like my friends with husbands they always look for others with husbands and don't want you around their husband for fear you may steal him. It stands to reason they want someone that they can do things in common with which I have little to offer those people. Singles well I've outlived that catagory. My husband divorced me at age 28 and died at age 42 from drugs which I never enjoyed. So I'm busy , I try to do things to attract friends , I have aquaintances, what do I need? Love and companionship that is directed at me , someone to call my own that is there when something hurts or I am sick or its a holiday or to plan a vacation with or just to hold at night.

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Matinees and horse manure

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By Roger Ebert / October 27th, 1977 Some 1,800 movie theaters were going to start showing commercials before their feature attractions this week. But, alas, the two biggest Chicago chains aren't included. "We have no plans for commercials," says Jerry Bolger of the Plitt theater chain. And Oscar Brotman of Brotman and Sherman theaters declares: "What? Commercials in my the theaters? Never! When people spend $3.50 to see a movie, they deserve a break!" Oh they do, do they? Brotman and Bolger shouldn't be so quick to dismiss a part of our common folklore. Commercials are nothing new in American movie theaters - they were a staple of small-town and neighborhood theaters until the 1950s - and they provided valuable memories for young filmgoers on the way up. How can I ever forget, for example, my first exposure to what now is known as cinema verite - -the cinema of truth? It was on a Saturday afternoon back in 1950, in the Princess Theater on Main Street in Urbana, Illinois. We were jammed In there, 600 kids, row on row, fighting and shoving and trying to blind each other with our Holloway bars, waiting to see Hopalong Cassidy and the Bowery Boys. We had paid 9 cents to get in. And Mr. Alger, who owned the Princess, was never, then or later, ever quoted as saying, "When people spend 9 cents to see a movie, they deserve a break!" The lights went down for the five color cartoons, which were greeted with nonstop applause and laughter. For 9 cents, we were easy to please. Then the lights came up again so that the assistant manager could come onstage and announce that Dan-Dan the Yo- Yo Man would be holding the finals of the official Duncan yo-yo contest next Saturday. A Schwinn bicycle was wheeled onstage - first prize. Then the lights went down again, and it was time for the commercials. Well, first an announcement from the management: "This theater will give a reward for information leading to the apprehension of anyone responsible for vandalism!" This announcement usually was accompanied by the sound of theater seats being ripped open. And then it was time for the commercials. How well I remember them! They were a lesson in civics, commerce and the Urbana power structure. They advised us to fill our prescription needs at Knowlton and Bennett's drugstore. To read the Courier. To patronize Glenn Poor's Radio (in 1950 television was a rumor from the big cities). One advertising card was worded, somewhat puzzlingly, "The Busey First National Bank thanks you for your support." Those were just the slides. Then came the moving commercials, and with them came my initiation to cinema verite. The one I'll never forget was for the Urbana Pure Milk Co. In those days, and for many years thereafter (before it was absorbed by a gigantic conglomerate industrialized cow), the Urbana Pure Milk Co. had horse-drawn milk wagons on most of its routes. The horses knew the way. They would stop of their own accord at the homes of Urbana Pure Milk Co. home-delivery customers. And in the commercials at the Princess, the horses were indeed shown doing just that. One horse in particular enjoyed his ritual stops so thoroughly and so well that as the milkman whistled his merry way across the lawn on a bucolic Downstate morning, the horse relieved himself right there in the background. Not an easy detail to spot, but we were observant, and this moment was greeted, week after week, with tumultuous applause. In these sterile and sanitized 1970s, I suppose, a sponsor would not approve commercials in which one of its animals behaved in such a natural way. Poor Morris the Cat, for example, has apparently lost all of his faculties except the one for telepathic speech. But in 1950, the commercials were taken as they came. They provided a valuable interlude for popcorn fights and tentative hand holding before the excitement of Hoppy's latest adventure. And many years would pass before I'd look back nostalgically to a golden age of movie-going in which a whole afternoon at the movies included only five seconds of horse manure. var a2a_config = a2a_config || {}; a2a_config.linkname = "Roger Ebert's Journal"; a2a_config.linkurl = ""; a2a_config.num_services = 8;

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Idiot with an iPhone

First there was the silent classic Man With a Movie Camera. Then Jamie Stuart made Idiot with a Tripod, a video about the great New York blizzard that went viral. Then Kevin B. Lee and Steven Boone created the video essay about the "City Symphony" Films. It was only a matter of time until someone made "Idiot With an iPhone." The approach remains the same: Carefully composed shots build up to a mosaic of moments from life, accompanied by music. Idiot with an iPhone from pawl made this, inc on Vimeo.

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