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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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Chinese New Year: Some Pig(s)

The following correspondence between various writers at RogerEbert.com was inspired by the Chinese New Year that begins today, February 5th. I always love reading the discussions between our wonderful group of contributors, and always find new films to seek out.—Chaz Ebert

JANA MONJI

Happy New Year!

If you know me at all, you'll know I'm all about celebrating New Year's (three times a year is possible) and animals. I prefer not to use Boar which is slightly sexist since we wouldn't say Year of the Sow, and then I'd have to resort to puns about bores and reap what you sow and do we really want to go there? 

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With AFI FEST 2018 featuring two movies about pigs--"Dead Pigs" (which begins with dead pigs in China) and "Pig" which isn't about pigs at all--how could I not be thinking about pigs?

I'm reaching out to local pig/swine experts at a local university about cinematic pigs because I had consulted with them about hogs and homicide several years ago while writing an article for the LA Times about the 2001 film "Hannibal" and the 2000 comedy "Snatch." That's a totally different side of pigdom than "Babe." 

I had put off sending this email, but this morning while I was doing my seasonal cleaning (not exactly Marie Kondo-ing but culturally related), I did come upon my farmer pig and Moana Pua plushies so...what are your favorite pig, pork, swine or hog movies or cinematic mentions?

P.S. For those who speak languages other than English, what is the sound that a pig makes?

NELL MINOW

Of course my favorite movie pigs are Babe and Wilbur from "Charlotte’s Web," but I also love Blue Boy, the prize winning pig in “State Fair.” (And Arnold Ziffel in "Green Acres.")  

OLVIA COLLETTE

I can't think of a specific movie (though I'm sure this discussion will bring an idea or two to mind), but I would like to share the following very crucial tidbit of info... 

In French, a pig goes "groink!" Which is roughly pronounced "groh-anhk."

SIMON ABRAMS

For me: "Pigs" (1973) and almost any "Journey to the West" adaptation involving Brother Pigsy (I especially like the recent Stephen Chow co-directed "Conquering the Demons").

JANA MONJI

One of the reasons I asked is because pigs in Japanese say  ブーブー  or buu buu (which does sound like the English boo-boo) but in Chinese it is 哼哼 (hēng hēng). 

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STEVE ERICKSON

I'm pretty sure no actual pigs appear in the film, but Hong Sang-soo kicked off an amazing body of work with "The Day a Pig Fell Into A Well."

DONALD LIEBENSON

Jana, I hesitate to write about pigs on the Sabbath, but here goes. I'm going to go with "Blitz Wolf," Tex Avery's 1942 MGM cartoon in which the Three Little Pigs tale is given a wartime twist. One of the little pigs built his home of straw, the other built his home of sticks. But the third little pig (Sgt. Pork) built his home of American defense! Adolph doesn't stand a chance!

PETER SOBCZYNSKI


NELL MINOW

And the classic “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” cartoon from Disney with the three little pigs.  

MATT FAGERHOLM

I'll freely admit that my first crush was indeed Miss Piggy, long before I was old enough to realize that she was made of foam and operated by the genius that is Frank Oz. The tremendous level of nuance that he brings to the character in every gesture and double take is awe-inspiring. In his great documentary, "Muppet Guys Talking," and its supplemental material, Oz discusses the elaborate backstory that he created for the character, in order to ensure that his performance contained sufficient depth. He said that her curlicue signature is misleading, considering she has the spirit of a truck driver. She's funny precisely because of how she goes about concealing her pain. 

In a conversation at the Museum of the Moving Image, Oz recounted Piggy's origin story. "She grew up on a farm, her father died in a tractor accident, and she was alone with her mother," he said. "As Piggy grew up, she became more attractive. Her mother would have other pig friends over, and they would start getting attracted to young Piggy. And her mother got very upset, to the point that they couldn’t live together anymore, so Piggy went out on her own. She went to charm school in New York, but had to pay for it, so she did some things that she wasn’t proud of. She was really broke, so she had to do a bacon commercial." Once the laughter and applause of the audience subsided, Oz noted, "If you go deep into things, it becomes much more alive. I can do a better job performing if I know what you don’t know."

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