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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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Elevating the Oscar winners Part #2: Best Leading Actor

This continues my experiment with predicting this year's Oscars entirely without logical thought of reference to rumors and odds, but entirely on the basis of my emotions, with reference to the newly-named human emotion of Elevation.

My usual logical and, of course, profound official predictions will appear with the annual Outguess Ebert contest on Feb. 8. These early judgments are entirely subjective and inarguable. They won't even include discussions of the other four nominees. They will not necessarily be reflected in my Feb. 8 selections.

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It is impossible not to be implicated with a career performance by an actor you have long observed and admired. I've met Mickey Rourke, been on locations, admired him, deplored his self-destruction (which was not by the usual Hollywood routes but because of disastrous career decisions and uncontrolled personal intensity).

It is routinely said that "The Wrestler" is Rourke's "comeback performance." It is not only that. It is his comeback on his own terms, as a full-force, heedless, passionate physical actor, with strong undercurrents of tenderness, loneliness, and need. He did a lot of his own wrestling in the film, including a scene where he deliberately cuts himself, and he was painfully honest in the scenes with women. What you see is a man with what he knows is the role of his lifetime, and willing (I am convinced) to die for it.

The blog entry on elevation is here: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2009/01/i_feel_good_i_knew_that_i_woul.html

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