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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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Cars, Transformers and expectations

From Mark Loughlin:

Two recent releases have proven to me something that I have always suspected. For less discriminating moviegoers, I won't say which demographic, it's all about expectations. "Cars 2" is released and, other than your review and a few others, gets skewered and grilled by critics and even Pixar fans. That it's a vast improvement on the first one doesn't seem to matter. It's being judged on Pixar's track record of 9 masterpieces out of 11 movies. If they played baseball, they'd still be the best player that ever lived! But since it's not "Finding Nemo," or "Toy Story 3," or "Ratatouille?" It stinks, and is a misfire, and raked over the coals. The bar was so high it didn't have a chance!

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Then, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon comes out." The bar was lowered so incredibly low by the second movie that the idea that this one was a slight improvement and used 3D better than most releases (dubious praise) it gets a pass as being “not as bad as the second” or “An improvement”. An improvement over one of the worst movies of the decade? Well, ok! You were the one critic who seemed to get it right.

In general, it feels like standards have been lowered, and they could use a little reality check. Transformers movies HAVE made a lot of money. But that doesn't make them good. "Cars 2," WAS NOT as good as most other Pixar movies, but that doesn't make it bad.

These odd expectations go for filmmakers also it seems. Steven Spielberg needs to live up to "Jaws," "Close Encounters" and "Schindler's List" each time he steps up, so "A.I." gets shortchanged (not by me). Clint Eastwood needs to one up or match "Unforgiven" and "Million Dollar Baby." Ridiculous. Anyway, this is just something that irks me. I thought more people, especially film critics (not you) would realize this.

Then again, Steven Spielberg produced "Transformers"...

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