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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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My 2008 best short-list

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Before I do my proper "ten best" honors (in a form that is not a critics' poll ballot), I just want to say that the best things I saw on any screen in 2008 were:

1) "Generation Kill" (seven-part HBO mini-series, adapted by Ed Burns and David Simon, the makers of "The Wire," and Evan Walker Wright, a reporter embedded with the 1st Recon Marines in Iraq in 2003, based on Wright's book). I don't like the title. At some point in Episode Three I thought this was the funniest show on TV. About 15 minutes later, I still felt so, but I also felt something radically different. Susanna White is one hell of a director.

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2) "Liverpool" (Lisandro Alonso; seen at Toronto Film Festival)

3) "Four Nights with Anna" (Jerzy Skolimowski; seen at Toronto Film Festival)

4) "35 Rhums" (Claire Denis; seen at Toronto Film Festival)

5) "Mad Men" (AMC, Season Two)

6) "In Treatment" (HBO, Season One)

Just because they didn't play for a week or more on US movie screens doesn't mean they should go unacknowledged (any more than "The Dekalog" or "Fanny and Alexander" should), and I hope to have the opportunity to write about them in depth in 2009. ("Generation Kill" was just released on DVD December 16.)

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