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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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The conspiracy against movie critics

Look at these numbers: "Mission: Impossible III" gets a 70-percent critical approval rating on the RottenTomatoes.com TomatoMeter (fresh!), and yet takes in a devastatingly disappointing $48 million in its opening weekend at the domestic box office.

Two weeks later, "The Da Vinci Code" is destroyed by critics at Cannes and across America, ranking a lowly 21 on the TomatoMeter (rotten!) -- and yet it took in $77 million opening weekend in the States and set international box-office records.

Asks The New York Times' Manohla Dargis: "Does this mean that critics are out of touch with the public? Maybe, but really, who cares? All that box office doesn't make ['The Da Vinci Code'] a good movie."

Surely the most likely explanation is that millions of people worldwide are conspiring to undermine the all-powerful hegemony of cinematic critical opinion! I mean, isn't that what critics are supposed to do -- predict box-office results? How can they wield their indomitable might (along with Hollywood and the Liberal Media) if people won't cooperate?!?!

Or maybe I'm wrong.

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