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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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"Quantifying the Oscars' Woman Problem": Since time immemorial the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has had a problem with women. Amelia Showalter at Newsweek vigorously investigates the matter. 

"Every awards season prompts a flurry of articles asking whether the Oscars have a woman problem.' Usually that conversation centers on behind-the-camera categories - such as directing, writing and producing - in which women are a perennial minority. But often someone will notice on-screen disparities as well. 'Only three of the nine films nominated this year even have women in leading roles: American HustleGravity and Philomena,' writes feminist critic Holly L. Derr of this year's slate. Two years ago, Anita Sarkeesian pointed out that a mere two of the 10 nominated films passed the Bechdel test. Indeed, a quick scan of recent best picture nominees and winners shows a dearth of female-driven stories."



"Confessions Of An Adult Who's Addicted To Building LEGO": Yesterday Mike Ryan of The Huffington Post admitted to the world his addiction to LEGO. As they say, admission is the first step. He's a brave man. We wish him well. 

"After a while, even just hanging out in bars gets old. (There is a law in New York City that dictates that if you write for a living, you must spend all of your free time at your local Irish pub. I have never broken this law.) Around six months ago, almost as a lark, my girlfriend and I purchased a small 'Star Wars' LEGO set at our local Duane Reade -- mostly because my girlfriend thought the Yoda looked cute. So, along with our milk, cereal and toothpaste, we bought a LEGO set that I kind of assumed we would never build. 

The next night, we were at our local pub and, as yet another lark, we brought that LEGO set with us. And while we sipped pints of beer, we built that “Star Wars” LEGO set –- and it was a wonderful experience. It was almost as if there was something to show at the end of the night for my time wasted at a bar."


"Feedback: How Do We Define "A Great Year In Movies?": Come December there's always some iconoclastic film critic decrying the state of contemporary cinema, claiming there's a paucity of "great" new movies. Noel Murray of The Dissolve dives in.

"Overhype is an issue, yes. And it’s also true that if everyone gets a gold star, it’s harder to single out the truly worthy. Also, let’s face it: It’s easier to decide that the vast majority of work being produced in any artform today isn’t worth the bother, and that the canonizers are getting it wrong. Who among us hasn’t dragged our feet on catching up with the latest must-see TV series, and then been relieved when the inevitable backlash pieces start popping up? (“See, it turns out I was right to not start watching Homeland.”) Who hasn’t demonized solidly entertaining films like Argo and American Hustle just because they’re winning prizes?"



"Why We Love Jason Bourne": Quality, dynamic action heroes seldom frequent modern cinema. James Parker at Slate contends Matt Damon's Jason Bourne is the greatest action hero of our time.

"Why do we love Jason Bourne? Why does this brooding nobody command our immediate allegiance? Because his mission is not to take down a cartel, destroy an undersea fear factory, or cripple a billion-dollar interstellar weapons system. It’s not even to save a beautiful woman. His mission is the essential human mission—to find out who the hell he is. Plucked nameless from the Mediterranean, a floating corpse, by the crew of an Italian fishing boat (water: mother-element in the Bourne movies); rebirthed on the wet deck, his twitching hand eliciting gasps of atavistic wonder; tended to—healed—with gruff inexhaustible charity by the ship’s doctor (“I’m a friend!” insists this heroic man, as a panicked Bourne rears up and starts choking him. “I amyour friend!”); recuperating on board, at sea, strengthening, doing chin-ups, tying fancy seaman’s knots and asking himself who he is in French and German—indications of hidden skill sets, strange aptitudes and attainments ... Memory loss? Identity loss, or erasure. A tiny bullet-shaped laser in his hip, pried out by the doctor’s scalpel, projects onto the wall an account number from the Gemeinschaft Bank in Zurich, Switzerland. The only clue."


"How I Went from TV Producer to Blue-Collar Worker, and What I Learned": The title of this article is rather self-explanatory. Read L.K. Fojtik's story at the LA Weekly.

"I would hustle up and down my 40 feet of dock, glancing at the packages streaming by, searching for their number. If one went to one of "my" trucks, I'd snag it, scan it, and haul it to the apportioned place (the first three numbers on the package indicated which truck it was meant for; the last four told me its placement within that truck). It took a couple days to get my head around the sequencing, but when your crew is doing as many as seven trailers a day, you learn fast. When things got overwhelming, I stashed the packages in the appropriate truck and hoped for a break to go back and get things sorted."

Image of the Day

Bill Murray yawning on the set of Harold Ramis' Ghostbusters (1984). Still provided by The Film Stage.

Video of the Day

Robert Koldony explores Martin Scorsese's New York City. Read more at Vimeo.

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