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    Dead Man Riding: Tommy Lee Jones' "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada"

    This season's other cowboy bonding pic, Tommy Lee Jones' spare, deeply warped theatrical directorial debut may not be as socially radical and ultimately important as "Brokeback Mountain." But in all other respects (structure, dialogue, and detail) it's "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada," with...

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    Don't Fence Me In: Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain"

    Even on the eve of "Brokeback Mountain"'s release, it's difficult to separate the actual movie onscreen from the media attention that's been swirling around it for months. Is Ang Lee's effective tragic romance to be viewed as just another epic love story unfolding under a panoramic azure sky or as a...

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    Video Drone: Takashi Shimizu's "Marebito"

    "By looking at her through the lens," explains cameraman and obsessive voyeur Masuoka (Shinya Tsukamoto), speaking of a mysterious woman he films from his apartment building, "I believe that I've salvaged her soul." But Masuoka wants to accomplish even greater, and more disturbing, metaphysical feat...

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    A Schlock to the System: Laurence Dunmore's "The Libertine"

    Laurence Dunmore's film "The Libertine" sketches the glory days and final detumescence of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, the notorious Restoration wit and rakehell who wrote highly allusive poems, some sexually explicit, others philosophical, many a vexing combination. Based upon the play by Stuart...

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    Wedding Crashers: Eran Riklis' "Syrian Bride"

    Israeli filmmaker Eran Riklis recognizes the cinematic potential in an absurd political situation--it's easy for him, perhaps, because the country he lives in provides so much irrationality and insanity. His new downcast wedding film, "The Syrian Bride," takes place on the matrimonial day of Mona (C...

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    "Ragged Little Pill": Scott Coffey's "Ellie Parker"

    It's difficult to now recall that the first hour of "Mulholland Drive" was predicated upon the question of whether or not Naomi Watts could act. Her performance worked because the film trafficked in the thrill of the unknown: For the audience, grimacing doubt segued into rapt attention when Watts's ...

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    Three Extremes: Craig Lucas' "The Dying Gaul"

    Craig Lucas' "The Dying Gaul" features a wonderful, winking twist: A studio head offers a neophyte scribe one million dollars for his beautiful autobiographical screenplay about a man dealing with the death of his lover to AIDS -- as long as he changes the central relationship into a heterosexual on...

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    Idle Worship: Greg Whiteley's "New York Doll"

    "Rock history," as we know it, fueled by the obsessiveness and stunted adolescent Romanticism of its worse (and more numerous) chroniclers, basically consists of a heap of cliches so rancid that even calling them out for their rottenness has become a bit hackneyed. The druggy, self-important musicia...

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    Growing Pains: Lucile Hadzihalilovic's "Innocence"

    In Lucile Hadzihalilovic's "Innocence" nostalgia and dread become one--and it's a perfectly welcome symbiosis. A remarkable sustained allegory, "Innocence" luxuriates in the kind of symbolic imagery one would associate mostly with the fantastic worlds of children's fiction, but with the wherewithal ...

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    White Trash: Atom Egoyan's "Where the Truth Lies"

    Since "Where the Truth Lies" debuted at Cannes this past May, it has been beset by a censorship controversy that, like "Basic Instinct" and "Showgirls" before it, might just be its only saving grace, financially speaking. Because Atom Egoyan's latest effort is a pretty wretched film, formulaic, conf...

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