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Cinema Junkie by Beth Accomando

Brad Pitt stars in Babel.

With Babel (opening November 3 at Landmark's La Jolla Village Cinemas), Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu and writer Guillermo Arriaga complete a planned trilogy that began withAmores Perros, continued with 21 Grams and concludes with Babel.

The arrival of Babel serves as the unofficial start of the Oscar season. It marks the beginning of the studios serious dramas and Oscar hopefuls. No doubt someone has already anointed it this years Crash. But since I was put off by the heavy-handed self-importance of that Best Picture Oscar winner from last year, I would like to dismiss that comparison up front.

Babel is thematically and stylistically linked to Irritu's two previous films, Amores Perros and 21 Grams, but the films avoid any direct narrative links or overlapping plot and characters. All three are sprawling multi-character works in which multiple plot strands slowly converge to bring a group of strangers together in unexpected ways. In Amores Perros, a car accident weaves three sets of characters together to explore the emotional wreckage that follows the physical smash-up. In 21 Grams, the hit and run deaths of two little girls brings another triptych of stories together for a meditation on loss and grief. Iñárritu's Amores Perros pulsed with life - running a gamut of emotions and experiences. But 21 Grams felt relentlessly one-note as it dallied with a limited emotional range. Now Babel comes along and falls somewhere in between the two.

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