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Beware the Undulating Curve of Shifting Expectations!

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Oscar buzz works on a reverse sonic-boom principle: Your hear it (the buzz) before you see it (the movie). Witness Brokeback Mountain, which, thanks to festival hype, is being called an award-worthy masterpiece well before its release. Meanwhile, Maureen Dowd flirts with publicity fatigue (mea culpa, mea culpa); grudging rock snobs admit that the Strokes’ new single isn’t so bad after all; and giddy theater critics urge fans to attend the tale of Sweeney Todd, thereby creating a potentially deadly inflation of expectations—of the type that afflicts the glum crowds seen exiting The Odd Couple.


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