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Michael Atkinson

Reinvigorating the Dead (photo)

Reinvigorating the Dead

It may not have been exactly the best film released here in 2009 (it was close), but Uli Edel’s “The Baader Meinhof Complex” stoked my hot box like nothing else I saw last year, and it’s a movie about terrorists. A movie that heroizes terrorists. A 2.5-hour missile barrage of protest action, rock ‘n roll […]

Outrage Comedy and Unholy Tragedy (photo)

Outrage Comedy and Unholy Tragedy

Gyorgy Palfi’s “Taxidermia” is a certain kind of movie that doesn’t have a name — we could call it scato-absurdist-expressionist outrage comedy, with a lineage that stems back to the New Wave Czechs, Makavejev, Monty Python, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Roy Andersson and the Coens, not to mention Takashi Miike, if he were Hungarian, and Guy Maddin, […]

In a Reflective Mood (photo)

In a Reflective Mood

When world-class writers get to the last fifth or so of their career trajectory, after having put in four or more decades building their monuments, they often give themselves permission to write a memoir, a summing up, an attempt to gaze back and figure out how life and art have fought and entangled and rhymed […]

The Road Less Traveled (photo)

The Road Less Traveled

Almost universally deplored last year, Jared Hess’ “Gentlemen Broncos” is far from a self-immolating indie-comedy disaster, but neither is it, as New Yorker film editor Richard Brody maintains, one of 2009’s best films. Honestly, it’s just different, like an idiot child who dresses funny or a spinster who gives all of her cats the same […]

Better than a Poke in the Eye with a Stick (photo)

Better than a Poke in the Eye with a Stick

The Oscars may be just a horse-race between larcenous, ego-queen jockeys riding $100 million braindead nags, but even so, sometimes the right movie wins. Often the wrong movie wins, and other times we can be thankful a middling movie or actor wins by the grace of fate so that another movie, a real populist crater, […]

Pretty Pickpockets (photo)

Pretty Pickpockets

These days, movies can be made out of virtually nothing at all, like a poem — only a sense of drive and subject are required. Too often there’s nothing but ego at the center of today’s micro-indies, but Joshua Safdie’s “The Pleasure of Being Robbed” isn’t merely slacker realism or geysering quirk. It’s a character […]

First Impressionism (photo)

First Impressionism

Already justly celebrated everywhere, Steve McQueen’s “Hunger” is a historical scald, a chillingly powerful portrait of state violence, a serious import about authentic political rebellion that frankly contemplates the psyches of both the oppressed and the victimizers, and one of last year’s best films by any measure. But how to write about it so that […]

Fearless Femmes (photo)

Fearless Femmes

For most Americans who care, the Holocaust-on-film story runs something like this: outside of the release of newsreel footage after the war, and a few tame references in quasi-noirs like “Paris Underground” (1945), the extermination camp phenomenon was too recent and too toxic for mainstream film, until Alain Resnais assembled “Night and Fog” (1955), and […]

Waking Up in Strange Places (photo)

Waking Up in Strange Places

Global phenom though it’s been, the Korean New Wave has been as badly hit by the 2008 economic crisis as any national industry, a situation that opened the door in the last two years for a variety of dirt-cheap indies, most notoriously Yang Ik-joon’s “Breathless,” which took South Korea by storm. The far less flamboyant […]

Swimming With Wholphins (photo)

Swimming With Wholphins

It’s time again to note the landing of a new Wholphin, number ten this time in the biannual subscription series from Dave Eggers’ McSweeney‘s mill, and now more than ever it seems a vital project, even as our free time becomes increasingly consumed by watching and sharing viral “shorts” on YouTube. Actually, what often spurs […]