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Michael Atkinson

More Than This (photo)

More Than This

End times are with us again, it seems, peaking in the American brainpan beyond even the levels enjoyed during the Cold War, and doubtlessly fed by the river of fear-mongering napalm that pours forth from 24-hour news channels, instant cyber-crises and always-alarmed personal media. How could we stand a chance, when plugged into so many […]

Going Nowhere (photo)

Going Nowhere

Of the forgotten nonpareils to have been found by DVDing in the neglected, semi-seen recesses of Luis Buñuel’s world-class filmography, none may seem odder than “Death in the Garden” (1956). A semi-Marxist workers’ rebellion drama that segues into a lost-in-the-wilderness survival adventure? Shot in Mexico with a famous French cast (Simone Signoret, Michel Piccoli, Charles […]

Dancing Souls (photo)

Dancing Souls

Envy me, because Werner Herzog’s “The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” is more fun to write about than it is to watch, and it is barrel-of-monkeys fun to watch. Everything about it is wrong, so wrong that categorizing it that way is meaningless, but wrong nonetheless, down to its title (that awkward “the” […]

Out of Exile (photo)

Out of Exile

The first vampire film to ever win a prize at Cannes, Park Chan-wook’s “Thirst” places the ethical questions of human-community parasitism front and center, as you’d expect from a man whose most famous films are slow-pig-sticking ordeals of retribution and moral poisoning. Park’s resume is also notorious for its merciless pop-movie extremism, and at times […]

Minor Tinkering (photo)

Minor Tinkering

You’ve heard it already, how Wes Anderson’s model railroad-making and Tinker Toy-like narrative constructions, emotionally unmediated characters, pleasure with antiqued surfaces and visual tableaux-love would’ve led him eventually to making an animated film, more probably a stop motion animation, and thus we have “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” a frame-by-frame expression of the single man’s passion for […]

Mississippi Blues and Embarcadero Clues (photo)

Mississippi Blues and Embarcadero Clues

There’s little point in attempting to figure why Lance Hammer’s “Ballast,” the best American film of 2008, was whisked in and out of so few theaters so quickly, in contrast even to minimalist imports and special-interest video docs in the same span, and despite universal critical hosannas. Good films get tossed by the wayside all […]

Head Games (photo)

Head Games

Bearing a snarky, double-take title and a premise like a glazed pig on a platter, Grant Heslov’s “The Men Who Stare at Goats” can’t help but get us salivating — be it Chayefskyian satire or schizoid paranormal headtrip or Coenesque destiny farce, we’ll gobble it down, especially if it is, as this movie is, based […]

Schizo Miracles (photo)

Schizo Miracles

Samuel Fuller had one of the most fascinating of Hollywood careers — a 50-plus-year self-mythologizing rampage that began with scriptsmith work in the mid 1930s at the age of 24, evolving into one of the most distinctive auteurs America has ever produced, writing/directing some 25 movies and having a hand in writing 25 more, helplessly […]

Moody Toons (photo)

Moody Toons

The French omnibus horror film “Fear(s) in the Dark” comes off a bit as a cataract of gimmicks — fully animated, using comic artists with distinctive styles, no color allowed (well, a little red to pepper up the black and white palette) and focused on phobias and anxieties. Omnibus films, with which we are suddenly […]

Back from the Grave (photo)

Back from the Grave

One of the world’s great film culture apostates, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg is mostly notorious for the seven-hour-plus 1977 film “Our Hitler,” and for Susan Sontag’s rocket-to-Mars essay, ambitiously praising it to the heavens, and for being the most recalcitrant of the New German Cinema’s unholy four (with Wenders, Fassbinder and Herzog). Finally, two of his famous […]