|Latest siting of critic when not watching a movie, Barra, Mexico, 2001
I'm Roland Atkinson, a Professor of Psychiatry at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Earlier, I trained and worked in West Los Angeles for several years. What a feast for a film nut! Katherine Hepburn sitting down in front of me at a Saturday matinee. Spotting Burt Lancaster or Lee Marvin at the old Bel Air Country Store (gone now, sad to say). At UCLA, taking care of Alfred Hitchcock's wife during her annual medical checkup when I was an intern; and hearing Ralph Greenson discuss the late Marilyn Monroe's psychiatric treatment. I studied film criticism with Ted Mahar, of the Portland Oregonian, at the Northwest film Center. I view 200 or more feature films a year, counting theater screenings and DVD/VHS. My reviews are enriched in style and substance through conversations with my partner, Jo Ann Weaver, a discerning film observer in her own right.
I review films - from a psychiatric and psychological perspective - for several publications, including the nationally distributed monthly, Clinical Psychiatry News. And I maintain a "sister" website devoted to films with psychiatric and psychological themes, at www.Psychflix.com. I have also advised student and professional scriptwriters on creating authentic portrayals of psychiatric and substance use disorders and their treatment through a pro bono program sponsored by the Entertainment Industries Council. E.I.C. is a non-profit, Hollywood-based organization supported by the commercial film and television industries; its efforts to advocate for authenticity of substance abuse portrayals in films and teleplays is also supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
I endeavor to provide no-nonsense reviews, some very brief, others longer, of feature films - both new and old, dramatized and documentary - from the domains of domestic and world cinema. I have no mercy for the subtitle challenged viewer (all foreign language films reviewed here have English subtitles). If you are subtitle avoidant, you are missing a majority of the world's best films! Get real. Learn the drill. As in everything else, practice viewing subtitles makes all the difference. I avoid Hollywood commercial films that pander to the average 12 year old mentality, while covering current and recent domestic films of merit, whether they are made by independent filmmakers or the major studios, as well as films from the vast and truly wonderful world of foreign cinema. I disdain fantasy, science fiction and horror genres, and most animated feature films. I know, I know, there are some fine films in these categories. My personal tastes just don't encompass them. I'm not a techie: if you want reviews that illumine the technical processes of filmmaking, like the subtlties of cinematography, you'll have to look elsewhere, though I am trying to learn about these vital elements. The strengths I do bring to film criticism include judging the quality and coherence of the narrative - the story - and the 'psychology' of the film - character (meaning personality), motivation, relationships, and realism in terms of human nature. Sometimes, if I think I know something about it, I also comment on the sociopolitical context of a movie. All lists are selective. On the "Video Treasury," "Recent Sleepers" and "Best of the Best" pages, I sometimes don't include films already widely regarded as outstanding. Instead I try to focus on more obscure gems. Nearly every film reviewed here is available on VHS and/or DVD, though you may have to look beyond your corner Schlockbuster or Hollywuss outlet to find some of them. And don't forget your public library as a resource! A useful website to access other reviews is www.mrqe.com. An extensive source for foreign films on DVD is the on-line subscription service, Netflix.
HOME PAGE: Here we have a word of welcome, a notice about the currently installed "Special Feature," and an alphabetical title list of my most recent film review postings.
CURRENT & RECENT CINEMA: Reviews of films first screened or distributed in the past year or so. Most listed films have at least a B- rating, although I do include reviews of a few films I consider "dogs." These begin with the red lighlighted warning, CONSUMER ALERT!
SPECIAL FEATURES: Temporary installations, such as showcase individual film reviews, articles, "bests" lists, or notes on film festivals like the annual Portland International Film Festival (PIFF) in February.
FARAWAY PLAC ES: Films from remote countries that do not yet have broadly established cinema industries. These films often give us truly amazing windows on worlds we had never known before.
VIDEO TREASURY: Microreviews of selected, more obscure films made in 1995 or earlier that I think are terrific and have seen again recently, and also more obscure candidates for the Best of the Best - my candidates for the hypothetical top 200 films of all time. Films must have at least a B+ rating.
RECENT SLEEPERS: Reviews of some films made since 1995 that are not widely known but that I think are real gems. Must have at least a B rating.
BEST OF THE BEST:
All reviews and articles posted on this website are copyrighted by Roland Atkinson, 1999 through 2005, unless otherwise noted.
Many films are structured to build suspense or lead viewers to form premature (false) conclusions about how the story will evolve or mistaken judgments about the integrity of characters, by inserting pivotal events or crucial new information well into the story or near the end. Part of the art of film reviewing, I believe, is to find ways to discuss a film that convey its essential themes and qualities without giving away these secrets ("spoilers"). On the other hand, some films cannot be discussed meaningfully without considering spoiler information. So I have tried to steer a middle course: avoiding disclosure of spoilers when possible but including them when I feel you need to know about them to understand the film. When I include such information, I display the red highlighted warning, SPOILER ALERT!, at the beginning of the review.
I understand the pros and cons of declaring simple global film ratings or "grades." I agree that by doing so, one risks pandering to the questionable desire many people have for acquiring information on the cheap - in "bites" and "sidebars" - habits of our TV News/USA Today culture. Such oversimplifying can demean good films and viewers alike. And grades do have an arbitrary aspect. There might not be much difference in quality between a film I grade A- versus B+.
Nevertheless, I think there is some value in a reviewer laying on the line his or her global "take" on a film. Grades can be a healthy foil for equivocation. They tell the reader point blank where the writer stands. And there is a distinct difference between films I grade A versus B-. A grade of B- or better means I recommend the film to others.