Movies of the Week #4 (2023)

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (2021): Hamaguchi directed two big Japanese movies released 2021, this and the Oscar winner for best international picture, Drive My Car. For whatever reason, WoFaF came up first on my watchlist and so I indulged myself with the three kinda-romantic shorts about, as the trailer puts it, coincidence and imagination. All three stories are curiously fascinating, seemingly simple, but never trivial and it’s very easy to tap into them emotionally, in spite of their otherness. Strong performances emphasize the sensitive vibes that the movie sends out, making for a special one to enjoy. Also, immensely insightful and quotable. 8

Wildcat (2022): A documentary about an Afghanistan war veteran finding himself in the Peruvian jungle while bonding with a young ocelot (ah, Archer), Wildcat struck close to home. Well, I’m neither a war vet, nor in the jungle, but I do have a cat that’s zooming around this very second, which…is very similar? Okay, okay, it isn’t, but still, the bond between Harry and wildcat Keanu is relatable for anyone who has, as they say, had the chance to be owned by their cat. While the movie does tread some familiar themes, it finds light in the darkness of depression, it treats its subjects with caring and generosity and it makes for a beautiful refuge for the melancholic. 8

M3GAN (2022): Dolls are horrific, there’s little doubt about this. Technology is traumatizing. And Megan is at the intersection of the two, but if I were to choose one, it’s more techno-horror. After a young girl loses her parents, she ends up with her aunt, a young tech wiz who happened to have developed an AI powered robo-doll. Instead of taking on the parental role she was supposed to, said aunt delegates to Megan, who turns out to be way more than she was conceived to be. It makes for a taut movie, with strong visuals, that works well on a several levels. Even the tech logic is bearable, until the final act, where it starts serving the plot more than logic. Solid genre piece. 7

Guilty by Suspicion (1991): The dark era of communist repression in the US of the 1950s seems horrifying by today’s standards. Yet, it hasn’t really gotten a good shake up by the entertainment industry that fell so plum in its crosshairs at the time, presumably because it’s such a black and white issue. GbS features an impressive Robert De Niro performance (always a joy to see one of these for the first time), as his character’s life is torn apart for the slightest of indiscretions and he then has to decide where his morals lie. Unfortunately, that seems like a foregone conclusion, which makes a lot of the movie more procedural than it should be. If the topic interests you, The Front was a slightly more enticing story on the topic. 6

Across the Universe (2007): If you’re a Beatles fans, odds are that this Beatles-themed musical will be very enjoyable. I don’t count myself as a big fan, but it’s hard not to appreciate them -and, most unlikely, Across the Universe counts itself among my favourite Beatles songs (via Fiona Apple in Pleasantville). This movie is a bit all over the place, at times captivating and visually adventurous, at others bland and sappy. Once it focuses on the anti-war movement, I felt like it loses a tempo and never quite recovers. And I also felt that the it’s the kind of musical that tends to contort the film around its musical numbers. So at 137 minutes, that’s just overindulgent. 6