Movies of the Week #6 (2023)

Kurz und Schmerzlos (1998): Fatih Akin’s feature debut is the kind of friendship/mafia movie that felt thematically relevant in the 90s and 00s. Three criminally inclined pals of differing origins in multi-culti Hamburg struggle to find a meaningful way through life, living on the edge of wrongdoing and love (how does that joke go, a Turk, a Greek and a Serb walk into a bar…?). I enjoyed the set-up very much, a pure 90s portrait that finds highs and lows in unexpected places, establishing actors that would leave a mark in future Akin movies. Unfortunately, the final third goes off the rails in a dramatic ending that’s expedited and features some sloppy cuts. As far as debuts go, this still managed to convey Fatih Akin’s promise as one of Germany’s interesting modern filmmakers, able to express themselves in mainstream stories that maintain relevance. 7

Kimi (2022): I find Soderbergh to be of a rare breed – the reliably solid, yet never spectacular directors. Sure, he’s got some really nice ones under his belt (Sex, Lies, and Videotape, No Sudden Move, Magic Mike), but most of the time it’s just…solid. Does that make any sense? Does anyone love Soderbergh, is what I think I’m asking? Well, regardless, Kimi is solid. Literally tracking a tech worker with agoraphobia (Zoë Kravitz), it’s a pandemic drama turned thriller after a potential crime is uncovered. I can’t say it excited me to have it shoehorned into some big tech conspiracy thing, but the parts in which the movie “acts small” I really liked. I even enjoyed the pay-off in the end. And, of course, I enjoyed watching Kravitz being Kravtiz (why didn’t we get more High Fidelity?!). 7

At Middleton (2013): This is a cute and not particularly ambitious story of two parents accompanying their teenage kids to a university open day. While they seem at odds initially, the uptight George and the effervescent Edith form a bond, ditch their kids and have life-affirming adventure on campus, which ends up just slightly garnished with some mid-life depression. In spite of its plainness, the movie thrives on the quality of its leads (Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga) and its good nature. I’ve sure been redeeming average movies thanks to acting performances recently, haven’t I? Anyway, it’s an easy, uncomplicated watch with a tinge of melancholy. 6

Devotion (2022): If you’re looking for a less exciting Top Gun, this is it. The parallels are plenty, as is the big tangent named Glen Powell, whose character here though is a really nice guy. Telling the story of Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors), a US aviator in the 1950s of impressive character, faced with the usual racial discrimination of the age, this is unfortunately a slow, slow movie, that only comes to life in the last half hour. Once the flying becomes more lively and the stakes are upped, Devotion becomes exciting, but the time sink to get there is a chore. 6

What’s Love Got to Do with It? (2022): I’m going to watch unpromising movies if they star Lily James, even if the trailer underwhelms severely. To be fair though, this is not a critically panned release, though it teeters on the brink. Zoe (LJ) is a documentary filmmaker who decides to transform her childhood friend’s wedding into her next subject – handy, because he’s of Pakistani heritage, born and raised in London, and willingly taking on an arranged marriage. This is not a new theme and it usually leads to some really trite and/or reductive analysis, although there have been some good recent releases that bend the trend (7 Days, The Big Sick, Meet the Patels). I’m not sure WLGtDwI can join this group, because it brings nothing new to the table, proposes some dubious characters and the leads have limited chemistry. Zoe is at least interesting enough and there are some good moments peppered throughout, but there’s a kind of “Western condescension” about the movie that it can’t avoid, even as it tries to be meta about it. Also, Emma Thompson in such a minimal role should be a crime! Aah, but I guess it’s an acceptable genre film overall. 6