Movies of the Week #16 (2023)

Donnie Darko (2001): Back to a classic Easter movie, Donnie Darko never ceases to amaze me (and it’s not the first time I’m reviewing it). Richard Kelly’s visionary movie keeps staying relevant, both in familiar and new ways, every time I watch it. This time around I kept focusing on Jim Cunningham, the (con)man with all the big answers to life, who galvanizes people to such a degree, that even after he is found to have committed a heinous crime, his followers would rather see a conspiracy theory than the truth. Crazy eighties, huh? Also, I hadn’t really looked at the spiritual crossroad that the movie and, by extension, the US found itself at, a true crisis of faith entangled in censorship and politics, that stretches to this day. One of Donnie’s final lines, “tell your parents it’s all going to be OK” emphasizes that beyond everything else, we as a society are always faced with a generational conflict, stemming from the fear of change and the newness it brings. And talking of newness, what really brought me back to the movie, was the recently released MUBI podcast about it, which I also recommend, particularly if you’ve seen this one already. And if you haven’t…come on already! 9

Air (2023): The story of how Nike became a major player in the market for basketball shoes, while also extending its burgeoning empire, is pacey and entertaining. Starring some really big hitters, like Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman and Viola Davis, it has all the kind of drama you’d expect from this genre, with impassioned speeches and zippy one-liners coming on the backdrop of some of the greatest hits of the 1980s – I’m actually not sure the machinegun style of chaining said hits does the movie favours, but it sure flavours it distinctively. It’s an insightful business movie as well, which mainly suffers because its foregone conclusion cannot always sustain the drama. That aside, a solid cinema outing. 7

Red Rock West (1993): Starring some big 90s actors (Nick Cage, Dennis Hopper, Lara Flynn Boyle, JT Walsh), this movie is an unusual caper, willing to take unexpected turns and stick to its self-righteous guns. Cage plays a down-on-his-luck but staunch character, who stumbles into a criminal situation while looking for a job. As his integrity falters, the movie pulls no punches in punishing his waywardness in entertaining ways. Taking its time and building towards a satisfying finale, John Dahl’s movie is an all around solid genre flick. As an aside, one of the things that struck me after watching RRW is finding out that JT Walsh passed away twenty five years ago – such a familiar face of the 90s, that as soon as I saw him I tried to recollect what he looked like today. 7

Tetris (2023): Hard to believe there was so much politics at stake in the Tetris origin story. Following Henk Rogers, an entrepreneur and publisher trying to secure the rights to the seminal game, this true story doesn’t really feel very true. The business parts of it are rather interesting and provide some excitement, but the political thriller aspects are tiresome at best. Nonetheless, the movie is fairly enjoyable and will make a slow evening pass quicker, but it’s ultimately much too serious for its own good, failing to find a unifying tone. 6

Rien à foutre (2021): A small drama/comedy (lol) about a flight-attendant at a low-cost airline, this movie offers some sad, if thoroughly expected insights into the business. Cassandre (Adèle Exarchopoulos) is a free spirit, enjoying the life and pushing the limits while still processing the passing of her mother – if not actively avoiding just that. There is humor in Raf, for sure, but it’s not the ha-ha kind, but rather a comedy of the absurd which we helplessly allow into our daily lives. Not always the most exciting story, the movie stands out on the strength of Exarchopulos’s restrained performance and the gentleness it reveals in its harsher moments. 7