A genre that has been skyrocketing in popularity in the past year is science fiction, evident in the steady rise of television shows, films and programs available through online-streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime: Blade Runner 2049, Bright, The Lure, The Void, Altered Carbon, Legion and The Handmaid’s Tale are just a number of titles released in the past year that come to mind.
For this year’s run of the Newport Beach Film Festival, there isn’t a specialized sci-fi showcase, per se, but there’s still an interesting array of fantastical films that bring some otherworldly storylines to the big screen. While we can only hope for a sci-fi-specific series in the future, there’s still plenty of visionary, out-of-this-world flicks that consistently prove how bold and exciting NBFF’s programming is every year. Clear your schedules for these mind-bending, surreal flicks.
3ft Ball and Souls. As the Japanese Spotlight film part of the Pacific Rim Showcase, this spellbinder by Yoshio Kato focuses on four strangers who met through a suicide-centric internet chat room called Life Club (um, ironic). They decide to meet up to fulfill their fatal wishes through an orb-shaped explosive triggered by a detonator and located in a cabin in a remote forest. But instead of going off when detonated, they’re cast in a Groundhog Day-like scenario in which they’re sent back in time to moments just before the explosion happens. Is this supernatural intervention a new chance at life, or is it another hell to escape from?
Wife and Husband. For the Italian Spotlight flick, this Freaky Friday-esque comedy drama surrounds a neurosurgeon and his television-host wife who are going through marital struggles. The husband, who has been experimenting with a mind-altering device, hooks himself and his wife up to his machine to hopefully give each other some perspective into the other’s mind, but he accidentally switches their identities entirely. As they try to maintain appearances and carry on each other’s lives, they learn some deeper secrets about the other that puts their entire relationship in a tailspin.
The Ranger. From director Jenn Wexler comes this horror thriller reminiscent of drive-in Grindhouse movies and espousing a clear love for ’80s campy horror. A group of young punks commit some lowbrow crimes in their town and retreat to the forest to throw off police on their trail. While they relax, let their guard down and take copious hallucinogenics, they unwittingly make themselves vulnerable to a mad, ax-wielding forest ranger who recognizes one of them from years before and who decides to get his revenge.
Another Time. In this romantic drama, a young, successful man falls for a young woman who is already engaged to someone else. Unable to cope with the heartbreak, he decides to invest all his money with an inventor who claims he can build a time-traveling device, which the young man plans to use to go back in time to meet his beloved before she meets her current boyfriend. Along the way, he’s faced with having to make more life-altering decisions than he expected.
Closer Than We Think. Jet packs! Flying cars! Robot butlers! Television watches! The vision for the future our society has collectively constructed over the past half-century is partly because of the burst of postwar futurism that radiated through pop culture and the work of artist Arthur Radebaugh. This doc analyzes the illustrations, advertisements and “Closer Than We Think” comics by Radebaugh, as well as how they drew our optimistic expectations toward a futuristic utopia.
Kusama: Infinity. The life and art of Yayoi Kusama has always been beyond anything ordinary, as the Japanese artist’s famed installations bring joy and wonder to all those who visit them. Kusama has been an active artist since the ’60s pop art movement, and since the 1970s, she has been voluntarily living and producing work from a Japanese mental institution. This film is a wonderful look at the life and struggles of Kusama and how she turned her hallucinations and mental issues into bold, reality-escaping art.
American Animals. This opening-night feature seems extraordinary just by its experimental storytelling methods, which shakes up the usual based-on-a-true-story thriller. Four young men attempt to steal one of the most valuable art books in the United States from their university library. Documentary and narrative are juxtaposed to give context to each friend’s motivations, and through their individual perspectives, each one starts to question the purpose of fulfilling the heist. It stars American Horror Story’s Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan and Udo Kier.
A Day. This Korean Spotlight film is a dark thriller wherein a doctor returns from a procedure abroad and comes across a deadly accident scene, realizing that his young daughter is one of the victims. His horror turns to suspense as he begins to relive the day over and over again, hoping to change the outcome of the day’s tragic events.
For more information on screenings, show times and tickets, go to www.newportbeachfilmfest.com.
Aimee Murillo is calendar editor and frequently covers the Orange County DIY music scene, film, arts, Latino culture and currently pens the long-running column Trendzilla. Born, raised, and based in Santa Ana, she loves bad movies, punk shows, raising her plants, eating tacos, Selena, and puns.