Friday, 30 August 2019

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Sharon Tate has been immortalised in countless movies. Sadly, however, they have almost always been about her death. The death shocked Hollywood but at the same time they looked to exploit it, and have been doing so for years with the most recent guilty party being the odious Wolves at the Door.

Once Upon a Time in America

Once Upon a Time in America is a film famous for its production issues as it is for its quality. Originally intended to be a six hour epic charting the lives of four Jewish gangsters, the American production company cut down Leone’s film to 139 minutes, and edited the film so the story was told chronologically. In contrast, the European cut was closer to four hours. Almost 100 minutes longer than the American version. As a result, the American cut was a failure whilst the European film was celebrated as a masterpiece.


A couple of times a year a horror film will become a critical hit with many of these critics trying to distance the film from the horror genre as horror is all boobs, blood and guts, and can never actually be about something because horror *scoff* doesn’t have depth. These snobs exist (even Mark Kermode, who loves horror, said it isn’t a horror film) because the genre is still seen as one level above porn, despite the fact that horror has proven to be brave and instrumental when tackling different themes.

The Dead Don't Die

Set in a real nice place, a small American town is noticing strange going-ons with the daylight hours being somewhat out of synch with the time of day. The TV says that the Earth has been knocked off its axis. This causes lots of issues, one of which brings the dead back to life. A small American town, and its deadpan residents, try to survive the carnage around them.

Men in Black: International

A family of three encounter a strange alien like creature in the kitchen of their family home in Brooklyn. The Men in Black shortly arrive on the scene to Neuralyse the family, but little do they know that the little girl was not asleep as her parents had said. She remembers every detail and has even met the alien. She would spend the next 20 (circa) years trying to find that mysterious agency. Eventually she does, and they are so impressed by her resourcefulness and determination they hire her and send her off to London where it’s soon discovered that there is a mole in the agency.


I’ve never really liked high school movies, mostly because they never really reflected my experiences of high school. They were either too party fuelled or too traumatic. There’s seemed to be very little that reflected a story of someone who sort of ghosted through high school, neither revered or abused nor interested in the things that most teens are. The issue mostly lies in the fact it depicts an unrealistic life, suggesting that life should have been like that and you’ve wasted the opportunity if it wasn’t.

Films like Eighth Grade are a step in the right direction with grounded realism about high school life, it’s almost staggering that this was written a man in his 30s. Booksmart is closer to Superbad than it is Eighth Grade as it combines the grounded realism of a solid, engaging female friendship with the exaggerated depiction of high school life and the people who are going through it with you. The supporting characters and their antics are by far a step apart from the high school life I lived (perhaps its changed since I last went). All the supporting characters are exaggerated and entertaining characterisations of the people you may find in high school, from the drama student to the more sexually experienced. It’s all fun to watch, but sometimes they don’t feel like real people, but the film manages to make some of their stories work.

Of course, they were never really the focus as it was very much on the central paring of Molly and Amy (played by Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever respectively) whose friendship is the central core of the movie. Their friendship is engaging and Beanie Feldstein’s and Kaitlyn Dever’s chemistry is wonderful as they talk openly about a lot of women’s issues (and frank talk of masturbation), making this female perspective (Booksmart is directed by Olivia Wilde) of a male dominated genre rather refreshing.

Booksmart is a film about not judging on appearance, just because a girl likes giving hand jobs doesn’t mean she won’t get into Harvard (admittedly her fifth choice). Other students, seemingly slackers, have also found themselves at prestigious schools or have found employment at Google. All well and good, but the film never looks at the true reason why these wealthy, attractive teens almost have the chance to hand pick their university. Privilege is the true reason. Students in a school in inner city LA aren’t going to get the same opportunities and for film that is supposedly ‘woke’ this is a blind spot and a wasted opportunity that’s being ignored by others who would normally be up in arms about this injustice.

Granted we have two characters (the so called 1%) who use their wealth to buy people’s friendship but for every other student the movie is so out of kilter with the current public discourse it just feels out of touch with the current climate on the issues. The kids at this fictional high school didn’t work hard like some, more impoverished students would have to have done as it was most likely handed to them on a silver platter (likely by a maid or butler or something) but the film is too busy stressing appearances and person’s personality isn’t always an indicator of intelligence to focus on how lucky each of these students are.

Credit to Olivia Wilde as her directing debut has clearly been a rousing success with the film clearly finding a passionate fan base. The mix between realism and the fantastical (the stop motion animation scene) shows a director with vision even if the latter didn’t appeal to me (I stopped finding genital free action figures funny when I was 7). However, the film’s mix between relatability and impossible fantasy makes it feel indecisive at how it wants to come across. Recent films like Eighth Grade and Lady Bird have had left far more of an impression on me.



Diego Maradona marks the second time that director Asif Kapadia looks at a volatile South American sportsman who dominated the sport they dedicated their lives to. With football being a bigger sport, Maradona is perhaps a bigger name than Senna. His status as one of the best players in the sport’s history is felt in the city of Naples where he was seen as a king or perhaps even a god. He was an incredibly gifted footballer whose immense talent helped Napoli win their first Italian league title. The film captures the ecstasy and importance this league title and Maradona gave to the city of Naples. The passion of the supporters may seem crazy and extreme to the uninitiated, but football has that power in cities with strong working class roots.