Film Review: In Tarantino’s latest,
a radiant Hollywood fable
shows Leonardo DiCaprio in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in
Hollywood.” (Andrew Cooper/Sony-Columbia Pictures via AP)
Los Angeles (AP) -
Quentin Tarantino has, for a while now, been reminding us what’s so great
about movies — or at least, what he thinks is so great about them.
He’s made an old-fashioned
double-feature (“Death Proof,” of “Grindhouse”), resurrected the wide-screen
format of 70mm Ultra Panavision (“The Hateful Eight”) and generally presided
as the pre-eminent B-movie evangelist for a generation. The power and thrill
of exploitation movies, he has earnestly espoused, can conquer all evils —
or at least slavery (“Django Unchained”) and the Nazis (“Inglourious
But “Once Upon a Time ... in
Hollywood,” set in 1969 Los Angeles, is Tarantino’s most affectionate and
poignant ode yet to the movie business. It’s a breezy, woozy Hollywood fable
that luxuriates in the simple pleasures of the movies and the colorful swirl
of the Dream Factory’s backlot. Some pleasures are nostalgic, and some —
like driving down Sunset Boulevard or martinis at Musso & Frank — are
Here, movie love feels contagious, like
something in the air. In one of the film’s best scenes, Margot Robbie’s
Sharon Tate explains at a theater’s ticket office that she’s in the movie,
the newly released caper “The Wrecking Crew,” (“I’m the klutz!” she says
cheerfully). Inside, she giggles with delight at seeing herself on the big
screen, giddily mimicking her character’s martial-arts moves and watching to
see if the audience laughs at one of her lines. (They do.)
The pleasures in “Once Upon a Time” are
also ours. Tarantino has lowered his typically feverish temperature to a
warming simmer, bathing us in the golden California light and the movie-star
glow of his leading men, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. They spend copious
amounts of time driving through the Hollywood Hills in a creamy Coupe de
Ville, riding along like Butch and Sundance and just as nice to look at.
DiCaprio is Rick Dalton, a Burt
Reynolds-type actor of TV Westerns (his claim to fame is the ’50s hit
“Bounty Law”) whose career is stalling. Pitt is Cliff Booth, his stunt
double and best friend, a war veteran with a bad reputation but a friendly,
relaxed manner. They have a natural, easy rapport, with Booth doubling as a
drinking buddy and support system for Dalton, who’s increasingly anxious
about his typecast future. (Al Pacino, as his agent, urges him to head to
Italy for a spaghetti Western.)
In DiCaprio’s finest sequence, he chats
between takes on a Western called “Lancer” with a frightfully serious Method
Acting 8-year-old co-star (Julia Butters) before forgetting his lines. After
a bout of self-loathing in his trailer, he returns and nails the scene.
DiCaprio, a preternaturally self-possessed actor himself, captures the whole
When word got out that Tarantino’s
latest film would take place around the Manson murders, it was easy to
wonder what genre mayhem the director would bring to this epochal moment. We
know what carnage resulted when Zed was dead, so what did Tarantino have in
store for the demise of the ’60s?
It’s not that “Once Upon a Time ... in
Hollywood” doesn’t revolve around that grisly tragedy. It looms always in
the background, and eventually in the foreground, too, after Booth picks up
a hitchhiker (Margaret Qualley) who leads him to the Manson compound at
Spahn Ranch, the former production site of TV and film Westerns where
Manson’s mostly female acolytes emerge and Booth goes to check on the owner,
an old friend, George Spahn (Bruce Dern). Dalton and Booth are fictional
concoctions surrounded by real people, including their neighbors: Tate and
her husband, Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha).
By the film’s climax, blood will spill
and movie-made historical revisionism will have its day. But I suspect a lot
of Tarantino fans will be taken by surprise at the film’s leisurely pace,
set more to a (and this a good thing) “Jackie Brown” speed. As in that film,
Tarantino isn’t purely living in an over-the-top movie fantasy world, but
one teetering intriguingly between dream and reality. The dialogue and
action has slowed down enough to allow a little wistfulness and melancholy
to creep in.
At times, his path is a little wayward
and prone to digressions. Tarantino feels perilously close to simply turning
his movie into several of Dalton’s, so eager is he (like the Coens were in
“Hail, Caesar!”) to lovingly adopt those period styles. But usually, the
detours are hard to resist. In one, Booth ends up in a fight with Bruce Lee
(Mike Moh) on the set of “The Green Hornet.”
And if you’re going to make a movie
that celebrates what’s grand about Hollywood, it helps to have Brad Pitt in
it. The chemistry between him and DiCaprio, together for the first time, is
a delight; I would gladly watch them drive around lacquered, golden-hour Los
Angeles, with cinematographer Robert Richardson trailing them, for longer
than the already lengthy running time of “Once Upon a Time ... in
Pitt, in particular, appears so utterly
self-possessed. It’s a swaggering grade-A movie star performance in a movie
that celebrates all that movie stars can accomplish — which, for Tarantino,
is anything. That the youthful, exuberant Tate was robbed of that potential
is one of the wrongs Tarantino is righting here. But his fairy tale also
swells with an even larger and optimistic vision. For today’s doomsayers of
movies, which are seen by some as a less potent art form, “Once Upon a Time
... in Hollywood” imagines an apocalypse denied. Tate, and the movies, will
“Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood,” a
Sony Pictures release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of
America for language throughout, some strong graphic violence, drug use, and
sexual references. Running time: 161 minutes. Three and a half stars out of
Justin Bieber opens up about his steep fall from grace
Bieber is shown in this Nov. 22, 2015 file photo. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
New York (AP) —
Justin Bieber is opening up about a string of “bad decisions” that led him
to go from being a beloved teen performer to “the most ridiculed, judged and
hated person in the world.”
In a very personal and introspective
Instagram post, the pop star examines how childhood fame led to depression,
lack of responsibility, “doing pretty heavy drugs” and becoming
disrespectful to women. At age 18, he had “millions in the bank” but “no
skills in the real world.”
Now 25, Bieber credited the support of
friends, his Christian faith and his marriage with helping turn his life
He wrote: “It’s taken me years to
bounce back from all of these terrible decisions, fix broken relationships,
and change relationship habits.”
Department of Fine Arts to display China’s terracotta warriors
Terracotta Warriors will be on display in Bangkok from Sept. 15 – Dec. 15.
(Photo Peter Morgan/Wikipedia)
The Department of Fine Arts putting
China’s Terracotta Warriors on display at the Sivamok Phiman Throne Hall in
the Bangkok National Museum for the next three months.
The exhibition, titled “Qin Shi Huang:
The First Emperor of China and the Terracotta Warriors”, also features a
collection of 133 relics that are over 2,200 years old. Visitors will see
four life-sized terracotta warriors, one chariot and 86 relics found in a
mausoleum in China. The exhibition is divided into zones, such as the period
before the unification of China in 221 BC; the Qin dynasty and the Han
dynasty. Furthermore, visitors will learn more about China’s ancient
engineering skills and technology.
The exhibition is open 9am – 4pm,
Wednesday through Sunday from September 15 to December 15. Admission tickets
are priced at THB30 for Thai nationals and THB200 for foreigners. For more
information, call 02-224-1402 or 02-224-1333.
Film Review : ‘Angel Has Fallen’ and so has the franchise
image shows Gerard Butler (left) and Morgan Freeman in a scene from the
film “Angel Has Fallen”. (Jack English/Lionsgate via AP)
Los Angeles (AP) -
There is a certain mindless pleasure in the “Fallen” movies. Watching
Gerard Butler muscle his way through increasingly preposterous obstacles
as a Secret Service agent can be amusing and oddly transfixing at the
same time. It’s mass entertainment that makes a courtesy stop in
theaters before ascending to its true calling: Endless cable reruns.
But whatever this franchise got
away with in “Olympus Has Fallen” and then, miraculously, in the totally
unnecessary and very unintentionally silly sequel “London Has Fallen,”
it’s clear that the well has run dry on this idea and character. Butler
and the filmmakers sleepwalk their way through “Angel Has Fallen,” the
third, and hopefully last, visit with agent Mike Banning. This time, the
powers that be have decided to make Banning a fugitive. He’s on the run
after being falsely accused of orchestrating an assassination attempt on
U.S. President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) that kills 18 Secret Service
Agents and leaves the commander in chief in a coma.
There is a dizzying amount of plot
thrown at “Angel Has Fallen.” Banning has a toddler daughter with wife
Leah (Piper Perabo, subbing in for Radha Mitchell in the thankless
“worried wife” role) and he’s considering scaling back from dangerous
field work for the sake of his family and his own health after too many
concussions on the job. The Oval Office is having issues with someone
leaking false information to the press, not to mention the looming
threat of Russia who we’re told meddled in a recent election in the
“Fallen” world. And then there’s the private contractors, like Banning’s
old military friend Wade Jennings (Danny Huston), who are longing for
the good old days of lucrative wars and government contracts. Oh and
Nick Nolte, playing Banning’s estranged father Clay, is living off the
grid in the woods and having some regrets about leaving his wife and
young child some years ago.
These threads are all thrown
together in this kitchen sink of a movie that is unforgivably dull for
having so much going on at all times — and I haven’t even had the
opportunity or reason to mention that this film also has Tim Blake
Nelson playing the vice president and Jada Pinkett Smith as the FBI
agent who is leading the hunt for Banning. It’s too much and too little
at the same time and neither absurd nor exciting enough to maintain an
audience’s interest for two hours.
Nolte is the only real saving grace
as the wild-eyed and paranoid Vietnam veteran living in his little
bunker in the West Virginia woods. He’s the only one having fun with
this material, but even so gets unceremoniously demoted for the final
set-piece (although he does pop up again in a bizarre and kind of funny
post-credits scene that has more spirit in two minutes than the entirety
of “Angel Has Fallen”). Everyone else is either too serious or too bored
or some joy-killing combination of the two.
Directing this time is Ric Roman
Waugh, a stuntman and actor turned director whose most high-profile
outing in that capacity was the 2013 Dwayne Johnson vehicle “Snitch.” He
also shares script credit with Matt Cook (“Patriots Day”) and veteran
Robert Mark Kamen (“Taps,” ‘’The Karate Kid”). But this movie has none
of the personality that you would expect from those filmmakers. The
action itself feels oddly low budget and claustrophobic. Quick shots of
a semi truck’s headlights and a gloved finger pulling a trigger are
ineffectively used to create suspense too many times. And for all its
hot topics, “Angel Has Fallen” doesn’t have much to say about military
veterans, Russian interference or the lifetime effects of brain trauma.
It just plops those buzz word concepts into the movie and moves on to
the next shootout.
It might still be passable for
cable, but this series has sadly fallen into unwatchable territory.
“Angel Has Fallen,” a Lionsgate
release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for
“violence and language throughout.” Running time: 120 minutes. One star
out of four.
India’s ‘patriotism pop’ songs urge
Hindus to claim Kashmir
A screenshot shows a patriotic music video
on YouTube that appeared after India’s Hindu-led nationalist government
revoked the statehood of Kashmir on Aug. 5. (YouTube via AP)
New Delhi (AP) —
The music videos began appearing on social media within hours of the
announcement by India’s Hindu nationalist-led government that it was
stripping statehood from the disputed region of Kashmir that had been in
place for decades.
The songs delivered a message to
India’s 250 million YouTube users about moving to the Muslim-majority
region, buying land there and marrying Kashmiri women.
It’s the latest example of a
growing genre in India known as “patriotism pop” — songs flooding social
media about nationalism and the country’s burgeoning right-wing
Earlier songs were limited to the
rise of Hindus in India, defeating regional rival Pakistan and hoisting
the Indian flag in every household. Now, they include settling in
Kashmir — a rugged and beautiful Himalayan region claimed by both
Pakistan and India, although both countries control only a portion of
On Aug. 5, Prime Minister Narendra
Modi revoked Kashmir’s decades-old special status that was guaranteed
under Article 370 of India’s Constitution and sent thousands of troops
to the region. The move has touched off anger in the Indian-controlled
region, which has been under a security lockdown that has seen thousands
detained to prevent protests there.
One of Modi’s revisions allows
anyone to buy land in the territory, which some Kashmiris fear could
mean an influx of Hindus who would change the region’s culture and
demographics. Critics have likened it to Israeli settlements in
The patriotic songs are mostly
shared on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and the fast-growing app
TikTok, which in June had about 120 million active users in India.
Despite their low production values, poorly matched lip-synching and
repetitive techno beat, many of these soundtracks have gotten millions
of hits on YouTube.
The songs are a hit among youthful
followers in northern and eastern parts of India, and their creators
don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.
Nitesh Singh Nirmal identifies
himself as a producer, songwriter and composer for his Rang Music
studios in the eastern state of Bihar. A Modi admirer, Nirmal claims to
be the first to produce a soundtrack on the revocation of Kashmir’s
statehood, completing it in three hours.
The song, “Dhara 370,” or “Article
370,” starts with visuals of an Indian flag fluttering atop New Delhi’s
famous Red Fort, followed by old footage of Modi from a previous
Independence Day ceremony. The singer thanks Modi and his government for
keeping his promise to remove Article 370 from the constitution. The
video then cuts to the map of Kashmir, along with words that roughly
translate to how Pakistan has lost to India.
The song has gotten more than 1.6
million hits on YouTube since it was posted there by Nirmal, who has no
musical background. He said he only found his calling when Modi’s
Bharatiya Janata Party resoundingly won the 2014 election.
That’s when Nirmal thought he could
write songs about nationalism.
“I am doing service for the nation.
People dance to these songs,” he says.
The rising appeal for songs that
promote nationalism and talk about reclaiming Kashmir have paved the way
for lesser-known artists to join in.
Salman Siddiqui, who is in his 20s
and studies science in the state of Uttar Pradesh, wanted to showcase
his musical writing prowess and contacted Nirmal. They collaborated on a
song about a man who is seeking a Kashmiri bride and wants to be the
first to have a wedding procession that travels from India to the
Nirmal and Siddiqui insist the
songs are not sexist.
“It’s the desire of a young man’s
heart to marry a Kashmiri woman,” Siddiqui says.
The idea was boosted Aug. 6 by
lawmaker Vikram Saini, who told members of his Bharatiya Janata Party
“eager to get married” to go to Kashmir, adding that his party has “no
problem with it.”
Critics say the idea of marrying
Kashmiri women to “reclaim” the region is rooted in a patriarchy that
objectifies and dehumanizes Kashmiris.
Political anthropologist Ather Zia
calls this a “fetishization in the Indian imagination.”
Such songs are a “culmination of a
toxic misogynistic nationalist thinking that draws validation from
humiliating Kashmiri women,” Zia said.