Fun Diversion – Kevin James’ Sound Guy videos

Happy yet another ‘what day is it’ friends! Hope you’re all coping as well as you could during this quarantine/lockdown/shelter-in-place or whatever else it’s called. Sounds like there is light at the end of the tunnel… as more places like malls, restaurants, etc. have opened even at half capacity. I’m waiting with bated breath for salons to finally open!!!

Now, I normally don’t post about YouTube channels… this is still primarily a film blog, but I’ve actually been wanting to post about Kevin James as Sound Guy videos since I discovered it about a month ago!

Ryan Gosling Won’t Give Me A Soundcheck

It was actually my husband who showed it to me and I thought it was hilarious!! Though I haven’t seen all of his movies (I’ve only seen trailers of the Paul Blart movies), I do think Kevin James is funny, I mean he’s so much more fun to watch in Hitch than Will Smith.

If you check out his YT channel, the Star Wars Sound Guy video debuted in mid February, and he’s got a new one up every week or two since. It’s such a brilliant idea for a serialized short and the possibilities are endless! They did such a nice job editing it that made it look seamless!

The SW video where Sound Guy discovers the truth that Darth Vader is Luke’s father is the perfect one to start with, and as many fans know, it’s probably what happened. It’s no secret anymore that the crucial bit of info about Vader’s real identity was kept confidential only between George Lucas, James Earl Jones, and Mark Hamill, so it’s very likely that the real sound guy would have reacted the same way he did, ha!

My favorite has got to be this one from The Notebook! I’ve watched it countless times and LOL-ed every single time!

This one with the crazy shoot-out is pretty hilarious as well… especially since Kevin worked with Will Smith in HITCH and the comedian’s performance was easily one of my fave parts about that rom-com.

Now, the editing of this one is incredible!! It looks absolutely realistic and seamless, I mean the cinematography, lighting work here that matched the real film is amazing. Love the moment where the Sound Guy sang into the boom mic, priceless!!

I think if you go to his channel now, there are more fun videos of the Sound Guy adventure in famous movie scenes, ha!


Have you seen these vids? Which other movies do you want to see the Sound Guy do next?

 

Musings on what’s happening in Minneapolis + the Tulsa Massacre scene in Watchmen

Unless you live under a rock or been living in another planet, you’re likely aware of the chaos and unrest that’s been happening in Minnesota… particularly in Minneapolis.

I was ready to post a review of The Trip To Greece, which I had finished last Wednesday, but honestly… I didn’t feel right posting about such a movie when all I could think about was the police brutality that led to George Floyd’s untimely death on Memorial Day. Though I’ve lived in Minnesota since the early 90s, I have never lived in Minneapolis. I live in the southern suburbs about a half an hour away, but I visit the city often on weekends. It’s so heartbreaking to see parts of the city burn, vandalized and people getting hurt… seeing the devastations that started out as peaceful protests. This past week was filled with protests, looting, rioting, etc. that caused so much chaos and destructions that stretch for miles, not just affecting the neighborhoods where Mr. Floyd lost his life, but other neighborhoods as well. Hundreds of National Guard soldiers were mobilized (even Star Tribune paper said if more were needed, it would be the first full mobilization of the Guard in Minnesota since World War II! – that certainly made me pause), and curfews were enforced from 8pm-6am in many areas in and around the city.

George Floyd mural on a wall of Cup Foods at 38th & Chicago, Minneapolis

Race relations in my adopted country United States is often in shaky grounds… it’s even more pronounced in the events of police brutality towards black men and justice was not served properly (i.e. in the case of Philando Castile where the officer who shot him was acquitted) Now, I don’t want to get political or philosophical about this matter, but I’m offering a brief commentary here as a person of color living in America. Coming from Indonesia, a country that was colonized by the Dutch for over three centuries that left its dark legacy of colonialism, it’s hard to overlook the fact that racial prejudice and superior mentality do exist and passed down through generations. Even amongst the most well-meaning, progressive-minded people, many are still ignorant of the pain certain groups have endured for generations, myself included. Thus I do believe it’s important to empathize with people who come from different backgrounds, no matter what race, but especially those who are minorities and marginalized… as we are all human beings created in the image of God. What happened to Mr. Floyd is wrong and he and his family deserve justice.

Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of Facebook and I avoid being on social media for much of this weekend. But I did come across an article in the Star Tribune that’s eye-opening and heartbreaking… a violent demonstration happened in Minneapolis Field neighborhood in July, 1931, where thousands of white people protested against an African-American couple moving in to the all-white neighborhood.

“More than 3,000 persons assembled outside the home, occupied by A.A. Lee and his family, to hurl defiance at the police and openly threaten Lee and his friends.”

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised about such blatant racism existed back then… but reading that still shocked me. It’s even more sad that this kind of systemic racism still goes on today and in many cities in America.

Another historical incident I did not know about was the Tulsa Massacre, which ironically happens exactly 99 years ago today as I’m writing this, May 31 of 1921. It lasted for 18 hours until June 1st, the following day, where 300 people, mostly blacks, were killed.

I only knew about this event when I saw the explosive opening scene of the first episode of HBO’s Watchmen. The clip on youtube was labeled as ‘riots’ but it was definitely more of a massacre by an angry white mob.

Per Indiewire, this incident highly influenced the series, as Watchmen‘s show runner Damon Lindelof was inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2014 article The Case for Reparations about the the Tulsa Massacre and destruction of the Greenwood District — aka “Black Wall Street,” the wealthiest black community in the U.S. at the time. I know many fans of the graphic novels are not keen on Lindelof’s reimagining of writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons’s original creation, calling it ‘woke propaganda.’ I did not read the graphic novels, but I always think the story has always been political, even if the novel was perhaps more nuanced and complex than how the HBO show depicts it.

I’m actually glad when a movie/show gives me a brief history lesson so to speak, as I promptly googled the Tulsa massacre after watching it. Since I wasn’t raised here in the US and wasn’t taught American history in high school, I never knew this event ever took place. I thought initially this was a fictitious event in the show that depicts an alternate history. But as it turns out, many Americans didn’t know this was a real event, either. No wonder there was apparently a surge in Google search about that incident following the pilot.

According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, that event was marked as the single worst incident of racial violence in American history. This article in LA Times said attempts were made to cover up the events in the aftermath of the killings, and it took decades for historians and state officials to unearth the history. I think erasing history is just as atrocious as the actual historical event itself.

Now, I happen to think the show is outstanding in terms of its emotional quotient, acting (esp. Regina King‘s performance), production quality, and entertainment value. Hopefully one day I get a chance to do a proper post on it, but at the same time I feel ill-equipped to review the show. The racial issues depicted in the show seems so eerily similar to what’s going on in America today. In fact, having finished season one just days before Memorial weekend, that horrifying opening scene is still fresh in my mind.

So, back to the story about George Floyd, I sure hope this horrific incident would not become lost in the future like the Tulsa massacre. It’s heartbreaking that such a dark history was nearly obliterated… how can the new generation learn from past mistakes if they are shielded from the truth? Thankfully, it seems that the world has taken notice about this case, and street protests have spread globally to other parts of the world… London, Berlin and Toronto. In an usual move, even major Hollywood companies like Netflix, Amazon, Disney, Warner Bros, HBO, etc. voice their support for Black Lives Matter movement using their corporate social media accounts.

Now, for those of you from out of state/country who are watching only the devastation and horrible things coming out of Minneapolis lately, I’d like to end this post with this FB post by a Minnesota filmmaker that highlights just what’s going on today…

The protests are still going on and the city is not quite out of the woods yet, but I love how the community comes together and show that they care for one another. My hubby and I dropped off supplies earlier today at a local Food Pantry an hour before the drop off location closed and there were lines of cars trying to donate as well.

My heart is still heavy over what’s happening this week, but I pray that Minneapolis and the surrounding community will see light at the end of this dark tunnel… for peace, reconciliation and harmony, no matter how insurmountable all those things seem to be right now.


For my friends in the Twin Cities, stay safe and be safe.

 

Happy Star Wars Day! My first experience at SW: Galaxy’s Edge

Hello everyone!! Happy Star Wars Day! Well, I was looking at some pictures on my camera and it dawned on me that I haven’t shared my experience going to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge back in March, which I mentioned here.

It seems like a lifetime ago when we were still in LBC (Life Before Corona). It’s crazy really, my hubby and I were in Disney World Florida in the first few days of March, and at the time there was only a few ‘known’ cases in California and life was pretty much normal everywhere, as Disney’s Hollywood Studios was still packed! In fact, we arrived at the park gate by 7:00am and there was already at least a thousand of people in line waiting to get in! And this was supposed to be a low-crowd day according to several blogs dedicated to Disney World.

The looooong line in front of Galaxy’s Edge entrance

They actually allowed us in about 30 minutes before the Park was supposed to open at 8am. By 7:35, we were waiting by the main entrance to Galaxy’s Edge, the most popular area of the Hollywood Studios Park, along with a throng of people. Right at 8AM, we used the My Disney Experience App to get into a virtual queue to get on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. It’s truly the pièce de résistance of Galaxy’s Edge, and that’s the only way to get in instead of using the regular FastPass and/or standby lines.

Well, we thought initially we weren’t going to be able to get on the ride at all… more on that later. But first, let me tell you about our experience riding…

The Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run

One thing we wish we had done weeks prior was to get a FastPass for the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run ride. Somehow I mistakenly thought there wouldn’t be a huge line to get in as everyone was going to the Ride of the Resistance. Oh well, we had to wait about 90 minutes or so, which wasn’t too bad considering we waited for twice as long to get into Avatar’s Flight of Passage the day before!

I was giddy like a school girl even just waiting in line to get into the ride! Disney did a good job entertaining us even as we’re queueing up, as there’s plenty of fun props to gawk at. It’s also quite fun seeing the excitement of people’s faces, especially kids, as they’re about to get on the ride. We loved this ride so much we ended up going twice in one day!

Once we’re done with our first ride on the Millennium Falcon, we took a stroll around the area which is set in the planet Batuu. The park isn’t really that big, but what it lacks in size, it made up in the production design and attention to detail which really immerses you in the experience! The marketplace, which is designed like a Middle Eastern bazaar, which consist not just a myriad of merchandise (like Baby Yoda stuffed toys), but also a ‘pet’ shop filled with some really strange creatures!

One of the most fun parts of Galaxy’s Edge of course is just being at the park and watching/interacting with Star Wars characters who’d show up at random, most notably Kylo with the Storm Troopers, Rey & BB8 and Chewie. They don’t allow people to dress up as SW characters except for young kids.

I didn’t really spend much time in the areas where you can build your own droid or lightsaber (those places are packed w/ kids and adults alike), but I’m glad we got into this popular bar at Planet Batuu…

Oga’s Cantina

We were pretty thirsty by then, thankfully, there were only a dozen people in line in front of us. The cantina’s attendant told us it’s standing-room only since we didn’t make a reservation beforehand, then a few minutes later he escorted us inside. I love the atmosphere of the cantina, inspired by the one in 1977 Star Wars movie.

Oga’s is inspired by the 1977 Star Wars cantina scene. There’s a wisecracking droid DJ right above where we were standing, apparently voiced by Paul Reubens aka Pee-Wee Herman. But of course, the main feature of the place is the cocktails!

The menu, as you can expect, is quite pricey! If you’re into collecting souvenirs, one drink called Yub Nub comes with a souvenir Endor mug, but that’ll set you back $48!

My hubby settled for the most popular drink, the Fuzzy Tauntaun – peach vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice with tangerine, pure cane sugar, and “buzzz” foam (that makes your tongue numb for a while) which cost $16.00 Since I don’t like alcohol, I went with Jabba Juice, a non-alcoholic drink with Orange juice, Pineapple, Kiwi, Cantaloupe, and Blueberry Popping Pearls. It’s only $8.50 and it’s quite yummy!

Now we finally got to the main event…

The Rise of the Resistance

As I mentioned before, we thought initially we wouldn’t be able to get into the ride at all. The boarding group number we got was 85, which was considered the ‘backup’ group. I read in some articles that because there might be some technical issues with the ride, the last boarding group that could get in within a single day would likely be those below #75. I remember feeling really deflated, I said to my hubby, ‘there’s no way we’d get on the ride!’ and we had only bought a one-day admission.

My hubby was more optimistic, and we decided to just find other rides to enjoy while we’re in the park. So we did… and guess what! While waiting on the Star Tours ride, our boarding group was called at around 3pm or so. Basically we got a notification on the My Disney Experience App and we had two hours after our group’s called to get on the ride! Ohhh happy day!!

We had time to get on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride in that two-hour window, which was pretty fun. So we finally got to the Rise of the Resistance ride at around 5pm, and still had to queue for about a half hour or so. By that point I was already so ecstatic that I’d actually get on the ride that I didn’t care. Funny how Disney really made you feel like a kid again and at that point, I was over the moon I could finally get on a ride that’s unlike anything built by Disney before!

The entire ‘ride’ is about 18 minutes long, and billed as a four-ride system that work pretty seamlessly. So there are tons of action going on before we actually get on the ride vehicle itself in a group of eight. As we entered the attraction complex, we’re led to a winding queue through rock formations and trees outside until we reach inside the base. That’s when the real fun begins! A series of animatronics of BB-8 droid and a hologram of Rey tells us about the mission we’re about to embark on. Then we got on a transport ship, which is a standing-room only, piloted by the fish-like creature Nien Nunb and Poe Dameron (woo wee!). But the ship had a run in with the First Order which we could see in the video screens all around us. Before it can make the jump to hyperspace, there’s a battle going on and soon we’re ‘captured’ by the First Order. There’s so much movement inside the ship it was tough to take a photo, but below is a pic of what the transport ship looks like (courtesy of gamespot.com)

The Resistance transport ship

It’s truly brilliant how immersive this whole attraction is, no wonder it’s extremely popular. According to this site, this attraction combines 5 million lines of computer code with animatronic figures, physical sets, digital projections and special effects. Not to mention all the props that you can gawk at as you’re waiting in line, like Poe’s uniform, etc. It’s quite a spectacular technical feat, and you can see why the chance of it breaking down is huge even if just one component isn’t working properly!

I think my favorite part is after we’re ‘captured’ by the First Order. Once we disembarked from the Resistance transport ship, we’re led to ‘detention cells’ within the Star Destroyer. Disney’s employees (here they’re appropriately called cast members) bark orders and do their best to stay in character and try to be as intimidating as possible. It’s all comical to us, but some kids are terrified, as the girl in front of me were crying constantly! The poor parents had to convince her that these are all employees in costumes. I overheard one of them say, ‘they have a house and dogs and everything’ Mwahahaha!!

 

So the dramatic ‘jailbreak’ finally gets us to the ride vehicle itself! It’s a trackless vehicle that seats 8 people. I LOVE this part and the only ‘downside’ is I wish it were longer! It’s the kind of ride you just want to keep going and going… it’s SO. MUCH. FUN. I was in awe of how much details are put into everything… definitely unlike anything I’ve ever riden before at any amusement park. My hubby was able to take a video once we got on the ride vehicle, so you can see for yourself!

Kudos to the Walt Disney Imagineering creative team! That OCR article also stated that the Imagineering team collaborated w/ Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic to create screen-based intergalactic battles that take place in the space windows of the Star Destroyer. It definitely made us feel like we’re part of the Resistance vs First Order story, and not simply a spectator!

I have to say I had a much better experience riding this than watching The Rise of Skywalker, ahah. When things would actually be back to normal again in a year or so, I’d certainly love to go back to Galaxy’s Edge. Perhaps we’ll try the one in Disneyland, CA next time around, but for sure I can’t wait to get on the Rise of the Resistance ride again!


Hope you enjoyed reading my experience to Galaxy’s Edge, it certainly was fun writing it and reminiscing on the fantastic time we had there!

May the Fourth Be With You!

HEARTS WANT short film now on Amazon Prime Video!

Hello blog friends! Wherever you are in the world, I hope this message finds you all safe and in good health.

My first short film, a romantic drama, is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video!

Hearts Want on Amazon Prime Video!

Two former lovers who reunite for a play face the consequences of a secret that threatens to tear them apart forever.

It’s FREE to stream if you have Prime subscription, but it’s also available to rent or buy for non Prime subscribers for a nominal fee. Would you be so kind as to lend support by watching the film, and better yet, leave a review/rating right on Amazon. I’d really appreciate it if you can also help us spread the word out to your friends & family!

It’s been nearly three years since we filmed our short film in mid April 2017, exactly the day after Easter. You can also read about the filmmaking journey here. Hearts Want had a wonderful journey in various film festivals, both here in Minnesota and abroad.

Thanks to director Jason P. Schumacher and the talented MN-based cast & crew for making this dream a reality. I also want to thank those who have backed this project via Kickstarter. We wouldn’t have been able to complete this film in time for Twin Cities Film Fest where it won the Audience Award for short and made the five finalists for Best Short!

You can keep up with the project via our website and Facebook page. Oh and you can also listen to the wonderful score by Charlie McCarron on Spotify!


Thank you everyone for your support!

What I’ve Been Watching During Self-Quarantine

Hello everyone! Happy Friday! Hope all of you are coping as well as can be expected during this strange and difficult time. My hubby and I have been working from home this past week until the end of the month, who knows it could be longer. Despite all this, I’m counting my blessings and keeping my spirits high as we ride out this Coronavirus pandemic!

Well, thank goodness we live in a world where we have streaming services available! These in-home entertainment helps during a time where social distancing has become the new normal. We have been watching a lot more shows/movies since we have been cooped up at home. I saw on TV Guide that some streaming services even extended their FREE TRIAL to 30 days!

So last weekend I binged on …

BEECHAM HOUSE

I’ve been a huge fan of Tom Bateman and had been waiting for quite some time for this UK show to finally make it to the US! It’s not available on broadcast, but I had joined PBS Passport member in order to watch Sanditon a month ago, so I’m thrilled this one’s finally available to watch in early March!

A look at the lives of residents living in a Delhi mansion during the cusp of 19th century.

Check out the trailer…

Set in the 1795, amidst the clashing forces of British and French militaries and the decline of the centuries-old Mughal Empire. It’s billed as Downton Abbey India, and it’s also got Lesley Nicol who played Downton’s longtime cook Mrs. Patmore, this time she’s playing one of the masters of the house as the protagonist John Beecham’s mother. Bateman is perfect as John, the conflicted former soldier who’s left the ruthless East India Company and made a living as an art trader.

I’m a big fan of filmmaker Gurinder Chadha as well, the creator of the show. I love that Beecham House is partly filmed in the UK and India, the sets in the latter is especially sumptuous, all the costumes, set pieces, actors, etc. all lend to authenticity of the show. Not to mention the opulent house itself with its magnificent details. I love the diverse cast, too! I’ve been crushing on Tom Bateman for some time (he’s terrific in Vanity Fair) and here, his charismatic yet mysterious presence has proven himself ready to be a major leading man.

Glad to see Leo Suter once again after seeing him in Sanditon… thankfully he’s got more screen presence on this show as I had complained how wasted his talents was there. He’s proven to be a versatile actor as his character is quite different from Sanditon, but I definitely fancy him more as a bit of a rascal! The Indian actors are equally fascinating. Pallavi Sharda and Shriya Pilgaonkar are both stunning as two headstrong ladies who refuse to be a shrinking violet (I say that as the English woman named Violet here is a rather silly woman). I love Viveik Kalra in Blinded By The Light, here he’s playing the house caretaker who’s loyal to John Beecham. I hope to see more of him in future projects!

I might dedicate a blog post for this show, but for now, let’s just say it’s absolutely binge-worthy!


The Mayo Clinic: Faith – Hope – Science

If you like documentaries, here’s one you should check out. It’s particularly intriguing to me because I live just an hour away from Rochester where the Mayo clinic is, but given their impact all over the world, it’s worth learning about just how they got started. It’s truly inspiring stuff!


Yesterday I wanted to see something light and funny, so we watched The Secret Life of Pets 2 on Netflix. It wasn’t as funny as the original, but still entertaining for the most part. My favorite bit is the one with the farm shepherd dog Rooster voiced by Harrison Ford. He’s so perfect for the part, a grumpy, adventurous veteran who’s teaching the city dog Max on how to overcome fear.


Thanks to that TV Guide link, I can finally watch this show on SundanceNow!

A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES

Diana Bishop, historian and witch, accesses Ashmole 782 and knows she must solve its mysteries. She is offered help by the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, but he’s a vampire and witches should never trust vampires.

 

It’s been around since 2018 and I remember really wanting to watch it when I saw the trailer… I mean hello, Matthew Goode!! 😍He sure makes one heck of a sexy vampire, oh la la! Interesting that the series about vampires and witches are set in the field of academia, Oxford University to be exact, and it’s actually filmed on location in various parts of the world… Oxfordshire, Scotland, and Venice. It’s definitely a great escapism for the time being since we cannot be physically traveling to any of those countries until this outbreak dies down.

I quite like Aussie actress Teresa Palmer as well, interestingly enough the first time I saw her in was in Warm Bodies, a zombie comedy. She must have a thing for movies about the undead. She looks so much like Kristen Stewart too, and she’s on that massively popular vampire movies. Apparently this one is also based on a novel, The All Souls Trilogy, by a woman writer, Deborah Harkness. I wonder why they didn’t just keep that title, , rather than what the have now that’s so long and clunky.

I’ve seen four episodes so far as of today, and I like it more and more. Story-wise, there’s enough going for it to keep me watching… there’s the enigma and mystery surrounding the Congregation which is comprised of representations of demons, vampires and witches (though the person who takes care of the location is a human, ha!)… and these species live under some strict rules.

The acting is a bit uneven, but the two leads Goode and Palmer are great and they have a good chemistry. An important factor given the core of the story is a forbidden romance, a bit like Romeo + Juliet but with warring species, not just families. I do have some issues with directing choices and the use of modern songs that kind of cheapen the show a bit, it just doesn’t jibe with the elegance of the setting. Oh, and what’s with these vampires not being affected by sunlight or even Crucifixes, and they go about like humans in their daily activity… eating, drinking, playing with their cellphones, etc. Seems all too convenient to me since they can live for hundreds of years!

In any case, I have four more to go in season 1, and I just learned that season 2 has been greenlit but according to this article, they have wrapped filming. But given some of the filming is in Italy, there might be a major delay if they have to do some more shooting done over there given the Covid-19 situation.


So that’s just a sampling of what I’ve been watching the past week and a half… 

How about you? What have YOU been watching during self quarantine?

 

Happy New Year! What’s your last viewing of 2019 + first watch of 2020?

Happy first day of 2020… and the beginning of a new decade!

Did you go to a NYE party or watch the ball drop on TV? If you did neither, well, high five… I actually didn’t bother to do the countdown as I was in the middle of watching of a movie I’ve been wanting to see in a while. As a member of OAFFC (Online Association of Female Film Critics), I had the privilege of receiving screeners. It’s perfect timing that Bong Joon Ho’s PARASITE arrived in the mail just days before!

Glad I got to see what many critics have called one of the best films of the year. PARASITE won the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, the first Korean film to win such a prestigious award. I haven’t had the chance to review it yet, but it’s one of the most indelible and suspenseful films I’ve seen in a long time and would definitely land in my Top 10 list 0f 2019!

After that my hubby and I actually couldn’t sleep right away, so we ended up watching one episode of The Man in the High Castle. We actually skipped season 2 as we finished season 1 a few years ago. Somehow we lost interest and got interested again after talking to a friend of mine Becky K. who absolutely LOVES the series (and its leading man Rufus Sewell). So we watched the season 2 recap and immediately jumped to season 3 and 4.

As of the time of this writing, we only have three more episodes left in season 4, its final season, and it’s truly been one of the best series we’ve seen this past decade. I think we’ll finish the series tonight, then off to see The Mandalorian with our 2-weeks Disney+ Free Trial.

We’re not sure yet what feature film we’d watch to kick start 2020. Most likely it’ll be a Netflix & Chill weekend and we still haven’t seen The King and that silly Michael Bay flick 6 Underground. As for a rewatch, well, Inception hits Netflix today… can you believe it was released 10 years ago?


What about you? What’s the last thing you watched in 2019? And what are you planning to see to kick off the new year?

 

 

Musings on ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD & Tarantino’s treatments of women + minorities

It’s nearly a week ago that I saw the movie, and though there are parts that I did enjoy, there are more scenes that did not sit well with me. In fact, I didn’t even feel like writing about the movie, but posted my friend Ted’s review on it this weekend. The movie has received a high praise since its premiered in Cannes, which reportedly received a standing ovation, but the one bit I remembered most about its Cannes’ premiere was how Quentin Tarantino snapped at a reporter during the film’s press junket. NY Times’ reporter Farah Nayeri, asked Tarantino about Margot Robbie’s lack of dialogue in the film in which she played Sharon Tate. QT’s terse response was “I reject your hypothesis,” which in and of itself shows the kind of arrogance that he only plays by his own rules and doesn’t care how others perceive his movies.

After days ruminating on Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, I feel compelled to write about my reaction on the movie. So this post isn’t so much a film criticism per se, so if you haven’t seen it and don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read any further. Consider yourself warned.

Now, after seeing the movie, I totally understood where Nayeri was coming from. Given that the movie’s plot (if you can even call it that) is practically a build-up to her and her friends’ gruesome murders by members of Charles Manson’s cult, Tate herself didn’t really have much to do here. Most of the 161-minute running time is spent on luxuriating on the two white male leads… they’re talking to each other, in a group, even talking to themselves, while we merely see Tate but rarely hear what she has to say. The writer of this Jezebel article says it best, “The audience learns about as much about Tate from these male characters as we do from Tate herself.” whether it’s via a male friend (secret admirer?) or via a narrator who suddenly shows up midway through explaining exactly what is happening on screen [shrug]. Thankfully, Robbie still manages to turn in a memorable performance as Tate, but her character (and the Manson family) are nothing more than a macguffin.

I suppose when you’ve got two of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, in one movie, you better make the most of it. Well, QT sure did, perhaps over-indulgently so. DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton is a faded TV star navigating the changing landscape of Hollywood, while Pitt’s Cliff Booth is his loyal stunt double/lackey who’s ‘more than a brother, and a little less than a wife.’

Let’s start with Pitt’s character, which has more problematic scenes than DiCaprio’s, though both are basically antiheroes. There are countless scenes of Cliff driving recklessly through the Hollywood hills, up and down the LA streets day and night (apparently there’s no traffic in 1969??), but the scenes play up like a retro music video as they don’t seem to serve any purpose. Cliff is portrayed as a dashing, cool guy, apparently way too cool to go to jail for murder. QT’s flashback-within-a-flashback scene shows Cliff holding a harpoon gun pointing at his wife who was berating him. We never see him actually firing the gun, but to me, the scene is more than a mere suggestion that he did kill her, and somehow he got away with it. The fact that Kurt Russell‘s stunt coordinator character Randy and his wife Janet (Zoë Bell) are reluctant about hiring him speak volumes about Cliff’s reputation. Beneath the nice guy persona there’s something really dark lurking beneath. But yet QT seemingly puts the blame on the woman. The boat scene is made to look as if Cliff’s wife is an annoying, nagging wife and therefore she’s ‘asking for it’ and we’re supposed to be okay with a man getting rid of his wife because of that, in a violent manner no less.

Another scene that didn’t sit well with me is the Bruce Lee scene. Lee is played brilliantly by Mike Moh, and initially I was excited about the scene featuring the legendary martial artist who’s also a Hollywood icon. But here his depiction made me cringe. As I was watching it, I wondered how his family would’ve thought of the scene of him being insulted AND beaten by Pitt’s character, and sure enough I saw this article came through today from The Wrap. Lee’s daughter Sharon Lee was quoted as saying, “It was really uncomfortable to sit in the theater and listen to people laugh at my father,” The article mentioned her saying that ‘…her father was often challenged, and tried to avoid fights’ which is NOT how he was depicted in the film, which was all puffery and arrogance. Lee was the only prominent non-white character in the film, yet he only serves to make the white guy appear even more heroic and invincible. Even if Lee was reported as a braggart in the media, there are SO many different sides of him that are positive and admirable. Another quote from Sharon Lee in the article states that “…as an Asian-American in 1960s Hollywood, he had to work much harder to succeed than Booth and Rick Dalton, the fictional, white protagonists of the film.” As if that wasn’t disturbing enough, as I did more reading on Sharon Tate, I found several articles about how Roman Polanski once thought Bruce Lee was the perpetrator of Sharon Tate and her friends’ murders, oh my!

Speaking of Polanski, lest we forget that Tarantino once defended him for having sex with a minor in an interview with Howard Stern (an excerpt is available here) to which QT has apologized for. After reading that, I was even more disturbed by the scene between Pitt and Margaret Qualley‘s Pussycat, who’s 31 years his junior in real life, where she propositioned Cliff oral sex while he’s driving. Qualley’s presence here seems to represent the gullible, morally-loose hippies and just like Tate (and also Dakota Fanning as another Manson family member), she’s also hyper-sexualized, the quintessential male gaze. But yet again, Pitt’s Cliff is seen as a chivalrous hero who refuses this pretty young thing’s offer, hence his heroic status.

This happens to be Tarantino’s first film without Harvey Weinstein’s involvement (all his previous films were produced by Weinstein). He admitted to NY Times back in 2017 that “I knew enough to do more than I did,” about Weinstein’s sexual misconducts. This fact warrants a mention here given the topic is about his treatment of women. In a similar way, Rick is largely tolerant of his friend/confidant Cliff’s dark, violent past, as many in the biz have been with Weinstein until the allegations finally came to light.

Cliff’s ‘heroism’ culminates in the brutal finale where I had to avert my eyes several times. Just like Inglourious Basterds where we see Hitler being riddled with bullets, we’ve come to expect revisionist history once again in QT’s latest, that is in regards to the Manson murders. The gruesome crime on Cielo Drive has been reimagined to happen at Rick Dalton’s house, where the young members of Manson’s cult encountered Cliff who’s high on acid-dipped cigarette [just what the heck is that exactly?]. The whole scene is extremely violent… I opened my eyes right at the time Cliff threw a can of dog food that smashed a girl’s face. The camera lingers on her bloody, smashed-up face and it just kept getting more and more vicious.

As if the gratuitous violence weren’t enough, they’re played for laughs. It seems that in QT’s mind, if he deemed that the people on the receiving end ‘deserve it,’ we can laugh at their misery and even revel in it. People in the theater were laughing when Leo’s Dalton grabs a flamethrower, apparently a prop from one of his movies, and burns one of the Manson girls to a crisp in his own pool. You couldn’t help but giggle at the utter preposterousness of what unfolds before you, but I also couldn’t help but shudder at the gratuitous violence. Yes, the Manson cult members are criminals and should be punished for their crime, but they aren’t in the same vein as someone like Hitler. In many ways, these young hippies were also victims, of Charles Manson’s deceptions and of the era itself. Perhaps QT thinks he’s doing Sharon Tate’s legacy a favor by ‘saving her’ in his reimagined Hollywood, but yet she barely even has any involvement in her own story. This is ultimately Rick’s story, even more so than Cliff ‘s even though Leo and Brad have a pretty equal screen time. When the violent commotion came to an end, Tate’s never even seen again, we only heard her through the intercom inviting her neighbor Rick for drinks as he chats with her friend Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch). So her only purpose seems only to fulfill the protagonist’s dream that he revealed early in the movie (that one day he’d be cast in a Roman Polanski movie).

I wouldn’t call myself a Tarantino fan, given I’ve only seen a handful of his films–Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Inglourious Basterds–the last one being my favorite of his. But from reading about his work lately, there seems to be a disturbing pattern that is often seen in his film. In this THR’s article, writer Joelle Monique said ‘Even more distressing is the fact that violence against women is generally played for laughs in a Tarantino picture’ and she listed several movies where brutality against women are done so overtly. There is always a danger that brutal scenes in movies would normalize real life violence. It’s all the more disturbing when it comes to violence against women considering the statistics of how many goes unreported. So I simply cannot ignore, or worse, enjoy films where women are depicted as if they somehow ‘earned’ the violence done to them.

It’s been reported that Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, QT’s ninth movie, is his most personal. It’s apparent that the movie is full of tributes to everything QT hold dear, the spaghetti Westerns, the foot fetish, and a plethora of other classic Hollywood obsessions that his fans would no doubt notice with glee. The painstaking detail to production design is no doubt astounding, transforming LA into what it would’ve looked like in the 60s. What is definitely apparent to me, who might not be too astute in pointing out the ‘easter eggs’ in QT’s movies, is how nostalgic he is to the bygone era. As the New Yorker article points out, ‘Tarantino’s love letter to a lost cinematic age is one that, seemingly without awareness, celebrates white-male stardom (and behind-the-scenes command) at the expense of everyone else.’

QT compared Leo and Brad as the dynamic duo since Robert Redford and Paul Newman. But in an era where the #MeToo and #DiversityMatters movements are gaining more and more momentum, this indulgent, nostalgic movie about the Hollywood’s Golden Age in the 60s seems, well, old fashioned. Now, I’m not saying that filmmakers can’t pay homage to a certain era, but it does bear the risk of going ‘backward’ if it isn’t done with care. It seems to be the case here with the protagonist’s constant gripe that the ‘good ol’ days’ are behind him and his reluctance to change. Perhaps it’s QT’s way of lamenting that ‘times are changing’ (with new, diverse filmmakers offering new voices and storytelling) and his fear of being viewed as a ‘has been.’

Lastly, putting all of the women/minorities discussion aside, is Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood a good movie? Visually speaking, it’s a gorgeous film shot by DP Robert Richardson. I’ve mentioned the amazing production design by Barbara Ling and I’ll say it again, it was astounding. But overall, this movie is way too long at 2 hours 40 minutes. It doesn’t help that the pacing is pretty sluggish, meandering and even disjointed at times. The ‘six months later’ jump when Cliff and Rick were in Italy seems pointless, just like many elongated scenes in this movie that go nowhere. Most of the movie’s running time is spent lingering on the outer beauty of the leads, but there’s not much depth beneath.

The one scene I did enjoy was the scene between Leo’s Rick and his 8-year-old co-star Trudi (scene stealer Julia Butters) on the set of the TV show Lancer. The young girl is the ‘mature’ one of the two and in the end, she ends up being a huge boost of encouragement the disillusioned Rick desperately needs. That’s perhaps the only meaningful male/female scene where the woman isn’t sexualized, mocked or brutalized. Acting wise, I think both Leo and Brad did an excellent job in their roles. I especially enjoyed Leo’s performance here, who’s charming and often hilarious while wallowing in self pity. I think the scene of Rick going berserk in his trailer would likely nab Leo another Oscar nomination.

In the end, it’s a stunning production to be sure, full of clever lines, gorgeous visuals and terrific performances. But it’s a soulless movie… I couldn’t really relate to the main characters and there’s barely any moment that truly moved me. Yes the film ends in a fantastical ‘happy ending,’ but it’s tough to feel joyful after such a barbaric gore-fest. Neither Cliff nor Rick were remotely changed by such a traumatizing incident, both of them pretty much stay the same from beginning to end. It’s as if it’s a commentary on QT himself. At 56, it seems he hasn’t evolved much as a filmmaker. I think the title ‘once upon a time’ is fitting here for a filmmaker who revels in the past. Reportedly QT is retiring soon? I doubt it, but I certainly don’t mind if he did.


So what are your thoughts on Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood? Let’s hear it!