January 20th, 2020

On the plane I was able to catch a couple of movies that I have been meaning to see.   First was Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.  The Golden Globes were kind to this very long film which is set in the late 60s in Hollywood.   I note that younger viewers who know little to nothing of this time won’t necessarily get the full impact of it.   I will leave that statement without further elaboration since much of it hinges on the ultimate resolution.  For me, knowing this history then there was a bit of an “a-ha” moment as some things came together.
I think the love being shown to Brad Pitt as Supporting Actor is justified.  His was an interesting role as stunt double for an aging DiCaprio western character, who seemed to share a number of qualities with real Clint Eastwood.   The three hour length could have easily have been trimmed.  For example, the extended sequence with Pitt interacting with Bruce Dern was longer than needed.   I found the sequence with Bruce Lee was entertaining just as someone getting their comeuppance but if he wasn’t that way, then it was offensive.  Do I really think that Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate reflected the reality of her?  I don’t know. The interaction of her at the movie theatre watching her own film was interesting but not all that informative.   The scenes that showed the actual Tate in the movie was the interesting part since I don’t think I remember ever seeing her act.  In the end, was this the best picture of the year?  I don’t think so.   As in almost any Tarantino film there is a violent component which some viewers may find just too much.   Is it necessary?   Likely not.   But there are times when it is imminently satisfying.   For me this could easily be a two hour film without taking much away.   It is worth seeing and Pitt does some really good work.

I also saw Rocketman, the Elton John biopic which seeing the success of Queen’s  Bohemian Rhapsody added to the music noise.  Musicians who no longer make the money from albums, and aren’t touring can look to seek their stories to be made into movies.   Queen has made a fortune.   This movie differentiates itself from Queen by being more of a musical.   Sadly for me the original songs are modified and changed and sung by the actors (and not Elton John).  Iconic songs for me like Border Song lack in quality and energy.  Others too like Tiny Dancer, and Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting among others just don’t work.  I also don’t have a lot of sympathy for Reggie/Elton.  Poor, multi-talented, rich, hoarder who doesn’t have a lot of love from his family.   Boo hoo.   I like to see the creative process and also think his gift for visualizing music to lyrics is fascinating.   He is an accomplished talent.   While professing profusely that he has never had an argument with Bernie Taupin, I think we saw a couple of arguments in the film, like when Bernie decided to move back to the UK.   How Bernie didn’t hear any music as he wrote his lyrics is interesting too.   I was also surprised to see how Elton was played by his manager (Robb Stark).  He may have signed a contract but I have to imagine that there is an exit clause which allows him to end it.   If there isn’t, then he isn’t as smart as you might think.   This movie is infinitely better with Elton’s voice doing the singing.   I am glad that I followed through on the promise to myself not to pay for this movie.   So Elton gets my money for his songs and (mostly) Bernie’s lyrics but not for a movie.   Jamie Bell plays Taupin.   I like him better as Billy Elliot.  The Elton marriage to a women was kind of glossed over, but not ignored.

September 2, 2019 – Bonus Alison reviews

Alison:  The timing seems right to talk about Midsommar.  I read a “best movies of 2019” list today which included Midsommar but I immediately discounted it for having Detective Pikachu so I can only take it half seriously.  Four stars on RogerEbert.com and 83% fresh on the tomato page.  My second surprise was a packed theatre which landed Rob and I in the front row for our viewing.  This movie was promised to be a horror flick of sorts and for me it was a fail in that regard.  The premise is that a couple of university students travel to the home of a friend in Sweden to visit the commune (read cult) he grew up in.  There’s the couple that should have broken up on their third date, the two guys that can’t stand their buddy’s girlfriend and of course cult guy.  Everything about this film is awkward.  None of these people seem to really like each other.  Conversations are at an unnatural pentameter and despite appearance there is an underlying anger and uneasiness that starts to take hold.  The cult folks are odd but welcoming and things get underway with the festival.  Without giving too much away, people start dying (one scene quite shocking), friends go missing and the reactions of the remaining friends are not what you’d expect.  Its not scary…its just weird.  Midsommar is from the guy who made Hereditary which I loved.  I suspect this is the movie he wrote first that got picked up after the success of Hereditary.  Do you need to see it???  If you’re curious, go ahead and then I’ll wait for the “wtf email” you will be certain to send me afterwards.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is the latest offering from Mr. Tarantino that came with much anticipation and accolade.  Four stars on Roger, 85% on rotten and attention at Cannes.  And yet of the thirty or so people in the theatre, three got up and walked out around the half way mark in what felt like a painfully long 2.5 hour film.  If I had to describe this film in one word i might use “unnecessary” or “self-absorbed”.  Don’t get me wrong, this was beautifully shot film and Brad and Leo gave great performances (and Brad looked especially good doing it) but I kept waiting for it to start or get to the point.  And when it finally did, it was anticlimactic.  I suspect much of the accolades for this film are from those in the industry as this was a directors film.  For the rest of us it was time spent looking at something really well made that just wasn’t that entertaining.
Cold War was nominated for an Oscar and Bafta award last year.  It’s filmed in black and white and is simply gorgeous to look at.  This is a love story that takes place in communist Poland between a musician and the young farm girl he discovers.  Together they are part of a troupe putting on cultural shows until the evil Kaczmarek used the troupe to gain good fortune with the communist party.  He, the musician and she the singer devise to defect to France and when he crossed she got cold feet.  He meets with success in France and she finally decides to join and the love affair resumes.  The characters are engaging but more as a curiosity as everyone plays their cards close to their chest and seemingly there is always an angle.  Love has its ups and downs and this couple is no different but theirs is a never happy kinda love, neither together or apart and always a yearning for a thing you don’t have until having it doesn’t feel that great either.  Don’t expect to walk away feeling your heart has grown as big as the Grinch’s on xmas day and as Jason would say “well, that wasn’t horrible”.