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Posts Tagged ‘Margot Robbie’

Spoiler warning – I have avoide any final act spoilers, but do talk about many aspects of the film in detail.  If you intend to see the film but have not as yet, I recomend you watch it before reading this.  once upon a time in hollywood poster

I was really concerned when Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was announced.  Firstly we don’t need another movie about Charles Manson, but more significantly, is Quentin Tarantino capable of the sensitivity needed to tell the story of the horrendous murder of actress Sharon Tate?  My fears were exacerbated  by the fact I didn’t particularly enjoy his last film, The Hateful Eight (2015).  Quentin Tarantino has been self indulgent ever since  Kill Bill (2003 and 2004) got so long the studio forced him to cut it in half.  Django Unchained (2012) is a good 165 minute movie that could have been a great 100 minute movie.  The Hateful Eight, just dragged!  But I am always hopeful of a return to form, after all, I love Tarantino’s first six movies (Kill Bill is officially one movie), and despite their problems Django Unchained, and The Hateful Eight had some really good moments.  It is has been suggested that his work is also hollow and shallow, and totally lacking in sensitivity.  As for lacking in sensitivity, he would probably say guilty as charged and proud of it.  Shallow, is unfounded, but they are certainly hollow, this isn’t a problem, and shouldn’t be considered a criticism.  This is partly because they are so entertaining, but mainly because it is the intention, it is part of the art, the idea of l’art pour l’art suggests true art, is free from any didactic, moral, or function.  The lack of sensitivity was a bigger hurdle to overcome knowing what happed to Sharon Tate and how it could have been depicted.  However, I had overlooked one thing: Once Upon a Time.  The title evoked the Sergio Leone Once Upon a Time movies, I had forgotten that Tarantino had started a movie Once Upon a Time, and that movie, Inglourious Basterds was revisionist at very least, bordering on a fairytale.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, falls very much in this category, revisionist and, or fairytale, and like Quentin Tarantino’s best movies Pulp Fiction (1994) and Jackie Brown (1997), its full of characters you want to spend time with.  The film is littered with a mixture of real and fictional characters, it is told from the prospective of two of the fictional characters Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).  Dalton is an actor who had been the star of a TV western, until he quit to pursue an movie career, think Steve McQueen in Wanted: Dead or Alive.  Unlike McQueen who within a couple of years of leaving TV was making The Great Escape, Dalton’s career is in a slow but undoubted descent, playing villain of the week on other peoples shows.  Booth is Daltons stunt double whose work has dried up in line with Daltons.  He now works as a driver and general gofer for Dalton, who finds himself without a driving licence thanks to a string of DUI charges.  If not an alcoholic, Dalton is on his way to becoming one!  Racked with insecurity, Booth is also a crutch, the friend who will tell him how it is, but with a positive spin, an ego massage.once upon a time in hollywood dicaprio and pitt

The film is set at the turning point in cinema after the death of the Golden Age, and in the early days of New Hollywood when young filmmakers were making films like Bonnie and Clyde (1967),  The Wild Bunch, and Easy Rider (both 1969).  This is symbolised by Dalton who doesn’t know his place in the new order:  Idols like Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart are a thing of the past.  At the same time, he is too old to be a star of new Hollywood like Al Pacino (who appears in the film as Daltons new agent), and Dennis Hopper (who is referenced in the film).  He isn’t as good, or possibly just as lucky as Steve McQueen (who appears as a character played by Damian Lewis).  The actor who isn’t mentioned, is Clint Eastwood who went from the TV show Rawhide (1959–1965) to Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy of spaghetti Westerns (between 1964 and 1966).  But then neither is James Arness who was the star of Gunsmoke for twenty years but never found anything like that success on the big screen.TV Cowboys

In the film, Dalton lives next door Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha), and his new wife Sharon Tate (delightfully portrayed by Margot Robbie).  This both brings the story together and gives prospective to the Daltons character.  Polanski is the hottest director in town thanks to his previous film Rosemary’s Baby (1968).  His young wife Tate, is something of an enigma, groomed as a studio ingénue, in a system that no longer existed.  Married to, and working with Polanski, what could have happened if not for her tragic death?  Polanski is largely absent from the story concentrating more on Tate as she drifts through the film, an ethereal presence in the background of the story.  It has been suggested that she doesn’t have enough lines of dialogue, but that somehow misses the point of what this story is.  The film portrays Tate purchasing a first edition of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles as a gift for Polanski.  A fan of Hardy’s work, she recommended the story to her husband for a movie adaptation.  Ten years later, he made the film, with Nastassja Kinski in the title role.  It was nominated for six Oscars, winning three of them.  Would this have been a project they worked on together?  Polanski is largely absent from the story concentrating more on Tate as she drifts through the film, an ethereal presence in the background of the story.  It has been suggested that she doesn’t have enough lines of dialogue, but that somehow misses the point of what this story is, she is the heart of the movie, not the subject of it.once upon a time in hollywood margot robbie

Forgoing a traditional three act structure, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has one prolonged act, a time jump and a montage followed by a final act.  The least you know about the final act the better, I am therefore not going to mention it further.  The montage that separates the two acts is Tarantino at his best, it is snappy and fun where it could have been clunky and distracting.  Narrated by Kurt Russell, it gives a great insight into the “spaghetti” film industry, filled with too clever for their own good in jokes.  What we see is the natural conclusion to the first act, and a perfect setup for the conclusion.  This is no surprise as one of  Tarantino signatures, and expertise is the juxtaposition of narratives.   The brilliance of the montage is how it blends a little truth, and a lot of in jokes into the fiction.Rick Dalton Movie posters (1)

Quentin Tarantino has an interesting history of shooting people in cars talking, and making it really interesting, his first two movies, Reservoir Dogs, and Pulp Fiction are full of them.  The latter even had a key scene in a restaurant where old cars had replace booths.  This isn’t anything new, he would have grown up watching movies like American Graffiti (1973), and Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), that latter making great use of the smaller Techniscope cameras to get inside the car and changing the way cars were shot.  Here we see great conversations in cars, or one particular car, Rick Dalton’s Cadillac Coupe DeVille.  We see Dalton talking to Cliff Booth, these conversations centre around Dalton’s insecurities and fears.  But we also see Booth picking up Pussycat (Margaret Qualley) a hitchhiker; their conversations are frivolous and fun in the vein of what we expect from Tarantino.  Tate however is more a mystery, we see her driving with Polanski in his old MG, and in her Porsche giving a lift to a hitchhiker.  The two journeys have destinations, the first at the Playboy Mansion, the second at valet car park.  Despite the lack of dialogue we learn so much about the character in this moment.  The hitcher and Tate embrace and wish each other luck, an instant if temporary friend.  At the Playboy Mansion, Tate is greeted by friends Mama Cass (Rachel Redleaf) and Michelle Phillips (Rebecca Rittenhouse), the trio immediately go off to dance joyously.  We learn a little more, thanks to some exposition from Steve McQueen (Damian Lewis).  That is where we start to understand, the film is Rick Dalton, and Cliff Booth’s fictional story that we follow while the real world happens around them.  They, like everyone are witnesses to history unfolding, and they are our way into this world separated from us by almost exactly fifty years.  The reason to stay with the film, is that you want to spend more time with these people.  Booth is described as a war hero, it is suggested he may have committed, and got away with a terrible crime.  He comes across as a nice guy, the type you would like to have a beer with, but there is something under the surface, is he totally zen, or is this anger management?  Is he a coiled spring waiting to explode?  As always, Tarantino writes characters better than he rights stories, this is probably why Jackie Brown, based on Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch remains his most accessible film.  But, as all successful people are, he understands his limitations and works with them, sometimes embracing them.  Structure is his his friend, his collaborator. talking in cars

Like all the best Tarantino movies, Once Upon a Time is as much about look and mood as it is about story and character, and that is what he has created so well.  You believe that Rick Dalton, lives in that house, and that Tate and Polanski live next door (and he is afraid to talk to them), and that Booth lives out in the valley behind a drive-in.  The streets look like the 1960’s and look like a real world, not a set (except the E-type Jaguar, on Daltons road that never moves in six months), the people dress like they are from the 60’s not dressing up to look like the 60s’, and listen to music of the time.  Music has always been a big thing in Tarantino movies, and he is famous for his deep cuts, there is no exception here.  He wisely stayed away from The Beatles (referred to as, The White Album) and we get a perfect blend of Paul Revere & The Raiders, Bob Seger, Neil Diamond.  a lot of the songs I recognise, but don’t really know.  This vague recognition is all part of the shorthand that drags us in, as is Booth’s T-shirt bearing the logo for Champion spark plugs (I’m sure I had one when I was a kid, and expect to see people wearing them again now).  But, I suspect it goes deeper than that.  Tarantino isn’t just saying “remember the 60’s?” He is saying “this is what the 60’s were, and this is what they could have been!”. He is reminding us of the ideas and ideals of the day, and how they were lost, forgotten and destroyed, but for the smallest things, those ideals could have been realised.  And most significantly, he is telling us that we are at a similar tipping point today and asking the question, “what the fuck are you going to do about it”.  This is possibly the first time since Inglourious Basterds that he has had something to say.  Am I reading too much into this and attributing Tarantino depth that he doesn’t have?  I don’t think so.  This is a film that needs a second and a third viewing, and like Pulp Fiction, and Inglourious Basterds one that film students will be debating and deconstructing for a generation.

As mentioned at the top, I am not going to go into the final act, but have said enough to indicate that it isn’t an accurate depiction of events, it doesn’t try to be.  If you are interested in what happened, and how this was a turning point for the era and movies, listen to Karina Longworth’s amazing podcast You Must Remember This, where she dedicated a who season to the lead up, events, and aftermath.

If this is to be Quentin Tarantino’s penultimate movie (I don’t believe it is), it is truly a return to form, and an amazing springboard to his swansong.  Taken on its own merits it is a fun, and often funny film that somewhat recaptures my favourite of his films, Pulp Fiction.  It is also a fitting love letter to the Hollywood as a whole, and the birth of New Hollywood.  A director who has always had an eye on late 60’s,a and 1970’s cinema, he has finally visited, and it was a rich and rewarding trip.  The film has its issues, but they are easily forgotten simply because they are outweighed by everything else that is so good.  Not Tarantino’s masterpiece but an accomplished work and for only the second or third time in his career, he isn’t just entertaining us, he has something to say.  Thank you Quentin!

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The movie podcast, Filmspotting recently ran a poll asking if you were to choose a film based purely on its star which would you choose.  For this they chose four actresses born in 1990: Jennifer Lawrence, Margot Robbie, Kristen Stewart and Emma Watson.  The results weren’t surprising.

  • Jennifer Lawrence 38.46%.
  • Kristen Stewart 37.67%.
  • Emma Watson 12.67%.
  • Margot Robbie 11.20%

Jennifer Lawrence: With an Oscar and three further nominations under her belt, as well as two massive franchises, X-Men and The Hunger Games, Lawrence is the biggest star on the list.  Winter’s Bone her breakthrough part and first Oscar nomination remain her best performance. Jennifer Lawrence

Kristen Stewart: Like most people, I first saw Stewart in  Panic Room.  He big break came with The Twilight Saga.  She made other films between the Twilight movies and made interesting choices including Adventureland and The Runaways.  The interesting movies continued after Twilight most significantly two Olivier Assayas movies: Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper. Kristen Stewart

Emma Watson: Watson had no screen credits prior to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  She only made a couple of films during the Potter years.  Post potter her most interesting film is The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  She has ensured her ongoing fame thanks to a starring role in the live action version of Beauty and the Beast, the first movie to top $1billion this year.Emma Watson

Margot Robbie: I first saw Robbie in the short lived TV show Pan Am.  The program had enough of interest to deserve more than its single 14 episode series.  She next appeared in a small but significant part in The Wolf of Wall Street.  She proved her acting ability and comic timing in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, The Legend of Tarzan and Focus.  Her most significant role is that of Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad.  This is something of a double edged sword;  She was the best part of the film but was clearly objectified.  A star-making part that will require her work hard to avoid typecasting in future. margot robbie

My vote went to Kristen Stewart who continues to make interesting choices and excels in them.  

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Whilst watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them I rapidly came to the conclusion that Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Kowalski (Dan Fogler) are more interesting than the main characters.  This got me thinking of the supporting characters that have enhanced movies this year:queenie-alison-sudol-and-kowalski-dan-fogler

Rocky: Let’s start with the strangest, Rocky as a supporting character in a Rocky movie! Creed is a Rocky movie, but it’s also its own beast and Michael B. Jordan is excellent as Adonis Johnson/Creed and was unlucky not to receive an Oscar nomination, but Sylvester Stallone was fantastic as Rocky and truly was a supporting character.sylvester-stallone-creed

Ringer: The 5th Wave was a poor film with little to recommend it but Maika Monroe was brilliant as ever playing the most fun character in the movie.ringer-the-5th-wave-maika-monroe

Sheriff Chris Mannix: Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is a truly ensemble movie and it is hard to call any of the characters supporting, however, in a dialogue heavy movie one of the less well known actors stands out: Walton Goggins. Anyone who has seen Justified won’t be surprised.sheriff-chris-mannix-walton-goggins

Penelope Lannier: Like many people the first I heard of Dakota Johnson was Fifty Shades of Grey, like many people I thought she was the only good thing about the film.  In A Bigger Splash not only does she stand out, but she does it against some seriously amazing actors: Tilda Swinton, Marianne Lane, Ralph Fiennes.penelope-lannier-a-bigger-splash-dakota-johnson

Howard: 10 Cloverfield Lane: is a seriously leftfield sequel.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead is fantastic in the lead but the film would have fallen apart without the brilliant John Goodman.howard-10-cloverfield-lane-john-goodman

Isabelle: In Louder Than Bombs, Isabelle Huppert is never less than sensational and has therefore set the bar pretty high for herself.  playing a dead character, we only see her in flashbacks, but she is the focus of the film and it wouldn’t work unless she is good.  The film is mesmerising and she is monumental.isabelle-huppert-louder-than-bombs

Tanya Vanderpoel: Margot Robbie‘s best moment in Whisky Tango Foxtrot is in the trailer.  To add to this she is supporting the brilliant Tina Fey in the first movie role worthy of her talents in years.  To be honest the offhand delivery of her line in the trailer is enough to give her a place on this list, but she also provides great support in to Fey’s lead.tanya-vanderpoel-margot-robbie-whisky-tango-foxtrot

St Clair Bayfield and Cosmé McMoon: If Meryl Streep gets within a mile of a movie she picks up an Oscar nomination, it is therefore hard to stand out in her presence, however, in Florence Foster Jenkins two performances stand out; Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg.st-clair-bayfield-and-cosme-mcmoon

Jane Clayton: The Legend of Tarzan: is a good old-fashioned action adventure film that was unfairly derided on release.  Alexander Skarsgård is good as John Clayton / Tarzan, Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson do a really good job playing Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson.  However, I would happily have watched a movie about Jane played by Margot Robbie in one of three standout performances this year.jane-clayton-the-legend-of-tarzan-margot-robbie

Jillian Holtzmann: Ghostbusters is a week film.  Its problems have nothing to do with the casting or the gender of the stars and has everything to do with flabby direction and a week unfunny script.  To give an actress as talented as Kristen Wiig such a poor part is a crime .  There is one good thing about the film and this comes from the one actor I had never heard of; Kate McKinnon.jillian-holtzmann-ghostbusters-kate-mckinnon

Jake: Star played by Sasha Lane is the star (pun intended) of American Honey but the standout performance comes from the supporting cast as Shia LaBeouf finally fulfils the promise of the talented young actor we saw in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints and glimpsed in Nymphomaniac: and The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman.american-honey-shia-labeouf

Miss Peregrine: Eva Green was the only good thing about Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, although she plays the eponymous role, she is a supporting character in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, but a memorable supporting character.MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

Bobby Andes and Ray Marcus: Amy Adams is the focus of Nocturnal Animals, it will be a crime if she doesn’t pickup her sixth and seventh Oscar nominations for this and Arrival, but there are other standout performances that really make the film tick: Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.michael-shannon-aaron-taylor-johnson-nocturnal-animals

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Eight films seen this month, there are a few more out I would like to catch up with if I find the time.  Although I enjoyed all the films this month, the movie of the month shone out by a mile, I think you may spot it when you read my comments:

Suicide Squad – On the plus side, Margot Robbie, Will Smith and Viola Davis are all excellent and perfectly cast.  On the negative side; DC has all the best villains, if you are going to turn them into heroes you are left with a rubbish villain.  When you add to this a disjointed story you are left with a decent film that should have been a great film. You can’t help thinking how much better Marvel would have handled it.Sucide Squad

Nerve – Emma Roberts is 25, it’s about time she stopped playing 17 year olds and developed a career.  The film is largely disposable fun, best not to think too much about the plot and it massive holes.Nerve

The Shallows – Entertaining but silly woman against shark movie elevated by a strong, largely solo performance from Blake Lively.  Shot with a lustful gave on its female lead that falls somewhere between shampoo commercial and the pornographic gaze of Michael Bay.  You could argue that it is gratuitous, or that it is the point of the movie, who am I to say.The Shallows

Julieta – Pedro Almodóvar returns to the family drama focusing on female characters.  While I love The Skin I Live In, this is what Almodóvar does best, and possibly better than any other Auteur. A treat for fans of Almodóvar or just fans of cinema.Julieta

Lights Out – Effective horror with a great concept, a perfect, short run time and some great performances particularly from Maria Bello.Lights Out

Swallows and Amazons – Enjoyable version of Arthur Ransome’s classic children’s book.  The introduction of the spy story subplot works surprisingly well.  The unknown child cast are good, Kelly Macdonald, Rafe Spall and Andrew Scott are all good in the adult roles.  Purists will bemoan both the lack of sailing and how poorly the sailing scenes are filmed.Swallows and Amazons

The Purge: Election Year – A direct sequel to the second Purge film ” Anarchy ” with Frank Grillo reprising his role.  The only criticism is that where the second film moved things on, this third film offers nothing new.

The Mechanic: Resurrection – Unnecessary sequel to an unnecessary remake.  There is some good action, Jason Statham is fun as you would expect.  Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones and Michelle Yeoh  are all wasted.  The makeup department should have given Sam Hazeldine an moustache to twirl.The Mechanic Resurrection

An easy choice, movie of the month is:Julieta poster

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Every year since 2006 BAFTA nominates five rising stars, the winner is decided by a public vote.  previouse winners are: Will Poulter (2014), Juno Temple ( 2013),  Adam Deacon ( 2012), Tom Hardy (2011), Kristen Stewart (2010), Noel Clarke ( 2009), Shia Labeouf (2008), Eva Green (2007), James McAvoy (2006).  This years nominations are:

Gugu Mbatha-Raw:  has been kicking around on British TV for ten years she made a stunning breakthrough in the title role of Belle.Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Jack O’Connell: Has appeared in many films including This Is England, Eden Lake and Harry Brown but I didn’t take any notice of him until 2014 where he gave fantastic performances in starring roles in:  Starred Up, ’71 and Unbroken as well as a supporting role in 300: Rise of an Empire.Jack O'Connell in '71

Margot Robbie: graduating from Australian TV show neighbours to a significant supporting role in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.Margot Robbie

Miles Teller: Has had a busy year, most notably the brilliant Whiplash.Miles Teller

Shailene Woodley:  First making an impression as George Clooney’s daughter in The Descendants, she became a superstar with starring roles in Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars.Shailene Woodley

Who did I vote for? Jack O’ConnellJack OConnell

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