Tag Archives: Quentin Tarantino

Yakuza Apocalypse: Takashi Miike’s candy coloured cult mash-up

8 Jan

Japanese poster for Yakuza Apocalypse

Quentin Tarantino’s latest, The Hateful Eight, has been garnering five-star reviews everywhere from Empire to the Guardian and Telegraph. It’s playing in 70mm at the Odeon Leicester Square, which has got to be worth the extra ticket price, though sadly both Curzon and Picturehouse (including my local, the Ritzy) have got into a strop over this exclusive deal and are now refusing to screen it at all.

While waiting for my chance to see it, I caught up with another maverick, genre-obsessed director, and hoo boy! Takashi Miike is not – how can one put this delicately? – a director to everyone’s taste, but if you do like that sort of thing, Yakuza Apocalypse is a doozie. To give a précis of the film is to accord it a coherence that it doesn’t perhaps deserve, but let’s give it a go:

There’s this gang of yakuzas. Some of them are vampire yakuzas, for no explicable reason. Vampire hunters come. They are Japanese, yet speak only (heavily accented) English, for no explicable reason. They call in their secret weapon. Their secret weapon is a martial arts expert in a giant frog’s outfit, again for no explicable reason. There is blood and pus and decapitation, fights in which every punch sounds like an earthquake, numerous nods to spaghetti westerns, a climactic piss-take of bad Godzilla flicks, and the aforementioned bad-ass in a comedy frog costume who can defeat anyone in a fight yet has to be helped up and down stairs because he can’t see properly. It’s one of the most demented, insanely enjoyable, laugh-out-loud, candy coloured cult mash-ups I have ever seen.

The Telegraph gave it five stars, which is perversely generous. The Guardian gave it three, which makes it sound middle-of-the-road, when it is anything but. But really, like a hyperspace warp drive, Yakuza Apocalypse is beyond the star system altogether.

On the way out, I heard one cinema-goer ask another, “What did you think of the film?” I hung around for a few seconds, curious to hear the reply. But answer came there none. The guy just stood there, speechless, with this stunned look on his face.

So there you have it. Yakuza Apocalypse – more than words can say.

 

Despatch from Hollywood #3: the night I became Sadie Frost

15 Feb

ImagePhew! Yesterday was fun. I’ve picked up awards for magazine editing before, but never for film.

A couple of years ago, I stood on the stage of the Dolby Theater, where the Oscars take place, and yelled “You like me! You really like me!” over the empty chairs. I vowed to be back someday for real.

Okay, so it wasn’t actually my award, it was Sadie Frost’s. Her achievement in winning Best Actress in a Short is especially impressive given the competition, which, having watched ten hours of shorts at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival, I can tell you was stiff. Sadie was up against not just Juliet Stevenson, but the ageless Lee Meriwether, as well as Caitlin Harris who is terrific as Vivien Leigh in Love Scene.

And okay, this wasn’t quite the Oscars. But it was still good to get up there, in Hollywood, in a rep cinema owned by Quentin Tarantino (the New Beverly), in front of a hundred-odd gifted film-makers and actors. I apologised for not being Sadie, since “I’m not nearly as pretty as her”, and on her behalf thanked Sadie’s son Rudy, the film’s producers, cinematographer John Hicks, and of course “the director, Ben Charles Edwards, who’s ridiculously young, handsome and talented – the bastard”. I hope the Californian natives understand British humour.

Set The Thames on FireAnd on that note, I’m delighted to draw your attention to today’s Hollywood Reporter article which officially announces that Sadie Frost will be producing Ben’s first feature film. It’s called Set The Thames On Fire, after a Tom Waits lyric, and he and the writer, the also hugely talented raconteur, flâneur, wit and songsmith Al Joshua, have been developing this project for a year or more. Last time I was with them, they showed me some amazing artwork for their modern-Dickensian, dystopian alternate London.

I had no idea till then that their buddy-movie project, which I always thought of as “Withnail And I in Shoreditch”, had spun off into fantasy. But with Ben, you always have to expect the unexpected. Fingers crossed they get the film – and the cast – they deserve.

More reviews from the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival tomorrow. Or maybe the next day, if I get distracted by the joys of LA and my feature deadlines!

The Oscars 2013: And the actual winners are…

25 Feb
Daniel Day-Lewis wins third Oscar for Lincoln

Daniel Day-Lewis: The Greatest Actor Who Ever Lived™

Best Picture: Argo With hindsight (and having now actually seen it, which I hadn’t when I predicted Lincoln in January), Argo seems an obvious winner. The Academy rewards films about the movies disproportionately – just look at The Artist. And it has the same message as Zero Dark Thirty – screw you, terrorists, America kicks ass! – without the unpalatable politics. It even has its own catchphrase, “Argo f*** yourself”, which is being repeated in film meetings across Hollywood. Interestingly, truth here is stranger than fiction. The real CIA agent behind the extradition of US embassy staff from Iran deliberately called his fictional film Argo after an old joke: “Knock knock.” “Who’s there?” “Argo.” “Argo who?” “Argo f*** yourself.” The title of the movie was, therefore, a barely coded “f*** you” to the Iranians they were duping.

Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln. I called this one right, not that that makes me Mystic Meg. With a third win, he is now officially The Greatest Actor Who Ever Lived™.

Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook. I mischievously called for Emmanuel Riva to win, on the grounds that her age is closer to that of most Academy voters, but there has been a growing Cult of Jennifer Lawrence in the last year, her chat show appearances turning into internet memes. She is unstoppably adorable, bizarrely untainted (so far) by Hollywood pretension. Even on the red carpet she was announcing how hungry she was, voicing what every stick-thin actress thought but would never say. Quite apart from her performance being great, people would have voted for her just to see her speech. She didn’t disappoint. After stumbling over her dress, she said: “You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell over and that’s embarrassing.”

Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained. I don’t quite get this. Waltz was playing pretty much the same character with the same laborious elocution and loquacity as in Inglorious Basterds. Still, I guess they liked it enough the first time to give him an Oscar, so it makes sense to chuck another one on the fire.

Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables. Again, you didn’t have to be Mystic Meg to see this coming. Hathaway is evolving into a very complex and credible actress, able to switch effortlessly from frothy comedy to searing drama. [Her alcoholic in Rachel Getting Married was extraordinary.] Her brief role in Les Mis was such a stand-out, she was as firm a favourite to win as The Greatest Actor Who Ever Lived™.

Directing: Ang Lee, Life of Pi. Steven Spielberg had an epic subject, a terrific script, and The Greatest Actor Who Ever Lived™. As a director, all he really had to do was not screw it up. Whereas Life of Pi is pretty much unfilmable, and Lee did a bang-up job.

Foreign Language Film: Amour. If it’s nominated for Best Picture, you can be pretty sure it’s going to win this category.

Adapted Screenplay: Chris Terrio, Argo. It won Best Picture, so it’s going to win this. Sorry, Tony Kushner.

Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained. A deserving winner. The problems I had with this film (see bit.ly/YgJfSV ) are down more to direction than writing. This was a big, ballsy piece of work with some unforgettable scenes and dialogue.

Animated Feature Film: Brave. This was Pixar’s blandest and most disappointing movie by far. Maybe Academicians don’t actually watch the cartoons. Mind you, Pirates! was not up to the usual Aardman standard, either, and Frankenweenie was perhaps always going to be too weird.

And the other awards went to….

Production Design: Lincoln.

Cinematography: Life of Pi.

Sound Mixing: Les Miserables.

Sound Editing (tie): Skyfall, Zero Dark Thirty.

Original Score: Life of Pi, Mychael Danna.

Original Song: Skyfall from Skyfall, Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth.

Costume: Anna Karenina.

Documentary Feature: Searching for Sugar Man.

Documentary (short subject): Inocente.

Film Editing: Argo.

Makeup and Hairstyling: Les Miserables.

Animated Short Film: Paperman.

Live Action Short Film: Curfew.

Visual Effects: Life of Pi.

Backstage at the Oscars: bit.ly/WjCnhI

BAFTA awards ceremony: winners, sinners and zingers

10 Feb
Argo

Argo takes Best Film, Best Director, and inspires Stephen Fry’s new beard

The BAFTA awards ceremony was terrific. Conducted with a minimum of fuss, ceremony and ridiculous frocks, and a maximum of Fryesque facial hair, it even featured Daniel Day-Lewis taking the piss out of his Method-acting ways. “Just in case of this moment,” he said, “I’ve stayed in character as myself for 55 years; had a selection of BAFTA sets downscaled and placed in my living room…”

And so, without further ado, my awards for the best BAFTA ceremony moments go to:

Most unctuous introduction: “Sumptuous and superlatively scrumptious… one of the true immortals of Hollywood” – Stephen Fry on Sally Field.

Least unctuous: “A death mask on a stick” – Billy Connolly on the BAFTA trophy.

Most bizarre introduction: Stephen Fry is famous for these. I liked “Please ululate wildly for…” and “Please spank palms audibly for…”. But the winner is for Life of Pi, which Fry supposedly mistook for an American Pie sequel: “Sadly it featured no young men pleasuring themselves with fruit-filled fancies.”

Biggest upset: Christoph Waltz beat not just Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master) but more strangely Javier Bardem in Skyfall. But the biggest upset must still be Argo taking Best Film. Even Samuel L Jackson, presenting the award, read it out with a chuckle of obvious amazement.

Smallest upset: A three-way tie between Amour winning Best Foreign Language Film; Daniel Day-Lewis getting Best Actor; and Anne Hathaway winning Best Supporting Actress.

Most sincere acceptance speech: “This is a second act for me… I’m so grateful and proud” – Ben Affleck getting Best Director.

Least sincere: Quentin Tarantino (Best Original Screenplay, again) sounded about as chuffed as if he’d been offered a cigarette. And he doesn’t smoke.

For the full list of winners, go to http://awards.bafta.org/

Django: where Tarantino meets the Countess of Oxford

17 Jan
Image

Don’t say the ‘D’: Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained

Tarantino’s Django Unchained, which opens in the UK on Friday, has a great tagline to go with its iconic scene: “The ‘D’ is silent; the payback won’t be.” But in common with Quentin’s gift for recycling old songs, scenes from old movies, and even old movie actors, this tagline is recycled from an old dinner party.

Let me explain.

In 1934, Margot Asquith, who was the Countess of Oxford and widow of the British prime minister, hosted a dinner party. Among the guests was the young actress Jean Harlow, the original Blonde Bombshell. Bubbly, brash and informal, the Hollywood starlet insisted on being called Jean, not Miss Harlow, and tried to do the same to Lady Oxford.

Only Lady Oxford, Margot Asquith, wasn’t having any of it.

It wasn’t just a stiff English aristocrat’s obsession with Old World formality. The problem was that Harlow was mispronouncing her host’s first name, loudly and often, as “Mar-gott”, emphasising the ‘t’, instead of as “Mar-go”.

“No dear,” the aristo corrected her at last. “The final ‘t’ in ‘Margot’ is silent. As in ‘Harlow’.”

Ouch.

Tarantino could learn more from Margot Asquith than a tag-line. As a put-down, this is a little more eloquent than “I’m shutting your butt down” (to C4 News). And, wonderfully, it appears not to be apocryphal: http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/01/13/t-is-silent/.

Asquith got as good as she gave, however. Dorothy Parker, reviewing her books, noted scathingly that “The love affair between Margot Asquith and Margot Asquith will live as one of the prettiest love stories in literature.”

There’s a lovely final twist to the story. David Bowie’s recent single release Where Are We Now? (read my blog on it at http://bit.ly/Vs6C9s) caught journalists off guard; so much so that some of those wheeled on to discuss it hadn’t boned up on the correct pronunciation of his name. Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, now one of Hollywood’s brightest directors (MoonSource Code), decided to clear things up.

Under his Twitter handle @ManMadeMoon, he Tweeted: “For those asking, the name is Bowtie… the ‘t’ is silent.”