Tag Archives: Tarantino

Tarantino or Taranti-yes? Eight ways to decide whether to see The Hateful Eight

13 Jan
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Bounty hunters Samuel L Jackson and Kurt Russell, with the woman they are taking to hang, Jennifer Jason Leigh, in Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight

Are you thrilled to experience Ennio Morricone’s first score for a Western since 1981? The film opens with a few minutes of a static image with OVERTURE printed on it, to give the score a chance to get going (and a chance for the editor in me to tut-tut at the poor kerning – I would have reduced the space after the “O” and the “R”), and there is wonderful moment where the classic Morricone “ah-ah-aaaah” voices swell over a slow-motion shot of horses struggling through the snow, breathing heavily. But it has nothing like the resonance of his Sergio Leone scores. Though Morricone recently won the Golden Globe for best score, The Revenant and Sicario are both more deserving

Are you excited by seeing it in 70mm Panavision, on Leicester Square Odeon’s huge screen? Tarantino has revived this wonderful (and very expensive) format simply because he has the clout to do crazy expensive s*** like that. However, the entire movie takes place inside either a stagecoach or a single-roomed bar, so the effect is an almost entirely redundant marketing gimmick. Makes for nice lighting, though.

Do you enjoy Tarantino’s talk-talk? This has it in spades. The whole thing is talking, more even than any other Tarantino film, let alone any normal director’s films. You can see why Tarantino is thinking of turning The Hateful Eight into a stage production. But boy does it work. It’s peppered with terrific lines, and utterly absorbing for the whole of its length.

Do you like Tarantino’s bang-bang? It’s not until half-way through the three-hour movie that there is any serious violence. (Some jokey violence, mind you, involving Jennifer Jason Leigh being repeatedly slammed in the face by her bounty hounter, ha ha.) But the climax is every bit as blood-drenched as Reservoir Dogs.

Do you think Samuel Jackson is the coolest motherf***** on the big screen? Then you’re definitely in luck. This could just be his finest role. He carries the film. All the big speeches are his, and he speaks them with the captivating slowness, emphasis and deliberation of a master story-teller. And if anyone can tell me where to get that awesome yellow-lined coat, I’m buying.

Do you believe Tarantino can coax the coolest performances from just about anyone? Yes, the director who resurrected Travolta’s dead-duck career is on form again. Everyone in this ensemble cast is terrific, with special plaudits for Tim Roth’s hilarious and utterly against-type upper-crust British accent. There’s just one exception. Not even Tarantino can make Channing Tatum (thankfully a tiny role) look or sound like he should be in a Tarantino film.

Do you like Tarantino’s time shifts? There is a time-shift scene in The Hateful Eight, where you see a past event from a different character’s perspective. It actually adds very little, however, and feels like Tarantino’s doing it just because it’s expected of him.

Do you feel Tarantino ain’t what he used to be? Let’s face it: Tarantino probably won’t ever better Pulp Fiction. But then again, probably no one will ever better Pulp Fiction; it’s one of the most extraordinary and influential films ever made (and one I’m proud to have nabbed as a cover-interview exclusive, at Time Out, before Empire or anyone else got their hands on it). And though I had my problems with Django Unchained (which I wrote about here), he’s still one of the most interesting writer-directors working in Hollywood, and this film absolutely doesn’t disappoint.

In the final analysis, do you like the sound of a spaghetti western with the same vibe as Reservoir Dogs written as an Agatha Christie locked-room mystery? Then you’ll probably like The Hateful Eight.

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Virgin America’s Blah Airways film: 5 good reasons to watch six hours of tedium

21 Oct

Virgin America’s epic new in-flight film is intended to be six hours of unremitting tedium, in order to demonstrate how dull any plane journey that is not with Virgin can be. Instead, Have you been flying BLAH airlines? is strangely fascinating. I’ve been mesmerised by it today, which is perhaps taking procrastination to new depths.

It’s filmed in real time, on a plane, with a cast of dummies. Mannequins, that is. Long periods of silence are interrupted by a meet-cute in-flight film-within-the-film with interminably banal dialogue on a communal screen too small to be seen, or by the ruminations of terminally dull fellow passengers, or by a passive-aggressive steward enquiring with hostility barely concealed beneath a veneer of politeness why a passenger hasn’t drunk the coffee he brought.

Here are five things that make it great:

— The blankness of the mannequins. It’s said that when Richard Burton first worked with Elizabeth Taylor on Cleopatra, he complained to the director that while he was giving it his all, she was doing nothing, and the film would be a disaster. The director agreed – but not in the way Burton expected. He showed Burton the rushes, and Burton saw that Taylor was wonderful, luminous, carrying a scene with a single raised eyebrow – while the stage-trained Burton seemed on screen a terrible ham.

Similarly, Clint Eastwood has said that his drama coach used to shout at him, “Don’t just do something, stand there!” Billy Wilder once made Jack Lemmon retake a scene 20 times, each time saying “That’s great, but just take it down a notch or two,” until Lemmon burst out, “If I take it down any more, I won’t be acting at all.” Wilder smiled, and said, “Finally, you’re getting the idea.” And a young actor working with Robert De Niro for the first time asked him for tips. The great man thought awhile, and said, “Try not to blink”.

The point is that, on film, less is more. Through the director’s use of lighting and music and framing, the audience will read onto a blank face an enormous depth of emotion. After a while, these mannequins start to seem like wonderful actors.

— The sinisterness of the implied. We are so used to periods of calm and banality in movies being juxtaposed with scenes of horror and violence, that I spent a lot of the film on the edge of my seat. It felt like something awful was always just round the corner.

— It’s totally out to Lynch. David Lynch is the master of the unsettlingly banal (click here to read my four-part interview with Lynch), but this tops him. I spent five minutes staring at a seat-back being rocked back and forth, back and forth, with squeaking noises. It later turned out to be a child – a rather grotesque grinning mannequin child – but had it turned out to be a backwards-talking dwarf I would not have been in the least surprised.

— It shows how powerful the score can be. At one point driving, energetic music begins, and it totally changes the mood of the film. It turns out to be from another passenger with leaky headphones, but you half-expect Harrison Ford or Liam Neeson to burst through with a gun.

— Boring dialogue can be really funny. Tarantino is the master of this: think conversations about foot-rubs, European burgers, or Madonna songs. My favourite bit in the Virgin film is the diatribe by the dullest passenger on how terrible it is there is too much choice in modern life – so many things on the Starbucks menu when you just want a coffee.

That’s one of my obsessions, too. There’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bit in Alex Cox’s Repo Man when they go into a corner shop, and on the shelves are rows and rows of tins all labelled “FOOD”, and in the fridge, cans all labelled “BEER”. Sometimes, when I’m feeling overloaded, I’ll go into a pub, and just ask for beer. They say what kind, and I say “beer”. Even as to whether it’s lager or bitter, I say “beer”. They eventually give me something. It always tastes good.

And maybe that’s at the heart of the movie’s curious appeal. With dozens of TV channels, endless programmes on demand, millions of videos on YouTube, and faster and faster editing in Hollywood films, all piling sensation onto sensation in the race to grab our precious eyeballs if only for a short few minutes, to watch something deliberately slow and pointless feels strangely refreshing.

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!