Thursday 12 August 2021

Rob's Movie Night Roundup - O (Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood, Okja)

At the beginning of the year, my wife and I decided that we'd like to watch more movies. There are 52 weeks in a year, 2 of us, and 26 letters in the alphabet. What better way to choose some movies than to go alphabetically? The only rule: Where possible, it should be a movie that one or more of us had never seen before. Oh, and ideally it should be part of one of the copious online streaming services we're already subscribed to, because why bother paying for a rental when we're not short of options?

Incidentally, if anyone from the big online streaming service providers is reading this (your Notfluxes or your Prims, for example), please make it easier to search for/sort movies alphabetically. Thanks.

Also, fair warning: There may well be movies that appear on this list that you'll find hard to believe I haven't seen before. It happens.

Previous letters are here: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N


Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie

Synopsis via IMDB: A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the final years of Hollywood's Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.

I'm not sure what the general sentiment is regarding Tarantino when it comes to movie fandom. I'm not a huge film buff, but I've always quite liked his stuff. Out of all the ones I've seen, I probably enjoyed Django Unchained the most. Was that still true after having seen Once Upon A Time...? Yes, but it was still fun.

I'm a huge fan of both Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt and it was crazy to me that this was their first co-starring role together. Considering how long they have both been plying their respective trades, it's strange to me that they've only ever joined forces as stars in this film. In any case, they combine to great effect here. Margot Robbie also does a great job as Sharon Tate, and while the Manson family sub-plot is a weird one, it's sufficiently creepy and suspenseful as to not feel too out of place.

Like many Tarantino films, there are some violent elements, but considering how violent some of the previous films in his repertoire it comes across as particularly restrained for the most part. There is a fair bit of creative license applied, for which mileage may vary pretty drastically (Bruce Lee's depiction in the film, for example, has come under some scrutiny), but it's a well-shot film with some great performances.

One thing I think is worthy of note, as well, is that this film is nearly 3 hours long but in no way feels like it takes 3 hours to complete. Despite the movie not really containing much in the way of fast-paced action, it's engaging throughout and I'd heartily recommend it.

Director: Bong Joon Ho
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Jake Gylenhaal, Seo-hyun Ahn

Synopsis via IMDB: A young girl risks everything to prevent a powerful, multinational company from kidnapping her best friend - a fascinating beast named Okja.

It turns out I'm four years behind my mate Aaron in seeing this one. Crikey, how time flies. It doesn't seem like four years ago that Aaron posted his spoiler-free roundup here. Nevertheless, here we find ourselves. Relax; I'm not planning on spending the whole review talking about what Aaron said. That's what the URL is for. Now you can go and enjoy it yourselves!

I think it's fair to say that this film is designed to criticise the meat industry or at the very least elements of it, and that's fair enough. It comes down a little on the old Denis Leary bit "We only want to save the cute animals", but whatever works. Here's the thing: I have a weird relationship with films that are clearly designed to convey some sort of moral message. It's not to say that I'll do the complete opposite thing out of some sort of misplaced spite or rebellious spirit, but I will say that I hadn't eaten McDonald's for a year or so before watching Supersize Me, and the next day I had a quarter pounder meal. I was in France, so it was technically a Royale, but anyway.

This film didn't do that to me, or at the very least I don't recall having anything pork-based the next day, but there are some similarities. I would say, though, of the two Okja does a better job of conveying the message without an element of smarm. The director, whose work I only know from Snowpiercer which I thought was cracking, does a great job here! The movie is entertaining, heartwarming and brutal in all the right places. The pacing is well done, with scenes jumping forward as much as they need to from set piece to set piece.

The performances throughout are great as well, with my favourites being Jake Gylenhaal's pretty interesting take on a TV wildlife expert and Seo-hyun Ahn portraying the driven and endearing main character. Tilda is great, as always, and Giancarlo Esposito was a nice surprise to see included in the story, but the two above were my standouts.

There's not much I'd say to knock this one. Maybe the CGI is ropey in a couple of places, but other than that it's an enjoyable movie. Definitely a good way to spend some time, and with P on the horizon I might have to dip into Parasite, which I hear is also excellent.

O might end up being one of my favourite letters, based on my initial impressions. I found Once Upon A Time... thoroughly engaging (although that was a split decision in the Wade household), and based on Okja I have a sense of what my "P" film might be, and you might well see that director pop up again...

Did you enjoy the roundup? Let me know! If you have thoughts on the movies chosen and their respective writeups above, you know where to find me. Maybe you don't, but there are buttons everywhere to make that happen. Comments, Twitter, you name it. Moreover, if you want to make use of this movie night format, bearing in mind you're a few weeks in and might have to double up to get up to speed, feel free to do the same - I'd love to know what you chose too!

Rob Wade

Rob Wade blogs about stuff he likes. Whether it's video games or geek media for Emotionally14 or writing about speculative theories for future films on Talk Star Wars, the focus has always been on the stuff that brings the most pleasure to his life within media.

Rob is the editor of Emotionally14, and showrunner of the E14 podcasts "The Crazy Train", "The E14 Gamecast" and "Talk Star Wars", as well as the host and guest of a number of pieces on E14's Youtube channel over the years.

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