Paul Anderson is an Arts broadcaster, radio presenter, producer and journalist. He’s known for work on BBC 6 Music, Xfm, Capital as well as hosting his own one-hour film show ‘At The Movies’ on Smooth Radio. Paul is also a member of the London Film Critic’s Circle. Follow him on Twitter @afilmguy.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD: 18
It’s 1969 and the air is full of pot, hippies, and great music. This is a love letter to both Hollywood and Los Angeles and if it is Tarantino’s last film, his ninth, then it’s a beauty to go out with.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is everything you want from a Tarantino film if you are a fan of his film making. Leonardo di Caprio plays a veteran movie star who believes his career is over and he’s a has been washed up no hoper. His stuntman is Brad Pitt who is now his PA but he is still in his corner cheering him on. The cast is huge and brilliant. Margot Robbie plays Sharon Tate, Al Pacino as a wonderfully greasy Hollywood agent. It’s almost 3 hours long so take a cushion and don’t drink too much but there are enough surprises to keep you entertained. Plus, some lovely scenes with a pit bull called Brandy and Brad Pitt; and Damien Lewis as Steve McQueen.
As with all the best Tarantino movies there are multiple storylines, so the faded western star Di Caprio is just one. The Sharon Tate/Roman Polanski story and the emergence of Charles Manson and the Family – Lena Dunham pops up as a member and that maybe is one of the less believable aspects. A bit like Pulp Fiction we bounce around the one-off stories, but it isn’t as good as that movie. It’s a unique approach and will keep you on your toes but it is thrilling.
A killer soundtrack from the era including Neil Diamond, The Stones, Paul Revere and The Ravers, Mamas & The Papas. Lots of swearing and sexual references from what may seem a Jurassic age; and some drug references so not family viewing. One criticism of Tarantino of late, is his reliance on cartoon violence and bloodbaths and there are plenty here. He is brilliant with dialogue though and the closest cinema has to Elmore Leonard. There is a darkness in the background which is not brought to the front and you could say the Manson storyline is not properly explored and developed.
It is unapologetically nostalgic and, in its way, beautiful to look at with some sumptuous overhead crane shots. The chemistry between Pitt and Di Caprio is brilliant and Robbie is superb with little to do. It’s muscular and masculine and if you like that stuff, you’ll love it.
BLINDED BY THE LIGHT: 12A
More nostalgia, this time from the 80s, and not in Hollywood but Luton. Javed lives with his parents and two sisters and is bored out of his brains. He is trapped between his father’s expectations of him as a good Muslim and his own friends around him at school who are listening to pop music and, more importantly, dating girls. When he gets to college, he befriends a Sikh called Roops who is a fanatical Bruce Springsteen fan; suddenly Javed here’s Bruce talking to him in his lyrics.
The director is Gurinder Chadha from Bend It Like Beckham, based on the memoir of journalist and author Sarfraz Mansoor, called Greetings From Bury Park (as opposed to Asbury N.J).
It was a time of high tension with far-right marches and graffiti strewn all over the houses of Pakistani families, some being spat on and punched in the street. Some of this nostalgia is uncomfortable viewing but forms the authentic background to Javed’s desire to escape. The film is, in part, a musical with street scenes akin to west side story and even Rob Brydon pops up as Javed’s best friend’s dad who runs a market stall and is also a huge Bruce fan, and joins in the singing.
Javed is desperate to be a writer and his dad thinks he is doing economics at college, but his creative writing tutor, played by Hayley Atwell, encourages him to continue and use his voice through his writing. Blinded By The Light is a wonderfully uplifting film that could easily be the feel-good movie of the summer. It helps if you’re a Springsteen fan, but there are plenty of 80s pop to keep your toes tapping. All performances are universally good with Viveik Kalra a standout as Javed. A lovely, funny, clever uplifting movie perfect for summer.