One of my friends put it best, “The Rise Of Skywalker” satisfies the left brain’s logical and reasoning side but leaves the right brain’s creative and emotional center a little disappointed. This plot driven movie has a lot of action and ties a lot of things together but it lacks character development and emotional stakes. Let’s see why.



A sense of panic permeated throughout the movie almost to the point where whenever a slower scene started to emerge it would be cut short by the arrival of imminent danger. I found myself at the edge of my seat for most of the film. Not because I was riveted, but because the story boomeranged back into action pretty frequently.

The new generation of core characters (Rey, Finn and Poe) did not have much dialogue between them, rather they mostly resorted to barking orders at one another and screaming in the face of potential peril. I began to question when there was going to be a quiet moment for some interpersonal scenes, or characterization. But most of the film felt like an anxiety fueled dream where you are constantly being chased and you have to keep running away.

There was also a near soap opera level number of twists and non-deaths. Constant back and forths where we are uncertain whether a character dies or not and who survives. The biggest example of this was the death (or not) of Chewie. This moment felt like it was especially tugging at our heart strings but almost in an artificial and hurried way because shortly after we found out he was actually alive, which doesn’t give us as an audience any time to mourn. In fact, it was mostly the scenes where the dead characters from original trilogy appeared that had an emotional lean.


The only real emotional scenes were when Leia, Han and Luke showed up. I would rather they have constructed a story where we cared as much about Rey, Finn and Poe but such was not the case. Any difficult decision (eg Rey giving up or Kylo Ren doubting his evilness) felt like it was furthered along with the help of an old character (Luke and Han respectively) and that didn’t allow the new characters to develop their own emotional stakes as much nor for us to care.

Relying on the power of the old crop as iconic characters made it impossible for the new characters to blossom and therefore felt like it was impeding on the story. As nice as it was to see the older characters it somehow felt inappropriate, almost like they were shoehorned into a story that wasn’t about them which made their appearances seem cheap.

JJ Abrams is particularly adept at relying on nostalgia and playing it up in his movies (as seen in Star Trek, Star Wars Ep. VII, and more) but bringing back Emperor Palpatine felt a bit too far fetched. “The dead speak!” was met with an eye-rolling degree of incredulity. Even in the Rey/Kylo Ren communication sequences, it was through the mask of an old character: Darth Vader.


My left brain was pleased with the Kylo Ren storyline inasmuch as it mirrored Darth Vader’s arc. Starts off bad, gets redeemed at the end, in other words: familiar.

But my emotional side had a hard time mapping over the Darth Vader storyline to this one because we have seen Kylo Ren be a lot more sinister than Darth Vader. We’ve seen him kill his father and we’ve seen more of his origin story. We see him do inexcusable things and grow in his hatred.

Darth Vader meanwhile, as evil as he was, came into the story as a prototypical villain from whom we’d expect these kind of evil inclinations and only acted in a way that made sense within the realm of his character. Villains will kill. Kylo Ren, however, was introduced in a much more ambivalent fashion, going back and forth between each side of the force, struggling between good and bad and consciously choosing time and again the dark side.

And lastly, I didn’t see the use of the kiss at the end between him and Rey for the 10 seconds while they were both still alive. It felt like a haphazard attempt to round out the Kylo Ren/ Ben Solo arc by cementing him as a “good” and redeemed character.

There was a romance that felt more called for, among the omitted storylines which bothered me, namely..


A Finn and Poe romance! If The Rise of Skywalker was all about pleasing the fanbase why didn’t they work this in? According to Oscar Isaac, he was onboard but the Disney execs were not. Throughout the trilogy it seemed as though there were hints and moments where there was tension and chemistry between the two and thus them getting together felt like a logical conclusion. And there was a big online push for them to end up together. But The Rise of Skywalker decided to keep their relationship platonic and give them each a sort-of girlfriend. If there has to be a romance, they should have made it this one or not at all — the kiss between Rey and Ben was confusing and rushed.

Another thing: where in the hell is Rose Tico?

Rose was such a big part of the “Star Wars Episode VII: The Last Jedi” I was convinced she would be a big part of this one, too. She was a scrappy, fresh and interesting character and I wanted to see more of her. Alas, her screen time was less than two minutes (1m16s to be exact: according to this website) out of 2 hours and 20 minutes full time.

Another thing that bothered me/ was omitted was that Finn never gets around to revealing to Rey what he was going to tell her when he thought they were all going to die. Not a big issue, but a little frustrating.


At some key moments, most notably the final celebration sequence after the victory, the music was used more as a crutch than to enhance an already good scene. It was indicating the audience on how to feel rather than it organically swelling up.

Another issue I had was Rey going back to Tatooine, burying the lightsabers and proclaiming herself as a Skywalker. As a message, I didn’t mind, because the thematic logic behind it is that one can choose their own identity and forge their individual destiny. But in regards to the story, if felt more like a winky reference to the old movies without considering the implications. Tatooine was a place where a lot of tragedies befell the Skywalkers: Anakin was ripped away from his mom, Luke’s family was murdered… and so burying their lightsabers on that planet doesn’t beget the sort of respect Rey may have intended by doing that and instead seems like a plot device to reference the old movies one more time before the end credits.

For something positive, the visuals were stunning. Each world had its own very specific design and the color palette was clearly defined and felt specific to each planet or setting.

So concludes this new trilogy. Not a terrible movie but much too reliant on speed and action. The inattention to emotional development and characterization made for a movie which unfolded more like a puzzle of logic where all the storylines come together rather than a down to earth and powerful story. – ⭐⭐


Bong Joon Ho delivers this chilling masterpiece with precision and power.

Parasite follows the Kims, a Korean working class family of four who barely get by even when collectively pitching in from their low-wage jobs. When a family friend brings them a rock that’s supposed to help bring luck, prosperity and greatly enhance the family’s riches; the story starts to form.

They manage to trick their way into getting hired one by one as staff for a rich family, the Parks. First the son, Ki-woo, gets hired as an English tutor and sees the opportunity to con his wealthy bosses into hiring the rest of his family. His sister, Ki-Jeong, becomes an art therapist for the rich couple’s son. His father, Ki-Taek, becomes their chauffeur and his mother, Chung-sook, becomes the cook and house staff.

There are several things worth noting about this film: its power, tragedy and subtlety. And in this review we’ll look at those through an analysis of meaning and a breakdown of tone.


This sketch, although humorous, is an insightful look at the issues with the social class system. Though this about the UK, it captures the societal mentality when regarding social classes, income gaps and cultures within a country. It is therefore transposable to South Korea, which has a similarly strict delineations of class.

“Money irons everything out” – Chung-sook


In Parasite, the rich family for the most part is not nefariously looking down at the lower class like in the sketch above, rather they are oblivious to the lower class’ struggles, which, in part, contributes to inequality. The exception perhaps is the father, Mr. Park, who notices when Ki-Taek uses vulgar language when another car cuts him off, and gives him a disapproving look. But, the Parks ignorance towards their privilege doesn’t mean they aren’t profiting off of other people.

The mom, Yeon-kyo, is so unaware of her surroundings that she doesn’t even notice the man living in hiding in the basement. The man underground, meanwhile, has no access to the outdoors, lives off of discarded food from the Parks and turns on the lights every night upon Mr. Park’s return from work, so that he feels comfortable. This exemplifies the Parks’ ignorance towards little expected comforts, which are the result of someone’s else work.

Parasite offers up some pretty grim messages too:

  • if you’re poor, then you’ll inevitably have a hard life
  • and, money doesn’t equal happiness

This first message intimates a sort of predestined life dictated by class. For no matter how hard the Kims try, troubles always seem to come knocking at their door. The epitome of this is captured in the oddly fascinating scene where Ki-Jeong smokes a cigarette while the toilet erupts a grimy black substance and slowly floods the entire bathroom. Hauntingly beautiful.

Since the theme of destiny governed by class is present throughout the whole movie, it makes sense that the family’s attempts to get out of their class would have tragic repercussions. It’s almost like a Greek tragedy in that way. Fighting, like Atlas, against an immovable reality. Ki-Jeong, got killed then not because of a random act of violence but because the Kims allegorically played with fate by conning their way into being rich.

By doing this, Bong Joon Ho shows the difficulty, the near impossibility of change or progress in a society that still separates people based off of their wealth, vernacular or by the color of their skin. This is an urgent and powerful message for Korea but equally for countries that operate like this, too (read: many, if not all countries’ systems).

The second message is that material wealth is not necessarily the most valuable kind of wealth. By the end of the movie, the Kims accumulated money in their bank accounts, but they lost someone who was a lot more valuable to them. They lost Ki-Jeong. And, Ki-Taek now has to live in hiding and he has lost his freedom. Ultimately, family and freedom were the most important aspects to the Kim family unit. Even though they got a taste of riches, it wasn’t worth the trade in for a dead daughter/sister and a father/husband who is in hiding.


Essentially, Parasite worked as a dark comedy for the first half, even producing laughs along the way. I even thought to myself: “is this the dark film everybody been’s talking to me about?”. What I didn’t realize was that is that the story was gaining momentum before becoming dark.

The tonal center was gradually building out of a dark comedy and shifting slowly into a frenzied, harrowing thriller. This wasn’t so much of a sudden change but a gradual progression which speaks to Bong Joon Ho’s mastery of tone and subtle storytelling.

With an unforgettable mindfuck of a crescendo at the party scene.

Parasite is a wild, politically engaged, and beautifully executed movie – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


A playful movie that looks at the murder mystery genre and says: “I’ve got an idea .”

This movie was an awful lot of fun: why?


Genre playfulness is when someone creates a piece that nods to the iconic films or works from that genre but delivers it in a unique style. A genre has its own language and world, and although playful, genre-specific movies might contain cliches or use recognizable tropes, they do not veer into spoof territory. Instead, they function as a fun(ny) homage to the genre.

The language of the murder mystery genre might come in the form of a classic storyline (murder occurs, all-knowing detective tries to pick murderer out of a group of suspects who were all present). It also has a certain aesthetic, fancy Victorian-era mansion tucked away in the woods. An autumnal decor, yellow and brown leaves that remind us of the spookiest season of all, Halloween. Trick doors to an abundance of rooms that display opulent wealth. There’s also usually a party and the guests become suspects. A lot of this is owed to the world forged by crime fiction author and world’s best-selling writer, Agatha Christie.

Knives Out uses a lot of these classic components. The setting is a creaky mansion tucked away in the forest. There’s an all-knowing detective, complicated family dynamics and a murder the night of a party, in which the guests —the family— are the suspects. The family members themselves seem straight out of an Agatha Christie novel, each having a motive creating a shroud of doubt as to who the real killer is. The film explores each character’s depth (and possible motives for murder) so it veers away from spoof territory.

If interested in parodies of the murder mystery genre, Jonathan Lynn’s 1985 film Clue or Neil Simon’s Murder By Death are worth checking out. As opposed to Knives Out, the characters in these movies are self-aware and ape the recurring situations or cliches of the genre. Clue reimagines the beloved board game into a story packed with jokes and true to its deceptive fashion, the movie had three different theatrical endings to confuse the audience across America. Murder by Death takes all the well known detective-types and puts them in a movie together. There are substitutes for: Hercule Poirot, Sam Spade, Charlie Chan, Miss Marple and so on.

Since we know that Knives Out is not a spoof, the familiarity of the world being set up is only used so that it can be played with later.

So how does this film play with the genre?

Well, for one, as opposed to the common whodunnit? stories, we find out the killer little less than halfway through the movie. Instead, this movie asks the question: who hired the detective? This reversal of expectations is part of the fresh vision for the movie.

Also, there are some modern, and usually funny, updates on common characters. As opposed to the usual petulant entitled child, we get an internet troll son masturbating in the bathroom. As opposed to the hackneyed devilish butler (the butler did it!), we get a kindhearted and devoted nurse/caretaker. The grandmother who seems senile plays an important role in the end, etc.. These character variations are specific to Knives Out, which make the movie more compelling, unique, and therefore more fun.

Also, Knives Out use of humor serves to elevate and make the movie stand out.


If comedy often operates as cutting tension, it makes sense that the murder mystery genre would be ripe for humor. These crime-fiction stories have a certain poignancy and suspense to them, and Knives Out uses bathos to its advantage.

That being said, I was not expecting it to be this funny.

There were lots of moments I actually laughed out loud. My favorite part was hearing the folksy wisdom of Daniel Craig’s Detective Benoit Blanc who delivers insightful analyses using metaphors with commonplace foods in New Orleans twang.

When Mr. Blanc plays a foreboding key on the piano, we are thrown in the world of a brilliant detective’s antics. The audience does not quite understand what’s going on or why he hits the key while interrogating them. The characters’ confused and blunt reactions to that cut the tension by mirroring the audience’s confusion.

“The party? Pre my dad’s death? Oh, it was great.” Linda

Additionally, the sincerity and kind-heartedness of the Ana de Armas’ character, Marta Cabrera, provides some endearing laughs. Marta is the heart on her sleeve caretaker and throws up at the thought of lying. That innocence makes some for sweet, if not a little gross, comedic moments.

There are also little nuggets of recurring jokes added in. The most engaging one being the family who keep getting Marta’s ancestral country wrong, which ultimately proves how little they think of her as family despite their rote repetition of that phrase.



Structurally, I appreciated the full circle quality of the opening shot and the closing shot with the mug that reads : “My rules, my house, my coffee”, but now with a different meaning put onto it. The blocking and metaphorical placement of the closing shot too was a powerful way to end. Marta, looking down on the family from the balcony, at home and wrapped up in cozy blanket sipping from a mug. The family, meanwhile, stand in the driveway, bereft of their expected inheritance and look up to her, the new owner of the house and estate.

With a lot of whodunnit? stories, the clues lie in the details and all information might be used later on. The twist of the knife being fake was set up in the beginning when the patriarch of the Thrombey family tells Marta as he stabs his card table that a trick knife is sometimes indistinguishable from a real one. Ransom’s final act of defiance and attempt to kill Marta is then halted because he used a trick knife. This underlying trickery parallels the deceitfulness of his protege grandson, so it seems like a fitting conclusion for Ransom’s character.


The family is played beautifully, you simply love to hate them. The acting in this all star cast is a triumph, especially the main character who is a revelation.

I also appreciated the message of the film. Marta’s good heart never wavered and that is what was rewarded in the end. She was honest to Det. Blanc throughout the film and saved Fran, even though it was against her best interest. This shows that sometimes it pays to be truthful in a world of deceit and lies.

In the words of the lady in back of me at the movie theater: “Pure moviegoing entertainment” – ⭐⭐⭐⭐½


A watered down regurgitation of Woody Allen tropes from his “Manhattan” era. With this movie, he folds in on himself and becomes a caricature of what he once was.


Let’s start with the most talked about. Amazon Studios did not release the film in the US because of the the allegations held against Woody Allen. Though the allegations of assault on his adoptive daughter Dylan date back to 1992; the Me Too movement, and the fact that his son (Dylan Farrow) uncovered the Harvey Weinstein scandal, brought the allegations back to the surface. Even though it was common knowledge for many years, the resurfacing made Amazon cut ties with the director and most of the cast donated their earnings from the movie (surely out of the goodness of their hearts and not simply out of fear of bad PR).

All allegations aside, Woody Allen has a problematic history with writing in predatory behavior towards women. This bothersome pattern dates back to Manhattan, where Woody Allen’s character (in his 40’s) dates a 17 year old girl and complains that she’s not deep enough. Even if the attitude towards dating younger women might have been different back then, it doesn’t change the fact that Woody Allen wrote in the script that his love interest was 17. It was in his power to make her 18, and not a minor. It’s just a year, but it makes a big difference. A Rainy Day in New York adds to that list of problematic storylines. In this film, a 21 year-old girl (legal! Phew..) is chased around by THREE separate middle aged men (Oof…). Now, if Woody Allen is trying to distance himself from the sexually predatory image he says is being unfairly pushed onto him, his movies aren’t helping his cause, though granted, they are not confessions or proof of any wrongdoing either.


This whole movie can be boiled down to: “out of touch”. Out of touch director, for an out of touch increasingly niche audience, played out by out of touch characters. (Who else is sick of upper class New Yorkers in film?). The evolution of Woody Allen’s directorial style seems to be rather stagnant if he is doing the same things he did 40 years ago, like showing the Empire State Building in Black and White and making the protagonist an ersatz embodiment of himself. This seems more like the work of a legacy act rather than an artist seeking to create engaging content.

Equally, the characters are far from realistic and compose a dialogue never before heard in real life, unless all characters are a foil for Woody Allen himself (eg. “I shouldn’t imbibe so copiously” – uttered by a 21 year old college student from Arizona). This seems to be the issue with Woody Allen(s). Each main character becomes a Woody Allen impersonation and over the years, the quality has declined.

The worst part is that the old fashioned dialogue is spoken by actors as fresh faced as pre-pubescent teens.

These are the faces of 12 year olds.

These characters, Gatsby and Ashleigh, are a college couple whose lives have been uninterrupted boulevards of green lights and unending streams of wealth. Gatsby is supposed to be a fusion of Holden Caulfield and Jay Gatsby while remaining bumbly and neurotic, naturally. Ashleigh is a sweet ingenue enamored by Hollywood. These are not very original characters.


NB. There was a moment of hope where’s Gatsby’s mother reveals she was once a prostitute in Indiana. Even though that tugged at an element of real struggle and brought the story from the dizzying heights of wealth the characters display, (eg. Let’s get the suite at the Carlyle because betting money is “fake money”) this remains a passing moment. A movie with her as the central character might have been more compelling. Seeing her climb the echelons of class – only to be misunderstood by her own wealthy kids, would have been rich as a subject.

Instead we get the ramblings of a boy who’s known nothing but operas and Ivy League schools.


Largely, there were many gaps in understanding. A couple in their 20s that doesn’t text each other with updates? Come on. Either I missed it or it was unclear, but they seem rather involved to the point of taking a trip together, discussing marriage and wanting to meet the family. So that was hard to believe, especially considering that the whole film could have been changed with a minimum of texting or the incalculable social media platforms people contact each other with nowadays.

Another moment that seemed dated was whenever Gatsby talk about Jazz as if it were an alternative lifestyle- this is hardly the 1920s. Jazz has been accepted as an iconic movement and grown to become a century defining musical genre. In his musical upbringing, I’m sure he was even taught (by the mother he so despises) to play jazz.

The music in the film was mostly good, the highlight being a rendition by Gatsby of “Everything happens to Me” though – try as he might – T. Chalamet can’t grasp the intense sorrow put forth by Chet Baker, the clear inspiration for this interpratation of the standard.

A pleasant and welcoming surprise was Selena Gomez’s acting chops.

The stylistic choices that once shot Woody Allen to fame have now become out of touch, tired and dated – ⭐


Character driven movie which follows the descent of a troubled man into becoming an urban, albeit violent, robin hood-esque persona and a counter culture emblem set to shake the hierarchic social structure status quo.


In the traditional origin story, one event serves as a trigger that changes the hero’s life forever. Whether it’s for a super hero, such as Peter Parker who gets bit by spider, gains powers, discovers how to use them (responsibly) or whether it’s with a villain. The villain arc usually goes like this: “brilliant scientist gets overwhelmed by own creation, falls into vat of toxic waste, gains superpowers”. This keeps the genre very much in the make believe world because we understand the actual consequences of those actions. We understand that a spider bite just leaves a nasty bump in real life or if it’s venomous it might hurt us, but ultimately not give us powers. Just like we understand that a toxic waste vat will kill or seriously injure us and not give us the power to harness electricity for example. This cements these stories in the world of make believe, fiction, fantasy. What’s interesting about Joker is how real it is. This movie is grounded in a believable setting and the hero (or rather villain’s) descent evolves through a collection of moments rather than a single spark igniting a character switch. There is no one traumatic incident Arthur Fleck (Joker) can harken back to when he decided to be bad, but rather a series of little moments that build up, amalgamating and eventually crescendoing into a chaotic and overwhelming drive towards violence that pushes our protagonist into crime and murder. This take offers a more subtle, perhaps more nuanced, (dare I say poetic?) and intimate portrait of how a man turns into a monster.


Set in the 1970s, Joker shows a grim, gritty picture of Gotham City, a city that serves as a substitute New York. It’s New York because we know of the lore and also because Batman (or Batman canon) films are usually filmed in NY (sometimes Chicago too). We also know it’s supposed to represent New York because in the movie because Arthur Fleck refers to finance bros as “Wall Street guys”. Now that we’ve established that Gotham is a fictionalized New York, it’s easy to draw comparisons to earlier cinematic works that take place in the actual New York, namely Scorsese films.

Two Scorsese films come to mind while watching Joker and they are Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy.

Taxi Driver is set in a similar timeframe as Joker and has a familiar backdrop in the gritty New York or New York like cityscapes. Whether it’s the porno movie theaters or the dirty metro lines these two movies bear a visual resemblance in their settings. Not only that, but the themes are also pretty analogous. Chasing after a politician (or politician to-be in Joker), these movies follow an unhinged protagonist as they turn to violence for liberation and more. There is even a scene where Joaquin Phoenix dances shirtless around the room with his pistol in his hand à la Robert de Niro playing Travis Bickle in the supremely famous “you talking to me?” scene. Perhaps the most compelling similarity is both movies toying with our perception of what actually is happening.

There are some moments in Joker where we as an audience are not sure what is actually happening in the story or if what we are seeing is a story concocted by Arthur Fleck’s imagination. We are sometimes led to believe it’s happening one way, but then later shown that it was all a fantasy stemming from twisted mind of our eponymous protagonist. The play between what’s real and what’s imagined leaves a lot of scenes open for interpretation. We are not sure what to follow and the confabulation of Arthur Fleck as an unreliable narrator makes him twist reality or manipulate the images we see on the screen. This storytelling tactic serves to heighten the feeling of chaos that permeates throughout this movie. This situation is similar to the ending of Taxi Driver and the debate as to whether Travis Bickle actually acted like we saw in the movie and lived to look back on it or whether it was the hopeful fantasy happening inside of his deranged mind.

Now that we’ve explored the similarity between themes, let’s look at the similarity between story and content, which is where The King of Comedy comes in. The first obvious connection is the presence of Robert de Niro the actor, who plays a character in the late night TV world. The second connection is the tale of the persistence and delusion of a would-be comedian who’s sure he’s destined for great things. Both Rupert Pupkin (the main character of The King of Comedy, played by Robert de Niro) and Arthur Fleck are mentally unstable and will go to great lengths to become famous. They both share a fascination for a late night TV host and resort to violent actions when dealing with rejection. While Rupert remains obstinate about achieving success in the comedy world, Arthur is more disillusioned with the way things are and decides that the confines of TV are too small for his character, proclaiming instead that his “life is a comedy”.

On top of Scorsese there are other allusions, the most notable being to Charlie Chaplin. When Arthur Fleck covertly enters a movie screening, it’s “Modern Times”, a movie is about a man having trouble keeping up with modernization. Arthur Fleck equally describes the world he’s living in as getting “crazier out there”, a sign he feels he can’t keep up with the change he feels is happening. Subsequently, not coincidentally the Charlie Chaplin penned “Smile” plays in the Joker soundtrack. This serves two purposes. The first is the allusion to Charlie Chaplin, arguably the iconic figure of comedy of the 20th century, which Arthur Fleck certainly studied when trying to become a comedian (there’s a scene where he transcribes acts, jokes and moments of performances at a comedy club, so we know he takes notes and does his research). This ties into the whole comedian/clown/joker aspect. The second purpose is to use this song contrapuntally. This ties into the brilliantly contrapuntal soundtrack, packed with optimistic songs set to sombre moments of the movie. When a song is used as a counterpoint the general feeling or emotion derived from the song is in direct contrast with what’s happening on the screen (ie happy song, sad scene). The opening lyrics to the song go as follows: “Smile though your heart is aching/Smile even though it’s breaking”. The intention of the song is wait and “You’ll see the sun come shining through for you” one day. The Arthur Fleck-ian interpretation of the song (if we assume he heard it) would be to smile, no matter what. But it is not a genuine smile, which adds to an eerie feeling of confusion about the character and how we are supposed to feel about him.

“I used to think that my life was a tragedy. But now I realize, it’s a comedy.” – Arthur Fleck (Joker)


We live in an era where the line between hero and villain is marred. The distinction has become more and more blurry and hard to define. One of the latest DC movies shows Batman and Superman fighting against each other. Instead of good versus bad, it seems the public is more interested in psychologically rich characters. Though that’s been the case with TV for the last few years (Walter White in Breaking Bad, Don Draper in Mad Men and Dexter in Dexter…) the movie superhero genre is gently swaying in that direction. Venom last year, Joker this year and the aforementioned Batman vs. Superman to name a few.


As a film, Joker plays with our sensibilities and our allegiances to the protagonist. We know he’s a villain but we also feel for the guy. The only life he’s ever known has been a lie, he was adopted unbeknownst to him, he was terribly abused as a child, he laughs when it’s inappropriate and has a card to explain (but sometimes fails to take it out in time), people see him as a freak, he gets beaten regularly, he loses his job and so on…

This man was in a mental institution and once he left, the funding for his social work gets cut, meaning he is no longer able to receive medical treatment. These are serious issues which are approached with great sadness and empathy. We see Arthur Fleck trying to fit in and failing and being left behind by a society that doesn’t take care for its poor or its sick and is scared of mental illness. I started to feel bad for Arthur and I was inadvertently rooting for him.

Only after Arthur Fleck shot the three Wall Street men on the subway did I realize I was rooting for him. It almost felt good to see the finance bros/bullies get taken down, but why? Of course they were assholes, but even assholes and bullies deserve the right to live (and hopefully have time to learn to become better people). It seems as though this moment was a release for Arthur and we were seeing him unfolding in front us. We were exploring the darkness of the character with empathetic eyes. As if he were the answer to disrupt the power dynamics of a big city like Gotham. Even the city’s people responded to the killing and having the lens of a dissatisfied populace ripe for an uprising gives sense as to how a leader like the Joker could rise up in the vacuum and be, in some sort, the leader or face (or mask?) of the movement.

Batman is not a big part of the movie. Thomas Wayne (Bruce Wayne’s father) is a central figure and he is seen in opposition to Arthur Fleck. We inevitably see the parents death scene (shot by a random killer from the mob) but never see a tête-à-tête with Batman the superhero. Since Batman is such a beloved hero, I wonder (if a sequel were ever to be made) how they would juggle the conflict between Joker and Batman and who becomes the central character, the person we empathize with and in some sense the hero, or antihero.

A bold take on a classic superhero villain with efforts to shine a different light on a well known character. Many cinematic influences and an absence of a traditional origin story arc make for a compelling look into the descent into madness and create a tone of uneasiness and chaos. Worth a look – ⭐⭐⭐½


The film is much like a Springsteen song – a refuge for outcasts, people who feel stuck in their situation, and want a change.


I knew close to nothing going into this movie. I was surprised that it basically functioned as a musical if your definition of musical is a character needing to express their feelings through song. Except this time, it was Bruce Springsteen songs. That made it that the movie created an almost in between realm where some moments were real and dramatic while some were surrealistic and romantic.

Characters start dancing and singing along during a relatively normal scene. The choreography isn’t perfect and the singing sounds pretty normal. It feels like the characters could almost be joining along even if it weren’t a musical. The genre line between musical and not is tiptoed and carefully balanced. This leaves with more of an intimation or suggestion of a musical more than an actual musical. We can then focus on the songs themselves and the lyrics rather than the dancing, the showmanship and the technique.


Javed is a Pakistani boy from Luton (near but NOT London) who felt trapped in his life. Like Springsteen did to him, we were able to understand Javed’s experience because it hit on recognizable feelings of not being good enough, feeling trapped and wanting to break free. I do not know what it is like to be Pakistani in England in the 80s, but I do know the feelings of questioning myself and wanting a release and in that, Javed’s story becomes widely relatable for any who’s experienced those feelings too.

For a little history, the National Front in England is a fascist political party with an anti-Pakistani sentiment, who held riots and consisted of many “skinheads” followers. Pakistanis were treated like lower-class citizens, and Blinded By the Light doesn’t shy away from the abuse Pakistani families received. One scene depicts little boys peeing in mailboxes, something that happened so often [to that Pakistani family] that they splurged for a plastic carpet that was easier to clean the piss off of.

Those feelings, while unique to Javed’s experience, do mirror the Springsteen-ian angst of wanting to get out of their hometown. For the boss it was the ennui of the New Jersey working class lifestyle. For Javed, it was feeling trapped in not only his family but his skin color and roots.

The first song that connects Javed to Springsteen is “Dancing in the Dark”, which makes total sense. Lyrics appear on screen “I wanna change my hair, my clothes, my face” “Man, I’m just getting tired, tired and bored of myself” and of course “There’s something happening somewhere”. Javed finds solace in these words, and we find solace in Javed’s solace. He is a writer, holed up in his room, escaping the strict parenting of the household and this music is the first semblance of freedom and independence Javed’s been searching for.

Up till that point, writing has been Javed’s escape, but now it is Bruce Springsteen songs (introduced by a fellow Pakistani friend of his). Javed believes if he follows everything Bruce does, he will be able to extricate himself from the life he knows and become successful, like Bruce. In so, he tears off the sleeves of his shirts, buys jean jackets and adopts an all around denim look. And yet, by pushing his family away and seeing Bruce as his only savior he alienates the people who care about him.


The Springsteen songs serves as a sort of trampoline for Javed to tackle his life and issues head on, fearlessly and energetically. This culminates in a life affirming trip to Asbury Park , NJ while the title song “Blinded by the Light” (the original, not the Manfred Mann version) plays in the background. But at the end of the day, this is a movie where we see the main character mature and see things from everybody’s perspective and not just his own.

He sees how his sister takes time out of the day to dance at a day-only student dance club. He empathizes with his father searching for work and his overworked mother trying to keep the family afloat.

“My dream is to build a bridge to my dreams, but not a wall between my family and me” – Javed

The lesson here is not that music is the answer, the panacea to life’s problems whether it be songs from the Boss or someone else. It’s that music can help guide us and realize our potential. Instead of trying to emulate someone else.

A fun movie with a nice message – ⭐⭐⭐⭐


This ode to late ’60s LA unfolds in an intriguing and humorous fashion. Brilliantly acted, with a kaleidoscopic plot, this movie falls under the realm of a fictionalized non-fiction – a good one.

Almost like sketches strung together, Once Upon A Time in… Hollywood shows vignettes of life behind the scenes, the backlot of LA in the time of the rising hippie. The splicing between stories, timelines, and the quick cuts harken back to a vintage Tarantino, coming closest to Pulp Fiction than any other Tarantino film since Pulp Fiction.

The flexible plot primarily follows Rick Dalton and Clint Booth as they navigate through the post high-point curve of their career. Rick is a TV cowboy with acting chops and an alcohol problem. Clint is his stuntman, deemed “too pretty to do stunts” by a fictionalized Bruce Lee. Brash personality and pretty face – something Brad Pitt pulls off wonderfully.

Plenty of things were detailed. Many real actors and character actors were portrayed in the movie, including the likes of TV stars, Steve McQueen and most importantly, Sharon Tate. Though the movie is more focused on her acting rather than her real life murder we all know about. We get to see sweet moments of Sharon Tate, her at home intimately snoring in bed or at the movie theaters where she convinces the clerk to let her in the movie since she was in it. And then, relishing in the public’s reactions to her scenes.

She is played by Margot Robbie, who plays her well, with a mix of innocence and free spirited-ness. Though she has little screen time, every scene she’s in is engaging and well developed.


The looming presence of Charles Manson and the Manson family creates a tense atmosphere. Our knowledge about the murder plays out with lingering suspense and this movie toys with that. This eerie feeling is enhanced through the music and the cinematography, making for some uneasy, voyeuristic scenes. An example is the scene where Rick is rehearsing his lines in his backyard pool and the camera pulls back, looking from above as if peeking over his gate.

Then there’s the intensity of some shots, like the scene at Spahn ranch. The music is beautifully heavy and the camera pans back and forth between Clint Booth and the growing number of hippies staring him down- as the audience starts to realize the hippies make up the Manson family. You think something bad is gonna happen and the aura of hedonism and destruction is in the air.

That being said, Tarantino knows we anticipate the murder, and toys with our emotions. He milks the suspense with no release. His toying with the suspense of the real and the fictionalized seems like something he is having fun with. But that is not the only thing Tarantino has fun with in this film.


Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood seems to be a vehicle for Tarantino to live out his fantasy of being a director in the Silver Age of Hollywood and also TV, and more precisely, Westerns. Tarantino had fun meticulously recreating scenes or inventing movies or even injecting Leo in some old reels. Cigarette ads included! (at the end), where we pull back the curtain and see Rick Dalton not liking what he’s endorsing.

Often times, there would be a “mise en abyme” or show within a movie which would play out as if the camera was used for both. There’s quite a funny scene where Rick Dalton plays a “heavy” (code for villain) and forgets his lines. His breaking is done in such an earnest way and self loathing way; after he tearfully declares that he “messed up the whole thing” and exclaims “Can’t we just cut?”, he snaps right back into character. In moments like these, you feel endearment towards the character, but also feel the immense quality of Leo’s acting.

“It’s official old buddy, I’m a has been.” – Rick Dalton

Leo Dicaprio plays a TV actor who’s down on his luck and worried about his future in the industry. More often we see women depicted as struggling with getting older and not so much men. In movies it seems that men need to feel relevant (or useful), and this is no different. In this tale, Rick is more affected by his irrelevance and proceeds to drink while rehearsing lines and beats himself up about it when he can’t remember it the following day. His descent is fueled by insecurity and alcoholism – which often go hand in hand.

But a case could be made that Cliff Booth is also the hero. Who exactly is the hero of this narrative? Hard to tell. We get a comparable amount of screen time for both Rick and Cliff and we see them equally in their personal lives, at home preparing food or drinks, on set or in danger. It’s hard to measure because the script gives space to DiCaprio and Pitt to show off their charisma as both Rick and Cliff.

Rick and Cliff are not likable people but compelling characters, therefore making them likable in the process. Audiences like flaws and get most involved when they see a protagonist grapple and struggle through life. In that sense, Rick seems to fit the profile of the flawed hero more as Booth tends to be more easy going and doesn’t mind not being in the metaphorical driver’s seat.


Since it’s a Quentin Tarantino film, there was SOME violence but surprisingly, not that much. Unlike most of the Tarantino canon, Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood actually has a lot of genuinely sweet and sincere moments.

In particular, there was a scene where Rick Dalton and a genius little girl strike up a friendly conversation on set. While he is on the down slope of his career, she is just learning the craft, but seemingly self-sufficient (she already knows a lot and stands up for herself.) When these two characters act in a scene together in the following scene, Rick does an improv in character which leads her to telling him: “that was the best acting I’ve ever scene”. Rick thanks her and then cries. It’s quite a sweet moment and more intimate than you would expect from this director.

There were also many funny moments where Leo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt could flex their comedic chops. The highlight is a scene where Pitt’s character, Cliff, is tripping on acid when intruders barge into Rick’s living room and encounter Cliff. Cliff doesn’t know what’s real and laughs off the reality. “Are you real?” “As real as a donut” the intruder (Tex from the Manson family) retorts. Then, Tex pulls a gun to his head, so Cliff – all the while laughing – pulls a finger gun on Tex and the dangerous vibes the intruder is trying to set is undercut by Cliff not taking him seriously. This unique and absurd scene is only one of the many larger than life sequences in this movie.

An extremely detailed and tantalizing portrait of 1960s hedonism in Hollywood. Funny, sincere and suspenseful – ⭐⭐⭐⭐