Connect with us

Entertainment

Biden, Swift, the Super Bowl and the power of escapism

Published

on

Biden, Swift, the Super Bowl and the power of escapism

Super Bowl LVIII delivered a tight and exciting game between the 49ers and the Chiefs. Hilarious commercials included Kate McKinnon and a cat shilling Hellmann‘s mayo, and Ben Affleck dancing like an idiot for Dunkin’ Donuts. Usher delivered a halftime show … on roller skates.

Social media brimmed with a wide range of emotions triggered by Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s romance, many of the comments from adults still haunted by high school memories of worshiping and/or hating the untouchable Queen and King of the prom. I’d rather dance with a live rail than return to that tortuous chapter of life.

President Biden even jumped into the fray. A post popped up on his X account right after the Chiefs’ win. It’s a portrait of POTUS, eyes glowing like an alien, with the caption “Just like we drew it up.”

The well-timed joke was a response to the MAGA-verse conspiracy theory that the Democrats and the NFL were somehow in cahoots, and with the help of Swift, would rig the game in favor of Kelce’s Chiefs. By doing so, they’d throw the election to Biden come November.

If none of that makes sense, congratulations. You haven’t been indoctrinated. Yet.

Advertisement

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) embraces Taylor Swift after defeating the San Francisco 49ers at Super Bowl 58 on Sunday.

(David Becker / Associated Press)

In short, Sunday was a welcome day of escapism grounded in the safety of tradition, bolstered by permission to devour Doritos Blazin’ Buffalo and Ranch, a food product that should be forbidden any other day of the year. It was a break from the everyday grind, and such respites feel few and far between these days.

Keeping up with the news or cultural churn is tantamount to placing one’s self in a torturous James Bond escape scenario — sealed in a room where the walls are closing in slowly, or strapped to a table as a hot laser advances toward your groin. But 007 always escapes these situations thanks to his tech genius, Q. The rest of us have to rely on other measures for escape, be it shutting down entirely or following wackadoo “insight” from another guy named Q.

Advertisement

Remaining consistently tuned in requires a constitution of steel, or sociopathic levels of disconnect amid the onslaught of news: the forthcoming election, climate change, Ukraine and a drought that never seems to be over no matter how much rain dumps on SoCal.

And let’s not get started on the staggering number of cases in courtrooms across the U.S. where the fate of democracy depends on nonpartisan judges deciding what’s best for the people, as opposed to the party or leader who gave them the job.

It’s no wonder why “taking a break from the news” has become such a common refrain among friends and family.

Consider events that have unfolded since Sunday’s kickoff: At least 67 more people were killed by Israeli forces in Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians have fled to escape the bombardment across the rest of Gaza. Two hostages were recovered by the IDF, according to Israeli forces, but more than 100 are still being held by Hamas after they were kidnapped during the group’s Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel that left 1,200 people dead. The death toll in the Palestinian territory has surpassed 28,000 souls, according Gaza’s Health Ministry.

In Super Bowl terms, that’s nearly half the capacity crowd at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium.

Advertisement

There’s no judgment here on those who need to step away from soul-crushing updates in the name of self-preservation. I do it too … when I can. There’s only so much I can take before becoming mentally immobilized by what I see as an overwhelming lack of humanity, reason and fairness. But that withdrawal comes with pangs of guilt for being privileged and safe enough to mentally disengage, unlike innocent civilians in Gaza, Israel, Ukraine or dozens of other spots where folks are suffering. The U.S.-Mexico border comes to mind.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that at least 85 journalists and media workers have been killed covering the Hamas-Israeli war. That’s more journalists lost in 128 days than were killed during the entirety of the Vietnam War.

Sorry to bring such brutal reality into a column that kicked off with the promise of discussing football, pop stars and junk food. But nothing exists in a vacuum, even if we wish that were the case.

Which poses a question: At what point does avoiding bad news become apathy, or worse, buying into baseless conspiracies to avoid unpleasant facts?

If I knew, I wouldn’t be struggling with the answer in front of your reading eyes. But one thing is sure: It’s OK to step back when it all becomes too much. Even if that means indulging in the Hallmark romance of a singer and sports star. Just don’t stay there too long.

Advertisement

Movie Reviews

Film Review: Righting Wrongs (1986) by Corey Yuen

Published

on

Film Review: Righting Wrongs (1986) by Corey Yuen

“It’s money that counts, not guts”

Co-produced by Corey Yuen and Yuen Biao, with the two of them also function as action director, and the first being credited as the director and the second as the protagonist, “Righting Wrongs” is considered one of the best movies of the latter and has now reached the status of cult for a number of reasons.

Buy This Title
by clicking on the image below

In that fashion, some trivia regarding the production are definitely interesting to mention. According to Rothrock, Golden Harvest originally signed her to play the villain opposite of Jackie Chan in Armour of God, but when production halted due to Chan’s near-fatal filming accident, the studio reassigned Rothrock to Righting Wrongs with Biao. While practicing her moves for the film, she injured her right ACL; rather than take time off to undergo surgery, she proceeded to shoot her scenes using her left leg for her kicks. Filming lasted five-and-a-half month, during which Biao sustained a back injury while filming the scene where his character jumped off the second story of a house, despite landing feet-first on some padding dressed up as grass

When the studio needed another female martial artist for the film, Rothrock recommended Karen Sheperd. Upon arriving in Hong Kong, Sheperd demanded that her character should not die, as it would ruin her reputation. In addition, she refused to kill a boy, as written on the screenplay. After Rothrock and Sheperd’s fight scene was completed, the crew filmed a body double doing the scenes the latter refused to do, including her character’s death.

The film’s original ending was met with a negative reception during its midnight screening in Hong Kong; because of this, Rothrock stopped filming China O’Brien and flew from Los Angeles to Hong Kong to reshoot the ending for the Mandarin and international versions. By the end, there were three different edits and four different endings, all of which are included in the Blu-Ray 88 films released in 2022.

Advertisement

Jason Ha Ling-ching is a dedicated, by the book prosecutor who has tried to maintain patience and tolerance under the somewhat flimsy laws of the court and what is happening outside of it, in regards to how decisions are made. However, when his mentor is publicly gunned down in New Zealand, in a rather ominous and symbolic scene including a book of justice getting filled with bullet holes, and the key witness of Ha’s latest case and his entire family is wiped out overnight, Ha can no longer go by the book and decides to take justice in his own hands. However, when he succeeds in killing the first of the two he considers perpetrators, the Hong Kong Police Department sets mad dog Senior Inspector Cindy Si on his heels. With Jason being accused of one more murder he did not commit, it falls on Sammy Yu Chi-Man, a young man who was witness to the actual events to exonerate him, while it is soon revealed that someone named Crown is the mastermind behind all the crimes.

As usual in the HK martial arts movies of the 80s, the script does not make that much sense, in distinct b-movie fashion, although in this case, some comments about how justice is implemented, corruption and the whole concept of vigilantism add a level of depth to the narrative. However, the way a number of the good guys are murdered, the punishment the police receive and the overall brutality that characterizes the story induce the narrative with a rather intense sense of drama that works quite well here. Add to that the misunderstandings that bring Jason and Cindy against each other, including a rather memorable fight sequence, and you have a movie that truly stands out from the plethora of similar films due to its intricacy.

The same actually applies to the acting, with Yuen Biao and Louis Fan as Sammy being quite good, particularly in the dramatic scenes, Roy Chiao as Magistrate Judge emitting authority from every move and gesture and Melvin Wong being a rather competent villain. On the other hand, the comedy elements are definitely mishandled, with the film probably being much better without them.

Of course, considering the nature of the film, the aspect that will define its quality is definitely the action scenes, and it is easy to say that the combined efforts of Yuen and Biao in the direction and the performance of the stuntmen and the actors is truly top notch. The scene with the fight between the two protagonists, the one where Biao is fighting Peter Cunnigham the Black Assassin, the final one and the one where Cynthia Rothrock is fighting Karen Sheperd are truly top notch, and among the most memorable in the whole genre. In that regard, the combination of the intricacy of movement, the speed, and the punishment all involved receive is truly astonishing. Add to that some non-martial arts murders, which are quite dramatic in their presentation, and you have an overall outstanding action aspect.

“Righting Wrongs” is an excellent martial arts film that both thrives on its action and includes enough drama and context to elevate it much above the standards of the category.

Advertisement

Continue Reading

Entertainment

Pedro Pascal breaks 'Succession's' dominance at 2024 SAG Awards: live updates

Published

on

Pedro Pascal breaks 'Succession's' dominance at 2024 SAG Awards: live updates

After months of direct confrontation in a bitter Hollywood strike, the Screen Actors Guild and Netflix are offering each other a two-hour olive branch: The 30th SAG Awards are streaming on the platform tonight for the first time ever.

Many hopes hang from either side of that branch. SAG is betting that Netflix can give its awards show, traditionally viewed as a predictive precursor to the Oscars, a much wider audience than it reached in previous years. Netflix is determined to prove that it can broadcast a live event as successfully as any television network.

Of course, it’s the biggest stars that will be the draw on Saturday, including a rare public appearance by Barbra Streisand, who will receive SAG’s Life Achievement Award. She’s showing up because, as she recently told The Times’ Glenn Whipp, she liked the fact that “so many actors marched and worked very hard to get what they campaigned for,” and also because “they told me in advance that I got the award! No trauma or drama.”

Follow along throughout the night as Mary McNamara, Meredith Blake and Josh Rottenberg report on the proceedings live. Here’s hoping that the “no drama” rule doesn’t extend to the show.

Winners list | All the looks from the red carpet

Advertisement

5:43 p.m. I’m officially missing commercials at this point. But the “Lord of the Rings” reunion of Sean Astin and Elijah Wood presenting female actor in a supporting role (motion picture) makes up for it. As does Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s win for “The Holdovers.” “For every actor waiting in the wings, you life can change in a day,” she says. “It’s not if but when. Keep going.” —MM

5:36 p.m. USC gets a shout out as junior Storm Reid says she basically walked over to the Shrine from her dorm to present, with Phil Dunster, male actor in a drama series. Which, astonishingly, Pedro Pascal wins. The iron rule of “Succession” is broken. —MM

It’s hard to begrudge someone so delightful, even if he appears to be wearing the “Seinfeld” puffy shirt. –MB

Only a quarter of the way through the show and Pedro Pascal just dropped the third or fourth f-bomb of the night. “It’s Netflix,” he says. Seems like if nothing else the streaming era could bring us swear-ier awards shows. —JR

5:27 p.m. Melissa McCarthy and Billie Eilish present best female actor in a comedy series — McCarthy tells Eilish she met her “in utero” (does this count in the “vaginal” list, Meredith?) because Eilish’s mother was McCarthy’s improv teacher. Then she asks Eilish to sign her face, something that proceeds to happen. With a Sharpie. —MM

Advertisement

I appreciated McCarthy’s commitment to the bit but I can’t help feeling sad she ruined a very nice makeup job. That’s what we call acting, I guess! Also, as I learned from the pandemic, hand sanitizer is great for getting Sharpie stains out. The more you know! —MB

Ayo Edebiri wins for “The Bear.” “Oh, she won another one,” my daughter says as she wanders into the room. —MM

Ayo Edebiri wins the SAG Award for female actor in a comedy series.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Advertisement

5:23 p.m. While Tan France interviews White backstage, attendees in the room are treating it like a commercial break and running to the bathrooms and checking their phones. —JR

5:19 p.m. Glen Powell is not wearing his wrist corsage as he and Issa Rae present female actor in a television movie or limited series. I am very disappointed. Be braver, Glen. Ali Wong wins for “Beef” and has divested herself of her fancy cut-outs, which would also be disappointing but Wong can never disappoint. —MM

It honestly seems like a good idea when you’re in a crowded room and are at least theoretically supposed to be eating food. I need the behind-the-scenes story of how this happened and which bathroom she ducked into with her stylist to make this happen. —MB

"The Devil Wears Prada" costars Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway at the 30th Screen Actors Guild Awards.

“The Devil Wears Prada” costars Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway at the 30th Screen Actors Guild Awards.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Advertisement

5:12 p.m. There’s a “Devil Wears Prada” moment as Meryl Streep is joined by Emily Blunt and Anne Hathaway to give the best actor in comedy series award. (Honestly, every awards show should have a “The Devil Wears Prada” moment.)

Unsurprisingly, Jeremy Allen White of “The Bear” wins for male actor in a comedy series. —MM

Weird that they let people curse on stage but then bleeped out the curse words in the clips from “Ted Lasso.” White’s win for continues his total domination of the awards circuit and underwear ads everywhere. —MB

“Wow, they give you a lot of time at this one,” White says, wrapping up his acceptance speech. Indeed winners won’t need to worry about getting played off the stage tonight because … streaming! —JR

5:03 p.m. Show is starting, Hannah Waddington is telling a great story about having a mouse in her dress when she was starring in “Spamalot” and all I can think about is the salmon. Thanks, Josh.

Advertisement

Idris Elba the mounted the stage, saying he can’t wait until he can go home and watch the show being recommended to him by Netflix based on all the other things he has watched that he has starred in — before pivoting to a brief shout-out to the SAG-AFTRA strike. Sorry, it is still weird that months after the vitriolic “Netflix strike,” the SAG Awards are on Netflix. I guess that’s Hollywood. —MM

Idris Elba photographed during the 30th Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Idris Elba photographed during the 30th Screen Actors Guild Awards.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

4:57 p.m. It seems noteworthy that there has not been a single mention (that I noticed) of the actors’ strike so far on the Netflix red carpet. It’s like Mom and Dad have gotten back together after a brief separation and nobody wants to talk about it. —MB

Noteworthy and a bit weird — it is tough to imagine that the irony of Netflix hosting the SAG Awards will go unremarked upon during the show, since so many points of contract contention centered around streaming’s disruption of Hollywood’s business model. Not surprisingly, none of the grey — correction, silver — carpet questions have touched on it. This is a Netflix production, after all. (Random shout out to Welteroth, who is one of the best on-carpet interviewers I have seen in my long career covering these things.) Waiting to see if there are any mentions during acceptance speeches. Will be very disappointed if there are not. —MM

Advertisement

With the show soon to start, SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland is speaking to attendees about the important gains made during the strike. “This room is a living metaphor of the unity and solidarity that brought us to this point.” They also showed a rousing clip reel of scenes from the strike to big applause. Hard to tell if any of the striking actors shown in the footage were picketing in front of Netflix headquarters. —JR

Hannah Waddingham during the 30th Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Hannah Waddingham during the 30th Screen Actors Guild Awards.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

4:51 p.m. Hannah Waddingham wins best-dressed, in my esteemed opinion, for carrying a homemade cardboard clutch made by her daughter. It’s honestly the chicest thing I’ve seen all night. —MB

And Idris Elba is in the building. All is well. —MM

Advertisement

Elba is set to open and close the show, according to the producers, but they’re not going so far as calling him the “host.” —JR

4:48 p.m. Kieran Culkin went Full Hugh Grant”on Welteroth, giving her grief for leaning on him and taking off her painful shoes on the red carpet. I am always here for a red carpet grump. —MB

Meanwhile, Billie Eilish just confessed to teleprompter-phobia. Well, we all have to be afraid of something. —MM

4:44 p.m. Wait, are they giving awards on the carpet? Apparently so. For stunt ensemble in a TV series, it’s “The Last of Us”; for film, “Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part I.” It feels a bit cavalier and anticlimactic considering, you know, all those freaking stunts involved. I mean they could have had Tom Cruise jump all the main tables on a motorcycle or something. —MM

Tan France shows off his unorthodox bow tie at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Tan France shows off his unorthodox bow tie at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Advertisement

4:39 p.m. If anyone watching at home is curious what attendees will be eating, the “light dinner” will be chive-crusted salmon. It’s served cold, which is good because it’s been sitting out on the tables for a while now and very few people have taken their seats yet. —JR

Josh, that item about the cold salmon should have come with a trigger warning. Maybe it’s a good thing everyone in Hollywood is on Ozempic these days. —MB

And they are mid-awards season. My favorite memory from the post-Oscar’s Governors Ball is seeing all the stars make a beeline for the bread baskets. Finally, they can eat! Honestly, you could lose a finger trying to claim a pretzel roll. —MM

4:34 p.m. Sorry, did Tan say he wanted Jessica Chastain’s babies? This night is really taking an unexpected turn. —MB

Advertisement

I don’t know, France and Debicki and Welteroth and Chastain were all talking at each other from separate parts of the carpet via screens. Which was kind of weird. Then Chastain chatted with Bradley Cooper, who she apparently knows from PTA? Meanwhile, Jon Hamm was standing in the background looking like he can’t understand why no one is interviewing him. Also, I always forget that Alan Ruck is married to Mireille Enos, who looks amazing. —MM

4:29 p.m. For reasons of his own, Tan France just gave Glen Powell a wrist corsage, which Powell misidentified as a boutonniere. Having not seen a wrist corsage since my junior prom, never mind at a Hollywood awards show, I am barely able to obsess about Cillian Murphy’s accent. —MM

I can’t help but notice the prevalence of Netflix stars on the red carpet so far, including Wong (“Beef”), Colman Domingo (“Rustin”) and Elizabeth Debicki (“The Crown”). I’m glad they let Murphy speak for a minute or two because I could listen to that accent all day. —MB

Elizabeth Debicki ("The Crown") arriving at the 30th Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Elizabeth Debicki (“The Crown”) arriving at the 30th Screen Actors Guild Awards.

(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Advertisement

4:22 p.m. The pre-show is underway, and we’re looking at the grey carpet with Tan France — in an insane… bow tie? Boba straw? Inflatable chopstick? — and Elaine Welteroth, who gave us a look at hot fashion of SAG Awards past before kicking things off with Ali Wong wearing a black and white number decorated by what looked like a bunch of artisanal paper snowflakes. Also, my first tiny telecast glitch. —MM

Ali Wong was the first — but let’s hope not the last — person to mention “vaginal birth” tonight on the carpet. So cheers to that. —MB

4:15 p.m. Super excited to be watching the Screen Actors Guild Awards as Netflix continues its attempt to prove it can do everything broadcast/cable can except breaking news. (When Netflix announces it is entering the journalism space, you heard it here first.) I was tiny bit concerned as I struggled to find the pre-show coverage listed anywhere, though: I had to search to find the listing for the actual show, which says it starts at 5 p.m. Pacific. Instead I was being urged to re-watch “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” which swept the awards last year. And frankly, it is tempting. —MM

Same thing over here, Mary, except the algorithm suggested I continue watching “The Crown” and “Love Is Blind,” because it knows I love shows about emotionally stunted people in doomed relationships. Netflix is known for eschewing traditional marketing in favor of using “the algorithm” to suggest certain shows based on “taste clusters” — which are not, in fact, a brand of granola. But the thing about live TV is you kind of need to know when it’s on in order to, ya know, watch it. And if the algorithm can’t figure out that I — a person who writes about entertainment for a living and grew up watching every awards show known to man — might be interested in watching celebrities win trophies and make tearful speeches, then it needs to do better. —MB

Yes, it was kind of weird to be sitting here staring at a screen that said only “It’s almost time; the live event will start soon” instead of, I don’t know, the final minutes of a re-run of “The Closer.” —MM

Advertisement

I am primarily concerned that the whole “No ads” thing will mean no snack breaks, which are truly essential to home viewing of awards shows. Mary, how do you plan to make it through two whole hours without going to the kitchen to refill the popcorn? —MB

Criminy. I hadn’t thought about that. And with the SAG Awards there are no “boring” categories. (Sorry sound editing/sound mixing!) —MM

Continue Reading

Movie Reviews

Last Swim Film Review: Charming Debut

Published

on

Last Swim Film Review: Charming Debut

Sasha Nathwani’s Last Swim is a bittersweet vignette of a teenage awakening, full of turbulence, laughter, and poignant realizations about what we all live for.


Sasha Nathwani’s debut feature film Last Swim won the hearts of the jury at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival. What earned it the Silver Bear for Best Film in the Generation 14plus category is its touching celebration of youth and the overcoming of fear in the face of painful hardships.

Last Swim captures a fateful day in the life of Iranian teenager Ziba (Deba Hekmat), which is momentous and crucial for her future on multiple fronts. On one hand, she and her friends are receiving their final exam results, which are decisive for their acceptance into college programs; on the other hand, she has secretly decided to make her own life-changing decision to escape a greater suffering she doesn’t talk about. What ensues is an eventful, meticulously planned trip across the hidden gem spots of London and the unraveling of Ziba’s internal torments.

Throughout its runtime, Last Swim elegantly dances between masked melancholy and wholesome humor while knowing exactly how to channel the messy vivacity of being young, overwhelmed with fear of life and joy of life. 

Ziba is a likable, flawed character with a secret. She appears and exits the screen with a clear objective, clear motivation, and clear obstacles standing in her way. Her decision-making as well as her transformative arc visibly tick all the boxes of a formulaic character-building checklist. We hit all the common beats on the route of her development, but the persuasiveness of the story hides in its technical and artistic execution.

Advertisement

The urban setting breathes life into this coming-of-age journey. There’s an indescribable spirit to the film due to the way it portrays the vibrancy of a London summer, reminiscent of the recent energetic (although very differently stylized) rom-com Rye Lane (2023). The city feels as young as the characters roaming its streets.

The effortlessly gorgeous cinematography (Olan Collardy) works in tandem with the actors’ naturalistic performances, giving the film a casualness that makes it more delightful to watch and more inviting to invest in the friend group’s buzzing chemistry. The interactions between the four come across as genuine and relaxed, as if they aren’t trying too hard, in the best way possible.

Lydia Fleming, Deba Hekmat, Denzel Baidoo and Jay Lycurgo cycle in the film Last Swim
Lydia Fleming, Deba Hekmat, Denzel Baidoo and Jay Lycurgo in Last Swim (© Caviar, Pablo & Zeus / Berlinale)

Tara (Lydia Fleming), Merf (Jay Lycurgo), and Shea (Solly McLeod) luckily do not tumble into the traps of the coming-of-age genre and its frustratingly stereotypical portrait of the sidekicks, bound to the protagonist by the script and the script alone. Ziba’s friends are not defined by particular teenage archetypes. Their distinct qualities are not written in to serve purposes. They are written in to flesh out their humanity, crafting them into three-dimensional, layered, confused young adults the audience could believe.

The original score (Federico Albanese) is an everpresent element of Last Swim: urban, energetic, and most importantly, a culturally balanced infusion of Ziba’s British and Iranian heritage, blending in more commercial beats with the traditional, serving as subtle, complementing colors on a backdrop for Ziba’s individuality. 

Sasha Nathwani’s background as a music video director quite visibly comes through in his multiple slow-motion “happy moment” montages of Ziba smiling and laughing with her friends, which grow a tad redundant once we pass the third one. Their emotional impact diminishes with every next attempt at conveying the young innocence of those moments with the same exact technique. 

Towards the transition into the second act, the friends are joined by an unfamiliar acquaintance named Malcolm (Denzel Baidoo), whose involvement in the group becomes an important catalyst for Ziba’s self-discovery but never cements its necessity more than just on a narrative level. What I’m referring to is not the character dynamics he creates or is written in, but the natural integration of his storyline to the point where it matches the rest. The barrier between Malcolm and the four never really recedes completely. The chemistry there remains forced until the end, especially in contrast to the effortless chemistry of Ziba, Tara, Merf, and Shea, and especially after the film’s abrupt emotional shift in the third act. 

Advertisement

With all its good and bad, Last Swim is an impressive debut feature film from Sasha Nathwani, who already displays refined control over his artistry through the lens of a sentimental letter about growing up in London and coming to terms with one’s own mortality and appreciation of life.


Last Swim premiered at the 2024 Berlin Film Festival, where it won the 2024 Youth Jury Generation 14plus Crystal Bear for Best Film.

Continue Reading

Trending