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Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood


ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD is an odd and beautiful movie from… Quentin Tarantino. It’s undeniably one that only he could or would make – it’s even in his now-trademark ‘wish-fulfilling rewrite of a historical atrocity’ mode – but it’s different. It’s not as mean and angry as the last three, or as carefully plotted as any of them. It’s sort of a hang out movie, a day-in-the-life of two friends, and a gentle tale of surviving a mid-life crisis, wrapped in a love letter to Los Angeles of the late ’60s, and to the then-fading leading men of the ’50s, with a chaser of gruesome violence. The fun kind, though. The cathartic kind.

Throughout his career, Tarantino has shown his affinity for cool shit like spaghetti westerns, blaxploitation movies, kung fu and crime novels. Here’s where he says “Fuck it, I also like old cowboy shows and procedurals and stuff.” When the guy who makes film exhibition and criticism a major element of his WWII epic does one that’s actually about the Hollywood film industry, obviously he’s gonna go buck wild. The amount of detail he puts into the fictional career of TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio, two episodes of The New Lassie) – to the point of needing a narrator to talk us through each entry from his Rome period – reaches the level of sci-fi world building. And of course Tarantino, being Tarantino, gives us a soundtrack that drips the sixties without one whiff of Creedence, Dylan, the Doors or Hendrix. Admittedly “Mrs. Robinson” is in there somewhere, but he leans more Deep Purple, Vanilla Fudge and Paul Revere & the Raiders. One of the few I knew was the Neil Diamond song.

(It makes for a great soundtrack album, by the way. I like how many of these bands had organ players! Turns out even Bob Seger sounded pretty groovy back then!? I think it’s Tarantino’s first without dialogue clips – instead he uses vintage DJ intros and promos for Mug Root Beer and tanning butter and stuff, and that really makes it into a transporting experience. 33 god damn tracks and it’s not even everything in the movie.)

Surprisingly so far it seems like most people interested in this have the patience for it. There goes my dream of Tarantino starting a chain of old timey drive-in theaters to screen a crudely shortened version under the title LAST HOUSE ON THE RIGHT. I guess it’s for the best. His movies always take their time, but this one really luxuriates. It never stops to stare, but it’s always strolling through this world of fashion, architectural and graphic style that’s so appealing now – garish movie billboards and marquees of both historic and fictional creations. I really think part of Tarantino’s reason to make this, and for us to watch it, is to build this vivid simulation of Hollywood in 1969 and then just let us hang out in it. There’s so much driving past resurrected landmarks (reportedly done with minimal CGI), sitting in period-appropriate home furnishings at night having a drink and listening to records, having a long day on a film set.

I love the scene where an elated Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie, one episode of City Homicide) comes out of the movie theater where she’s been watching an audience react to her performance in THE WRECKING CREW just as the sun is starting to come down, and then there’s a montage of various neon signs turning on. It’s so beautifully evocative of the feeling of a day coming to an end, the cocktail hour beginning, and a love and nostalgia for the places that make up Los Angeles and give it its personality. The scene is set to a great Jose Feliciano cover of “California Dreamin’,” a song normally about wishing you were in California, which is what I was doing while watching that scene. In the movie maybe it means something else, maybe something about these characters and their aspirations that in real life went unfulfilled?

[CORRECTION: Seeing it the second time I realized I was conflating two scenes there – the lights coming on is a later montage set to “Out of Time” by the Rolling Stones.]

Two of the many things we know about Tarantino:

1. He has thought hard about every detail
2. He always has cool opening credits

I love it in old movies when they show the actors as their names appear on screen, like a TV show introduction. Tarantino takes that to the next level by meaningfully mismatching the two leads. We see Rick and his stuntman/assistant Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt, 4 episodes of Dallas) from behind in a car. DiCaprio’s name is on the left, because he’s the lead, but it’s over Cliff’s head, because he does the driving. Beautiful.

We get used to Rick as this comically insecure goofball and then see him on the job transforming into other characters. In a weird way it reminded me of MULLHOLLAND DR., a movie I haven’t seen since it came out, but always remember for the scene where Naomi Watts’s seemingly vanilla character turns soulful for an emotional acting audition. A performance within a performance. Seeing Rick as an obnoxious villain on Lancer I realized oh yeah, that’s DiCaprio playing Rick. So he can act.

Like FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, KILL BILL and GRINDHOUSE, ONCE UPON A TIME has this sort of anthology/double feature/movies-within-movies format. When Rick goes to work filming his guest spot there’s a long stretch where we just get involved in watching part of a western, as if we turned to it on TV in the middle and will watch for a while. And when we leave it we see Cliff – whose services weren’t required on this job due to past employment issues – off in a modern day western of his own at Spahn Ranch. He’s the heroic drifter coming into the dusty strip where old westerns were filmed, getting checked out by a guy on a horse, the equivalent of townspeople coming out to stare.

I remember a time when Pitt was seen as some bland pretty boy, a symbol of the mainstream lightweights. I’m sure it was more his People-Magazine-cover-story personal life than his work, but he also suffered a Keanu-like curse of being taken literally when he played dumb guys. He was treated like a boy band, mocked as some shallow, empty heart throb who surely got here on looks alone. You would say “Well he was really good in TWELVE MONKEYS” or whatever and you’d be right, but even then you probly questioned whether that was the exception to the rule. It was more of a guarded “he’s actually pretty cool” than an emphatic “he’s cool!

And now I’m watching him in this movie and it would be hard to overstate how god damn cool he is in it. It’s been a while since I’ve had such a superficial, charisma-based “I want to be him when I grow up” reaction to a character. He struts in with his laid back don’t give a fuck attitude, his belt buckles and jeans, his Elvis sunglasses, his hair just long enough to slightly stick out at the back. How the fuck does he make a yellow Hawaiian shirt look that good? (Is this what John Lasseter was going for?) He’s this year’s model masculine ideal, some kind of Steve McQueen meets Robert Redford motherfucker who parkours onto a roof, takes off his shirt and puts on his work gloves to fix the antenna and I got the sense a tidal wave of pheromones was blasting through the theater.

And then the movie says “oh yeah, by the way, and he might’ve killed his wife (Rebecca Gayheart, Vanishing Son).” Never says for sure. I want to believe it was an accident, which is left open as a possibility. You know what, on second thought maybe I don’t need to be Cliff when I grow up. But maybe he can give me some kind of lessons?

I was excited to hear that Pitt and Tarantino separately thought of Billy Jack as a model for Cliff. I never would’ve guessed it, because Cliff is infinitely less self righteous than Billy Jack, and shows no interest in politics or alternative schools. I don’t see Cliff becoming a senator, either. Or wearing that hat. I think his main similarity is his confidence to walk into a situation and tell the motherfuckers he’s dealing with what’s what – give them a little warning, a little speech, a little prediction – before he beats the shit out of them. And I think both are older outdoorsy type guys who have a tiny toe dipped into the counterculture, some openness to the hippie generation. Cliff is Mr. Tough Stuntman but he wears moccasins, buys an acid-dipped cigarette and picks up hitchhikers even though he’s not trying to make free love to them. They’re impressed and awed by his genuine outlaw status and flustered when they can’t seem to control him with either seduction or threats.

Cliff stands between two worlds. He gets to experience the glamour of movie-making and celebrity, hanging out with Rick in restaurants and mansions, driving his car. Then he gets into his rusted up beater, drives to his shitty trailer home (parked behind a drive-in theater, of course), feeds his pitbull Brandy her raccoon flavored dog food, and doesn’t seem miserable. Rick can’t even drive anymore because of his drinking, but Cliff can jump cars across open bridges. He can fix things. He can fight. He’s the rugged guy Rick would play in a movie and dream of being in life. And the guy who sort of picked a fight with Bruce Lee.

There was some controversy about that when the trailer came out. I thought it was silly to make assumptions. But when I saw it, to my surprise, it did bother me a little. Mike Moh (Masked Rider: Dragon Knight) captures Lee’s voice well, and I’ve seen enough documentaries and read enough about The Dragon to know that some considered him a show off, and even a dick, on sets. For example there are all the stories about him sneaking up on people and just barely kicking the backs of their ears to annoy them.

I think I know what Tarantino is doing here, and I think it works. He’s making a tall tale out of Cliff by showing him upstage the modern era’s best example of a legendary warrior. It’s related to an argument that Mickey Knox made, albeit in bad faith, in Tarantino’s script for NATURAL BORN KILLERS. Representing himself in court, Knox argues that he couldn’t have possibly killed a man he’s accused of killing, because the man studied Bruce Lee’s fighting system, and who could possibly beat Bruce Lee? Both scenes even talk about having hands registered as lethal weapons.

I appreciate that they show Bruce training Tate for THE WRECKING CREW and giving lessons to Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch, “Bryce Banks” on the season 3 crossover between The Pretender and The Profiler). We also see his student Steve McQueen separate of him (Damian Lewis [one episode of Poirot] made up as a surprisingly good lookalike). Lee was a super hero to all these stars, but it’s not impossible that somebody could’ve done a good throw on him, which is all Cliff really does before the fight is broken up. A few years before the scene takes place, the real Lee had his famous closed door challenge fight with Wong Jack Man. Linda and Bruce Lee said it lasted about five minutes and ended with his opponent running away, but one of the only witnesses, William Chen, said it was more like 20-25 minutes and was a tie. Even in Bruce’s version he injured his fists and decided he had to change his approach to fighting. Bruce Lee was amazing, but he was human, and was always looking for ways to improve. No doubt he could’ve learned from being thrown into a car and embarrassed by Cliff, if Cliff was real.

The conversation in the scene itself is already kind of poking fun at the idea of “who would win in a fight” speculation. Cliff scoffs at Bruce’s claim that he could beat Muhammad Ali, and then the question turns to who would win in a fight between a fictionalized Bruce Lee and the fictional character of Cliff Booth? We don’t learn the answer, but the fact that Cliff gets the better of him means then he can stroll onto Spahn Ranch and get in the face of the Manson Family and we’re as excited for what he might do to them as we are worried about what might happen to him.

All that’s fair. But I saw the movie with an audience and when Moh started doing Lee’s cat sounds and footwork, people laughed like he was silly. And then they laughed about what happened to him. He was the butt of the joke. We know this is when he was on Green Hornet playing the sidekick, with ideas for starring roles, but having doors shut to him by racists. Until he got fed up and went back to Hong Kong to show ’em how it’s done, his consolation prize was being known as the unbeatable badass. While others in ONCE UPON A TIME gets a fairy tale rewrite, he gets his legend deflated. I wish he was able to be more of a character in the movie later, to balance this out.

Oh, who am I fooling – I wish there was another hour of movie where Bruce and Cliff hunt down Manson and the rest of ’em. Possibly after a big dune buggy chase through the desert.

(I guess Shannon Lee also heard people laughing in a way that made her uncomfortable. That sucks. And one of his biographers says he never would’ve dissed Ali like that.)

By the way, there is a very real chance that the scene was inspired by the famous story of Seagal mouthing off on set and getting shut up by “Judo” Gene Labell. If so, let’s all be thankful Tarantino doesn’t have Bruce shitting himself.

Before we move past that scene I want to mention that if Stunt Coordinator Randy (Kurt Russell, two episodes of The Virginian, two episodes of Gunsmoke) and Stunt Coordinator Janet (Zoë Bell, one episode of Hawaii Five-0) are the parents of Stuntman Mike and Stuntman Bob, that brings a whole new meaning to why Mike was stalking Zoë Bell (she looks like his mom). And congratulations to Bell for being the full-on stunt coordinator on this, a role I believe she’s previously only had on short films. IMDb also lists a Steven J. Bagnara as action coordinator and Robert Alonzo (OBLIVION, DEADPOOL, PROUD MARY, BRAVEN) as co-stunt coordinator/fight coordinator.

So Bell was a stuntwoman on KILL BILL who played herself in DEATH PROOF and now she’s playing a fictional stunt coordinator while acting as the actual stunt coordinator. That’s one of many examples of the cycles of Hollywood careers represented in this huge cast. Old cowboy Bruce Dern (HANG ‘EM HIGH) plays old cowboy George Spahn. Julia Butters (one episode of Criminal Minds) plays a precocious child actor while former actual precocious child actors Dakota Fanning (one episode of ER) and Austin Butler (THE DEAD DON’T DIE, one episode of CSI: Miami, one episode of CSI: NY as a different character) graduate to Manson Family higher-ups Squeaky Fromme and Tex Watson. Danielle Harris, once the child star of HALLOWEEN 4 and 5, THE LAST BOY SCOUT and MARKED FOR DEATH is apparently on the ranch somewhere too. And let’s not forget that DiCaprio was a child actor himself. There are glimpses of so many good character actors, mostly as actors playing cowboys: Michael Madsen, Martin Kove, James Remar, Clifton Collins Jr., Scoot McNairy, Clu Gulager, Luke Perry, and Timothy Olyphant gets dialogue both in and out of his TV character. And could there be some kind of meta generational change thing going on with the daughters of famous actors being in the cast? I noticed Rumer Willis, Maya Hawke and Harley Quinn Smith all in the credits, and Margaret Qualley is the daughter of Andie McDowell.

Tarantino always gets great performances out of everyone from marquee names to supposed-has-beens to up-and-comers. I’d like to single out two people in the last category there. First, Qualley (THE NICE GUYS) as Pussycat, who manages to be equal parts gross and charming as she dumps out the entire toolbox of seduction techniques trying to get power over Cliff. Second, Mikey Madison, who has such an authentic (but funny) breakdown as Sadie. I couldn’t place where I knew her from, but of course she’s one of the daughters on Better Things, where she’s also great.

The Manson murders were before my time, but I’ve read a little bit and seen a movie or two. So I can’t help but wonder what would happen next in this altered timeline where the Tate murders never happened because a drunk guy in his bathrobe thought their car was too loud and went to yell at them. Would the Family be completely thwarted? In reality, Manson took six Family members the next night to murder supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary. But in the ONCE UPON A TIME world, three of those members would be dead and one had abandoned ship. Would Manson have just brought other people? Would he have been spooked by the total failure of the mission? Or maybe Cliff telling the cops that the attackers lived on Spahn Ranch would’ve busted the whole thing open already?

Then of course there’s the Roman Polanski matter. Does not going through the traumatic experience of a pregnant wife horrifically murdered while he’s out of town prevent him from committing terrible acts of his own? If so, he would never be in RUSH HOUR 3.

What-ifs are a theme throughout. The Bruce vs. Ali one, the one about if Rick Dalton got Steve McQueen’s part in THE GREAT ESCAPE, and of course the whole thing is leading to letting us fantasize about what could’ve happened if sweet, just arrived Sharon Tate didn’t have her story abruptly ended by psychos. It’s a fairy tale, a daydream, a wish. And I think if you dig into it it can be an affirmation too. The Manson Family murders were a ghastly tragedy given outsized power by their symbolism. They represented the tearing apart of countercultural idealism, stoked middle class paranoia and launched half a century (so far) of morbid fascination. The dirty hippie who will steal your daughters, turn them against you, have them write on rich people’s walls in blood. The Summer of Love birthing an Age of Evil.

If we accept the fantasy that having the right guy living next door could’ve prevented those murders, can we then reject the power that these sorts of dark events have over our culture? Can we say fuck you evil, you just got lucky this time, the innocence is here to stay?

I don’t know. But whatever ONCE UPON A TIME does to the legend of Bruce Lee, it completely flattens that of the Manson Family. Booth vs. Mansons is not a tie. He walks into their territory alone, ignores their demands, crosses their boundaries, gives them a bloody nose. When they come at him (by accident) he shuts them down entirely. While high. Manson himself (played by Damon Herriman – Dewie from Justified) gets a scary scene based on his one brush with Tate, but he’s absent for most of the story, leaving Tex Watson in charge. On that now-differently-fateful night, Tex introduces himself as The Devil, and Cliff doesn’t take that bullshit seriously for one second, even at gunpoint. In ONCE UPON A TIME the Manson Family don’t get to be cultural boogeymen. They’re just some dumb hippie assholes. Fuck ’em.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 31st, 2019 at 7:09 am and is filed under Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

204 Responses to “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”

  1. Absolutely loved this one. Plan on seeing it again soon, sadly there are no 35MM showings around these parts.

    I knew depicting Bruce Lee as a human being and not Saint God Amoung Men Bruce Lee that Shannon and Linda make bank on would be controversial. I knew the Tarintino haters would bend over backward to find SOMEthing that is morally repugnant in this one but I was kinda surprised and have to admit I laughed that the hill they chose was ‘The Manson Family gets a bad rap in this movie…’*

    Anyways, this movie is a masterpiece might be my favorite Tarintino yet the more I think about it.

    *Is this the ‘more liberal and progressive than though’ version of “There were very fine people on both sides?” Also, is there any other filmmakers besides Tarintino and Snyder that ‘fans’ bend over backward to find morally awful things in their work that just aren’t there?

  2. I really loved this one a lot, moreso as I’ve thought it over for a few days. I think it’s the best work from both Pitt and DiCaprio in a long time (I’d argue DiCaprio deserves an Oscar for this *way* more here than he did for THE REVENANT), and I honestly kept getting distracted by how much Pitt is starting to resemble Robert Redford.

    I loved their relationship, too. I think it really nailed that enviable sense of camaraderie and syncopation that I think most folks are lucky to find once in their lives. Kurt Russell’s narrator has a line towards the end that I thought summed it up nicely- someone who’s “more than a brother, but just a little bit less than a wife”.

    It’s full of all the weird little touches and that sense of fun that Tarantino’s later movies have all had (my favorite worldbuilding detail is the tagline on the dog food cans- “Good Food For Mean Dogs”), but as Vern notes in the review, the movie just doesn’t feel as callous as HATEFUL EIGHT or as angry as DJANGO. I really like both those movies, but it’s nice to have something a little less stressful to watch.

    On the topic of the Lee/Booth scene- I thought the fact that it was deliberately inconclusive helped the scene to build up Cliff more than it did anything to tear down Lee, and it was more about maintaining the movie’s overarching premise that Cliff is constantly capable of violence in a way the rest of the characters are not. It would have been easy for Tarantino to make a total joke out of Lee and have Cliff just flatten him, but that’s not what happens. Sure, Lee was being kind of a pompous ass, but people can be like that, nobody’s perfect no matter how good at martial arts they are, and if you want to see a movie about how great Bruce Lee was, there are several very fine films starring the actual man himself.

    On the broader theme of historical revision- I honestly love that that’s what Tarantino’s been doing for these past few films. I can’t quite articulate why it delights me so much, just something about the idea of taking a terrible real thing from history and cheerfully giving it the finger makes me smile. Maybe it reminds me of when I was a kid and I’d entertain myself by imagining, like, what if Indiana Jones was also a T-1000? Well then the Nazis would be *proper* fucked, wouldn’t they?

    This was a good one. Excited to hear what other folks thought of it.

  3. geoffreyjar- I have seen some folks say that what happens to the Manson folks at the end is “too much”. In my opinion, it’s classic Tarantino slapstick gore (and he is a director who knows how to differentiate between slapstick gore and horrific gore) deployed against deserving targets. If anything was *actually too much*, it was how those three people brutally murdered a defenseless pregnant woman and her friends in real life. I have no sympathy for their cinematic counterparts.

  4. I’ve heard some other people mention this so I don’t feel like I’m going out of my way to find themes that aren’t there but – this felt far too much like Boomer porn for me. Straight white men beat the holy hell out of hippies, minorities, lippy-women, etc. They violently take back the world that they were destined to inherit that seems to have less and less use for them, and the audience cheers.

    I can’t really separate the Manson family from the counterculture at large but QT frames it as if the 60’s were a raucous party for everyone until some nogoodniks murdered a few people. If it wasn’t for them, Tab Hunter would be Brando and we’d all still be driving wide-bodied Buicks.

    Don’t get me wrong, Pitt and DiCaprio were great and I enjoyed spending time with them. But the overall movie left a bad taste in my mouth (similar to the taste of having QT’s foot-fetish front and center for most of this film). Margot Robbie was barely in this and the ending, while over the top and nutty, was too much tonal-whiplash for my tastes. I agree that Pitt and Bruce Lee driving out to the desert to murder Charles Manson would have been a more satisfying end than Pitt repeatedly smashing some poor girl’s face into a table and having it played for laughs.

  5. I actually thought a major theme of the movie was that both Cliff and Rick have to move forward by embracing the future while accepting their pasts. That’s why Cliff is cool with LSD and hippies, that’s why Rick is dressed in a more contemporary style at the end as he’s getting his life more together, and that’s why it’s a happy ending for him to be invited up to hang out with the cool kids.

    I also thought that in terms of screen time, Margot Robie was actually in it an awful lot- she just didn’t have a lot of *dialogue* (and also she was really great, but come on, we all saw I, TONYA, we all know Robie’s a great actor). I’m curious what the actual minutes-on-screen breakdown is for each of the main characters.

  6. This one’s been digesting since I caught it a few days ago (on 70mm, ha ha ha). I look forward to joining the arguments that will no doubt develop here, but in the meantime my stray observations (SPOILERS obviously).

    1) I couldn’t get to this until the 10pm show on Saturday, as all previous screenings sold out immediately. When I got there with my ticket an hour ahead of time, there was already a line up the block. The big theater this was showing in was packed and the crowd was hot as hell in the best possible way – they reacted to *everything*, so it was an interesting way to see what worked and what didn’t.

    The biggest reaction from the crowd was, of course, the climax, with everyone hooting and whooping over the outlandishness of how this was all going down. Almost as big, though, was the moment where the little girl told Rick “that was the best acting I’ve ever seen!” I shit you not, that was met with cheers and applause like he’d just blown up the Death Star. It was quickly followed by big laughs at Rick’s weepy carrying-on in response to this, but it also felt like they were laughing at the sudden intensity of their own identification with him – both his neediness and narcissism, but also in empathy at this poor bozo who’s spent the previous 90 minutes helpless to get out of his own way. It was really something!

    2) I also don’t think we have to worry too much about Bruce Lee’s reputation suffering because of this. The worst that’ll happen is some dorks will be all like “ACTUALLY, he was a really arrogant person in real life!” (to which the proper response is WELL YEAH – you’d be that way too if you were Bruce Lee!) And it’s not like he exactly got his ass whipped. He didn’t even lose the fight; the rules were meticulously spelled out beforehand, and by that standard it was a tie! Anyway the point was definitely to pump up Cliff rather than stick it to Bruce. Going by my crowd again, the vibe before any blows were exchanged was “ho ho ho, Cliff’s gonna get his nuts punched off,” followed by audible gasps when he got the upper hand.

    The best part of that scene, IMO, was Cliff removing the wig that was the exact same color, shape, and style as his own hair.

    3) I wonder what John Waters will think of this? He’s a vocal QT fan (his last several films have shown up on Waters’s year-end top 10 in ARTFORUM), and an actual personal friend of Tex and at least a couple of the girls, and he’s been advocating for their release since at least the 1980s!

    4) This is apropos of exactly nothing, but: we’re exactly as far away from PULP FICTION as PULP FICTION was from the events of this movie. Furthermore, if you were around back then, you might remember that in some quarters, PF was seen as the scrappier, cooler Justin Long to the stodgy, sentimental John Hodgman of the other big hit of that year, FORREST GUMP. Tarantino had put us at Year Zero, and there wasn’t going to be any more room for lengthy historical epics taking place mostly in the sixties that stick it to hippies, insert contemporary actors into archival footage, and feature a double-disc soundtrack full of oldies.

  7. The Kurgan – Huh? I didn’t see that? Rick, with no other way forward, goes overseas to make the exact kind of movies he’d been making for the past two decades. And Cliff, well, we don’t know if he’s moving forward as the movie ends the night Rick fired him (however, I think saving Rick and his wife’s life is probably worth keeping him on the payroll awhile longer). I’m not sure if Rick getting to be the “cool uncle” at Sharon Tate’s parties from then on is exactly a victory?

    And, yes, casting a brilliant actor like Robbie to essentially watch a movie for three hours is a phenomenal waste of talent. Easy payday for her, though.

  8. Buzz- But those spaghetti westerns *aren’t* the exact same kind of movie he’s been making. In fact, he hadn’t been making movies at all for years, just guest-starring in TV shows- headlining in several of the same kind of movies Clint Eastwood was making at the time is actually a big upgrade for him.

    And Hollywood is all about connections- just like Rick said at the beginning of the movie, if he’s friends with his neighbors, maybe he gets a part in the next Polanski movie. And hey, maybe he doesn’t- but I think in the bananas-ass world Tarantino builds here, flamethrowing a home invader to death and then getting drinks with Sharon Tate is *exactly* the kind of thing that revitalizes a career.

    Regarding Robie- acting is more than just saying words. I thought she did a great job.

  9. You know how people in 2019 freak the fuck out over spoilers? I’ve been nothing but “spoiled” on this movie and I’m probably even more excited for it. I just have to make sure I see it next week when I get back from my trip to GenCon because it’s not going to be in 35mm forever and that’s the way I prefer it.

    Aldrin might be on to something, though I’m not sure it was Tarantino’s intent. When the cast list was first announced I remarked to my film loving hispanic friend that, other than Mike Moh, this is the whitest movie cast I can remember announced in forever. I’m probably hyper senstitive about it because I follow the most liberal movie fans on the planet so I see all sorts of takes about representation in film. Anyway, one of the times I watched the trailer I was thinking about this. He talks about how he is a hasbeen and then it quickly introduces Charles Manson. I’m not sure how it goes in the movie, obviously, but it makes it seem like he falls in with the Manson family and the Manson family is sort of a representation off whiteness that will make him feel better. i think you get what I mean but it’s probably not that at all. I don’t know.

    Anyway, can’t wait to see this.

  10. This is one of those movies that makes me wish I had my own blog. I’ve been checking and rechecking the site waiting for the review to pop up. This should be a lively talkback.

    I have to say whenever I walk out of a QT movie and don’t love it, I feel like maybe it’s a “me” problem. I didn’t love this. I have insane respect for how beautiful it looks and well made it is. If as little CGI was used as they have said, it is even more remarkable. There is a shot when Cliff is driving with Pussy that is on the overpass of the freeway that pans up to show dozens of old time cars driving back and forth. If that is a 100% practical shot, I can’t imagine how long it took to do. There are tons of shots like that. It really is a marvel how well it is shot, and there are so many fantastic big set pieces (like the Playboy party, the Lancer scenes, etc.)

    Brad Pitt and DiCaprio are such fuckin’ Movie Stars that they make these characters a lot more interesting and likeable than they probably have any business being. I’m still scratching my head over Cliff maybe/maybe not killing his wife. I feel like we should really hate Cliff’s character, but Pitt makes it almost impossible to feel that way. And the dog. He clearly loves his dog, which makes puts me on Team Cliff. Although he leaves the dog cooped up in that trailer all day (I doubt he could afford a dog walker). I guess there really aren’t a ton of likeable protagonists in most of QT’s movies. Jules and Vincent are far worse people than Cliff and Rick.

    I guess my biggest gripe about the movie is just that not much happens, really. The big scenes (Tate in the theater, Pitt at the Ranch, the Lancer scene where DiCaprio asks for his line) all stick out in my mind now, and I cant wait to see them again. But while watching this, it seemed like long slogs to get to these moments.

    And I like to think of myself as a pretty huge film and TV buff (as I’m sure most of us are here), but holy shit there are a lot of references in this film that went clear over my head. To my defense, I was born in 69, I didn’t live in it. QT has made three period pieces in a row where he really couldn’t have his characters talking about TV and (except for Basterds in a sense) about movies. I am sure his head was about to explode with all these movie references. Boy did it ever.

    I guess I was waiting for more tension. More conflict. Scenes like the opening of Basterds or dinner at Candyland, for example. This movie really isn’t that, at all. Maybe I got the wrong idea from the marketing of it. Or just his entire filmography. Doesn’t mean this is not a good movie, by any stretch. It just wasn’t what I was expecting. I really don’t even know how I would categorize this film. As I’ve thought about it over the last few days and read some internet reaction, I think I like it more than I did while I was watching it. Definitely one I will see a few times in the next few weeks to wrap my head around.

    Fun fact: Damon Herriman also plays Manson in the new season of Mindhunter, coming out on Netflix in a few weeks. New trailer looks great, and he plays bearded/prison Manson, looks exactly like him.

    Also, the kid is fucking great. I read something where QT may have been taking a shot at critics who were giving him shit a few years back about putting actresses in harm’s way during the his movie shoots. Uma Thurman famously got in a car wreck and QT also choked Diane Kruger in the movie theater scene instead of Christoph Waltz. When Leo improvs and throws the young actress to the ground, only to have her pop up with arm pads on, it seemed like a bit of a thumb of the nose at that narrative.

  11. For me, the whole scene where Cliff is at the Spahn Ranch was that big tension-filled scene. It kinda reminded me of the basement scene from BASTERDS (though obviously it ends better for our heroes). I thought Tarantino got a lot of mileage out of making the looming presence of the Manson family feel very ominous, especially with the knowledge of the real history of this event as audience baggage.

    The more I think about it, the more this movie feels kind of like a thesis statement on Tarantino’s career as a whole- The past is cool and great, but you gotta be able to take the best parts of your past and build something new out of them in order to keep growing up. Maybe that’s reading too much into it, I dunno.

  12. I’m with Kurgan on this one.

    The ending is a thing of beauty in how all our heroes get a fairytale ending. By protecting Rick & Rick’s wife even though he’s no longer on the payroll, Cliff transcends being an employee and Rick accepts him as a friend. By being a good neighbor Rick proves that he has put down roots here, transcends being just the has-been cowboy actor who lives down the road, and ascends to being approved by the literal gatekeepers of new hollywood. The original victims live and Sharon’s star will continue to ascend. They all live happily ever after even though in real life none of them (including the real-world inspirations for Rick & Cliff, one assumes) didn’t. That’s why it’s a Once Upon a Time story, and it’s kind of shocking how deeply personal it is, even for a Tarantino film.

  13. I really thought the very end, when Rick is invited over and meets Sharon, was really touching. I kept thinking how Sharon Tate’s family (if they are out there) and obviously her husband must feel watching that.

  14. (Apologies if this was mentioned above and I missed it) The Bruce Lee scene wasn’t sitting great with me either, but then it cut back to Cliff on the roof and I realized it was a really long flashback- IE the entire thing had been as Cliff remembers it, and not as it “really” happened. Tarantino isn’t asking us to buy Cliff kicking Bruce Lee’s ass even on a comedic level. He’s just pulling our leg and letting us know it. If anything, Cliff’s need to make up a far-fetched version of events just to recall privately on his own, not even tell to someone else, makes me wonder how bad what really happened was. At the end of the day it added to the balance of Cliff’s charming-but-pathetic qualities, and for that, I loved it. A truly masterful moment in a movie overflowing with them.

    In fact, I think there’s a bunch of different layers to that scene. Like: Bruce Lee’s monologue goes totally against both the heart of the movie and reality. Life isn’t combat and combat alone, even if Bruce Lee says so. Combat may occur, but if you enter into every situation expecting combat (especially in a necessarily collaborative industry like, say, Hollywood) a lot of people are going to wind up eliminated. If the hippies in OUATH can be taken as a parallel to youth in general, I think QT’s characterization of Lee represents the contemporary Los Angeles uberhipster: irresistably magnetic, but the epitome of He Who Talks Loud, Saying Things That Are Very Off-Base. And his disciples just nod and agree with him because he’s Bruce fucking Lee. He’s also the writing on Tarantino’s wall, in symbolic, human form, and it seems Tarantino’s well aware of it. Maybe even OK with it, or getting there.

    The senior matinee crowd sure ate up that dented car, though, and I doubt they were thinking about it too hard. So that was still kind of a bummer.

  15. I think Vern and Daniel capture a lot of my feelings. What I was struck by was how poignant and really loving the film is. It loves its protagonists and most characters and is surprisingly tender in how it handles their dreams, insecurities, and ways of relating to one another. There are a number of beautiful moments here lurking not very far beneath the shit-eating-grins, spoofy nostalgia goofs/fan service, extreme violence, and other Tarantino tropes. The scenes between Dalton and the kid actress and Tate’s experience at the theater. ***Maybe Spoilers to Somebody*** Tarantino’s decision to re-write history with his ending is superficially similar to what he did with INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, but I think it runs deeper and more heartfelt here. It’s really about our need for hope, second-chances, love, community, coming together, following the better angels of our nature, etc. In the most Tarantino way possible, but, all the same. You’re all heart, Rocko!

  16. The Bruce Lee scene didn’t bother me. At *worst* it seemed like gentle ribbing and you can tell Tarantino loves Bruce Lee — he has the character own up to provoking the fight (showing he’s honorable) and the cutaway of him teaching Sharon is presented as a happy memory for her. Plus Tarantino is really comfortable letting his protagonists be flawed. Think of how arrogant & dopey Vincent Vega is presented in Pulp Fiction, and he’s the hero of that movie! If he can let Rick & Cliff be as flawed as they are you can hardly say Bruce Lee suffers by comparison. As for other people laughing AT Bruce Lee… we can’t control how audiences react to stuff. I once sat in a theater where a guy laughed uproariously throughout Throne of Blood. We can’t control the world. All artists can do is make art in good faith (which I think Tarantino did).

  17. Skani – exactly. You took the words right out of my mouth. It’s basically Tarantino being (his version of) sweet & sentimental and I love it.

  18. I think the dent in the car is the exact same kind of cinematic, action movie punchline as the sight of Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s big ‘ol footprint on Bruce Lee’s chest in GAME OF DEATH- it’s both intentionally funny *and* a sign that this fight is a fight he should take seriously.

  19. The movie is very much about men stuck in their pasts, professionally and in a changing social landscape. A lot of the controversies around the movie seem calculated to me. Tarantino must be aware that everyone thinks his movies have too much foot-porn already (so he doubles down on feet shots), just as he’s aware that the film’s over-the-top grotesque violence against women (I mean why does Jack hate hippies SO MUCH?) was going to raise some eyebrows. I’ve only seen one review mention that he’s trolling us with this stuff, but there were aspects that felt to me like Tarantino’s conscious response to what he views as a more puritanical mainstream landscape, which I guess mirrors the crises of the out-of-place two lead characters.

  20. I liked the movie but this time the violence went too far for me. I guess we’ve found my line. Shooting Nazis in the face is ok (and that was Hitler and Goebbels themselves) but pouring Manson gal’s face into the counter is too much.

    I think there reasons are: yes these were murderers but they were also young people manipulated by Manson. And they were clearly already subdued. At a certain point Cliff and Rick are being sadistic further mutilating then.

    I also think the revisionist history is less effective the second time. Like yeah, this is what you do now. Django and Hateful were less specific so I could buy slaves benign victorious and what not. Rewriting a specific historical event loses its cleverness on repeat.

    But it was well done and funny throughout.

  21. I feel like this movie is possibly great, but it’s so conflicting. A series of great scenes, which ultimately leads to a not-great movie. Two career-almost-best performances in service of something I’ll wrestle with forever. It’s Quentin Tarantino’s THE MASTER.

    I get that Sharon Tate is presented as a perfect, innocent being. I still think it’s WAYYY underdeveloped. I also think there’s a specific reason why we only hear Tate through the intercom and only see her overhead at the end, but I’m not sure.

    I agree with Fred about the violence. I am very very unphased by violence, but this was the strangest, most vicious violence of Tarantino’s career, which… whoa! The moment where Atkins’ (Krenwinkel?) head is smashed into the fireplace mantel by Cliff made me cringe more than anything in “The Night Comes For Us.”

  22. I think this movie is a classic illustration of trying to navigate art in this “woke” environment. I’ve been called racist for having no issues with the Bruce/Cliff scene (even though I’m a POC). I’ve been called misogynist for not having a problem with the Manson girls getting the shit kicked out of them. I’ve been called a reactionary for enjoying the nostalgic vibe of the movie. It’s like people feel they have to make everything political. I used to really enjoy discussing movies but nowadays it’s such a fucking chore.

  23. I am surprised how much talk there is over the Bruce Lee fight. I honesty just assumed it was a tall tale, like something out of Big Fish. I didn’t even for a second see it as shade thrown Bruce Lee’s way. And I thought the shot of Lee training Tate was really nicely done, as was the split of Robbie as Tate watching real life Tate on screen.
    I kept thinking of the U2 line from Rattle and Hum when they covered Helter Skelter: “this is a song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles. We’re stealing it back.” It was almost QTs way of rewriting Tate’s career.

  24. My take on the Lee fight was Lee kicked him down on the first try, Pitt threw him into the car on the second try, then they fought to a standstill. I did not feel the movie was besmirching Lee’s legacy the way people thought they did. For me, it was more about showing Cliff being on Bruce Lee’s level more than Lee being trash.

  25. I, for one, don’t think that Cliff’s brief scene with his wife on the boat is meant to be ambiguous at all. I think we’re to understand that he did indeed kill his wife, because Stuntman Kurt said so and there’s nothing offered up in the short sequence to contradict that. True, it doesn’t explicitly show anything to confirm it either, but I feel like that’s not supposed to be a “did he or didn’t he?” thing, since it’s kind of a strategy of the movie across its entire running time to raise some kind of small bit dramatic / narrative conflict, but never actually resolve it. So Cliff is shown on the boat just before he kills Mrs. Booth, but we cut away before he does it. Likewise, he and Bruce fight to two falls, but are interrupted before a winner can be determined. On the ranch, Tex races over to confront Cliff (seemingly getting going just as the other guy is beginning to change the tire, which one would think would give him plenty of time) but get there just as he’s driving off. I don’t think there’s any particular thematic point to this, but it’s the way that QT slowly creates a broader tension over the movie, filling the balloon up with air but then letting it just out in a gust before it pops, all as a way of getting us keyed up enough for the wild climax. Compare with what he did in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, where he would introduce a conflict into a scene, raise it up until it became tense, then suspenseful, the unbearable, then (in my opinion) boring. IG was a series of valleys and peaks, while ONCE was a steadier build over the whole movie. Anyway, Cliff killed his wife. Why even bring it up if there’s a reasonable possibility that he didn’t? The whole purpose of that is to complicate our feelings about a guy who’s otherwise, as Vern points out, unambiguously cool and almost too easy to identify with absent this.

    All that said, I found the ending of this to be almost unbearably sad. I haven’t seen this kind of reaction from anyone else, so I wonder if I didn’t miss some crucial bit of plot or something. While the Mansonites were successfully dispatched and Tate et al spared, the last scenes seemed to indicate that the best thing about the movie, the friendship between Cliff and Rick, was over. And not on equal terms, either. Rick trades up to new friends who might help his career, invite him to parties at the Playboy mansion, or at least give him the attention he feels he deserves. Cliff, as far as I can tell, is still out on his ass. He’s no longer needed by Rick, or anyone else as near as I can tell. The reason Cliff is such a great character is not that he’s a badass, or not only that, but that he’s the only character who does anything for anyone but himself. He’s Rick’s handyman, psychiatrist, secretary, and life coach, of course, but he also sticks around Spahn Ranch for as long as he does just so that he can make sure that George is okay. He flirts with Pussycat a little, but seems to pick her up in the first place because he thinks that she would be better off if she got a ride from a responsible adult (I guess there’s also the bit about being “too old to go to jail for poontang,” which, fair enough). His first big scene on his own is all about him feeding and talking to his dog at great length, and one could even make the case that he gets into it with Bruce Lee to defend the honor of Ali. He’s the only character (including Tate) who’s not some kind of narcissist, and who seems to see other people as something other than admirers or audience members, and there’s no indication in the end that I was able to see that there was a place for him in a world populated by those kind of people. Hell, there was even a hint that he might lose his dog (it was officially phrased as a joke, but still)! For all the talk that I’ve read about ONCE being a “love letter” to bygone Hollywood, I don’t think it’s an unambiguously cheery take. I think Vern’s MULHOLLAND DRIVE comparison is an astute one in that regard.

  26. Seen it twice now and I think it just might be the career high for not just Tarantino, but Pitt and DiCaprio as well.
    Random thoughts:

    1) While watching the film I couldn’t help finding a parallel between Charles Manson and Jeffery Epstein (the pedophile monster who has dominated the news for the last 3 weeks): both managed to insinuate themselves into the world of wealth and power via the same tactic, they gave them access to jailbait girls;


    2) In the hours after finishing the film I started to get really sad thinking about the California that used to exist and will never, ever exist again. In 1969 17 million people lived in California and today that number is around 44 million. What used to take a median income household less than 20 years to pay off the mortgage for a decent house, would now take over 80 years. The fact is, only the staggeringly rich or the staggeringly poor can afford to live in coastal California circa 2019. Post WWII 20th Century coastal California (1950 to 1990ish) is as close as this world with have ever come to a genuine utopia;

    3) Other than David Lynch, The Coen Brothers and maybe Paul Thomas Anderson, only Tarantino has the clout to make a movie these days with this budget that is this “non-woke;” the number of movie reviews that have already accused the movie of being “too white” have been numerous (so thanks for not being one of them); and finally,

    4) Jose Faliciano’s version of California Dreamin is waaaaayyyy better then the Mamas and the Papas version. Can’t believe I had never heard that cover before…it’s all that’s playing in my car right now.

  27. Handsome Dan – But what purpose is there for the big wave heard coming up at the end of the shot if not to introduce the possibility that it caused the death by accident? Unless I’m imagining that.

  28. Vern: I didn’t notice any indication of an oncoming wave, though it’s certainly possible I missed something that will be obvious on a second viewing. I thought that the scene was suggesting Cliff shot his wife with the harpoon gun he was holding, though on further reflection it *is* ambiguous whether or not he did it intentionally. The shot of Cliff slumped in his chair with the gun in his lap reminded me immediately of the shot of Vincent Vega turning around in the passenger seat of the car, with his gun at a similar angle to the screen, right before he accidentally shoots Marvin. At the moment I was expecting everything to play out in a similar way, with a sudden shot, though admittedly I’d just re-watched PULP FICTION the night before so I might be reading into the staging here based on a fresh memory.

    I guess I gotta see this one again, oh well.

  29. I think the ambiguity around whether Cliff killed his wife or not is actually one of the most interesting details in the movie. It’s a character beat almost more suited to a novel, and I think it’s deliberately provocative to the audience. Like Rick, we don’t *want* to believe it could be true of this otherwise cool dude but…the possibility is there. Tarantino kind of forces the audience to choose sides on him in a much more interesting, interpretive, interactive way than if we knew for certain he either did it or he didn’t (but everyone thought he did). You gotta make up your own mind about the guy.

  30. Anything about THE WILD BUNCH?

  31. Handsome Dan, the ending felt sad for me too. Spooky, also. And I hadn’t even considered how Rick was ‘trading up’ to a new set of friends. Tarantino has been in cinema-celebration mode for awhile now, and for me OUATIH is the closest he’s come to making a movie that’s as much about the ‘dangers’ of movies as broad societal imagination-generators, as it is the greatness of cinema. And it works so well! In fact, I think the darker undercurrent’s friction with the overt celebration of Hollywood is what gives the movie the propulsion it needs to be so luxuriant with everything else. QT’s usual, knowing, “Ain’t movies grand?” was nonstop in OUAT, but like, if the end of Basterds was essentially “Ain’t movies grand? You can kill Hitler in ’em!” the end of OUAT is … very different than that. Certainly a far cry from “Ain’t movies grand? You can spare Sharon Tate in ’em!” It’s a movie that explicitly assumes its audience is going to know the details of Sharon Tate’s real-life murder; if it’s going to give us that credit, it must also assume we know about #MeToo, Harvey Weinstein, and the general abusive nature of real-life 20th century Hollywood. OUAT leaves you with a question mark, not an exclamation point: “What happens when we don’t tell ourselves the truth about who we are? About what we’ve done? About what was done to us?” It understands our need for fantasy, even as it cautions against that need turning into a dependence. I might be reaching here, but hey, that never stopped Tarantino: the movie seems to be saying on a metaphorical level that if Sharon Tate hadn’t been murdered, nothing in Hollywood would have changed. The good as well as the bad. We’d still have the neon signs, the charming theater managers. And the literal and figurative wife-killers would still be out there too, getting paid, looking hot, and living free. Is a little neon worth a dead wife here and there for a nation of fantasy junkies? Maybe our culture has become too addicted to the fantasy of ourselves as faultless heroes to see that the answer to that question for a lot of people is still an unwitting “Yes”?

    So yeah, it’s a beautiful closing scene no matter which way you look at it, “happy” plot-wise for sure, but thematically I think you’re totally on the money, there’s a rueful sort of sorrow mixed in there with the sweet.

  32. For the audience it’s a sad ending dressed up as a happy one, but for the characters it’s unambiguously happy. Because Rick finally gets off his narcissistic high horse at the end *just* long enough to recognize the true value of Cliff’s friendship when they have their goodbye scene at the ambulance, it’s not a stretch to imagine that even if he can’t afford to keep him on the payroll any more (which seems destined to change with his career being rejuvenated by his association with Polanski/Tate as avatars of the new hollywood), they’ll still be hanging out socially. And Cliff (both for his part in stopping the Manson family and for being a friend Rick will vouch for) will likely get in good with the same crew as Rick, revive his stunt career, etc. At the very least I think the implication is there if you want to read it that way, so I don’t think the friendship between Cliff & Rick is over.

  33. caruso_stalker217

    August 1st, 2019 at 11:04 am

    This was the first Tarantino movie I’ve seen that I had no real desire to see again any time soon. And a lot of that had to do with, surprise, the ending.
    And really the whole third act. Everything after the “Six Months Later” title card.
    ….and I wrote this long review going into all the stuff I liked about the movie and I was boring myself just writing it so I’ll just skip to the ending and why I didnt like it.
    So the first 2+ hours of this movie is a lot of long, slow scenes and Rick and Cliff hanging out and all that. Very cool.
    Then that third act happens. Cliff and Rick are sidelined in favor of a bunch of narration basically just listing Italian filmmakers Tarantino likes. Then the narration tells us stuff that we can actually see happening on screen. And then the narration tells us how pregnant Sharon Tate feels.
    Then the film becomes a self parody as Cliff smashes a woman’s head to pulp and Rick burns a girl to death in his swimming pool.
    And then he gets invited to Sharon Tate’s house for drinks, the end.
    To say this felt unearned is an understatement. This felt like DEATH PROOF all over again.
    There’s no real payoff or catharsis here. The killers went to a different house instead and a stuntman on acid and a dog killed them.
    And Rick, completely out of character, torches the last girl with his flamethrower. It was ridiculous and I should have been laughing, but I wasn’t.
    And then Speed Racer, playing a real person who was actually murdered, is like “Woah! You killed her with a flame thrower? Just like in that movie you made. I’m such a fan! Say hi to Sharon!”
    And I guess that’s a happy ending?
    I guess it felt a little gross that this thing ends with Tarantino’s fan fiction about how his supercool character Cliff Booth totally killed the shit out of those Manson fuckers and saved Sharon Tate and her friends. And to have the real actually murdered people (and the Manson fuckers!) gush over Tarantino’s fictional cowboy actor was just the cherry on top.
    Really disappointing, because I was loving the film until then.
    Um…..still better than DEATH PROOF though, so there’s that.

  34. Although I understand why some people were uncomfortable with parts of the film, I came out really liking this one. For me, the part of the movie that stood out was Dalton’s time filming the TV western. I actually found those sequences even more suspenseful than the time at the Spahn Ranch. I’ll admit that when the little girl told Dalton that that was the best acting she’s ever seen, I legit teared up.

    I’ve heard some people claim that Once Upon a Time’s a movie about aging white dudes protecting the future from young women, but I actually think Trudi, the pint-sized method actor, shows why that just isn’t the case. She’s the next generation that’s going to replace Dalton, but she actually makes him better at his craft, and they form a touching bond.

  35. Now, I see where the final scenes of the film (SPOILERS…………………………………) take things in too silly-gore a direction for some people. It didn’t occur to me when I was watching, but I get the argument that it’s too much of a tonal 180 in taking this otherwise semi-grounded-if-silly film into a crazy exploitation, alterna-history direction. Maybe you wanted a more quiet, intimate, grounded, subdued thing. I can see that. I can even sorta imagine there being a way to do that and still have the same basic ending but just with a more restrained energy. And the film maayyy even still more-or-less work.

    That said, I don’t know if it would work nearly as well. I would defend Tarantino here on the grounds that he’s interested in taking you on an emotionally charged, evocative ride that stirs up weird, discordant feelings and ideas. On purpose. So, I don’t see it as a lack of restraint, where he just can’t help himself but bust out into this gonzo’d out carnage orgy in spite of all better judgment. He’s delivering a caricatured, super-charged, extra-strength, good-guys-win cathartic experience, and the tonal 180 is not lost on him, obviously.

    What is all the more masterful in my view is that he somehow manages to deliver that pay-off very satisfyingly (for many, at least) while taking some considerable pains to make the Manson acolytes mundane, relatable, humanized, sometimes even relatively likable people. They’re not one-note burnouts or self-serious get-a-load-of-how-fucked-up-and-nihilistic-we-are types. Even when Tex is trying to muster that energy, it’s clear that he’s struggling, and the others are even less sure about it. It’s like frat hazing-type energy.

    Tarantino maximally humanizes these misguided dirty hippies and still manages to get most of us to sympathize with relatively rich white male celebrity Hollywood type as a down on his luck person struggling with a crisis of meaning, direction, and self-worth. He is a virtuso here in allowing us to identify and empathize with people of all walks of life as our fellow human travelers. Even Dalton, this clueless, privileged, bubble-trapped, self-important douchebag. Even Cliff, who may be a murderer. Even fucking Roman Polanski and the Manson kids. He can humanize these people, because, despite how fucked up they are, they are humans who were once kids and head dream and made mistakes and did horrible things and were clueless and had insecurities — us, in other words. I can see myself in Rick Dalton and in those Manson kids (less so, Cliff, he’s too pretty and gifted).

    As far as the crazy Jason X-level gore, I think that is kind of like a giallo sort of thing. He’s using it for emotional catharsis and shifting into another gear, because even in giving you a happy ending, he’s going to give you a fucked up happy ending that makes you feel a mix of strange emotions before, during, and after. It’s not just narrative storytelling with its respect for discipline of pace, consistency of tone, or cloying earnest-ness. It’s mess with your unconscious, tweak your head, goose your adrenaline, get you feeling and thinking all kinds of weird conflicting shit kind of storytelling.

    I think. Anyways, I may be giving him too much credit, but I think others may not be giving him enough. I can see where it doesn’t work for everyone, but I think it’s a big and carefully planned swing as opposed to just Tarantino doing a Beavis and just devolving into “fire!! fire!!!” for lack of impulse control or better judgment.

    I also don’t think he’s just shitting on kids who need to get off of his middle-aged-in-my-day-boy-i-tell-you white guy lawn. We don’t cheer Rick on because he’s right, but because he’s clueless and fucked up and entitled. We cheer him on because he’s hapless, struggling, pathetic, emotionally as vulnerable and broken down as he’s ever been — in spite of or maybe because of — all his privileges and trying to find his way, find his strength, rise above his circumstances and keep up the fight, man up, settle down, whatever. And his results and motives are both mixed at best, but damnit he’s trying, and he’s our protagonist. He may be a rich, clueless, entitled asshole (even by the standards of the average stereotypical white male clueless entitled asshole), but damnit, he’s our clueless, entitled asshole. We don’t have to affirm his motives, his methods, and we don’t have to feel like he deserves what he gets (whatever that is, I see the end as “hopeful ambiguous” vs. unmitigated triumph or deeply disquieting stealth downer). It’s about perseverance, keeping up the fight, keeping on, moving on, moving forward — the best way you know how given your circumstances and all the bullshit kool-aid you’ve consumed about yourself and life and how it used to work, does work, should work.

  36. I absolutely agree with you, Batty. The film goes out of its way to show us just what mess Rick is, and the scenes you are describing go to great pains to show us that this 8-year-old young woman has more discipline, self-awareness, and general wisdom and maturity than Rick. To say that the film is all just some regressive ego trip is reductive and lazy. I don’t think this film is coming out onto the balcony to make some single pithy thesis statement about what the world needs more or less of right now. I think it’s just a meditation on youth, middle-age, aging, change, past, present, and future. Rick is our main protagonist and window into that struggle. He’s a at a turning point, a crisis of limitations where all of his illusions are slowly being shattered, and he’s being severely humbled. Yes, he’s still rich and white and a man and a celebrity, but he’s fundamentally a human being who has an emotional life, and an image of what success and personal worth are, and he’s receiving a loud message from various directions that, whatever success and worth are, he once had them and is now losing them. He’s on the wrong side of a youth-oriented business and a youth-oriented culture. In his case he doesn’t have any tools or supportive social norms to process that (“cryin’ in front of the Mexicans”). Of course, some people process that better than others. Cliff seems to handle this much better, not in spite of, but because he has had less objective/conventional success or achievement than Rick.

    Likewise, the youth are humanized and diverse, as reflected in Sharon Tate, the 8-year-old actress, and the various Manson kids. There is not a uniform celebration of the old guard or a uniform pissing on the kids. Sharon Tate and the 8-year-old are presented as two people in earlier stages of Dalton’s own journey, and they’re both portrayed with a high level of dignity and care. The film seems quite clear that they are far more grounded and emotionally equipped to deal with life than Rick. He should have figured some shit out by now, but emotionally, he’s way behind the 8-year-old girl, and it’s presented as incredibly humbling for him, and he never arrives at her level of maturity. Simply put, the girl and Tate are presented as quite obviously far “better” people than Rick in the obvious sense of not being obnoxiously self-important, bull-in-a-china-shop, clueless assholes.

    If the film is about anything, it’s about coming to grips with one’s illusions, being humbled, and moving forward with Tarantino moxie and hope. Of course, not those ill-fated Manson kids, but the film knows that we are drawing on the events of actual history as a juxtaposition to what Cliff and Dalton unleash on these kids–these are tragically misguided kids, but they did a horrific, evil thing, and I am pretty certain we are meant to sense that Cliff and Dalton’s actions are somehow a proportionate response — a kind of Twilight Zone magical realism-y time travel “pre-venge” deal — to what the kids (would) have done to Sharon Tate and co. in the official real-world timeline. They are kind of like psychic time travelers who unleash a strange and cartoonish fury that is (a) disproportionate to what the kids actually had done in that film at that point but which feels (b) primally/filmatically/cathartically proportionate to what they (will) have done to Tate and co. in the real-world timeline. It’s a violent Tarantino-giallo emotional exorcism, this house is clear, kind of thing. It’s a kind of fairy tale in a way. Not just a white male triumph fairy tale but a fairy tale about a bunch of imperfect people living to fight and grow another day. Provided you’re not one of the imperfect people about to murder a pregnant woman, ’cause, c’mon, not cool.

    So, in other words, it’s trippy layered shit all around, not “get off my lawn and, while you’re at it, cast me in your next movie, you fucking hippies.”

  37. I haven’t loved a movie like this in a long, long time. I know Tarantino is threatening to retire after a few more films and all I can say is I hope they are as warm and kind as this.

    Great review and talkback. Dunno if somebody else mentioned this, but the reversal of having Tate show up at the theater and somewhat cringely embody the vapid narcissistic actor stereotype, but then we watch her secretly luxuriate in the joy her performance brings to the audience … wow. That was for me as crucial as watching Rick become undone by the 8 year old’s accolade.

  38. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS One thing that struck me during the ending is that the “new” murders will probably be something of a iconic pop-culture moment, just like the ones they’re replacing. I mean, you still have a horrific murder scene featuring a bunch of colorful characters and rich people. And if that’s true, is it too much to wonder if Cliff doesn’t end up the “new” Manson? I mean, here he is, probably already a murderer, high on LSD, and these three hippies break into his friend’s house and he just fucking massacres them, insanely brutal stuff. Nobody knows who “Charles Manson” is, nobody knows why they showed up at his door. They definitely acted aggressively, but shit, he smashed the face of, like, a 20-year old flower child about 1/10th his size to pulp. Rick uses a fucking flame thrower on a blinded, disoriented girl who is obviously no threat to him whatsoever. Who would consider these guys heroes, if you didn’t know what they unintentionally averted, if you’d never heard the words “Helter Skelter” or “Charles Manson”? They would seem like an embodiment of the most brutal reactionary elements to the hippies imaginable; two rich, macho men (both completely blasted) make mincement of a trio of scared, strung-out kids who broke into their house. The “Dalton Murders” might well end up being a culturally symbolic as the Manson murders, but in the opposite direction.

    That’s probably not what Tarantino had in mind, but who knows? If that’s not what I was meant to take from it, I don’t think the ending really worked for me.

  39. “Best acting I’ve ever seen.” Surely I can’t be the only one to notice, Rick’s strong performance aside, that this 8 year old wasn’t looking at Rick for 97% of that scene? I refuse to believe that wasn’t unintentional, but I’ve been the only person to laugh at that moment during the two screenings I’ve seen.

    I get people who criticize the ending (except for the gender critique…I don’t think that holds up when we get lingering pitbull biting and shaking ball bites shots and a curb stomp finish for Tex…the guy gets brutalized as bad as them basically, and the girl who gets torched is the one who pitches murdering all the Dalton’s), but I’m mostly fine with it. That sort of thing is too much my jam, I suppose. I couldn’t help but feel like it was somewhat sloppy, though in it’s set-up. I’m not a big fan of these narrator exposition dumps and time jumps that Tarantino has done two movies in a row now, though this one worked better than HATEFUL EIGHT in that regard for me. This movie did get me to finally purchase JACKIE BROWN on bluray and give it a rewatch, and god damn that movie is awesome.

  40. wasn’t intentional* (my fault)

  41. BrianB, i laughed/cringed throughout that entire part also. “Oh, it’s ok, when I’m at home I throw myself down on the ground all the time just to practice!” probably got my biggest laugh of any line in the movie. My take was more that Rick could have done anything and gotten the same reaction from his coworkers. Kissing his ass is an obligatory part of their job, just like knowing his lines is (supposed to be) part of his. Aside from the sweat on his brow I couldn’t see any pronounced difference between his performance in that scene and any other time we see him act. The touching part of that sequence for me was seeing just how much it mattered to Rick that he be taken seriously… but it’s also kind of pathetic to see how badly he needed to hear it, and how ready he was to believe it.

  42. Also, I gotta take issue with how forgiving you guys are for this film totally disrespecting Bruce Lee. True, Cliff doesn’t definitively win the fight, but the fact that he even comes close is pretty insulting considering that Lee fucking devoted his life to perfecting his fighting system. If some white stuntman can just walk out of nowhere and give him a run for his money, I’m sorry, there’s nothing special about him. There’s no way of reading this except that Lee is full of shit. I wouldn’t even consider myself a big Bruce Lee fan, but it’s just an insulting portrayal. It’s like if the movie had Cliff show up at a club where Hendrix was shooting his mouth off, and Cliff just grabbed a guitar and played a solo which was basically as good, to show him up. These figures are legendary because they devoted their lives to being the best. If they can be casually challenged by a chauffeur who gives as good as he gets, it just makes their achievements less special. Lee is obviously somewhat deflated at the end of the fight, having been humbled by this random guy.

    I liked the movie overall, even loved much of it, but the whole Bruce part struck me as wrongheaded and sour. Maybe Tarantino has good reason for thinking Bruce Lee was mostly full of shit, but that’s obviously how he feels. I don’t see how else you could read that scene.

    Also, Vern, we gotta get the “Bruce” icon on here!

  43. I don’t understand the reading that the scene is disrespectful to Lee beyond the fact that he’s portrayed as kind of a blowhard in that moment. There’s no question that in real life Bruce Lee was an exceptionally talented fighter and performer, but he wasn’t *invincible*. Even in his own movies people are, like, able to punch him and stuff.

    I think it’s a much more interesting choice to portray Lee as a little bit flawed (y’know, like an actual human being), rather than some perfect paragon of wisdom.

  44. Like, glancing over his Wikipedia page, the whole incident in the movie seems like it could have been directly inspired Lee’s real life fight with Wong Jack Man.

  45. Aaaaand of course I forgot that Vern pointed out that very similarity in the actual review. But still! The similarity to real life is absolutely there.

  46. Even though I just complained about people being sensitive about spoilers, I’m not going to assume that I’m right about it and so here is some filler to prevent SPOILERS from appearing in the Recent Comments.
    The people who are interpreting it as a straightforward fantasy of Cliff heroically preventing the murders from taking place, and wouldn’t it have been better if this “idyllic” period had been allowed to continue or something, saw a different movie than I did for sure.

    I feel like the impotence of the fantasy is front and center; the movies CAN’T save us, they can only offer a trivial and fleeting magic, even if that magic might seem like it means the world to those who had a hand in creating it. It’s almost a devastatingly humble reflection by Tarantino on his career. I mean INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS kinda exists in the reality of this film and it’s … one of the mediocrities that signifies how Rick Dalton’s career is bullshit! I might be getting carried away with this interpretation, but the fact that Cliff is so effortlessly pleasurable to hang out with strikes me almost a FUNNY GAMES-level indictment of an audience that is invited to revel in the horrific violence he dispatches. All so that Rick Dalton can get a foot in the door with this weird rotten love triangle next door.

    I’m reminded of how ridiculously fun WOLF OF WALL STREET is and how much of a misread we all thought it was to equate portrayal with endorsement. I feel like HOLLYWOOD is orders of magnitude more rich and rewarding because it genuinely and tenderly loves all of its characters while realizing that the fantasy they get to inhabit is bullshit.

  47. The Kurgan — the difference is that Wong Jack Man was also a renowned martial arts master and teacher. But Cliff is just some random stuntman off the street. The idea that he could give as good as he got with a person whose entire renown is based on his expertise in a field he devoted his life to studying is, I’m sorry, an insult. I don’t mind Lee being portrayed as something of an arrogant asshole (which, by all accounts, is at least feasible) but to act like any random guy in pretty good physical shape could take him is inherently to diminish his lifetime of accomplishment. I mean, come on, the whole scene is about Cliff showing Lee up, making him look like a big mouth who isn’t nearly as tough as he thinks he is. Like I said, maybe Tarantino has some reason to think that’s the case, or maybe this is just in an alternate universe where Bruce Lee was just some punk, but that’s definitely the way the scene plays.

  48. But Cliff is clearly supposed to be this larger than life mythological figure as well within the reality of the film, and the Bruce duel is one of the things that tells us that.

    And I dunno man, here have always been unknown kids who could take on Hendrix. It’s not a meritocracy right?

  49. I think there’s some nuance to how Tarantino and DiCaprio show Rick Dalton act. For instance, Rick’s performance becomes more forced and “pushing” after he starts flubbing lines in the bar. It’s not all indistinguishable 50s/60s tv acting. And for what it’s worth, we don’t see his ass vigorously kissed after that moment.

  50. I think the film gets to have it both ways. The crew is genuinely enthusiastic over Dalton nailing the scene to the extent he does, even though it’s not really over anything other than corny TV acting. Same thing with the people tittering at Tate’s slapstick; it’s not some comedic masterpiece that has them doubled over in uproarious laughter, it’s just a minor signifier of the audience’s stamp of approval that nonetheless means the world to these actors.

  51. Mr. S- I definitely see what you’re saying, but for me it just isn’t too implausible that an experienced stuntman/war hero could throw down with Bruce Lee a little bit. Cliff is clearly meant to be a mysterious figure in the movie, and I think the audience reaction is supposed to be “whoa Cliff is a badass” because he isn’t *immediately murdered* by Bruce, not “haha Bruce Lee is a chump!”. He’s intentionally playing off our real-world expectations for how the situation will go for dramatic effect, in the exact same way as at the end when Cliff is confronted with the Mansonites.

    I mean, fair play if it doesn’t work for you, but, at least for me, it doesn’t feel disrespectful of Lee’s legacy to portray him as a fallible human being who could be surprised and run his mouth a little but still back it up when push came to shove.

  52. Michaelangelo I find it truly fascinating. As an afro latino millenial who’s social circle is majority POC the only people I see politicize movies like that are white people. I actually really liked this and I wonder if people didn’t know I wasn’t white if they’d go “just another nostalgic white boy loving the white man power fantasy” or whatever. That’s probably this review is the only one I’ve read and will read because I knew Vern would never bring that noise. He’d focus on the actual movie.

    I actually saw this cause a very afro centric and bohemian nigerian girl I know urged me to. Said it was the most humane thing Tarantino has ever done and I’d agree with her assesment. INGLORIOUS BASTERDS is still the only QT joint I have never seen. So I don’t know how much of a treat it is for movie fans but this one is a definite movie for movie fans made by a movie fan.

    The minute Martin Kove and James Remar show up on screen I knew it was my kind of jam. What was really interesting for me was how much Dalton and Booth are like the perceptions the general public has of their respective actors. Leo is someone who had been trying to reinvent himself since Growing Pains. From dramatic roles in mature fare opposite the likes of De Niro and Johnny Depp in their prime to the goddamn BASKETBALL DIARIES. He always came across as someone who felt he had to prove to everyone especially himself that he was the real deal not just Tigerbeat fare.

    Since FIGHT CLUB Pitt was perceived as that cool pothead dude who has the range to convincingly play sexy or crazy without a flinch. So here he is playing the coolest motherfucker Tarantino has ever created while Leo is playing a self conscious bag of anxiety. It worked like magic. These are indeed career best performances and I’d argue the only one that could really push Leo outside of Scorsese has been proven to be Tarantino.

    I mentioned this a while ago. I’ve beaten my depression through embracing my creativity and exercising. Finally applying the principles that many of our favorite heroes like Arnold, Sly and Bruce Lee himself have stated about the alignment of mind, body and soul leading to true happiness and self fulfillment.

    So not to brag but when I saw Cliff on the roof there sporting a similar physique to mine (im what those fitness nerds call natty but with even more cuts) and just his overall demeanor (lifting his friend up when he’s down, not taking advantage of any immature and possibly underage girls’ naivete, keeping his cool but still being outspoken when tested etc.) I related a lot. No comment on the wife killing though.

    But what surprised me most was relating to all the other characters as well through 2 major themes in the film: the emotions of an artist and the importance of family & communion.

    As an artist myself I appreciated seeing all these different facets of the psychology of an artist. From the artist exhilarated by the reactions of their own contributions to make the world a sunnier place (Tate at the cinema) to the artist dealing with feeling out of place in the world but pushing themselves through the darkness as best as they can (Dalton) and the artist that truly does what he does cause it’s his place in the world and he’s totally ok with it (Booth). Man all that shit resonated really hard with me. Had Charlie Manson been an actual focus he’d probably explore the psychopathic elements within artistry coming to a rise in a person.

    The family element was very well done IMO like Skani said even the goddamn Manson clan is humanized cause of that. Yes they represent the dysfunctional element of family dynamics but it really did hit effectively. Cliff and Rick of course represented brotherhood at it’s purest while Sharon and the men she loved represented that kind of family dynamic you share with a soulmate. This is Tarantino’s most grown up film in that regard. Finally a true succesor to JACKIE BROWN.

    The Bruce Lee scene was indeed off putting to me but not because of the semantics of the scenario (white man equaling Lee’s fighting prowess) especially when that white guy was standing up for the world’s greatest himself and the only other guy in history to throw punches as awesome as Bruce. It was how hammy the actor got when engaging. It became a mockery. He was a charicature Bruce himself was more restrained. The dragon wasn’t right out from jump in confrontations. Rob Cohen’s movie was accurate in that regard.

    I never expected the twist. I was like “duh it’s called ONCE UPON A TIME” by the end credits so of course it gets a fairy tale ending. I’m sorry but I’m glad to have seen 2 major Hollywood joints this year display dog on asshole carnage at the comand of a charismatically awesome master.

    The violence did not bother me. It was cartoonish but the entire movie overall was funnier than I ever expected it to be so it did not feel like a tonal shift to me. Plus I kept dreading when the movie would get to that point. This crime was so heinous I was actually scared to see what Tarantino would do with it. I’ve been watching horror since I was 4 but even when American Horror Story covered it I found it very disturbing. So boy was I surprised by that stand off (which for a guy who is as obsessed with mexican stand offs as QT it was one of his most hilarious). I kept gleefully waiting to see who would get the can to the face and it did not disappoint.

    I don’t know if this is his masterpiece but it’s the first by Tarantino that has really stayed with me since KILL BILL. I enjoyed the others (except DEATH PROOF but its ok cause he needed that experience to prepare for this) for what they are but nothing has touched his first 4 until now. In many ways it’s the movie he’s been waiting his entire life to make. As big a fan of 60’s pop culture and media as he is you couldn’t find a better filmmaker for deconstructing it with something like this. It’s his AMERICAN GRAFFITTI. Personally I felt this joint was straight up beautiful. Oh and Andie McDowell’s daughter is a star in the making.

  53. Also when was the last time a movie had these many crane shots? As a fan of old school filmatism I really loved that.

  54. I also felt Lewis looked ridiculous as Steve McQueen but boy did he capture the demeanor. Wish he had a scene with Bruce for sure.

  55. Crane shots? ENTER THE VOID!

    Cool review Broddie.

  56. I guess I’m amenable to the suggestion that the Bruce Lee scene is to establish that Cliff is a legendary badass in his own right, a guy who, but for a turn of fate, could have been an all-time great, maybe even as good as Lee. In that case, the scene is about Cliff’s wasted potential, not really about Lee at all. I can see that in theory, but it didn’t play that way for me, at least on the first watch.

  57. geoffreyjar – I’m actually glad people are seeing it differently than me, but I felt Lee was portrayed less as a human being and more like a parody version. He seemed more cartoonish and over-the-top than any of the characters he played in his movies. Although I believe almost none of Bruce Lee’s coolness or aura was captured in that scene (perhaps intentionally), I can actually still see Mike Moh being a good Bruce Lee in another movie and hope to see him show up in more things. In this particular case, I think Shannon Lee’s response is fair since she acknowledged artistic license and how Cliff’s character figured into the scene.

    Mr. Subtlety – As The Kurgan mentioned, I think Cliff’s war experience is an important detail that helps prevent him from coming across as just a random stuntman. But are viewers supposed to notice how Cliff calls Lee a phony dancer but then appears to be an expert in the same martial arts style Lee utilizes?

  58. Lewis as Steve McQueen is rough. He doesn’t get the voice right at all and he doesn’t resemble him enough. It probably doesn’t help that whole Playboy Mansion exposition dump he’s in is the worst section of the movie.

    I’m on the fence about what to takeaway from the Bruce vs. Cliff scene. The rest of the movie clearly establishes Cliff as a badass to some degree, so I can see that reading, but I also don’t know how that scene isn’t a humbling of a cocky Bruce Lee, which is how every audience I’ve seen has reacted to it. For what it’s worth, being a longtime mma fan, I do find it silly for Bruce Lee to say he’s cripple prime Muhammad Ali when Ali was much, much bigger, legendarily fast himself, and also a striker, so perhaps I’m less receptive to defending Lee’s badass bonafides.

  59. Mr. Subtlety – I think the scene with Cliff and Bruce could have been disrespectful if it had taken place later in Bruce’s life. But it was very early in his career. A guy who’d been around as long as Cliff and seen as much as he had wouldn’t be impressed by a guy Bruce’s size claiming he could cripple Cassius Clay. And Bruce knocked Cliff on his ass first. Now, if Cliff had thrown Bruce into the car first I’d be calling bullshit as well. But I thought the sequencing of that scene was well done. I know the Lee family has issues with it, but they have a vested interest in maintaining the myth. For me, the biggest indicator the scene wasn’t disrespectful is the fact that Mike Moh participated. Mike Moh reveres Bruce Lee. He would never participate in something that shit on his legacy.

  60. MrS, I don’t think the girl who got torched is meant to be seen as not a threat. First, she is the one who comes up with the scheme that leads to this alternate history. And, secondly, true to code era Hollywood, Rick only blasts her with his gun/flamethrower after she points her gun, which she’d been firing off wildly as she failed, directly at him.

  61. I second Subtlety’s request to add a “Bruce” icon to this review.

    The main thing in this movie that I seem to be interpreting differently from absolutely everyone else, is the idea that the DiCaprio and Pitt characters represent the old Hollywood that’s being swept away circa 1969.

    I don’t get it. To me these guys seem fucking MADE for the impending 1970s New Hollywood of neurotic dropouts, much more than for the old Hollywood of straight-up heroes.

    DiCaprio/Dalton isn’t exactly a lantern-jawed Gary Cooper type, so it’s really hard for me to think of him getting typecast as cowboys and “heavies”. Like Daniel Radcliffe he’s a boyish type (“I never stood a chance” this film’s Steve McQueen would say) who has grown up into an odd-looking character actor. Visually he’s more of a Bud Cort or Ron Howard or even Clint Howard. (The big poster/caricature of him in his driveway looks like Clint Howard and Jack Nicholson had a bad accident in a teleporter.) And the ultra-laidback Pitt/Booth seems like an early-middle-age Warren Beatty, while speaking in a voice that is begging to say “Dave’s not here man”. If anything their careers are about to skyrocket.

    I’m in complete agreement with Cliff telling Rick that going to Rome to star in spaghetti Westerns is not a bad career move. I get that Rick doesn’t like those movies and doesn’t want to be hidden under a hippie wig and moustache. But for all his drinking/smoking troubles he seems to be blossoming as an actor in this new environment. We didn’t see anybody telling him how great he was on the set of Bounty Law.

    And if QT is such an expert on old Hollywood then he probably knows that TV wasn’t the most respected format back then. For Rick to go from baddie-of-the-week guest parts on various TV shows to freaking STARRING IN MOVIES, spaghetti or otherwise, is trading up in every way. And by the time he comes home from Italy he has long hair and a multi-colored cravat and looks like a Monkee, so he seems to be moving with the fashions of the time. (And he was already rocking a turtleneck and leather jacket – instead of a suit and tie – even before that.) So I don’t get why still he’s supposed to be washed up after all that.

    Some other thoughts:

    I’m so used to movies about the late 1960s/early 1970s being entirely sympathetic to the hippie counterculture (and to the rare exceptions such as FORREST GUMP getting condemned as reactionary) that I was a bit thrown off by the fact the only hippies we meet in this movie are the crazed members of the Manson family. (The one possible exception being the flashback girl who sells Cliff the acid cigarette.) The fact that these particular hippies really *were* real-life killers doesn’t completely shake my sense that the movie is siding with well-off, well-dressed celebrities against poorer, shabbier misfits.

    If I remember right, the girl who proposes the idea of killing the celebrities who depict violence is the one who gets the most gruesome death, which seems like Tarantino drifting into criticizing-the-critics LADY IN THE WATER territory. Especially since this lady actually ends up in the water.

    I haven’t read the reviews that criticize the movie for being too white. But it is whiter than most Tarantino movies. The Bruce Lee scene didn’t bother me since it explicitly ends before a winner is declared. Clearly the point of it is to make Cliff look good by holding his own against him – the whole point is that Cliff, as a stuntman, is experienced with death-defying situations, which is why he is able to expertly clobber the Manson kids even while on acid.

    Because we live in the world and know who Tarantino is, we know that Tarantino paid hommage to Bruce Lee by putting The Bride in that yellow suit in KILL BILL. And in this one we see flashbacks of Bruce Lee training people, including Sharon Tate. I can grudgingly see, though, why this could be criticized – Lee’s role is to make white people look good, rather than to be cool himself.

    As for the death of Cliff’s wife … well, he’s holding a harpoon gun thing, pointed in her direction, while she’s yelling at her. I think it’s unambiguous that he killed her, and that the ambiguous part is whether it was an accident or not.

  62. while she’s yelling at *him*

  63. I will say this, if they had a boxing match, Ali would have won but I think that Ali vs Inoki match proves that if you did anything other than boxing, Ali would have no clue what to do. It’s why a guy like Floyd Maywhether is never going to fight MMA or that boxers without any skills other than being a boxer tend to get slaughtered in MMA matches.

  64. To those of you who keep claiming the Lee fight isn’t disrespectful because it ends before a winner is declared, let me ask you this: does Cliff look like he considers this unresolved? He looks pretty pleased with himself to me, while Bruce is stammering out excuses, clearly embarrassed. And why do they act like this? Because Cliff showed Lee up, simple as that. Lee’s boasting about his untouchable prowess, and along comes Cliff, a past-his-prime nobody stuntman who has obviously not devoted his life to becoming a martial arts master, and he easily fights him to a draw (at best). If that’s not a huge humiliation for Lee, I don’t know what is.

    I will accept “Well, that’s just reality, Lee wasn’t really that tough, pretty much anyone in good shape would have a decent chance against him and Tarantino wanted to portray this Hollywood legend as human and flawed” or I will accept “Cliff is himself a legendary, larger-than-life figure, and Lee is baffled and humiliated because he happened to run into one of the few people in the world who would have showed him up that way.” Both are defensible points of view, although I’d argue that the former seems less likely given the film’s general sense of history-breaking “Teach the legend, not the story” worship of the time period and its icons.*

    But I will not accept “no no, the outcome is unclear and Lee is not publicly shamed.” That’s just willfully ignoring what’s on-screen.

    Curt– good point about the potential LADY IN THE WATERing of Atkins. That seems like exactly the kind of shit Tarantino would be capable of.

    *The latter actually seems like a real possibility to me, given its potential parallels to Samurai or martial arts movies where Itto Ogami or somebody gets in a fight with a bunch of cocky opponents and just makes mincemeat of them because they don’t know who they’re dealing with and have no reason to assume this humble, shabby figure sitting in the bar is a legendary fighter.

  65. Alright well this is a little bit of a switch from the great Lee/Booth Debate, but one small thing has kind of stuck in my mind for a while now, and that’s THE F.B.I. show we see Rick on for a little bit.

    At the beginning of the show, one of the truck drivers gets shot in the head and a bunch of blood splatters all over the other dude’s face, which seemed *really* violent for my conception of what ’60s tv was like. I can’t seem to find any episodes of the actual show online to verify how gory it was in reality. Was that accurate to the show, or is it like that theory where INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS “really happened” in this world’s history and now entertainment is generally just more gory and violent than the “real” world as a result?

  66. I won’t be able to see this for at least a week or two so I’ve been desperately trying to avoid spoilers on this thing by not reading any reviews or comments. The Recent Comments sidebar has made that impossible, however, at least as far as me having no choice but to put two and two together and ascertain that SPOILER Bruce Lee gets his ass kicked in this movie. To which I say: Awesome! It makes me want to see the movie even more knowing that Tarantino is willing to take on the cult of Bruce, which is apparently so blinkered and uncritical in its hero worship that it finds the idea that Bruce Lee (who was never officially tested in competition as far as I know) might actually lose one (1) fight to be more of an offense than Hitler ahistorically getting machine gunned to death by Jewish-American soldiers. I fucking hate cults of personality, from Kurt Cobain to Charles Bukowski to Beyonce, and any and all attempts to reduce these sacred cows to hamburger is A-OK with me. Honestly, getting the chance to see this walking dorm room poster get treated like a mortal man just became my most anticipated movie event of the second half of 2019.

  67. Obviously, I don’t know the particulars of this specific ass-beating, so maybe there’s something offensive about it I’m not privy to, but in theory I’m all for it.

  68. Is now not the time to tell him about my Cult of Majestyk?

  69. I believe my acolytes refer to themselves as “Majestykles.”

  70. It’s almost the punchline to a dirty joke.

    “Well it’s a hell of an act- what do you call yourselves anyways?”

    “The Majestyks!”

  71. Finally, my action movie-themed doo-wop group has a name.

  72. Mr. S, I object to your framework that for every dude famous for being good at something, there aren’t thousands of “nobodies” that could hand them their ass or hold their own. There’s a lot more than raw talent that figures into what makes a person rise to notoriety.

  73. It’s hard to deny that the film makes Bruce Lee look like a self-important blowhard of epic proportions who then gets served by the comparatively unassuming and taciturn Cliff. Whether this is disrespectful of the real Bruce Lee and why Tarantino does it (and, particularly, whether it is motivated by animus or racism) — these are higher-order judgments.

    This is where Michaelangelo’s earlier comment comes in: it is a chore to discuss movies online in today’s climate of politically polarized public discourse. People go straight from observing what unfolded to much more punitive and generalized inferences about motives and underlying psychology, levying an imaginary boundary on what is a normatively appropriate reaction. Simply put, here is why this person did this and what it says about them as a person; here’s what this particular filmatic choice means; here’s how you should evaluate it. It’s a mostly kneejerk and lazy outrage and shame machine.

    I think Tarantino needed a larger-than-life cultural persona to act like kind of an asshole and get served by Cliff to give us a perspective on what a bad-ass Cliff is. It’s hard for me to accept the view that this is entirely a fantasy or dramatic exaggeration of Cliff’s, since the film at various points present Cliff as pretty bad-ass, even if some instances are more cartoony than others.

  74. Brad Pitt Objected to Extended Bruce Lee Fight Scene in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Script

    The Bruce Lee fight scene has become one of the most controversial moments in Tarantino's new film, and it was originally intended to be even longer.

    I think this furthers the Cliff as a larger than life bad ass theory.

  75. BrianB – The fact that Bruce Lee in reality admired and studied Ali, and admitted he’d lose in a fight against him, is one of the pieces that has me convinced Tarantino was far more interested in depicting a cartoonishly exaggerated version of Lee, rather than a flawed, more realistic human being. Just like other movies, I think he provides a larger-than-life version of him, complete with flying kicks and signature yelling from his movies; it’s just not a very cool or likable version, which of course sets him up to be a great opponent for Cliff to humble.

    Lee wasn’t a professional fighter, but he did at least have an MMA mindset when it came to his training. I can see why MMA fans seem to be split when it comes to their opinion on him. Now I’m kind of curious what the reaction would’ve been like if they’d gone through with the “Cliff definitely wins” outcome.

  76. I’m just surprised that nobody cares about the portrayal of Steve McQueen. I get that him being in Hollywood in the 60s might count as some kind of Tarantino-esque revisionism, but having the director of 12 YEARS A SLAVE played by a white actor? That’s inexcusable, if you ask me!

    *walks away*

  77. Skani, I agree that it’s strange to look at Lee duel as Cliff’s fantasy. This might be an obvious or banal observation, but why draw lines between what aspects of Cliff are fantasy and which aren’t? The entire function of his character is to present a fairy tale version of what really happened. Once Upon a Time…

  78. I’m not seeing things, friends: the Lee ass-beating is eventually revealed to be the dream sequence of an aging old blowhard via the cut back to a reminiscing Cliff. Tarantino is giving us an opportunity to laugh knowingly at the self-aggrandizing function of memory, not to enjoy the sight of Bruce Lee getting beaten up by a white person. I can’t be the only one here who noticed this?

  79. There will be spoilers…that’s a given here, right…

    CJ, bahahaha.

    renfield, I don’t think we’re disagreeing here, are we? As I said further up (buried in a stream of consciousness), I don’t see Tarantino as trying to say or accomplish any one thing with this film. I think he’s trying to do a lot of things, chief of which is make an entertaining and strange movie–basically, the kind of thing he would want to watch. There are probably political statements and personal musings and ventings mixed in there with homages and wacky set pieces, so, I don’t think there is any one meaning or agenda at work in most things. I assume he did the Bruce Lee thing partly because he found it funny, partly because it was a chance to put Bruce Lee in the film, because it tied in with the Sharon Tate thing, and because it served the aforementioned purpose of burnishing Cliff’s bona fides. Tarantino loves Bruce Lee and pop culture, and the character of Cliff, and he obviously is very fond of Sharon Tate, and there is a real-world Bruce Lee-Sharon Tate connection, and this overall set of plot moves seemed like fun. I certainly don’t think it was a fuck-you to Bruce Lee or his legacy…that doesn’t really scan.

    I totally agree that the film does not recognize any strong line between literal and hyper-real characterizations of people and events. It is a fairy tale that allows Quentin Tarantino to homage, muse, hand-ring, and exercise demons. And it is a love letter to Sharon Tate and her potential. Seeing the actual Sharon Tate on the screen makes this doubly more powerful. I am assuming (but am not sure) that it was always the plan to use the original Tate footage — side note: toggling between real-footage-Sharon and Robbie-Sharon further underscores that Tarantino is not overly concerned with taking us out of the film and that he is comfortable with a kind of magical realism / fairy tale quality, which is suggested in the title and in the final scenes. For me, it’s very poignant when you see the real Sharon in that Dean Martin film and connects you to the fact that this was a real person.

    A lot of people don’t like this, and maybe it’s not fair in terms of the rules of good self-contained storytelling, but I think you have to know something about the Manson story and the Tate story to really appreciate the film. Tarantino is not going to do any exposition dumping or flashbacking or flashforwarding, and it doesn’t tell you anything about Manson himself or what really happened that night. And yet the final act doesn’t work at all without that backstory as a foil and subtext for what you’re seeing. A working knowledge of the relevant history / pop culture is a prereq and so much the worse for you, viewer, if you didn’t do your homework before watching.

  80. psychic_hits – but it’s not suggested anywhere else that Cliff is a blowhard. He is generally quiet and unobtrusive and not particularly concerned about his image or self-esteem. He’s Lebowski-like in his un-self-consciousness and lack of concern with his image. And the film gives us numerous clues that he’s not to be fucked with that are not presented as unreliable personal wish fulfillment.

  81. Sorry Skani, didn’t see what you said a couple posts up. I’m not trying to pass definitive judgment on what the scene “means”, as I agree, it’s just one stitch in the tapestry that is Cliff’s character. I’m more surprised that the controversy surrounding the scene can have grown to the proportions of Brad Pitt weighing in on it, even with the contex that it’s clearly edited like a dream sequence.

  82. re: Cliff as a blowhard- maybe “blowhard” is the wrong word, but I’d argue that the Spahn Ranch sequence shows Cliff along the same lines: he thinks he’s sniffed out some funny business, but all he does is bug an old man who has no idea who he is. Yes it’s more complex than that, because he correctly detects the bad vibes, but his timing is off, and ultimately he accomplishes very little by taking his adventure out there- just the difference between killing strangers and killing people he vaguely recognizes later in the film.

    I’d readily agree that paradox is all over this movie, and that’s to its credit and its strength. But at the same time I do think its details often have specific significance that serve to enrich the broad strokes of its appeal.

  83. psychic_hits – no problem! I think the truth is (or could be) somewhere in the middle. Cliff is a badass, something like this really happened, but it is somewhat exaggerated in Cliff’s romanticized reflection.

  84. Skani, I was expressing agreement! And I appreciate your elaborations.

    I can’t stop thinking about this film, god damn…


    From the article BrianB posted :

    Per HuffPo, Tarantino [originally] wrote the Bruce-Cliff fight scene through round three and it ended with Bruce definitely losing to Cliff. [Stunt coordinator Robert] Alonzo said the fight originally ended with Cliff making a “cheap-shot move” that puts Bruce on his butt. The scene as written rubbed both Alonzo and Pitt the wrong way, as the fight’s intention was to only show “the level at which Cliff was [operating]” and not to flat out depict Bruce as weaker.”

    So it seems like that’s a pretty definitive answer: As far as Tarantino is concerned, Bruce is a legendary badass, who just happens to run into a equally legendary badass who remained more anonymous. His confusion at the end of the fight is, then, completely reasonable; there’s only one in a million who could do what Cliff does, and Bruce can’t believe he just happened to stumble across such a person randomly.

    “I know that Brad had expressed his concerns, and we all had concerns about Bruce losing,” Alonzo said. “…It really pulled at certain emotional strings that can incite a little anger and frustration as to how he’s portrayed.” Alonzo and Pitt’s pushback led Tarantino to revise the sequence, which is when the idea came to have stunt coordinators on the “Green Hornet” set interrupt the fight before it could go into a third round. Mike Moh previously told Birth. Movies. Death. that the original fight scene “conflicted” him because Bruce Lee is a personal hero. Moh stressed that Tarantino reveres Bruce Lee and reminded viewers that the scene’s purpose is only to show Cliff’s strength and not to diminish Lee’s skill.

    For the record, I’m not in any way offended by the fight, don’t think it’s a racial issue, and wouldn’t even really call myself a huge Bruce Lee fan. I’m just baffled by anyone claiming that the movie doesn’t make Bruce the butt of a joke here. Any reading that claims Bruce doesn’t come off badly just seems insane to me. But maybe the problem is there’s a gap between Tarantino’s intent and what actually comes across on the screen. If we’ve got people here claiming that the fight isn’t even real, that it’s some made-up daydream, I think it’s safe to say that if Tarantino was trying to communicate something specific, he probably failed.

    Brad Pitt Objected to Extended Bruce Lee Fight Scene in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Script

    The Bruce Lee fight scene has become one of the most controversial moments in Tarantino's new film, and it was originally intended to be even longer.


  86. Yeah, I share your view, Subtlety, that the film does present Bruce as the butt of a joke and as being humbled. The later scenes with Bruce training Sharon offer a minor counterweight. I hesitate to call it a “negative” portrayal without qualification, because, it’s not like it makes him out to be a wife-beater or a total sissy. But the main take-away is that he gets embarrassed by Cliff.

  87. I have to say, I’m genuinely confused by this (apparently fairly common) interpretation that the fight was some kind of dream?

    As I remember the sequence of events, it goes

    1. Cliff drops Rick off for work on the Lancer episode and asks if they need any stunts, but Rick tells Cliff that the guy who would say yes is friends with the stunt coordinator for Green Hornet, so it’s not even worth asking. He asks Cliff to fix his antenna.

    2. Cliff goes up on the roof at Rick’s house to fix the antenna and thinks back to the time Rick got him a job on the Green Hornet set (a flashback which includes an extensive conversation between Kurt Russell’s character and Rick which Cliff was not present for *and* a *second* flashback to Cliff and his wife on the boat) and he wound up getting fired for picking a fight with the show’s star and denting the stunt coordinator’s car during the fight.

    3. Cliff, back on the roof in present day, laughs to himself and says “fair enough”, acknowledging why it wasn’t even worth asking for another job from someone associated with the event in (2).

    It just doesn’t make any sense to me to interpret the fight between Cliff and Bruce as being intended as anything other than the straightforward truth, especially since we’re explicitly told by the narrator when people are lying elsewhere in the movie (see: when Rick claims his car is in the shop). Additionally, Cliff seems to be otherwise portrayed as almost supernaturally self-assured- the only time we’re told anything might be upsetting him, it’s when the narrator says he has no idea what he’s gonna do with his life after Rick fires him, but even then he doesn’t actually seem *upset* about that. Based on everything else about his character, he doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who is in denial about his past or needs to lie to himself to feel better.

  88. The dream interpretation strikes me as people being too clever and also something worth dismissing on coherence theory grounds such as the ones Kurgan laid out.

  89. The light pushback I would offer is that this is presented explicitly as a flashback memory from Cliff’s perspective, unlike other scenes like the finale or the Spahn ranch thing, which unfold in present real-time. Since Cliff’s memory of the Bruce Lee fight only serves to amplify and reinforce –vs. undercut — every other non-flashback thing the films tells us about Rick, the simplest and cleanest interpretation is that it’s a more-or-less accurate recollection of the gist of what happened.

    This still allows for the possibility that some of the details are misremembered, romanticized, or otherwise heightened (that is the nature of human memory), but I don’t think that’s the main point. The most plausible interpretation for my money is that he basic sequence of high-level events happened approximately as Cliff remembered–namely, Bruce Lee brags, Cliff pushes back, abortive more-or-less equally matched hand-to-hand combat happens. We are entitled to allow for the possibility that it is gisted or exaggerated vs. tape-recorder precise (since human episodic memory as a rule is not tape-recorder precise), but to go further than this is a major stretch imho.

  90. I meant “about Cliff,” not “about Rick”

  91. Great review Vern! I liked this one ok but it is probably not one of my favorite QT films despite how much I enjoyed the lead characters.

    A couple of random thoughts (I haven’t had time to catch up on the talk back so I apologize if I am being redundant) MILD SPOILERS.

    The scene where Rick is trying to motivate himself after struggling on previous takes reminds me of the final scene of BOOGIE NIGHTS.

    Between this movie and JOHN WICK, 3 is the greatest year in cinema history for badass dogs in action movies? I am not sure I can think of a better one.

    I felt like the ending had to be revisionist and positive, the movie is called Once upon a time in Hollywood and in true Hollywood fashion you have to send the audience home happy.

  92. They got Leonardo Decaprio to look like Joe Don Baker!!!


    The Evil Dead 2 ending was truly fucking bizarre. Apparently, a bite from Brandy turns you into a Deadite… And while I’m not positive, I can almost swear whenever he had the Deadite dark-haired girl spring up, he used exactly the same sound effect as Rami.


    So are we all agreed that the point of the ending is to give audiences the “happy ending” they want, as sort of a tribute to the power of cinema? Maybe I’m not exactly on Tarantino’s wavelength anymore (obviously I read the Bruce Lee scene differently than he intended), but even knowing the alternative, I can’t say I was exactly filled with joy watching Cliff smash these 96-pound twenty-year old girls into pulp. Does Tarantino just love his revenge so much that it didn’t occur to him that maybe substituting three semi-justified brutal murders for four totally unjustified murders still doesn’t exactly add up to a happy ending? Or is the whole point to turn the ultra-violence we’ve been dreading into some kind of slapstick joke as a bait and switch?

    Either way, I don’t think I find it all that interesting, especially since it’s the exact same trick from INGLORIOUS BASTERDS and doesn’t feel as fresh the second time. Am I in the minority here, or am I missing something?


    The ending seems to polarize people and turn off many. I loved the film, liked the Tate surviving element of the ending, and I was not turned off by the violence, though I wouldn’t say it was a high point for me. I’m having trouble seeing how that particular ending to the film works without the violence, though. You could have a lighter, less violent ending, but then it would not seem very impactful or emotionally charged or adrenaline-pumping. It would seem like kind of a letdown or weak pay-off, kind of petering out. This is not a film that peters out. And even though the bonkers violence is a bit of an exaggerated tone shift from the rest of the film, it’s in keeping with the mix of violence, spoof, and hyper-realism that we see throughout the rest of the film. A really dark bummer ending would not have suited the film, nor would a really reserved, matter-of-fact, grounded version have worked really well. There might have been a way to do it better, but it would be hard to do without it being too understated or or limp.

  96. I don’t think there’s any one particular message to be taken from the ending of the movie, and I definitely don’t think it’s meant to be unambiguously a happy ending, or some kind of tribute to the power of cinema. I found the contrast between the events onscreen and the events as they occurred to be the most bittersweet ending to a movie I can recall in a long time, honestly and, if anything, I wonder if the point wasn’t partially to make the audience see with fresh eyes an event that has become kind of a pop-culture joke/landmark through the tension between the “happy” movie ending and the real-life events. I do definitely think the violence at the end is supposed to be cathartically funny, for sure. Whether that lands for any given person is a different question, but yeah, slapstick bait-and-switch doesn’t seem too far off the mark.

    I actually think the ending trick works a little better overall this time (for me, at least), despite doing such a similar thing in BASTERDS, and it’s because of the specificity of scenario. There are a million World War II movies and just about all of them are “man on a mission” type of deals, most of which have about as much actual historical verisimilitude as INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS does. In other words, audiences are used to seeing a fictionalized WWII in movies, and this one is only *slightly* more made-up than, say SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. With the machine-gunning Nazis in the theater, that’s fun and all, but it’s not really *that* much different from what actually happened in real history: the “good guys” won, we’re just changing the timing and the method by a little bit, but nothing is really saved or prevented. The Nazis still dominated Europe for nearly a decade and enacted their Holocaust.

    I think this one (to me at least) hits a little harder because it’s a smaller-scale event. In OUATIH, because the real-life event, while horrific in the extreme, is so small-scale and personal, that this one slight change in history (this actor who happened to be living in the right place at the right time) is actually able to prevent the tragedy from happening at all.

    That, for me, really works. It made me think about how much impact we have on the world just by existing and moving through our lives. I’m not saying that’s necessarily the thesis of the movie, but it landed for me in a more thoughtful and measured way than the ending of BASTERDS, and a big reason for that was the scale of the movie.


    Also, I think some of the outrage at the ending loses sight of the fact that
    a) we are meant to assume that these kids were about to brutally murder some people, including an obviously pregnant woman
    b) we are not meant to regard Rick and Cliff as general-purpose heroes or stand-up guys. they are presented as men of flawed or at least dubious moral character

    I think the violence is subject to various interpretations and may serve various purposes…
    1. to get us in touch with the true brutality of the Tate murders (this action is more brutal still, but it’s also self-consciously a bit cartoony and hyper-stylized)
    2. to get us in touch with how ridiculous our macho man wish fulfillment fantasies really are
    3. more specifically to underscore some of the flaws in Rick’s and Cliff’s specific personalities – Rick’s exaggerated and fictional view of himself as hero; Cliff’s potential for psychopathic violence with no particular remorse or emotion
    4. to give us some retroactive time-travely catharsis in terms of what really happened with Tate — re-writing history
    5. to end on a balls-out high-note of adrenaline and intense pay-off
    6. to outrage us
    7. to digust us
    8. to traumatize us a little
    9. to undercut and take the piss out of the Manson murderers and their mystique (just dumb fucking hippies)
    10. to both deliver a revenge fantasy and critique a revenge fantasy by pushing it to an absurd extreme.

    It is perhaps by design that a lot of these feelings and reactions are in conflict


    I had the same reaction to Kurgan…which is that the ending of this was for me far more impactful and resonant than INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, which was fun as a goof but didn’t have much weight to it. This had more weight, because it’s a more intimate, smaller-scale story where we’ve gotten to know a lot of those involved. Hitler is such a loaded, done-to-death (pun something’d), larger-than-life historical figure that it has a lot less impact than this ending, which feels like #justiceforsharon in a more emotionally powerful way. This is more intimate, specifically because we’ve got the alternative of what actually happened to Sharon Tate top of mind.

  99. Uh, I thought the “point” of the ending was
    “Hey, I like Evil Dead 2”

    Much like the “point” of the rest of the movie was
    “Hey, I like TV westerns, and Matt Helm movies, and Paul Revere & the Raiders, and feet, and Sergio Corbucci, and The Illustrated Man, and Clu Gulager, and feet, and…and…and…and…”

  100. Thomas Caniglia

    August 8th, 2019 at 8:44 pm


    To me, and this is just my two cents, the ending of this movie is to provide a sense of relief and joy, which is something that we are in serious need of. Tarantino and I are around the same age, and as adults, we can look back on modern history throughout our lives (and before) and see that the world has been reeling from one disaster after another, even though our standard of living is extremely high. It’s easy, living in America and being fairly comfortable, to imagine that things like the Kennedy assassination, the Manson murders, the My Lai Massacre, the Contra Massacres, stuff like that are self-contained chapters that we can read about and then close the book and they go away, but when I look at the cumulative effect of atrocity after atrocity it really does reveal an increasing pattern of chaos and more to come, and those are not longer interesting and disturbing but literally right around the corner waiting to happen to any of us.
    Look at it this way. When I was a kid I learned about the Indian genocide, I learned about slavery, I learned about the Holocaust, and then I learned about the Emancipation Proclamation and the Geneva Convention and the United Nations and so as a young man I saw the trajectory of modern humanity as being in a direction of having learned the mistakes of the past and that those kinds of things wouldn’t happen anymore, definitely not in America, heck, they wouldn’t happen anymore BECAUSE of America!
    Now I’ve lost that view, and without that belief in a sound upward humane trajectory even in what I’d believed was the safest, smartest and best place on earth, looking back on events like the Manson murders they are no longer interesting or disturbing pages in history; they are crapsplatters on those pages that seep through and continue, and since nothing can be done to undo these catastrophes or heal from them, their cumulative effect now is so heavy. To put it simply, life really sucks for a lot of people, and that means that life sucks for me as well, because I can’t help those people. And I am as likely to be in a position where I need help as anyone else, and people won’t be able to help me either.
    All of this is by roundabout way of getting to my assessment of the ending. My impression is that Tarantino looked at the murders and said, “Y’know what, that whole situation really sucked, and it still sucks, and we as a culture and as a people are far worse off then we would be if those things hadn’t happened. Life sucks more now in large part because those things happened”. So, he made a movie in a universe where he could fix that.
    I love the Tarantino movie universe. The Nazi High Command? Burned alive. Candie’s Candyland mansion? Burned to the ground. Sharon Tate? Slept soundly that night surrounded by friends.
    The Tarantino movieverse to me is now a place that says, “Wouldn’t it have been better? Wouldn’t it be great to have been able to save people? Wouldn’t it have been great to make these sick motherfuckers pay for what they did or would have done?”
    This is so refreshing to me because as it has been popular to say lately, we do live in the darkest timeline. This movie to me takes place in the timeline I wish had been. I love it. I would not change one single thing about it, other than to recast lena dunham out of it.

  101. Good stuff, Thomas. There definitely is a morality and a desire for hope — a kind of sentimentality — that Taratino manifests here. He has a very strong moral code. In particular, as dark and horrific as Tarantino’s film world is, a fundamental theme in the Tarantino-verse moral code is a disdain for bullies and a wish fulfillment desire to bully-back the bullies. I think he has a few different tiers of innocence, with the worst being those who are motivated by utter sadism and dehumanization (e.g., Hitler, Hans Landa, Candie), the Manson kids, and then there being a more ambiguous world of lovable rogues and avenging angels (e.g., King Schultz, Jules, a bit of D’Jango, a bit of Rick and Cliff), basically decent people who’ve made compromises (e.g., Jackie Brown, a bit of Rick and Rick), and then true innocents (e.g., Tate, a bit of D’Jango). When you bully innocents for pleasure or not out of desperation is when you violate the Tarantino code. Tarantino’s world does not dole out efficient micro-justice to all, but his disdain for sadistic bullies and predators is evident.

  102. Skani- yeah, even as far back as RESERVOIR DOGS, Mr. Blonde is the positioned as the worst of them all specifically because he’s a sadist and a bully, while the character who is arguably the most sympathetic is Mr. White, who is the most helpful, thoughtful, straightforward, and, really, the most truthful guy in the crew even though he’s also a murdering bank robber along with the rest of them.

  103. Yeah, I don’t think the ending is as straightforward as all that. I mentioned WOLF OF WALL STREET and FUNNY GAMES earlier … Those movies aren’t up to quite the same thing, but they relate because they’re to some extent inviting you to be complicit in the fantasy/horror, but also indict you if you completely fall for it (or if you fall for it at all, in FUNNY GAMES). A friend pointed out that the Mamas and the Papas represent anger and frustration with a sunny veneer; appropriate that they’re playing at the Playboy Mansion party. At the party, McQueen describes Tate’s love triangle as a doomed relationship. I guess she was quite unhappy in real life. Tarantino mentioned in an interview that Dalton is based in part upon Pete Duel, a Western tv actor who had his own demons and ended up killing himself. Cliff’s possibly a wife-killer and a pariah who can’t find stuntwork, he remembers George Spahn as an old friend but the feeling is not reciprocated, his only friend is this washed up actor.

    So I do not believe Tarantino is saying “this was an idyllic, perfect world and we would be better off if it had stayed that way”. All of the inhabitants of that world are some combination of damaged and pathetic. He’s making this film in a post-Me Too world; he spoke regretfully about almost getting Uma killed for his movie. He’s aware of the climate we’re in and it informs the film without doing anything on-the-nose.

    I think he’s also sympathetic to the Manson kids. They’re misled and under the thrall of a madman, but their disillusionment is justified and they actually give a fuck about stuff like the Vietnam war; a narcissist like Rick never thinks about anything of the sort. The kids understand that the culture our protagonists inhabit is bullshit. Tarantino understands that it’s bullshit, even his own movies are bullshit, that’s why one of Rick’s shitty films is basically INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. The movie portrays the kids as human beings who see through all that.

    Tarantino loves the movies, and he loves all of these sad actors and he loves this fantasy that movies could literally save us, but he knows its just a silly fantasy and that they can’t. It’s a stunningly vulnerable, humble, self-aware valentine to his craft and its limitations.

  104. The Manson’s care about Vietnam….?????? kill famous rich, white people (????profit??? to help start a race war, but that’s not in the movie at all)….oh, boy…. But these kids “see through it”, so that one of them says “I’m devil, and I’m here to do the devil’s work” and has such great and insightful comebacks as “I’m as real as a donut, mother!” …ok…this movie isn’t sympathetic to the Manson kids, and it’s perfectly fine that it’s not.

    I think the ending is largely happy. But it is somewhat ambiguous because of the weird, almost trope 60s horror remixing to it, and how the shot is one big looking down crane shot, so it’s artifice is openly acknowledged.

    The Bruce Lee thing was all a fantasy dream thing strikes as too clever for its own good, for coherence reasons like those Kurgan laid out, but I can buy that there’s an element of memory and recollection that may shade how things are portrayed (e.g. the massive dent in the car door.)

  105. Yeah, they were nuts. But there’s a basic sense in which they expressed general hippie values of cops = bad, vietnam war = bad, etc. I’m just talking about how they’re portrayed in the film; the race war stuff doesn’t come up

  106. Put another way, they were a psychotic and destructive expression of a very real and broadly felt cultural antipathy and disillusionment with the sort of establishment that Rick Dalton represents.

    Y’all should listen to this

    Charles Manson’s Hollywood, Part 1: What We Talk About When We Talk About The Manson Murders — You Must Remember This

    Find the episode on iTunes . This season, You Must Remember This will explore the murders committed in the summer of 1969 by followers of Charles Manson, and the Hollywood music and movie scene surrounding the killings. Throughout the series, we’ll learn how a single sociopath’s thwarted dreams of

  107. caruso_stalker217

    August 12th, 2019 at 5:17 pm

    Here’s Tarantino’s thoughts on the Bruce/Cliff fight, for those who are interested:


  108. @renfeld. I can see some of that and I’ve been meaning to knockout those episodes in my podcast queue. I still have limited sympathy, but am interested to hear it, nonetheless. However, I don’t see the argument that this movie specifically is sympathetic toward the Manson family, beyond how they all aren’t as bad as Cliff initially worries, which is quite a low bar.

  109. I mean, I would say that It’s the exact same thing as all the way back in PULP FICTION that was so revolutionary at the time- what if we saw all the dumb meaningless bullshit criminals talked about when they were on their way to whack a guy or whatever, but this time it’s the Manson family. I don’t think it makes them *sympathetic* per se, but it adds some relatable character to them, in that, y’know, sure, they were people, they had TV shows the liked or whatever. They’re just also fucked up murderers.

  110. Finally saw it after carefully avoiding all the hot takes for the last couple of weeks and loved it. I liked that Tim Roth got a special credit for having his scene cut from the actual movie.

  111. Well, this was thoroughly enjoyable. I was really concerned, like I’m sure a lot of us were, when the subject of this film was announced roughly a hundred years and 40,000 casting announcements ago, that this would be Tarantino in the bitter, nihilist mode of THE HATEFUL EIGHT, which has its merits but overall isn’t what I see Tarantino movies for. I see Tarantino movies for the joy he infuses into every single sight and sound. There was no joy in HATEFUL EIGHT except for the soulless, vindictive glee that comes from cynically allowing oneself to wallow in the filthiest hallows of human nature. This one, by contrast, is ALL joy. Of course, this being Tarantino, some of that joy manages to be vicious beyond belief. But even in that viciousness, there is hope. And vice versa. This might be a fairytale, but fairytales need to have some real darkness for the light to penetrate or they have no weight.

    I don’t really have much concrete to say about it at this time, although naturally I think the reading of it as Tarantino’s MAGA movie is deliberately obtuse, particularly about what the Mansons symbolize. Stopping their crime spree is not meant to signify the end of the sixties and the counterculture. The Mansons THEMSELVES symbolize that. Stopping them is more likely to mean that the spirit of sixties might just continue. The Age of Aquarius might not hit the wall of backlash and hysteria that these heinous crimes prompted in the so-called moral majority. This film ends on a note of hope that the old guard and new guard can come together and form something beautiful without the lightning rod of the Manson Murders forcing a dichotomy between the two sides that has continued to this day. They don’t deserve that kind of power. As Cliff says, they were just some hippie assholes. They don’t represent their entire generation, and treating them as fuckups who just got lucky in real life and not as the boogieman slavering at the door of All-American decency is a great way to demystify their outsized effect on the American psyche. The forces of the mainstream (which one cannot say Tarantino has ever aligned himself with) needed the Mansons in order to take back their country the way Hitler needed Jewish people to consolidate power. Remove them from the equation and maybe things turn out different.

    Or not. Boomers still gonna Boomer. They’d probably find some other dumb fucks to demonize. They always do.

    Anyway, what’s most interesting to me is that this movie, more than other Tarantino joints, is a real Rorshach test. I truly think Tarantino treats his films as pure intuitive storytelling. Things happen the way they happen because that’s what feels right to him. He is not engineering these events to deliver a moral message. (Perhaps this is another reason why HATEFUL EIGHT feels off-brand to me; it’s didactic about its themes in a way his other films are not.) Yet stories have morals whether the author intended them or not, and I think that the messages in Tarantino films are often more truthful than in most films BECAUSE of their unconsciousness. Life is messy and contradictory, and so are the characters and themes and story beats of the Tarantino universe. What is fascinating to me is that this film leaves so much room for interpretation that every single viewer seems to come away with something different. Is this the story of the establishment taking its power back from the counterculture? Sure, that’s in there. Is this the story of the transformative power of movies or the limits thereof? Absolutely. Is this a beacon of hope in a desperate time or a howl of despair for what has already been lost? Yup. Is Cliff the embodiment of masculine cool or an indictment of the psychopathic violence and misogyny inherent in that kind of mythologizing? Absolutely.

    It’s all in there. It’s also all not in there. Each of us sees what we bring to it. Me, I most related to the way Rick was less and less able to hide his crippling insecurities as life chips away at him day by day. I tend to find DiCaprio showy and distancing as an actor (I was so unable to sympathize with his performative misery in THE REVENANT, for instance, that the movie became a black comedy about the slapstick punishment of a pathetic sadsack), so this performance is kind of a revelation to me. I think this theme applies to most of the characters as well. They’re all just walking wounds just barely managing not to bleed their neuroses all over everyone else, from Sharon needing to reassure herself that she is famous and beloved, to the Manson “Family” (love the pettiness of the quotation marks in the credits) being willing to commit murder to gain the approval of any authority figure willing to take an interest in them, to Cliff acting like nothing bothers him despite being clearly filled with an unacknowledged rage that he lets out of its cage at every available opportunity. Hell, even icons of confident cool like Steve McQueen and Bruce Lee openly display the hunger pangs of their unquenchable egos for all to see. I see the film as being about an age of innocence and self-confidence coming to an end, leading to an age of self-doubt and anxiety that only the magical ability of storytelling to rewrite history offers any hope of fending off.

    I think many audience members these days are used to polemics. They want to know where a film stands so they know how to react to it. Tarantino doesn’t work that way. I think he’s just as in the dark as to what his films “mean” as we are. His process does not allow him access to the backroom of the imagination where true motivations are kept. His films are works of id, not superego. And that makes his films more primal and true to me than the work of more pointed moralists or satirists. Some films dissect themselves into oblivion. Their intentions are laid bare for all to see, because that’s easy to do with cold, dead specimens. Taratino’s films are harder to pin down because they’re still alive and wriggling. They’re messy, unruly beasts because they need to be. You can’t have a Rorschach test without spilling some ink.

  112. That’s the best piece I’ve read about this movie. Mr Majestyk, I tip my hat and raise my glass to you, sir!

  113. Well, shucks. Thanks, man. Considering the gallons of internet ink that have been spilled over this genial little hangout movie, that’s a major compliment.

    Some random thoughts:

    – Anybody else notice the last name “Ritchie” in the credits for the western Pacino and his wife were watching? I guess that famous Hollywood nepotism didn’t really do much for Dick.

    -I like that Cliff does a classic Muhammad Ali rope-a-dope on Bruce by letting him take his best shot in the first round so he’ll underestimate him in the second.

    -I did some research on LANCER, and it turns out it was a real show. Olyphant and Luke Perry (holy shit that was Luke Perry? I saw his name in the credits but I didn’t even kind of recognize him. Hell of a note to go out on, though) play the real stars of the show. Remember that kinda out of nowhere shot of Olyphant riding off on his motorcycle at the end? Well, three or four years later, that actor lost an arm and a leg in a horrible motorcycle accident that killed his girlfriend. Some real obscure foreshadowing to symbolize the crash we all know is supposed to happen at the end of this story? Maybe. Or maybe everybody gets happy endings in this one, and all the bummer endings of the 70s get rewritten.

    – On a similar note, the character Dalton plays on FBI was played by Burt Reynolds in real life. Hence the gum-chewing.

    – The hippie selling acid-dipped cigarettes is B.B.! We are getting old, boys.

    – Speaking of which… Holy shit, Brad Pitt is 55. We really need to hit the gym, fellas. I think I got pregnant just looking at that motherfucker.

    – Tangential but related, R.I.P. Peter Fonda. I wonder if he got to see the movie. I guess the sixties really are dead now.

  114. I didn’t notice the “Ritchie” in the credits. What was the last name?

  115. “-I like that Cliff does a classic Muhammad Ali rope-a-dope on Bruce by letting him take his best shot in the first round so he’ll underestimate him in the second.”

    Very nice catch.

    “-I did some research on LANCER, and it turns out it was a real show. Olyphant and Luke Perry (holy shit that was Luke Perry? I saw his name in the credits but I didn’t even kind of recognize him. Hell of a note to go out on, though) play the real stars of the show. Remember that kinda out of nowhere shot of Olyphant riding off on his motorcycle at the end? Well, three or four years later, that actor lost an arm and a leg in a horrible motorcycle accident that killed his girlfriend. Some real obscure foreshadowing to symbolize the crash we all know is supposed to happen at the end of this story? Maybe. Or maybe everybody gets happy endings in this one, and all the bummer endings of the 70s get rewritten.”

    I was expecting Luke as soon as I saw his name in the opening credits. So I recognized him immediately.

    “– On a similar note, the character Dalton plays on FBI was played by Burt Reynolds in real life. Hence the gum-chewing.”

    This is so good. Tarantino’s attention to detail is insane. Since we all know who Rick is really a proxy for.

    “– The hippie selling acid-dipped cigarettes is B.B.! We are getting old, boys.”

    Consider my mind blown. That is great that he still kept in touch with the kid and cast her. Also in many ways she was a way to prove this film is not a condemnation on hippie culture. She technically saves the fucking day.

    “– Speaking of which… Holy shit, Brad Pitt is 55. We really need to hit the gym, fellas. I think I got pregnant just looking at that motherfucker.”

    I’m one step ahead of ya my brother. Im not the gym selfie type. This pic only exists because I needed to send my cousin [who has seen me at my worst] some motivation. However since this community to me is like family I’ll share it on the sight. This is me about 3 days ago after an hour and change of just core exercises.

    “– Tangential but related, R.I.P. Peter Fonda. I wonder if he got to see the movie. I guess the sixties really are dead now.”

    I’m still processing this. The guy was hands down one of my favorite people in hollywood of all time. I used to tell my friends he was the coolest white guy around besides Burt Reynolds. It feels like I lost an uncle or something. I did hit spliff rewatching EASY RIDER last night. It just felt right.

    Anyhow thank you for reminding me Mr. M just how much I loved this fucking movie. The point you made of it’s viewpoint being projected through a prism and not a direct projection is right on the money. It’s what made the movie so goddamn human to me and to me it’s the one to beat this year so far.

  116. Quick question; Is it my imagination or was Rick styled as Charles Bronson in RED SUN in the LANCER scenes?

  117. There’s definitely a resemblance. Leo even got the world famous squint down.

  118. Damn, Broddie! You lookin’ swole as shit, man! I’ve gotten like 30 pounds svelter over the past couple years due to a combo of manual labor, smaller portions, and not eating takeout twice a day, but you’re making me feel runty over here. Now that the fat has come off, I really gotta replace it with some muscle.

    I never put it together that Burt could have been part of Rick’s DNA, but now that I think about it, what other stars had that close a relationship with their stunt double? Which makes Cliff Hal Needham. As if either of those dudes needed any excuse to be cooler.

  119. I guess there’s a fair bit of Eastwood in Rick too.

  120. Oh wow, I did not catch that that was B.B., or the Dick Ritchie connection. Haven’t even got to see it a second time yet and I’m still learning new things about it.

  121. Steve McQueen had a similar relationship with his stunt double Bud Ekins. They resembled each other and hung out between movies.

    One thing I’m surprised Tarantino didn’t include is the fact that in the Matt Helm movie THE WRECKING CREW, which Sharon Tate watches in the cinema, Dean Martin kicks the ass of both Joe Lewis and Chuck Norris. Mike Moh/Bruce Lee mentions Lewis, but it would have been a good piece of trivia to have in the movie.

  122. Mr. Majestyk – Cliff is definitely Needham which to me made the already awesome legend of one of hollywood’s pioneering stuntman/directors even greater.

  123. Movie related: Saw it two more times (another time in Dolby and then in fake IMAX). Still a pretty good movie.

    Broddi: Stop fat shaming me! I know I gained most/all that weight I lost back! Why you gotta shove it in my face!? I… I’m gonna take a walk… and do some push-ups… J… Just cause!

  124. It must be Hal Needham. He doubled for Burt on GUNSMOKE in the early 60s and in almost all his movies through that decade and the next. Yesterday I saw him act, in TAKE A HARD RIDE from 1975, getting shot by Lee Van Cleef.

  125. And he famously crashed with Burt for a while before Burt was like “Am I gonna have give you a movie to direct just to get you off my goddamn couch?”

    The Clint connection could have been even stronger. QT apparently considered having Rick sing “Don’t Fence Me In” instead of “Green Door.” “Don’t Fence Me In” was just one of many country-western bangers on Clint’s hilarious and amazing COWBOY FAVORITES album from his RAWHIDE days.

  126. 14 hardcore punk hits to sing around the campfire!

  127. Okay, I know I’m supremely late to the party here, but I didn’t get a chance to see this until yesterday and there’s actually something I feel I can contribute to the discussion because it hasn’t come up yet. My take on the Lee/Cliff fight was that it wasn’t just to show what a badass Cliff is, but also that he’s a bit of a fuckup. He knew he was walking a tightrope already and he couldn’t resist doing something that he had to know was going to have repercussions. It also was a way to show that he probably could’ve been a pretty big name and success if his career hadn’t gone off the rails due to a past fuckup. I really tried to work that sentence in a way that I didn’t call killing his wife, whether it was intentional or accidental, a fuckup, but there you go.

    To come full circle, it also comes back to him being a badass, too. He doesn’t care that he fucked up. He even chuckles about it as he comes out of the flashback. I think that’s what makes him a true badass – he knows he’s not living to his full potential as is proscribed by society and he doesn’t care. He lives for the moment. I don’t know if we’re supposed to take it literally when he’s talking to the girl in the car, but he might really think he’s fated to end up in prison and he’s just enjoying the ride and not worrying about shit until that day comes.

  128. Since the episode of FBI starring Burt Reynolds as bad guy Michael Murtaugh was brought up, and I seemed to remember that Burt was supposed to have a role in ONCE UPON, I did a little digging and found out – and this might be common knowledge – that Bruce Dern got the part as George Spahn when Reynolds died.

  129. Also, the movie Dalton goes to Italy to make, NEBRASKA JIM, is an obvious take on a movie Burt actually did make in Italy, NAVAJO JOE.

  130. Does anybody know which movie the low rent James Bond ripoff car chase comes from? I know I’ve seen it, but I can’t remember the title.

  131. Forget it, I found out myself. Corbucci’s MOVING TARGET 1967.

  132. NEBRASKA JIM is also an alternate title for RINGO FROM NEBRASKA aka SAVAGE GRINGO (co-directed by Mario Bava). Love all the poster art for Dalton’s movies, especially the one for KILL ME RINGO, SAID THE GRINGO.

  133. I’ve been sitting with this movie for a few weeks now, wondering where it fits in my QT ranking, and I’m gonna put it somewhere below the middle, beneath JACKIE BROWN, KILL BILL VOL 1, DJANGO, BASTERDS, PULP, even before HATEFUL EIGHT. Not that I didn’t enjoy the hell out of it, I just couldn’t love or embrace it the way I do those others. I have little nostalgia or affection for the 60’s when it comes to cinema and tv, with a few rare exceptions like ROSEMARYS BABY, THE WILD BUNCH, THE APPALOOSA and probly a few more I can’t think of right now.

    But to back track a bit, my pre viewing of HOLLYWOOD dilemma to find a QT joint to watch with my wife who had never seen one culminated with DJANGO, which I think was a good choice. The surprising outcome was that it affirmed my love for her even more when, during it’s OTT climax of uber-violence, she burst out laughing. And I thought, she gets it, she gets it. Thank you God. Life just gets better and better.

    So I liked HOLLYWOOD as a portrait about aging heroes and rising starlets and demystifying legends (Bruce Lee and Charles Manson) and foot fetishes. My biggest take away came during the scene where Tex and the girls drive their shitbox car into the Dalton/Tate cul-de-sac, and draw the ire of Rick who gives them a mouthful. Afterwards Tex says something like “Holy shit that was Rick Dalton!”. But what filleted me, was when he said he remembered loving Bounty Law as a kid, and had a Rick Dalton lunch box at school. And it reminded me of something Akira Kurosawa said about characters and story, that evil men have reached their destination, but heroes are always evolving.

    Obviously Tex went the opposite direction to idolizing his childhood TV “hero”, and subjugated to the counterfeit “hero” of Manson somewhere during the hazy culture of 60’s discontentment. But Dalton is also a counterfeit “hero”, by way of being a vain and insecure man who happens to portray heroes on screen. The real, evolving hero is Cliff Booth, who is the real-life essence of what Dalton acts out in movies, taking the falls, standing up to posers (Lee), striding into the Manson compound like Burt Lancaster to check on the well being of an old man who may be being taken advantage of by hippies. And when Tex says “I am the devil, and I’m here to do the devils work” (destination reached, by the way), Booth goes to fucking town on him. Keep evolving, I say.

  134. I’m biased because Jack Burton is involved, but I feel like I’m seeing the real Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth here?

  135. I would like a sequel set now, starring Jodie Foster and Laura Dern as Trudi Fraser and her stunt double, who grew up to be way different heights.

  136. I just finally watched it. I didn’t love it but I didn’t dislike it. A lot of it was really good but sometimes it was kind of boring. If it were on tv and I came across it I would imagine I would watch it because there things that probably work better when you see it again.

    I don’t have any great new insight into that Bruce Lee scene but in the bubble of me watching the film at home by myself I did not see the big deal. So Bruce knocks him down with the jumping kick. Bruce is then goaded to try again and since he’s still youngster Kato Bruce decides to do the exact same thing so of coarse Cliff is going to move out of the way and use his momentum against him. He’s not a complete dumbass. They then spar for like 10 seconds. Nothing is resolved and if it did I’m sure Bruce would have won.

    Also, Cliff totally killed his wife.

  137. Wanted to check this review out since I came from the Bruce Lee article and figured a lot of this would be about the scene with him. A lot of people mention Wong Jack Man but, as a student of kung and the details about it, that scene is clearly based on the actual skirmish that happened on the set of The Green Hornet with Gene Lebell. He was brought in to do stunts on that show and apparently Bruce was being very rough on the stuntmen because he didn’t realize he didn’t need hard contact to look good.

    Lebell was a judo champion at the time, and unlike Lee and proven himself many times over in the ring so he’s bonafide…and this is at a time when there wasn’t a huge martial arts thing going on too. So somehow they got into it, and Lebell picked Lee up and carried him around the place. Lee was getting pissed and said to put him down and Lebell said something to the effect of “If I out you down you’ll kill me so I’ll just carry you around some more.”

    But after that, Lee realized he needed more to what he was doing, he needed to learn grappling…as anyone who’s been in real fights knows, and you see in MMA, half the time you end up on the ground…kung ain’t helping your ass there. So Lebell showed Lee his locks and stuff, which you see Lee using in the movies later…he armbars Sammo if I recall. And Lee taught Lebell some of his strikes and kicks.

    I remember Joe Rogan had some good insight into this guy, had to look it up. Here’s the quote I found: “I’ve known Gene for years, he’s always super respectful about Bruce Lee. But let me put it this way, if Bruce Lee fought Gene LeBell, he would grab a hold of him and obliterate his head on the concrete one hundred out of one hundred times. He’s a gorilla. It would have been quick. He’s a judo champion with a severe arsenal of neck cranks and joint locks and he is strong like a fucking bear. In his prime he was a tank of a man. Far bigger than Bruce Lee. If Gene LeBell really wanted to grab a hold of Bruce Lee, Bruce Lee would be unconscious. As would I, as would many, many other trained martial artists.”

    There’s PLENTY written about this incident, but here’s a write up from someone who was trying to write a biography about Lebell which tells an interesting version of it. Leell is no braggart. He taught Ronda Rousey though, and suggested at the time that Rousey could beat Lee.

    Also in the idea that Lee was some superhuman dude…if you read Jackie Chan’s autobiography he talks about Lee. Jackie gets killed twice in Enter the Dragon, both times in the underground lair. Sammo was the stunt coordinator on that movie so he had all his old classmates working on it. You see Jackie clearly get his neck broken by Lee after put in a headlock, and he’s the guy who gets knocked off the bridge by Lee’s nunchuck. And he did other bits too. And Jackie said at the time of course everyone worshipped Lee, be cause Lee was LEE. And he’s not talking shit about Lee, but he said he felt Lee’s punches and kicks and then realized well, Lee’s not really stronger than a lot of the other guy’s who he’s felt punches and kicks from. And that’s when he realized hero worship isn’t a great thing…you can really admire someone but they don’t need to be on a pedestal.

    Also, Jackie said in the bridge stunt Lee REALLY nailed him with the nunchucks, full force. It was supposed to be a miss, and wasn’t. And hey, Jackie got up.

    Also also this is one helluva movie.

  138. Am looking forward to reading the OUATIH paperback which I’ve ordered to see just how well Tarantino’s cinematic writing makes the leap to novelistic prose.

    Also, QT’s the latest guest on Joe Rogan’s podcast (which you can see for free if you’ve subscribed to Spotify). Anyone who thinks the man isn’t going to take another meat cleaver swing at the Sacred Cow that is Bruce Lee better recalibrate their expectations. Thankfully this is but one of many juicy filmic nuggets in an almost 3 hour conversation, which like many of his films, you wished went on for a longer “director’s extended Cut”.

  139. When I saw OUATIH I sort of took it for granted that people around me didn’t know much about Bruce. But when he started to make his trademark noises, and they all laughed like this was some clown who was about to get his ass kicked, I hit me just how important is is for Lee’s family to introduce him correctly to new generations. If people forget that he was “the greatest martial artist ever” it’s game over, no more money. And that’s why it really bugs them that Tarantino introduces the idea that, well, maybe there were guys around that could beat him in a fight.

  140. pegs, see…maybe it’s my age and maybe it’s the fact I live in South East Asia but it’s INCONCEIVABLE to think there’s a generation that doesn’t know the Little Dragon. He’s entered the pop culture lexicon. The man adorns a million T-shirts and is referenced and name-dropped into virtually any conversation that comes within a spitting distance of legendary martial artists. He’s the Che Guevara of kung fu. Even recent movies like IP MAN 4 and TV Shows like WARRIOR evoke him literally and symbolically.

    Having said that, I have zero issues with Bruce being knocked off his exalted perch. Mythologizing the dead does them no favors. Even if Bruce was an asshole to stuntmen (QT’s assertion), rude, egomaniacal, consumed hash, experimented with steroids and kept a 26 year old Taiwanese hottie on the side, whose mattress he died on after having had sex with her, it still wouldn’t dim his lustre one bit in my book. The man lived and died like a rock star, his contribution and influence on martial arts etched in granite.

    But a man died, and an icon was born and a legacy forged by his family which would serve as their meal ticket and so any attempts to derail this gravy train isn’t going to be taken lightly.

  141. Good comparison with Che. “Everyone” know the face and the name, but I doubt everybody knows what he did.

  142. I have SEVERE doubts about Tarantino’s talents extending to prose. I’m already cringing at all the lengthy passages of shit that can be conveyed instantaneously onscreen through imagery and behavior but must be laboriously described word by word by a guy who’s some kind of savant at dialogue but barely knows how to spell. I’m sure his editor earned his/her money on this one.

  143. You know who else has no idea how to spell, Torenteeno (as Altman disparagingly called him)’s boy Paul Thomas Anderson. One time I tried reading the script for I think THE MASTER and it seemed like a monkey ass chimpanzee wrote the shit, and this is speaking as perhaps the least coherent and most uneducated commenter on this website.

    The funny move would have obviously been to get someone else to adapt the shit, like for example Kevin J. Anderson, though I am sure plenty of people have already said that. Is he going to still make video games adaptations of his movies after his ten movies that’s all you get and you get no no more you uncomprehending plebeians that’s the perfect math equation for creativity NO MORE THAN TEN OF ANYTHING PLEASE Don Siegel kept trying to do good work when he was older what a disgusting loathsome beast he was how dare he, please note I am a fan of the number ten and thus I am a true artist. Let’s see what’s in the mail today, oooh, a new Criterion freebie, don’t mind if I do, even if ain’t a print I still love a good freebie, lesse, opening up the mailer here, don’t wanna tear the shrink in case there’s a hype sticker I want to save, I wonder what movie this c…….LOVE STREAMS?!?!??! GET THIS GOD FORSAKEN ELEVENTH PICTURE OUT OF MY HOME BEFORE IT BEFOULS MY ENTIRE RELATIONSHIP WITH HUMAN EXPRESSION!!!!!!!!!!

    Man, I bet he loved that shitty “Ten at Ten” Jay Leno show from a few years ago, and the shitty Super Bowl Commercial where he’s driving around smirking his huge bigjaw head off in a shitty classic car with the number 10 emblazoned on the side of the shit. Maybe Torenteeno can make a TOYS-style high concept trailer for his new one, where he’s driving around in the dumb Lenomobile and smirking his own gigantic headed smirk about the number ten.

    It would be funny if his final movie was a stupid piece of shit remake of 10 with Russel Brand. That would be much better than his civil war movie they were screening when I worked at the movie theater, what was it called again, THE BORING PLAY.

    I usually stifle my Torenteeno disses but that ten thing really baffles me. Who gives a fuck. I should be in the news for randomly talking about a number and my thoughts about my own dumb projects like a nutjob too, that would be good.

    I’m much more interested in the Tenacious D comic book/cartoon dualdisc thing that Jack Black actually drew himself.

  144. I don’t think the Bruce Lee estate not liking something means we have to not like it, but I have to say, I resent the way many people (not just you, KayKay) talk about them like they’re some shameful moneygrubbing opportunists. If you look at the things Shannon Lee does to protect her father’s legacy, like her podcast promoting his philosophical ideas and advocating for Asian-American visibility, I don’t see how you can talk about her that way. Yes, she has been uncooperative with producers trying to make Bruce Lee biography movies because she’s trying to produce one herself – and why is that a bad thing? Don’t we want to see that? I sure do. Her father and brother’s images have been exploited by so many people over the years I think it’s good for her to try to reclaim their meaning, and she could easily cash in in more cynical ways than she has.

    (That said they send me way too many emails about new t-shirts and shit.)

  145. One thing I will say about Torenteeno’s novel is that I have seen examples of his screenwriting in which he tried to write in a sexualized fashion that, from what I understand, are widely mocked examples of the negativities of his writing, both in terms of inabilities of writing and being skeezy and gross. Though I doubt he would win any awards for complexity of character, I actually wish he was more some kind of loveable pervy softcore novella guy than some, well, actor-endangering, slurtastic guy who makes movies I find to “flow” awkwardly and star glib, uncompelling and unbelievable characters. People make fun of the body part he would probably be more likely to sing songs in tribute to than others were he a recording artist who sang about such matters, like Sir Mix A Lot, AC/DC (their loving Willisish ode to their own balls), Khia and Cardi B feat. Megan Thee Stallion – well, people can make fun of him all he wants. They’re wrong. I genuinely appreciate that he makes people deal with his “weird” sexuality in his work, because unlike the rest of the movies, it seems to not be hostile, entirely self-oriented or gross.

    Also, the fact that I do not find Torenteeno to be, well, um, quite, er, young Buster Keaton, old Nick Ray or any Dee Dee Ramone to make it all the more moving when he’s lovingly dirty about the body part he likes and also other body parts instead of being, well, obnoxious. Gross ass guys with big Jay Leno heads and the little smirk to boot deserve to get their expressive freaks on, too.

    You know what was stupid though, when he challenged Letterman like he was Demon Dave or something, because Letterman called him one of his old-timey Letterman terms meaning a nerd or something, and QT seemed to not understand that the joke wasn’t even about him. What a loser.

    Also, in making fun of his name I am making fun of/celebrating Altman’s disregard for him, not his name itself. I read recently on my preferred generic clickbait entertainment news site that he wishes he had named himself Quentin Jerome – if that’s the name he prefers, I think he should change it now. Why not? People would go with it, or they would be wrong not to. I absolutely hate my name, too. (Not A.L.F.)

  146. Also, the hangout aspect of this movie was obviously inspired by the hangout aspect of my second favorite movie, THE STERILE CUCKOO, which has basically only been regarded publicly in this decade when Torenteeno showed it first at The New Beverly in his series of movies that inspired ONCE UPON A TIME IN SOME SHIT I MADE UP ABOUT REAL PEOPLE.

    I’m not sure how I feel about that, and I’m both thankful and resentful that he did not bring about a STERILE CUCKOO revivial.

  147. Klaus Janson is so great, a vastly underrated artist (despite his widespread popularity) and excellent storyteller. From all accounts, he is one of the actual nice guys in comics, something really good to know.

    I think that Terminator toy art could possibly be a work of the noted portrait painter of both Barack Obama and the imaginary character of Oscar from The Oscars, Alex Ross. He had painted the 1990 comic book mini-series TERMINATOR: THE BURNING EARTH for the publisher Now Comics a year before T2 was released, I think just before the license got brought over to Marvel for the sequel. That looks a lot like his earlier art, and he also worked for and advertising agency around that time. Could anyone with a better eye than me identify the artist of that, what do they call it, “blister pack”?

    Well, at least in one instance somebody was aware of who deserved the cover.

    Continuing my annoying habit of talking about the bands I like’s connection to whatever topic is being discussed, I did find a bit more into about the potential inclusion of “I Wanna Be Sedated” in the T2 soundtrack, before Cameron had refined his winning “one song only” soundtrack CD process.


    TIGHT ON YOUNG JOHN CONNOR, who at his moment is ten years old and
    busy reassembling the carburetor on his Honda 125 dirtbike. He has
    ripped Levi’s and long stringy hair. A sullen mouth. Eyes which
    reveal an intelligence as sharp as a scalpel. The Ramones’ “I Wanna
    Be Sedated” blasts from a boom box next to him.

    A WOMAN, JANELLA VOIGHT, stands in the doorway of the garage,
    yelling over the music.

    …John? John! Get in here right now and
    clean up that pigsty of yours.

    The following excerpt is from an April 1991 edition of The Morning Call from Allentown PA.

    The Ramones also will appear in the “Car 54” movie due out this summer. It was directed by Bill Fishman, whose credits include the movie “Tapeheads” and four Ramones videos. Said Joey, “We appear in a punk club playing ‘I Believe in Miracles.'”

    He said the Ramones’ song, “Rock’n’Roll Radio,” will be included in the movie “Highway 61” and “I Wanna Be Sedated” will be on the soundtrack of Eric Bogosian’s “Sex, Drugs and Rock’n’ Roll” and possibly “Terminator 2” — “if it doesn’t end up on the cutting room floor.”

    The only thing as good as a total badass teamed up with a scrappy kid wearing a Public Enemy shirt is a total badass teamed up with a scrappy young kid wearing a Minnie Mouse t-shirt.

  148. Vern, I think there’s a middle way here. It must be totally possible to hail Bruce as perhaps the most influental martial artist/kung fu movie star in history, without all the talk about his fighting abilities in real life.

  149. You know A.L.F, I normally enjoy your rambling ruminations and meditative musings, but here you’ve taken a sharp turn into some pretty mean-spirited detours with regards to QT.

    Ok, first off, as any dyed-in-the-wool Tarantino fan, I experience that familiar surge of irritation when people don’t share my opinion of him as one of the most cheeky, inventive, visceral, kinetic and genre-defining enfant terrible to grace American cinema, but I defend their absolute right to hate his movies or style of film-making.

    But you’re spewing bile at some pretty odd shit. You mock his decision to retire after 10 movies. So fucking what? He wants to go out on a high, when his creative juices are still at their peak and believes many film-makers suffer a decline in quality in their later years. I don’t necessarily agree with this statement 100% but there is ample evidence of it. To put it another way, if QT were Walter Hill, he’d want to be remembered for 48 HOURS, THE LONG RIDERS, STREETS OF FIRE and THE WARRIORS and not UNDISPUTED or THE ASSIGNMENT. If he were John McTiernan, he’d want PREDATOR and DIE HARD to be his legacy and not ROLLERBALL or BASIC. If he were John Woo, he wants to check out as the man who gave the world THE KILLER, HARD-BOILED and FACE/OFF and not THE CROSSING and MANHUNT. If he were Ridley Scott, he’d pretty much want to be remembered for his first 15 years directing and wish people forgot the last 15. Conversely, I have no issues with directors wanting to wield the megaphone on a wheelchair trailing IV drips. That’s just not what Tarantino wants.

    He’s made enough money, and unlike many of his contemporaries, hasn’t seen his fortune bleed away to alimony and child support because he dumped a bunch of wives to fuck the latest hot starlet. He’s newly married, has a 15 month old son he wants to spend more time with and wants to write fiction and even dabble in some non-fiction about movies, a topic I’m informed he knows a little something about.

    The nerve on this motherfucker, right?

  150. And your disses on QT’s looks uncomfortably reminds me of the times I defended Stallone to haters, who simply couldn’t talk about what a “crap actor of shitty movies” he was without also adopting a mock “Sly Voice” imitation where they’re basically slurring all words. Because making fun of a condition caused by a partially paralyzed cheek at birth is Comedy Gold.

    QT reminded the world of the awesomeness of John Travolta where most other film-makers saw an actor fit only for talking-baby movies and recognized the eternal coolness of Kurt Russell long after others forgot about it.

    So you give that big Jay Leno forehead some fucking respect, you dig?

  151. And finally…the foot fetish. Jesus H Christ, the amount of ink that’s been spilt over Tarantino’s foot fetish is just plain comical.

    He digs women’s feet. Like how other guys dig big tits, or a perky ass, or a well shaped ankle. In other breaking news, straight males find the female body endlessly fascinating….

    But linking this fetish to some perceived sleaziness on QT’s part is what takes the cake. Because call his films anything you want, the last thing they are is sexual. Pop quiz, hotshot! Name a Tarantino sex scene. Let’s see, there is a rather sensual scene between Butch and his girlfriend in PULP FICTION (zero nudity) and a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it flashback in INGLORIOUS BASTERDS where the German is dogging his French interpreter. That’s it. 2 scenes in 10
    released movies across 30 years of which only one has a flash of nudity. And for this, he’s on par with Paul Verhoeven? (Another fucking genius in my book). And that lap dance in DEATH PROOF must be the most PG one I’ve ever seen. Comment on how frequently females are brutalized in a Tarantino flick and we have something to talk about. But sexualized? In fact, shot for shot, his bestie Robert Rodriguez has put more T&A on screen.

    And finally…yes, him putting Uma Thurman in danger was wrong and a dick move. He’s apologized for it since and far as I know that’s ONE instant of such behavior being reported. So forgive me if I don’t brand him as the next John Landis.

  152. To come back to the specifics of the fight with Bruce Lee in OUATIH and the recent interview, I find it interesting that Tarantino made a movie that signals its own fictional nature in its title – ONCE UPON A TIME… – reiterates that fictionality with a plot that deviates seriously from what we all know to be historical truths, and has the fight recounted by someone who looks suspiciously like an unreliable narrator. But when asked to defend the scene and the portrayal of Lee in it, his response is basically “It’s true, stuntmen didn’t like Lee and thought he was arrogant”. Wait! What now? This is the bit of your movie that’s true?

    I don’t want Lee on a pedestal, but, like Vern, I was bothered by that scene and, moreover, we are both allowed to be bothered by it, even if Tarantino thinks otherwise. To me it felt mean-spirited. at best, and it pulled me out of the story. And I want to believe that Tarantino is better than that.

    As to Shannon Lee defending her meal ticket, she’s not the one here who is peddling her new book, and while Tarantino protests that he doesn’t want this to be the main subject of the interview he still embraces it when it comes up safe in the knowledge that it is the story that got the most attention when the movie came out. But then, if Mr. M is right, he’ll have hungry editors who need paying.

    Oh, and incidentally, I’m guessing we all love stuntmen here, but stuntmen thinking you’re an asshole is not confirmation of the truth that you are one.

  153. KayKay, thank you for opening your counterpoint with a respectful kindness. My main point was that QT has no reason to dis Don Siegel for being a continuing working artist at an “older” age. To me, the hero is Dick Dale playing Miserlou at miserable punk clubs and giving big between speeches about how much he appreciates Tarantino (and pizza), then selling his own merch and having to travel to the next Radisson with a colostomy bag.

    It seemed disrespectful of a great director, and disrespectful to people who NEED to continually work as directors, people who don’t get a cut from RESEVIOR DOGS THE VIDEO GAME, or the Reservoir Dogs t-shirt I had when I was 13. What I had read about his perfect ten mostly registered to me as some anti-Siegel bullshit, which is why I made the comment about Siegel’s good buddy Cassavetes’ eleventh movie being quite possibly his best.

    I don’t just think old Nick Ray was hot because he looked tough. I think old Nick Ray was hot because he kept trying.

    (This is to say nothing of my feeling that QT also was a key piece of allowing the Weinstein puzzle to happen by virtue of credibility-lending association.)

    Also, I was genuinely encouraging QT to be sexual as opposed to what I feel is harsh or unlikable in his work. I really cannot vibe with the luridness with which he writes such scenes as, uh, the Keitel blood cleaning scene in PULP FICTION, even if I know that one was a while ago. (That’s a movie where I ONLY think the Willis story works in any way. I hate Travolta and Samuel L in that one, they remind me of Kevin Smith characters.)

    I was specifically trying not to say he was a foot guy, because it’d be as weird as insulting fans of boobs, penises or particular hair colors. Also, I think his movies are very sexual other than the parts you mentioned, I seem to remember lots of legs in them too, in a way where I don’t think people even notice that he obviously loves it. The level to which I think people are weird about his sexuality was the reason for which I didn’t even mention his gender preference. The luridness with which he described feet (and a butt) in the KILL BILL screenplay excerpts people make fun of was something that I think is genuinely cool, because it was pro-women and about women being great (in a body-oriented way), not about what I feel is some guy who feels that the way in which he loves the movies is great.

    I was genuinely encouraging him to be dirtier, both in his novel and last film, and am very much in agreement that people are weird and about his dirty side, and should not be. The fixation is far more with others giving him grief for having a sexuality, which is totally unprogressive and totally un-21st century. Hypotheticals are obnoxious and impossible, but if he weren’t “kink-shamed” as an artist so early I genuinely think he would have made better art by this point, like the awkward intimacy scene in PULP FICTION, one of the better moments in any of his movies, his “Clint playing jazz”. Acceptance of sexuality is an important thing, and should even be applied to guys I do not like, who I find unattractive, that have big dome pieces and who make sexual art that I do not find personally appealing in a sexual sense.

    I’m also “Team Uma” as I previously mentioned, and maintain my ground on that point.

    You mentioned that you could understand people not liking how he brutalizes his female characters – I do not think he needs to be given grief for glee in the fictional, narrative aspect of brutalizing his fictional women, because he gleefully brutalizes ALL his characters. That’s one of the things I find annoying about him.

    I also think all the Manson shit is way uncouth and fucked up, and think he should have waited something a little closer to the BASTERDS amount of distance before making lurid shit about real life. Neil Young is still alive. Brian Wilson is still alive. Van Dyke Parks is still alive. I’m sure plenty of people who knew Sharon Tate and everyone that was killled else are still alive, and probably were not at OOATIH on opening night, saying “yipee” while muchin on Twizzlers. People make “my celebration of someone else’s PTSD: the movie” all the time and I’m not trying to single him out for that, but for some reason the Manson thing seems particularly improper to me, even if it is undeniably anti-Manson. The weirdness that bothers me about ONCE UPON are not things that not just start with the disrespeting of Bruce Lee.

    Also, I think the thing where he threatened violence against Letterman for his calling him a nerd was so, so lame, and so totally Demon Dave. That sorta thing two decades ago and the Don Siegel thing a few weeks ago have me feeling like, forget this guy.

    I don’t even actually mind the ten movie thing in and of itself, all jokes and opinions of arrogances aside. One of my favorite bands is Felt, who made ten album and ten singles in ten years as part of a very intentional plan. When Lawrence from Felt discusses the ten album structure of that band, he usually doesn’t have to insult the genuine efforts of Don Siegel to make his case.

    My annoying ass taste in movies probably has more in common with Quentin “BREATHLESS remake” Tarantino than any outlawvern commenter, weirdly. I appreciate what he brings attention to people’s eyes to in terms of film culture. Besides trying to say to the world “Look, I was kinda trying to make THE STERILE CUCKOO with the boring parts of this one” I also think he was saying something about his intense, motormouthed quality in screening that film first. TSC is a movie about Liza Minelli being a wordy kid who nobody likes and who causes a lot of her own problems. She talks fast and annoys people the whole time like Tarantino surely does and I absolutely do. Great movie, A+.

    I like Rodriguez a lot and generally wish Tarantino were more like him.

    KayKay, though I appreciate your feelings that I should show the guy more respect, I think speaking disrespectfully and arrogantly about Torenteeno is sort of allowable, because he talks so much arrogantly, insultingly disrespectful shit on other people for no reason at all, including the great Don Siegel.

    And I hope none of this reads as disrespectful to (or unappreciative of) yourself.

    I will take one final exception to your post, as a way of being on the same page as yourself. You said Tarantino “recognized the eternal coolness of Kurt Russell long after others forgot about it” – while that may be true of idiotic studio executives, anybody else who somehow forgot Kurt Russell is someone I have absolutely no time for. I don’t think there are ANY such people here.

  154. Also, KayKay, I was thinking about the truth of what you said, how studio executives did genuinely overlook and forget about Kurt Russell, which lead me to think about him being some sort of cusp-of-the-millennium Dr. Dre type, like “Forgot About Dre”, those kind of songs.

    Everyone else here is much more knowledgeable about hip-hop than I am, so I probably don’t have to reference “Hello” as being this NWA reunion song people don’t talk about much any more and that they left out of the biopic that one time I saw them perform on this weird nu-metal show Farm Club USA, etc.

    Anyway, I hope you true fans of rap music will appreciate this little Weird A.L.F. style parody variation joke thing that I thought of and laughed to myself about, in tribute to a great man and a great Elvis:

    Did I fall off?, Got you in your room
    Rippin every “Soldier” poster on your wall off
    Just cause I put away the sawed off
    Now I got you sittin back with a smirk;
    Watchin’ with your arms crossed
    Questioning Earp’s credibility (What?)

  155. A.L.F, thanks for your detailed response, and I appreciate it. In spite of my copious use of swear words, I believe we’re still firmly in “Respectful Disagreement” country. We’re on opposite ends of the divide when it comes to QT, but definitely on the same wavelength when it comes to Don Siegel who I think is a GREAT director. I read QT’s comments on him as something akin to my John Woo example above. I watched MANHUNT and went “Jesus Christ! This is John Woo? A John Woo wannabe could have made a better film”. It’s a fanboy’s lament at the decline of an artist you hold in high esteem and it’s Tarantino’s specific opinion that this decline is precipitated when said artist continues working well past their creative peak. But I will agree, QT has always been an arrogant, verbose but nevertheless highly enthusiastic interviewee who believes the 90s filmic renaissance originated out of his ass. Even a fan boy like me couldn’t avoid an eye roll when he intimated during the Rogan podcast that he was responsible for releasing films from the corseted confines of the “politically correct” 80s and thereby launching a new era of “anything goes” irreverent and boundary pushing film-making. There is some truth to this, but QT can hardly lay claim to being it’s sole architect.

    The man can be hard to take, but his movies, for me are all types of awesome.

  156. Ernest, allow me to follow up on your last sentence. I didn’t feel that Bruce was portrayed as especially arrogant in that scene. He was being philosophical in front of, how can I say this without offending anybody, a group of rather dim Hollywood people. Of course they would perceive him as pompous and take the mickey. At least that’s my interpretation. And that’s what art is about, isn’t it?

  157. Thank you, KayKay, I appreciate your response and absolutely feel we are in a place respectful disagreement about that fella. I do not have interest in revisiting them any time soon, but I do think RESEVOIR DOGS and JACKIE BROWN are actually good movies, and I’m a very serious Silver Surfer fan too. I just feel like objectively, as a filmmaker he “jumped the shark” at Royale with Cheese, and nobody else seems to have noticed. Maybe he should have learned to do what my old “work is important” record store boss commendingly called “movie theater sweeping” instead of getting to work at Laser Disc Land and then get famous right away or whatever he did, I forget the details.

    Don Siegel is of an entirely different level of art than QT, who, now that I think about it, kind of reminds me of the fuckin Zuckers a little bit.

    “My” QT is for sure Tim Burton. I do not think a lot of the later movies he made were good, but I’m glad he didn’t quit, because I loved BIG EYES and deeply value that he didn’t get bullied into retirement like they do to everyone, like they did to Regis, like they did to Nick Ray, etc. (That movie is potentially deeply troubling for being a pro-woman Weinstein production from a Hollywood insider who may have known, though, and it almost – or maybe totally – ruins it for me, I’m not sure.)

    Your swear words were funny, which is why I sort of went into “sincere A.L.F.” mode for a moment, to indicate that my Gorgeous George, Muhammad Ali, Andy Kaufman or Ice Cube style braggadocio was sort of a tonal parody of his arrogance, in a way where I was trying to say I’m even better at being arrogant than he is.

    Also, launching into that kind of giving him what for was my way of saying I am happy to contribute to a forum where people understand how to “toast” and strut around with their words a bit, because it is almost always done with decency and understanding in this part of town. You are all much better at talking shit than Torenteeno – though not at good as talking shit as Altman. Some lofty standards could never be achieved.

  158. Alien Life Form, didn’t you just prove QT right in just making 10 movies, when you said that you’re a massive Burton fan but don’t like his later movies?

  159. Sure, Pegsman. My father disliked Ali because he felt he was arrogant; it’s easy for me to read a scene where a guy boasts he could take Ali as one where that character is portrayed as arrogant. I think Tarantino may’ve used the term “cocky”. Lee surely does come across as something of a joke anyway, and I know I didn’t like it.

    As with Ali, I think there has been, and remains, a tendency to dismiss minority ethnic figures with brains and power as arrogant. Maybe that’s what the scene is really about.

    Cool that we’re on first name terms now though!

  160. Pegsman – no, with respect and no intended argumentative tone I was trying to say the very opposite of that.

    I think if artists feel like working, they should work, and there’s nothing dignified to saying people eventually stop being good at art for some arbitrary reason like the amount Earth spins that they are, if you measure their value in something like that. I also think it is strange, because, well, QT straight up loves movies nobody else likes, like RICHARD GERE IS BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN IN JIM MCBRIDE’S BREATHLESS: THE GOOD VERSION. How can he not see that shit like later Don Siegel might fall into his hallowed category of “weird movie people don’t get is good” to somebody else’s quite possibly very legitimate perspective?

    Why not fucking shame people who are differently abled? They have a different amount of energy, too. Maybe he couldn’t talk shit in a rapid-fire way about Bud Boetticher with lots of funny slangy asides like late-middle-age Torenteeno could, but old, suffering Robert Altman made THE COMPANY, a tribute to art, health, education and the wonder of Neve Campbell, a movie that means more to me than anything QT has ever made as an artist, or that I am aware of his having accomplished in life otherwise.

    And it was scored by a beautiful, good, moral, admirable human being who had his life greatly impacted by the Manson murders.

  161. I wouldn’t get to hung up on the Siegel and Altman statements. You know that they made good stuff, so why should it bother you what QT says?

  162. Pegsman – I hope this won’t seem too testy, harsh, or like I’m taking a brief statement as a launching point for being countering of your points. You did ask a big question, though.

    It bothers me because it sets a bad example for the greater movie culture (both behind the scenes and on a “fan culture” level) in terms of expressing that it is legitimate for “older” directors to work continually. Hollywood is insanely ageist to begin with.

    I do not think the industry/artform needs its professional (and widely influential, hugely powerful) cool guy denigrating the later work of Don Siegel for many reasons, some of the lesser ones being that it also represents the most vocal press Don Siegel has had in decades, other than when they made the Coppola BEGIULED. The conversations about the two BEGUILEDs most often discussed (and questioned) the subtext of the work. QT’s arbitrary, named and pointed discussions of Don Siegel literally question the validity of his having CHOSEN to work, which is his undeniable right as an artist.

    My interest in art is also very often taken with a cultural perspective in mind, so I am interested in things like this in addition to the art itself. I am being a bit jokey and eagerly conversational about it, but I do think that IN HOLLYWOOD is worth viewing through the context of real life, particularly when QT is so deeply embroiled with people from real reality, particularly with this picture.

    I also mentioned the Weinstein issue in regards to a director and film that I like, because I thought it was a valid way of pointing out that the issues I have with QT as a cultural force are not only because I dislike his work, and that such issues should not be viewed preferentially.

    I feel that the way he speaks about people and art is bad for the dialog and bad for the business, and, again, is of a negativity and absolute self-importance that I never see on this forum – and that I see many, many other places in the culture. The culture that is very influenced by Quinten, and has been for more than a quarter century.

    He is concerned about his work losing it’s edge and becoming tired, hokey and antiquated. He is focused on the wrong thing. He has not lost his ability to entertain and be a success, but he is becoming tired, hokey, antiquated and being the times in terms of consideration and decency. The nerdy impulse that gets him to do likable things like boldly give too much attention to things I love like Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich or The’s as a reflection of his own identity is also the same nerdy impulse that makes him boldly give too much attention to denigrating what he feels are good directors’ best films, as a reflection of his own identity.

    Also, I find it irritating because he seems to miss that he has been afforded a level of control over his life – in terms of public acceptance, financial and critical success, quality of hobbies, level of funding, cultural influence, lack of accountability and lack of interference – that may have absolutely no equal in the entire history of filmmaking. It might be nice to be nice about Good Ol’ Don Siegel when you have an easier life than he did.

    Despite my apprehensions, I also tried to point out what I feel are his good qualities.

    The Altman comparisons were more to cite what I value in filmmaking, someone who did not have an easy path to success, knew what it was to face the difficulty of industry indifference and understood the collaborative nature of film. Later, it was to give articulation as to why I find the Manson RPGing to be distasteful, which I also offered as a way of saying there are other issues with this film besides Bruce Lee.

  163. I get all that. And you are a wordsmith not unlike the characters QT has written for Christoph Waltz. But, JINXED aside, both you and I KNOW that Siegel made 10-12 good movies from ‘68 to ‘80, so who cares what Quentin says?

  164. Man, truth bombs in these comments today. Between Maggie in T2 and ALF here, you guys be killin it today.

    I don’t track all of the references in ALF’s thread, but I absolutely track the gist and the sentiment, and I think it’s on target. Tarantino is really good, and he knows he’s good, and, of course, his bread butter has always been that deconstructing-pop-and-film-culture / love-hate-jealousy-wannabe relationship to blackness, but he’s always been incredibly self-important and self-indulgent, and this most exemplified in his “dead [redacted] storage” monologue in PULP FICTION, which just kind of sums up that he has incredible artistic instincts about most everything but his use of his own literal personal presence onscreen or in print. Oh, the irony.

  165. Borg9, the contextualization of the Bruce Lee fight scene in OUATIH within a fairy tale narrative makes PERFECT logical sense and it’s how most people explain that scene away…except that’s NOT how Tarantino sees it. He’s been pretty consistent right from his first rebuttal to Shannon Lee that it’s based on his research that Lee was a dick to stuntmen. He reiterates it in the Rogan podcast. Interestingly, across the 3 hour conversation, my takeaway is that many scenes in OUATIH were conceptualized based on how awesome Tarantino thinks Cliff Booth is as a character. What if Bruce Lee came up against this bad-ass? What if the Manson Killers stumbled into a house and slammed into the unstoppable force that is Cliff Booth?

    If Tarantino or Pitt were so inclined, Booth could easily headline his own action franchise.

  166. This is a kind of out there theory and I *don’t* think this was intentional, but it occurred to me that OUATIH was kind of like Tarantino erasing without confronting his two most infamous (in 2019) PR blunders through fiction. On the metatextual level, he casts Uma Thurman’s daughter, so we’re all good there, let’s not bring it up ever again, OK guys? And in the narrative of the film, if Sharon Tate was never murdered, one could hope no Roman Polanski scandal, so no crawling defence of him on Howard Stern for people to exhume.

    For me the scales on OUATIH weighed less on the side of “loving Valentine to the birth of New Hollywood, classic TV procedurals and Charles Bronson filmography trivia” and more on the side of “Tarantino’s love letter to his own impeccable taste”. When Pacino wistfully recalls his night watching “the best of Rick Dalton” I just hear Tarantino saying “don’t you just love those nights hanging with your massive collection of 35mm prints?”, or worse, I think of eight paragraph long introductory passages from headgeek c.2001.

    Yeah this one didn’t work for me.

  167. What’s hilarious here is that I’m resonating with all the grumpiness at Taratino’s entitled older white male savant-ery, and I think PacMan your reading of the film is a good one, but I still love it and agree with KayKay about Cliff Booth. I loved this film in spite of it’s “middle-aged doing just fine white guy all in his midlife crisis feels.” Hell, I loved it because of that, because I’m inching into “middle-aged doing okay white guy all in his midlife crisis feels.” And because it’s just a weird, dreamy, nightmare-y, heartstring pulling, silly exercise in pure wish fulfillment with wonderful characters whom I feel instantly connected to and invested in. Whether I’m invested for the right reasons or not, or whether I should feel shame or guilt for these two pretty, entitled white dudes living that pretty, entitled white dude 70s life up to and including the Bruce Lee fight … Or whether I should feel that way because it’s specifically Tarantino telling such a story, and he’s clearly got all these weird race-related fixations and hang-ups (though he does at least pursue and expose those things in interesting and provocative ways vs. politely ignoring them)…

    I mean, I don’t feel bad. I love this film, even if Tarantino personally was weird and off-putting to begin with, even if his views and past actions are “problematic” as the kids say, and even if he’s become a rich, more insular and out of touch than ever self-indulgent, logorrheic asshole. Still a great film that I’ll rewatch and love without without any guilt.

  168. Oh no! Poor Bruce Lee! Only 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999999999% of the human population consider him literally synonymous with “most wise and badass human who ever lived!” One old contrarian honkey has a differing opinion! How on earth will this injustice ever be remedied?

    Just for the record, my thoughts on Bruce Lee are:

    1. Obviously a cool cat who looked and sounded great on film
    2. Unfortunately only made like one and a half watchable movies
    3. Meaning his reputation is based more on his iconography than his work
    4. Thus I have an almost pathological need to take him down a peg
    5. Which is not fair to all the people who were inspired by his work, even though said work has not aged well to a honkey like, me, whose opinion no one fucking asked for

    In conclusion, who gives a shit what Quentin Tarantino thinks? Quentin Tarantino thinks a lot of questionable things. If Bruce Lee can survive his own lackluster filmography, he can survive this nothingburger of a controversy. It’s another piece of hate-bait designed to keep the internet running because there’s no other way for it to generate money.

  169. Yeah, how dare we to be outraged that another rich white guy drags down an asian icon in the middle of a rise of hate against Asians, and dismisses the criticism from Lee’s own daughter as some kind of “she has to do that, because she’s his daughter”. Just let him talk. What’s the damage he can do, right?

  170. Oh, is that what we’re doing here? We’re stopping hate crimes? Shit, man, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize shit was so serious. “Well, I never had anything against Asian-Americans before, but the director of THE HATEFUL EIGHT said that American stuntmen didn’t like Lee very much so I’m going full Marky Mark now.”

    I guess I fail to see the part where it’s not just one guy sharing his dumb opinion about an actor he never met, which is what literally every single person on the internet does every single second of the day, or how boosting his signal by repeating his views in every available forum is meant to somehow lessen the damage. You want to lessen damage? Fucking ignore him. “There’s Quentin spouting off at the mouth again. You know how he is.” *makes looney tunes hand gesture* That’s about all the hot air coming out of his face is worth. And I say this as a fan.

    Everybody should just stop talking to everybody forever. I’ll start.

  171. Dude, let’s be honest. 99% of the things Tarantino says runs under “Eh, he just loves to hear himself talk” , but there is a reason why this specific thing that he keeps doubling down on over and over again makes him seem extra assholish and shouldn’t be brushed off with “Oh, fans of Lee just need to grow up”.

    I think in the last few years we have established that just because YOUR group can chuckle at a joke or a dumb comment, doesn’t mean that others won’t be seriously hurt from that. You know Tarantino is a dumbass, I know he is a dumbass, but there is now a whole generation of his fans who believe that Bruce Lee was a loser who got tricked by DiCaprio, oh, and he hated stuntmen and his daughter has daddy issues. It’s odd that you of all people here pull the “freedom of speech” card in that regard.

  172. I believe I just argued in favor of freedom FROM speech.

  173. Maj, freedom from speech is brilliant. Twitter definitely tricked people into spreading shitty rhetoric for them, basically doing the heavy lifting. Not surprised hatemongers have capitalized on it.

    With this particular issue I think the best course of action is to share the Shannon Lee piece widely and not share Tarantino/Rogan’s. Hope the ratio comes out in her favor but that’s the best any of us can do.

    Yes, we need to speak truth to power and speak up against hate but’s not really what Twitter is doing even at the best of times. I remember over ten years ago when all my colleagues were jumping on social media. My reaction was “why would I want to spend even more time listening to you than I already have to.” Not to be too misanthropic about it but I was already exhausted from the chatter IRL. I knew I didn’t need more, and I come to this site for a break from all that because here we have substance and insight.

    I would not be on social media at all if my job didn’t require it and I kind of resent that I have to. I do my best to limit it sharing a few articles/observations, maybe a joke or too but ignore the noise. There’s so much noise in the word and it feels like the noise is winning. I do enjoy finding old high school classmates on Facebook tho. I’d probably stay on FB (which arguably enabled even worse misinformation than toxic Twitter.)

  174. First of all, you are so full of shit that you are going to stop talking about anybody for any amount of time, Majesytk. Stop kidding yourself. Of course, I welcome the theatrical hyperbole, it’s part of your charm. The streets need that heat you bring.

    As for the Robin DiAngelo-ification of all discourse around race and ethnicity and gender and sexual identity, I’m just not really here for it, but that’s old news. The socialist troll / policy wonk Matt Bruenig captures how silly and untenable much of this is with his concept of “identitarian deference.”

    Identitarian Deference Continues to Roil Liberalism

    Seven years ago, I coined the term “identitarian deference” (ID) to describe the idea that “privileged individuals should defer to the…

  175. I really liked the Shannon Lee piece and I thought it was important because it made me think about things in a different way. Some of the responses I got from sharing it were really disheartening, though. Any time you talk about her, somebody has to bring up some unrelated thing they disagree with (allowing his image in an ad or whatever), as if we now no longer have to consider the very valid points she makes in her essay if she did something we disagree with one time. And then I also have to hear from every guy who wants to show off that he doesn’t like Tarantino movies (which very much does NOT impress me) and also every guy who does like Tarantino and wants to explain the Bruce Lee scene to me even though that’s not even what the essay is about.

    I know I should be used to this but I’ve just been kinda depressed about the impossibility of talking about things with any amount of nuance anymore. Everything has to be I hate this thing or I love this thing, no grey area, no detailed discussion. People cannot possibly comprehend that I could love Tarantino and also want to share a different viewpoint of something he said, or love SCREAM movies but also make a joke about Randy being an obnoxious poser who I would never talk movies with. I try to just forge ahead and be myself and know there will be other people out there who get what I’m talking about, but it’s frustrating.

    I guess the moral of the story is that I’m too addicted to Twitter. We get some good dicussions here and I will always be grateful for it.

  176. You gotta find your Twitter peeps and currate that shit and you can have a great Twitter experience like I do. But it’s a lot of work. Probably way too much work. That’s why I’m glad I have that Discord.

  177. Franchise Fred

    July 3rd, 2021 at 7:27 pm

    It’s true, Vern. I think back to my life now 12 years ago since before social media. It was already a lot to keep up with all the movies and TV (admittedly TV expanded exponentially with streaming), but I could do it. I’d watch everything I was covering, do all the interviews, keep my editors posted via e-mail and that was my schedule. I wrote for up to 25 outlets at that time, so my work is more concentrated on fewer sites now but the landscape consumes much more time and energy.

    Once I was asked to maintain a social media presence it added more daily hours with no increase in pay. Imagine people who add this to their lives with no financial compensation at all! But, I adapted because the media adapted to online when I was starting so I didn’t want to get left behind. Then they kept adding more social medias: Instagram, Snapchat, Tik Tok. Remember Periscope’s brief flash in the pan?

    Now not only do I have my work, far more content to navigate, e-mail and social media, but several clients use Zoom and Slack. So now they don’t have to e-mail me and wait for a response, they can chat me any time throughout the day (yes, I can mute notifications, but I know they’re there and I’m the type I’d rather deal with it and be done than put it off.) I don’t mean to complain, I can handle it, but I definitely notice it’s a lot more to handle than it used to be.

    Then you realize only 6% of people are even on Twitter (and I believe of that, only 1% tweet daily). 94% of people are busy living their damn lives. That puts things in perspective. I’m actually pretty good at not replying to rude comments or even reading nonsense takes, but they figured that out too, didn’t they? So now they show you shit that other people liked or commented on. So even if you’ve done your diligence to avoid it, they jam it in your feed.

    Vern, I enjoy your Twitter presence, but I also know how else to reach you. Perhaps we can learn to curate our feeds, but again, the Twitter corporation keeps changing the rules anyway.

  178. I agree that people need to re-learn how to separate actual creative output from ephemeral bullshit opinions. Many of my favorite artists have said things in interviews that I think are stupid or out of touch or needlessly hostile, but what does that have to do with the work?

    One thing I don’t fully get about the whole “ten and done” thing, though. Maybe QT agrees with Indiana Jones that it’s not the years, it’s the mileage. But surely age, not the number of completed credits, is what makes some older directors lose their touch?

    So if QT just waits and waits for what he thinks will be the perfect closer, how does he know that by the time he finally pulls the trigger he won’t be the kind of has-been that he seems to have such concern about becoming?

    I mean, he’s already on the old-man side of film vs digital. And he has that boomer attitude of “the 1980s killed cinema” which also puts him on the old-man side of the cultural shift where it’s become much more common to regard 1980s movies as awesome. Plus, the growing social trend of “We need to cancel anyone who ever did or said anything (or was friends with anyone) that does not get a perfect score on a modern political correctness test” is not going to favor someone whose films so often use the N-word as punctuation.

    If he really does want his entire body of work to be perceived as relevant to the end, then he should probably think about making that tenth film sooner rather than later, as current technological and ideological trends do not seem to be in his favor.

    I mean I’m still on his side. But he seems so worried about his later work not being as good, when maybe he should actually worry more about his earlier work becoming unfashionable.

  179. ” but there is now a whole generation of his fans who believe that Bruce Lee was a loser who got tricked by DiCaprio, oh, and he hated stuntmen and his daughter has daddy issues.”

    CJ, to put things in perspective, ONE less than 5 minute scene in an almost 3 hour movie isn’t about to dislodge an icon from his perch. This is but the smallest of smudges on an otherwise pristine altar.

    The Bruce Lee mythos survived GAME OF DEATH, a piece of shit cash-in that spliced in actual fucking footage of his funeral into the movie, said footage also being subsequently used in about half a dozen Bruceploitation joints. And speaking of Bruceploitation, that’s a genre that was birthed before Lee’s ashes got cold, and we got the likes of Bruce Le, Bruce Li, Bruce Lai, Dragon Lee and Bronson Lee starring in such stellar fare as BRUCE LEE FIGHTS BACK FROM THE GRAVE and CLONES OF BRUCE LEE not to mention the masterpiece that is BRUCE AND I, which starred Betty Ting , yes THE Betty Ting whose apartment and bed Bruce died in playing, whaddya know, Betty Ting which opens with “Bruce” and her fucking and then he dies in bed. There’s also TRUE GAME OF DEATH, which has “Bruce”‘s sex with his White girlfriend interrupted when he suffers a cerebral edema and the whole thing’s scored to an instrumental of “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”.

    The Legend of Bruce Lee endured the ignominy of these C-Grade El Cheapos made 30 years ago that were far more offensive and reprehensible to what he represented and it’s gonna survive a Tarantino movie that spent less time than a standard monologue in PULP FICTION to show him in a slightly less than flattering light.

    I defend Shannon Lee’s right to be annoyed and pissed off about this. But I also believe this to be the slightest of storms in a miniscule teacup. There’s no doubt about a dozen Bruce Lee themed films in conception or production and another 2 dozen documentaries coming down the pipeline over the next decade, that is when a new IP MAN movie isn’t already referencing him every now and then, and they will all be eminently respectable to the man, his vision, his values and his philosophy.

    And even that OTHER major grievance of the Lee family, that his script was stolen and remade as Kung Fu (a fact Tarantino disputes vigorously while calling Linda Lee a liar twice during the podcast) has found some redress: WARRIOR is a thrilling show featuring a mostly Asian Cast that addresses the socio-political issues affecting Asians in 19th century America while delivering several amazing and visceral fights. And it subtly but effectively adds yet another glowing sheen to the already glowing luminosity of the Bruce Lee legend.

  180. And Vern, with all due respect, have ZERO interest in seeing a Bruce Biopic produced by the Lee family, as I suspect it’s sole source of lighting will come from the radiant brilliance emanating off the halo around the head of His Saintly Bruceness. Not into hagiographies. Or to put it into Musical Biopic terms, I’d want a WALK THE LINE or at least a ROCKETMAN but would get a BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY instead.

  181. You gotta remember the obstacles Bruce Lee faced when he was in America, the constant racism, the internal struggle for the love of America and being Chinese in an era where being a foreigner was mocked constantly.

    Having extremely difficult experiences in Hollywood and not being accepted for who he was, having his ideas stolen and not being given the respect which he had earned through hard work and determination.

    All this would have made him much more stronger and confident and arrogant because he believed in his abilities and was constantly put down and dismissed because of his racial identity.

    And now to have some director mock him in the most disrespectful way is a joke that many of my friends here find hilarious, I would be pissed too if i was a member of Lee’s family.

    QT saying he hated American stuntmen?
    Can you imagine how many people in the industry hated Lee because he was Chinese? Can you imagine the abuse and hate he got behind his back because he could do things that they couldn’t do?

    Lee had to build layers upon layers of thick skin to keep all that hate at bay and his so called ‘arrogance’ was a way of protecting himself from the abuse he was getting.

    Can you imagine if Spike Lee directed a movie about 70’s Hollywood and depicted Steve McQueen as a women hating, drunken idiot who hates black people and then said “well it was mentioned by some people that he was like this” – you all will loose your god damn minds!

  182. Honestly, I don’t think people would lose their minds if Spike Lee did that about Steve McQueen.

    One of the probems around this discourse is the tendency to emotionally over-identify and over-protect a celebrity and do all this work to try to build out a conjectured hypothetical psychological experience surrounding this person. Basically, Hassan, you are constructing this emotional personal viewpoint and inner life for Bruce Lee that is largely that, a construction, and probably substantially a projection, as well. Basically, a lot of people are either Stan-ing and becoming emotionally / psychologically fused with the curated public image of a celebrity with whom they see elements or their idealized self. Either that or they are simply co-opting that public figure and whatever the incident or 15-minutes-of-fame moment (e.g., this Tarantino-Lee moment) as just the latest news cycle item to beat whatever issue advocacy drum they have.

    If you’re in the Stan camp, then you have all my compassion and goodwill, because this is someone — or the idea of a someone — that is emotionally significant in an earnest way. If you’re in the “how can I use this thing as an angle to keep beating my drum” camp, then, I mean, that’s all pure realpolitik and guilt manipulation. I mean there is a whole meme-verse of “I’m so sick of white men doing x…” And, fine, white men do a lot of shitty things. But think of something original and non-whiny or emotionally manipulative to say. I just can’t with the practiced woke internet clapback shit Chrissy Teigenism. It’s gross watching that level of shrill, cringe-ass manipulation and phony meme-y performative outrage or outrage-on-behalf-of. Just say you think racism is bad, and say that you don’t like how Tarantino did Bruce without the need to weave every such incident that even remotely matches a very wide-net pattern into some grand guilt narrative about how awful it all is.

    Is my reaction.

  183. Also, I am not suggesting that you, Hassan, are doing all of that stuff I described. I think you’re just trying to provide some perspective and maybe foster a bit of empathy or whatnot. Which can be a good thing. What bothers me in the broader discourse is the predictable, templated, reductive moralism of it all, where ever concrete exchange involving specific personalities and situations becomes some kind of exemplar / proof text for one’s master narrative of guilt and privilege, until every encounter has to be processed through that quasi-religious filter, wherein we all reveal whether we’re on the right or wrong side of the battel vs. good and evil. Everything becomes a high-stakes litmus test, and every interaction is reduced to whether it is a step forward or backward for the pan-historical quest for social justice, where there are only villains, victims, and heroes, as opposed to, you know, flawed people who get in moods and have wacky ideas and are resilient and are capable of working through awkward situations to discover common humanity, shared ideals (including ideals of freedom and justice). Instead everything is a fucking perpetual teachable moment slash game of “Asshole or victim?” You have some people who have done a very good job of weaponizing that game or building entire brands off of it, and then you have a lot of well-meaning lemmings who have enlisted to be foot soldiers in it. The whole discourse is like the intellectual and critical thinking capacities of a bot were combined with the big feelings emotional fragility of a teenager. And the sheer laughable pettiness of it all really does take away from the horrific shit, like Matthew Shepherd or George Floyd or Emmet Till or all these fuckers Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein raped. The way people try to clout chase that shit or put this shit on that same continuum is gross and insulting. Hassan’s post is just the catalyst for some of those thoughts to come back to the surface, but I think that post is fine and nuanced and useful in as far as it goes.

  184. I asked my youngest what his take on the scene in OUATIH was. Now, he’s a big Tarantino fan, and knows Lee’s movies quite well, so it would be interesting to hear what the young generation had to say. And he dove straight into the story and said he thought Cliff studied Bruce’ moves and was able to throw him using his weight. Simple as that. So I guess we don’t have to be that concerned about the youth coming out of the movie thinking Bruce Lee was a joke. They know it’s just a fantasy trying to build up Cliff.

  185. I feel like HASSAN is drastically overestimating how much anybody under the age of 65 gives a shit about Steve McQueen. You could make a movie where he’s a baby-raping cannibal and I’d say, “Finally, something interesting about that self-impressed lump of dough!”

    And OUATIH actually does have a scene where McQueen is depicted as an insecure beta male sadsack completely in opposition to his manliest man in the world persona. Was this accurate? Who knows? Who cares? It’s a movie, and this version of Steve McQueen fits the story it’s telling. Just like the version of Bruce Lee onscreen is not reality but does suit the story. It’s called artistic license and it used to be how stories were made personal and distinct, before they were expected to be compendiums of appropriate messages.

  186. KayKay, if you are worried it will be too much of a hagiography obviously you haven’t seen any of the numerous ones that already exist. Especially not BRUCE LEE: THE MAN, THE MYTH. As someone who watches most of them I think another one approved by his family (I know Linda Lee had something to do with DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY) would be a welcome addition.

  187. Vern, my fantasy Bruce Biopic would portray him as the hash chewing, steroid experimenting, starlet fucking Kung Fu Rockstar he is, possessing awe-inspiring dedication, Supernova Charisma and laser focus, pre-requisites for navigating, enduring and ultimately rising above the Racial and Cultural Stereotyping endemic to that period. But it’s impossible to expect a loving wife and daughter to put out such a warts and all effort.

    Yeah, I probably haven’t a seen a whole bunch of Bruce documentaries or biographies, I don’t have ESPN and so haven’t seen the last one “BE WATER”. But I do hold A WARRIOR’S JOURNEY in very high regard. In fact it’s another fantasy that every copy of the dreadful GAME OF DEATH disappear and be replaced by this far more respectful documentary which even restores the Pagoda fight to a near complete 40 minute version the way Bruce most likely intended.

    There was a show screened on TV here ages ago called THE LEGEND OF BRUCE LEE, about 50 episodes, which I barely finished 10 of. It boasted shoddy production values, atrocious music, wooden acting (although Danny Chan was a passably good Bruce), hilarious anachronisms (Costa Pizza, Justin Timberlake T shirts in the 70s), curiously dubbed in Mandarin (even the Gwai Lohs) when Bruce actually spoke Cantonese and took historical liberties with his life that puts the IP MAN films to shame. (On the flip side: Some decent fights and a nice revolving door of cameo-ing martial arts greats like MJW, Ray Park [playing Chuck Norris!!!!], Gary Daniels and Mark Dacascos).

    And this was a show executive produced by Shannon Lee! So yeah, we’ve kinda got a Lee Family produced Lee biopic and it’s not exactly a high watermark of the genre.

    But I do love DRAGON THE BRUCE LEE story. There’s a sweetness and utter lack of cynicism coupled with a terrific Jason Scott Lee performance, a smoking hot Lauren Holly and a great score and fights which somehow makes it all work.

  188. I knew that Pitt could act, and act damn well, ever since I saw him in the excellent “Kalifornia” as a kid, back in 1993, on a VHS tape fished out in a small rental video place – one of the thousands that popped up here after the fall of communism…

    I was actually quite disappointed in what he was turned into several years later, when the consumers discovered him, and Hollywood propagandagents made him into the heartthrob prop.

    It’s actually too bad he hasn’t ever again played anything close to “Kalifornia”. It’s his best role. It’s also still one of the more realistic portrayals of a serial killer in a Hollywood flick – a dirty, parasitic worm, with nothing but psychopathy inside. Not too many films dared to take this unglamourous approach. Henry, Eye After Eye… that’s about it.

  189. “Does not going through the traumatic experience of a pregnant wife horrifically murdered while he’s out of town prevent him from committing terrible acts of his own?”

    With 90% certainty, yes.

    It was (well, allegedly) none other than his very famous actor buddy with the first name of “Jack” who got Polanski into “those things”, and it was for Sharon that Polanski stopped them for good, and got out of the “Hollywood parties”.

    And, amazingly enough, he actually stuck to the promise. Who knows if he would have kept going clean for good and remained a family man? Maybe yes, maybe no. But he did abstain for years, which, in Hollywood terms, is like decades.

    And then, when Sharon and his baby were murdered in such a horrific manner (as was his close friend – who was, in fact, the first actual producer of his short films, which is something that few people seem to know, and never mention), Polanski was so shattered that he thought he had nothing left to live for. He supposedly thought of pulling the trigger a few times, but instead, he went back into the self-(and-not-just-self)destructive lifestyle, now pumping it up by 500%… allegedly, again with Jack-the-mega-famous-actor’s little help.

    And, as it so often happens, when reality hit him hard and cold, he sobered up, realized that he actually didn’t really want to keep doing what he thought he wanted, and got out of that cycle. Of course, by then he’d gone much too far…

  190. By the way, another thing that is practically never mentioned is that Manson was not the first serial killer (yes, I know, he may not have been one legally) who struck at Polanski. Another serial killer struck him earlier, quite literally – by attacking him and nearly killing him. And, unlike Manson, that guy absolutely does fulfill the legal requirements, with multiple victims killed by his own hand.

    That’s right… two separate serial killers targeted Polanski on two separate occasions, in two separate decades, in two separate places, and in two separate countries.

    There’s more on that strange, strange event written out in long detail over on:

    Scene of the Crime

    Roman Polanski and a forgotten serial killer who almost murdered the director decades ago.

    (Personal favorite part: the cop telling young Polanski to be happy that he had such a thick skull, because others didn’t, and that was the only thing that saved his life)

    And, of course, before that, when he was even younger, he was also shot at and narrowly missed by the Gestapo on at least one occasion. I’m not presuming to guess what kind of demons such a string of events may plant inside one’s head, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a guy started wondering if he actually was cursed by Satan and already doomed to have his soul taken by him, which is what the threats thrown at Polanski after “Rosemary’s Baby” claimed, saying that he was destined for Hell…

  191. Somebody brought up the “novelization” in a different thread, so I scrounged up some thoughts about it that I wrote into an email a year or so back. Figured I’d preserve them here for posterity.

    Caution, there be spoilers:

    I don’t hate it. It’s very breezy and readable, and the scenes always end just before you get sick of them.

    Curiously, the main effect the book has is to show how underrated Tarantino is in every aspect of filmmaking except writing. Because you see these scenes on the page, many of them word for word what we saw onscreen, and they have almost no power. They are diverting, sure, but they do not get across the emotion—the dread of the Manson Family sequences, the queasy excitement of the Bruce Lee fight, the unexpected delight of Sharon basking in the audience’s love—that the film scenes did. The writing delivers a certain attitude to the material but it’s everything else—set design, music, editing, and especially acting (Cliff Booth in particular is only at all likable because Brad Pitt is playing him—in the book he’s just a psycho fuckboy with no redeeming qualities). A novelist has to get the feeling of a scene across with just words, but Tarantino’s prose just skims the surface. He merely describes these scenes. He doesn’t animate them. It is an entertaining (if extremely superficial) read but he’s dreaming if he thinks his true vocation is “writer” and not “filmmaker.” When he just has his words to get his point across, he’s going into battle without most of his most effective weapons.

    This is a kinder way of saying that Tarantino relies A LOT on his collaborators. You take away the movie star charisma, the amazing set design, the enormous music licensing budget, and the three-time Oscar-winning cinematography,and you’re left with a clever but hollow voice echoing itself in an empty void. He knows words but it’s everybody around him who give his words life.

    This is true of all filmmakers, of course. Thats why every director is a director and not a novelist.

    People throw the word “plotless” around a lot but this book really, truly is that. The juxtapositions and overall textural coherence of the movie gave the interweaving strands some sense of gathering momentum but there is no progression to the book’s scenes, which follow one another seemingly at random and do not in any way add to each other or build to any kind of cumulative effect. There is a scene of Rick going to work and then there’s a Cliff flashback and then Sharon goes to the movies and then Rick is back at work and then it’s mentioned that Rick does a bunch of Italian movies in the future but we never actually see those scenes or anything afterward, but we do get a non-sequitor scene where Cliff gives alcoholic actor Aldo Ray a bottle of gin even though he’s not supposed to. I would like to stress that this is the novelization of a movie about the Manson family meeting their match, but that scene is not in the book at all. The last scene is a phone call between Rick and the child actress from the LANCER episode. I kinda gotta give it to Quentin: ain’t nobody gonna be able to claim that he ripped this shit off from some old exploitation movie. You’d get your ass kicked out of Hollywood if you even suggested “plotting” a screenplay this way, even back in the shaggy old 70s.

    The climax is Rick deciding to make a spaghetti western and saying “You know what? Maybe being an actor ain’t so bad after all.” The Mansons are not mentioned and have not been in the book for about a hundred pages. Their last scene was the confrontation at Spahn Ranch, which isn’t really a confrontation at all because it leaves out the fight scene and cuts out right after Cliff verifies that George Spahn is not dead. It’s a scene about a guy arriving at a house, waking an old guy from a nap, and leaving without incident. That is the last we hear of the Mansons.

    Inexplicable. This thing in no way works as a standalone story. It’s more of a supplement, like those audio recordings you can listen to at the museum explaining the works of art you’re looking at. Without your memory of the movie lurking in the background, there is no conflict or stakes or resolution to what you’re reading. It’s an entire novel of footnotes.

    Oh, and I forgot: Tarantino actually writes himself into the book TWICE. Once at the end, when he’s a child hanging out with his piano-player stepdad in the bar the cast of LANCER hangs out at after the shoot, and earlier when he references the Oscar nomination the child actress from LANCER would eventually receive for her performance in “Quentin Tarantino’s 1999 remake of John Sayle’s script for the gangster epic THE LADY IN RED.”

    Like I said: inexplicable. But not unentertaining.

  192. Interesting views on the novel, Majestyk and many of your points are spot on, but I kinda liked the fact that QT absolutely refused to give you a “page version” of the movie and instead OUATIH the BOOK functions as a companion piece or “alternate cut” of the movie. Yes, MAJOR events in the films are but a foot note while scenes not in the film get whole chapters, but this worked for me especially after I started reading the book right after another re-watch of the movie. One medium complemented the other, so to speak. I liked that Book Cliff is a far scarier and vicious asshole, so much so that if this version made it into the screenplay that landed on Pitt’s Agent’s desk, it would have been rejected outright as “Off Brand” for Brad.

    But regarding this point of yours:

    “Without your memory of the movie lurking in the background, there is no conflict or stakes or resolution to what you’re reading”

    I don’t object to this, but isn’t this the case of ALL Novelizations of a Film (as opposed to a Novel adapted into one)?

    That they don’t work without the film’s residual imagery in your brain as you read it, that your enjoyment of the book is practically predicated on it?

    I ask this out of sheer curiosity as I’ve never actually read one of these filmic novelizations, and this book represents my absolute first.

  193. I’ve read more than my share of novelizations, first as a youngster who would read anything and then as a writer who thought of them more as writing exercises. I like to see the different methods authors used to realize scenes in prose that have already been visualized. This is a similar process, in my experience, to having to write a scene or describe an image that I can see in my mind’s eye but have not yet figured out a way to translate to words. It’s helpful to see both the successes and failures. A good novelization doesn’t just DESCRIBE the action, but finds a way to emulate the audiovisual qualities of cinema purely through the written word.

    Most novelizations are not very good, unsurprisingly, but some take advantage of the unique properties of the prose by delving deeper into psychology or backstory. (The novelization for THE ABYSS is particularly memorable in this regard). What they all endeavor to do, however, is stand on their own. No writer wants to deliver a half-assed experience that only functions as a companion to another piece of media, so at the very least, novelizations are crafted with a beginning, middle, and end. You can discern the arc of the film’s story without having to see the movie. Indeed, it is my undestanding that a large market for these novelizations were children who were not old enough to see certain movies yet. The books had to function as a substitute for the film, not a supplement.

    That is not the case with OUTIH. If you had never seen the movie, you would find this book wanting in every regard except perhaps film history trivia. Clearly, that is by design–Tarantino never intended the book to function as its own animal. He only intended it to be a companion to the film.

    I think that’s a waste. Give me a different journey than the movie, sure. That’s a great idea. (The GREMLINS novelization famously gave the Mogwai an elaborate extraterrestrial origin.) But you still have to give me a journey. You have to take me somewhere. Don’t just give me a handful of unrelated snapshots and call it a day.

  194. Tarantino writing himself into his novel is like the epitome of his twee, “aren’t I so clever” weirdness. I like Tarantino’s movies, luckily the land juuuust this side of not being annoying. But man, does he think he’s ever so cute.

  195. In retrospect, I don’t hate him writing himself into it. It’s indulgent, yes. Massively so. But indulgence is the point of this entire endeavor. If the book wasn’t indulgent, it wouldn’t exist.

  196. I was really surprised by how unlikeable Book Cliff was. He’s wrong is many disturbing ways.

  197. ” Indeed, it is my understanding that a large market for these novelizations were children who were not old enough to see certain movies yet. The books had to function as a substitute for the film, not a supplement.”

    Ah! I did not know that.

    That goes a long way in re-aligning my perceptions on who these movie tie-in novelizations are aimed at. Was always under the impression they only served that market that had already seen the movie and needed to immerse themselves further in that world they just watched.

    As for QT writing himself into his books, that’s pretty consistent with him writing himself into his movies (cameo, voice-overs etc etc) and extrapolated further, follows an old tradition of creators needing to inject themselves into their art. From Hitchcock to Night Shyamalan.

  198. Vern + Mr. Majestyk = the next Tarantino movie. Read this article and tell me if you think I’m wrong.

    Quentin Tarantino Reveals ‘Movie Critic’ Plot Details: It’s About a ‘Porno Rag’ Journalist

    “The Movie Critic” goes into “pre-pre-production” in Los Angeles this June.

  199. Our two year old discussion aside, this sounds like it could be heavily inspired by the life and work of Charles Bukowski. But knowing Tarantino he’ll have lots of stories going that ends up with someone saving Elvis’ life. Can’t wait to see the recreation of LA in the late 70s.

  200. Thanks Vern. Fantastic review – really enjoy reading all your stuff.

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