"I'll just get my gear."

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.

140 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.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>