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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

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C

Boring and aimless for 9/10 of the movie. I read somewhere that this meandering was in part a consequence of not having Harvey Weinstein reining him in. Probably so. Definitely needed an editorial eye. Reminds me of The Counselor. Another failed, meaningless movie by a top notch director. Quite disappointed and surprised by what is Tarantino’s first failure (not counting Death Proof)

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I wondered if the question has ever been raised:

 

What would happen if Quentin Tarantino made a film inspired by Wong Kar-wai's Chungking Express? That's the vibe I got from this film: a meaningful portrait of pop culture with many loosely connected stories happening in the same general location.

 

Tarantino is in full command of the craft, dedicating blood, sweat, and tears to provide a window into his personal nostalgia that oozes cinematic "cool".

 

This--yes, this--is what film can do.

 

10/10

 

(Yeah, there's some slow parts, but it's riveting nonetheless. Don't go in expecting Kill Bill. And, no, I'm not spoiling the ending for you. See it in a theater with a reactionary crowd--it'll go down as one of the best movies of the year, and you'll be kicking yourself for missing it.)

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It's definitely Tarantino's most subdued film since Jackie Brown, and the fact that the first big explosion of violence doesn't occur until 2 hours in is probably gonna disappoint the GA and maybe even some of his fans. Nevertheless, even though he's been putting out solid films consistently over his career, I've been hoping for Tarantino to return to the style of his earlier, pre-Kill Bill films, especially after what I thought was a slight misstep with The Hateful Eight, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood comes closest. However, while I can say that I loved it for the most part, it's still far from a masterpiece.

 

Ever since the unfortunate passing of Sally Menke (RIP), it feels like Tarantino's have gotten longer and more bloated, and this one suffers from that in many places. Say what you will about Tarantino's status as an auteur, she really did a great job at tightening up his films, and it seems like Fred Raskin isn't stringent enough with his editing choices. Maybe we can cut back on some of those scenes of Cliff driving around LA? Or the one bizarre sequence where Sharon Tate walks past the movie theater to go to buy a book, and then goes back to the movie theater? Earlier in his career, regardless of their length, Tarantino's films always felt like a breeze. Now they're starting to feel 3 hours long.

 

The film's extra-slow pace, along with what was maybe a lack of narrative heft, almost made me bump down my grade to a B until the final act, which just blew me away. Easily Tarantino's best scene since the ending of Inglourious Basterds, perhaps even since the battle at the House of Blue Leaves in Kill Bill, Vol. 1. Even the buildup to the climax, as narrated by Kurt Russell, does a fantastic job of creating tension that's released in the best way possible.

 

Some stray thoughts:

- Margot Robbie was excellent as Sharon Tate. In the scene where Tate watches The Wrecking Crew, she brilliantly conveys this aura of innocence with an underlying feeling of sadness and melancholy accompanied by the real-life tragedy. Sadly, I don't think she'll get much attention from awards groups and the Academy because of how little time she has on-screen.

- Speaking of drawn-out, unnecessary scenes, I feel like you could've cut out Damon Herriman as Charles Manson from the movie entirely. His one scene really doesn't serve much of a purpose.

- I was hoping for a larger payoff for Bruce Lee as a character, to be honest. Even after his fight with Cliff, he way he was alluded to in his brief interaction with Tate and his standalone scene in the final act made it seem like he would play a larger role in the climax.

 

A-

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I found the entire film really enjoyable.  It meanders a bit, but I was thoroughly engaged in the meandering.  It paints a nice mosaic of a turning point in Hollywood movie styles and poses a “what if” scenario that pays off big time in the films ending.

 

DiCaprio and Pitt were a breeze to watch. It didn’t matter what their character was doing, my eyes were glued and entertained.

 

The shift in styles at the last portion of the movie is a bit jarring in the moment but it ends up being quite effective and packs a major punch.  It brings all of threads placed earlier in the movie together and is a cathartic moment.  And in a way, it demonstrates the shift in Hollywood styles effectively (the restrained, slower paced section leading up to the turning point where the fast paced craziness is unleashed)

 

Loved it, as the movie points out, they don’t make em like they used to!

 

A

Edited by The Panda
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I liked the movie but something didn't grab me so it kept it from being great for me.  I think I liked it more after I described it to someone that would never watch it, and I got more joy out of explaining it and enjoying the funny moments even more.

 

It could easily have been shorted and tightened up so I think that criticism is legitimate.

 

He did a good job at catching the vibe at that time and the look of it too.

 

The whole Sharon Tate and Manson stuff was like 2% of the movie and almost a McGuffin, but yes obviously it was needed to set up the ending which yes I really liked and wish it was real and not fictional.  Totally predictable ending though.  Of course not in the specifics like the dog food and dog and flame thrower :P  but the trailer and it being a QT gave away that the murders at the house were not going to happen

 

So overall, it is an enjoyable film that for me, just missed being great.  So I give it probably a B

Edited by 75Live
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19 hours ago, Alpha said:

- I was hoping for a larger payoff for Bruce Lee as a character, to be honest. Even after his fight with Cliff, he way he was alluded to in his brief interaction with Tate and his standalone scene in the final act made it seem like he would play a larger role in the climax.

 

You mean ANY role? I didn't understand his usage either. 

 

The 2 leads make the film very enjoyable but the story is bizarre even for a QT movie 

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This is more of a character driven film which is quite rare in today’s day and age which what makes Once Upon A Time In Hollywood very good! Brad Pitt and Leo did a great job! The other cast members did great too. Margot Robbie did a good job as Sharon Tate and was quite beautiful. And Kurt Rusell’s narration bits were entertaining.

 

Also the setup and style of Hollywood was fantastic! The looks of Hollywood, Tarantino pulled this one off excellent! Longer film to talk about, but this and Shaft are now definitely my top 2 of the summer and of 2019 thus far! 

I think with a second viewing I may give it higher, but for now a very high 88-89% B+

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I think people aren't being honest with themselves because Tarantino made this, but this movie is a mess, script-wise and editing wise. The directing and acting is great as always, but Tarantino seemed to have this novel in his head, and it really didn't translate well to the screen. I love Tarantino's films, but this is the first one that really felt off to me. Don't get me wrong. Tarantino is a talented director, and generally speaking an amazing writer, but this time, I think he got a bit too indulgent. 

 

I'm reminded of AOTC. People didn't hate on it like they did TPM, but years later it was considered the worst SW movie. I feel down the road people will come to terms with this not being Tarantino's best work. The 92% or whatever it is on RT is undeserved. 

 

Maybe with more cutting or a slightly better script, this film would have been a masterpiece. 

 

With that said, Tarantino is still one of the greatest director's of all-time and even the greatest director's make bad movies from time to time. 

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^ I'm on board with this review. Up to the last scenes, I'm sure most of the people at my screening were wondering where the fuck is this movie going?  Unfortunately,  lot of Margot Robbie's scenes could have actually been cut and it wouldn't have affected the movie one bit. 

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More than anything else, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the newest film from writer-director Quentin Tarantino, is a movie that loves movie stars and the power they hold over the public imagination. After years of indulging in blood-soaked revenge fantasies, Tarantino opts for a change of pace with a more relaxed, character-driven approach, and the result is his strongest film since Inglourious Basterds and a top-tier entry in an exceptional career. The dialogue and character interactions glisten in Tarantino’s typical fashion, keeping the proceedings alternately amusing, engaging, and tense throughout the entire running time despite a relative paucity of action. The narrative isn’t so interested in a traditional plot as it is in exploring how actors confront their own celebrity (or lack thereof) at various points in their careers and the threats that newfangled trends present to their once-comfortable way of life, and this exploration is a deep, fascinating one that will leave viewers with plenty to unpack afterward. And while I do not want to say too much in this spoiler-free capsule review, Tarantino also succeeds in upending audience expectations in a manner that initially seems too surprising to believe, but ultimately gels nicely with the film’s broader thematic concerns and casts its messaging about actors and their craft in a different, even more intriguing light. As one would expect in both a film that worships actors in general and a Tarantino film in particular, the entire ensemble is outstanding. Leonardo DiCaprio does not disappoint in his first film since his Oscar win for The Revenant. Tarantino and DiCaprio embrace the irony of casting a revered actor who is arguably near the peak in his commercial powers as a washed-up veteran struggling to confront his fall from fame, and the resulting performance is a well-mannered one that balances off-the-wall comedy with genuine pathos. In many ways, DiCaprio succeeds in making his character feel like a fictional representation of Tarantino’s penchant for revitalizing the careers of once-popular actors in his films; DiCaprio’s work as Rick Dalton argues for the case that these stars, however flawed, deserved their chance to rediscover their talents. Brad Pitt is also terrific as DiCaprio’s stunt double, utilizing an easygoing, laid-back demeanor to brilliant effect. There’s a sense that he knows his place in Hollywood is dependent upon DiCaprio’s character’s ability to get work, yet his acceptance of his place keeps him from existential dread. Margot Robbie’s role as Sharon Tate is not as prominent as one might believe from her star power, but she’s highly effective in a largely nonverbal role in which she displays innocence and joy at celebrity status that DiCaprio’s Dalton has lost; Robbie captures that joy perfectly in a scene in which Tate watches herself in a movie, giddily lapping up her character's most significant moments and pantomiming some of the action. The rest of the sprawling ensemble also boasts an array of excellent small parts in which the actors capitalize perfectly upon Tarantino’s brief but juicy material. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood isn’t quite the film I expected going in, but therein lies its power; it’s a superb blast of fresh air whose well-executed twists and turns prove that Tarantino remains as fresh as ever and still has some damn fine tricks up his sleeve. 

 

A

 

Stray Thoughts:

- About that ending: I really did not see that coming, but should have given Tarantino's tendencies for historical revisionism, relatively happy endings (or at least endings in which the antagonists unambiguously get their comeuppance), and movie star adoration. In hindsight, there was no way he was ever going to let anyone murder Sharon Tate, historical record be damned. Letting her live and allowing Rick Dalton to have his career resurrection despite heavy foreshadowing that both are headed toward death presents a highly idealized version of stardom in which innocence survives, what was cool once can be cool again, and existential threats can be snuffed out even if they seem destined to prevail. Tarantino loves his vision of Hollywood too much to let any malicious outsiders corrupt it.

 

- I loved the symmetry of the opening and ending as they pertain to Cliff Booth. At the beginning, we hear how Booth's job is to do dangerous tasks to protect Dalton from injuries that would render him unable to do his job. Essentially, Booth's job as a stuntman is to act as a proxy for Dalton in the most dangerous situations and allow an unscathed Dalton to enjoy the badass moments after the danger has passed. In the end, Booth does the dangerous task of killing two of the three Manson family members and injuring the third while sustaining an injury himself, all to allow Dalton to then enjoy the badass moment of dispatching the third with a flamethrower from a position of safety.

 

- The scenes with the child actress are amazing, even with the trailer spoiling the payoff. Dalton wins the respect of a younger generation that has every reason to see him as a washed-up relic that has lost sight of the craft of acting and his place in a changing culture.

 

- Mike Moh's brief appearance as Bruce Lee is also awesome. Moh is practically hypnotic in his imitation of Lee, and the payoff with a pissed-off Zoe Bell and Kurt Russell got a huge rise out of my audience.

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On 7/25/2019 at 8:34 PM, lilmac said:

C

Boring and aimless for 9/10 of the movie. I read somewhere that this meandering was in part a consequence of not having Harvey Weinstein reining him in. Probably so. Definitely needed an editorial eye. Reminds me of The Counselor. Another failed, meaningless movie by a top notch director. Quite disappointed and surprised by what is Tarantino’s first failure (not counting Death Proof)

 

I agree with you 100%.  I really didn't know what I was watching most of the time.  You think it's about Rick Dalton and him fading into the sunset.  And then it goes into the Booth stuff where he goes to the ranch.  Then the Sharon Tate story really doesn't go anywhere.  It just seemed like there was another movie in here somewhere but it got lost in the editing room.  The acting is fantastic, as it always is in a Taratino film, but for the first 90% f the movie, you're just wondering where the film is going and what it's really about.  And the Manson stuff just kind of killed whatever good will you were hoping to give it because it's just so strange and over the top.  I get that Tarantino likes to rewrite history in his movies, but this time it was just too much for me.

 

6/10

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On 7/26/2019 at 7:16 PM, excel1 said:

You mean ANY role? I didn't understand his usage either. 

Pretty sure the fight between Lee and Cliff was to set Cliff up as someone that can more than handle himself, so that there's no question about him taking on the 3 at the house later on.

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Tarantino isn't quite one of my favorite filmmakers (love some, not so enamored with others) but I actually loved this and have it as my #1 of the year so far. I feel like we see a more grown up side to him that we've never seen before here (for once, the N word is nowhere to be found, thankfully) even though this still very much a Tarantino film, as this works as both a tribute to Hollywood of 50 years ago and as an alternative version of what could've gone down on that horrendous August night. This might not have needed to be nearly 3 hours long, but I didn't feel the length at all as I was instantly caught up in its universe. The production and costume design perfectly recreate the era and makes us feel like we've been transported back to 1969 LA. He also get top-notch work out of his entire cast. Leonardo DiCaprio uses his dramatic acting chops for humorous effect (I wish he would make more comedies, as his comic timing is perfect) and has great chemistry with Brad Pitt (giving one of his best performances). And then there's Margot Robbie, who doesn't have a whole lot to do but perfectly captures the warmth of Sharon Tate in a bittersweet performance. I also thought the ending, while brutally violent, was amazing and tastefully handled. I look forward to whatever awards love this gets this upcoming season. A-

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https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2019-07-31/bruce-lee-tarantino-once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood

 

This is a really good article on this whole thing that I suggest everyone read.  It gives a look to BOTH sides of the argument.

 

 

Here are a few excerpts:

 

“I think the movie is about the burden that certain idols have had to bear,” said veteran film critic Walter Chaw, who sees the scene as one in which Lee doesn’t lose, even if he’s knocked down a peg. “Bruce Lee has become posterized or memed to this point where he’s this wise Eastern philosopher who was also indestructible. The amount of rage around the idea that Bruce Lee could even be beaten in battle is really disturbing to me, because it dehumanizes him.”

 

At the time of his brief 1966-67 run on “Green Hornet” as Kato, sidekick to the titular superhero, Lee might have felt a kinship to Dalton, a TV star with an uncertain future and something to prove — particularly for Lee as a rare Asian American star scrapping to claim space for himself in white-dominated Hollywood. Portraying Lee as anything less than his mythical legend in that scene, Chaw argues, adds dimension to how we think of him.

 

And about that scene in particular.

 

Are there details embedded within the text of the film, as specific and referential as Dalton’s faux spaghetti western posters, that might offer deeper context to Lee’s brief appearance in “Once Upon a Time”? The flashback fight scene, for example, is framed as Cliff’s memory; remembering Bruce Lee as a blowhard chump he beat up might be an easier explanation for his stalled career than the whispered accusations of domestic violence that trail him.  The scene opens on the Fox lot where “Green Hornet” was filmed, panning down from a billboard for the Pearl Harbor war drama “Tora! Tora! Tora!” — a film that wouldn’t be released until 1970, three years after “Green Hornet” was canceled. Lee’s later-era hairstyle too is anachronistic, another indicator that Cliff’s memory, or even the film’s memory, is subject to hazy misremembering.

 

I noticed the Tora Tora Tora billboard in the background, but I didn't know that that came out so much later than Green Hornet. I promise it wasn't done on accident either.

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Just go back from the show & I gotta say I loved it!!  The whole vibe was fantastic - really captured that era in time - my Dad had that Cadillac but in blue & I can still remember driving around with the windows down & the radio blasting.  Leo & Brad were fantastic & Margot was wonderful as Sharon - so sweet & lovable with her wonderful life all ahead of her.  Leo had me laughing so much - really loved his performance.  Growing up in the 70s we were all fascinated with Helter Skelter - the book & the miniseries & oh how I wish this ending would have been the reality - me & my sister were quite emotional at the ending.  An A for me - I hope to see nominations for this.

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You could have cut an hour of this and lost nothing.  There's probably just fifteen minutes of people's feet or aimlessly driving around LA.  If I hadn't known "the ending was good" I would've walked out.  I used my Comp/Loyalty points for this and STILL feel cheated out of my time and money.

 

Was the acting good?  Yes.  Terrific, as a matter of fact.  Were there some good scenes.  Yes.  I thought the whole sequence of him filming the Western with the Young Girl was great.  As was Pitt's storyline with the Mason girl and the scenes on the Ranch.

 

But one or two good scenes in a TWO AND A HALF HOUR MOVIE is not enough.  It does not make it a good film.  And the third act -- basically everything after the "Six Months Later" felt like a different movie.  More focused, more confident.

 

And I find it so disappointing because I know there was great film in there. But it wasn't what we watched.

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I think the idea of the entire movie taking place 85% over 1 day and 15% another night 6 months later was a mistake.

 

This needed a more cohesive story alas Django 

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