February 14, 2022

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Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood: A Blend of Incoherence, Violence, and Class

Once Upon a time in Hollywood

The first Quentin Tarantino film I watched was “Django Unchained”. I was in the university then and the likes of Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr, and Ralph Ellison were our heroes. Racism was one of the most popular subjects and we were united as Africans in our support for what our African American brothers suffered(s) in the states. So when we watched “Django Unchained” (not in class – but nearly everyone in my class saw the film) the response from everyone was a happy catharsis with a bold “serve them right” suffix. But I was taken aback by the show of extreme violence in the movie. It was too much, too much, was my conclusion and to date, I see Jamie Foxx as a thug who happens to be an actor.

“Django Unchained” is a movie I dislike and feel no remorse whatsoever. Watching “Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood” seven years after “Django” I didn’t concern myself with the thoughts of its potential violence mostly because I knew it can never beat the barbarism of “Django” and I love both DiCaprio and Pitt and didn’t think of them as capable of the shocking violence of Django – and even if they were, my impression of them has been formed and wouldn’t have been affected so much by a blood-thirsty director.

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Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood: Incorehence here and there

There are films that don’t make sense and there are films that make sense in their senselessness. And there are films that are a blend of the two. And “Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood” is the latter. I didn’t understand many parts and references in the film. After the movie, I had to read the plot on Wikipedia to understand that half of the characters and situations were factual and the film has a lot of portions which may be termed as factions.

Even now as I write this, I am yet to fully believe that the fight scene between Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) actually happened – it smells like the creation of Booth’s dreamy imagination. The time frame was had to follow and I couldn’t tell before reading Wikipedia whether Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) was actually the one in the cinema watching herself or a clever gatecrasher. And I couldn’t associate her with the person in the playboy mansion. This latter confusion has more to do with the fact that I see all pretty blondes as look-alikes and so missed the fact that the two short-skirted look-alike blondes were actually one and the same character.

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Fast and Furious

It couldn’t tell when the story was going back and when it was on (forward). You see DiCaprio’s character sitting in the middle of his pool listening to his dry music when he was broke and contemplating his future then you see him the same when his career rebooted and he now has a new wife. The manner with which he spoke to the hippies on his driveway was taken from his depressive days and only when I saw his Italian wife speaking her native tongue did I tell it wasn’t flashback but by then it had robbed me of the shock of the fight as I thought this was a rehearsal from the past, a footnote for the main clash in the end. When the credits started rolling, I felt cheated.

Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood: the glory of violence

“Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood” is a post-modernist piece. We leave in the era of violence, that we know – gruesome violence as we saw in “Joker”. We are comfortable and even glorifies violence, Tarantino shows us in the film. In the novel “A Farewell to Arms” the author Ernest Hemingway wrote that: “At the start of the winter came the permanent rain and with the rain came the cholera. But it was checked and in the end, only seven thousand died of it in the army.” Only seven thousand died… seven thousand… only. Just like that, no outrage, no analysis, no details, just the small information that a mere seven thousand people died.

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Angel has Fallen

In the same way, during the fight between the hippies and the main characters, we saw Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) burns a woman alive with his flamethrower in cold blood in his pool. We saw him casually recount what happened to the police with an arrogant cigarette in his mouth puffing unremorseful smoke. His next-door neighbors, the director Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch) and his wife Sharon Tate whom he dies to befriend in order to resuscitate his standing in Hollywood invite him in for a drink as a kind of compensation for the little disturbance that cost him his music time.

Did Mr. Booth really kill his wife? Judging by the ferocity with which he beat the hippy who deflated his tire, I think he is capable of running into a rage and overdoing things and break his wife’s neck. And Rick Dalton will give him a part in the back for this. It is the age of violence.

It is a powerful movie

“Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood” is a great movie. The performances of Brad Pitt and DiCaprio were top-notch. It made all the difference and I doubt if these roles were played by some other actors if they would have had the same effects. DiCaprio for one was hot. One moment he was all weepy and helpless, crying on his friend’s shoulder or been consoled by an eight-year-old girl, the next moment, he was threatening to blow someone’s head off, mostly his. He was great. I think it was the reviewer in Cinemablend who said this was DiCaprio’s best performance ever. I disagree, his roles in “Blood Diamond”, “Django Unchained”, and “The Wolf of Wall Street” were stronger.

Is Gemini Man that bad?

Tarantino’s recreation of the 1960s Los Angeles was strong and believable. And one aspect that was most impressive was the hippies. The scene where Brad Pitt appeared in George’s ranch full of hippies and saw his old friend despite the hippies’ hurdles and hostilities was the most powerful scene.

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Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood has its shortcomings with the confusing holes in the plot and all that but it turned out great. There are some who would have an issue with the violence, there are some who will have issues with the portrayal of women, and there are some who would have issues with the portrayal of Bruce Lee such as his family, and there are things in the movies that show their concerns are not misplaced. But there are no perfect movies and “Once” is not a perfect movie but it is a good movie, a 7/10 movie for me.

Image source: Vox


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