Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★½

The first movie I went to opening night since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 and it's a Quentin Tarantino flick. I feel like I'm 15 years old again.

To some strange extent, All of the films in Quentin Tarantino's filmography are fairy tale riffs on Hollywood history. Looking back on my relationship with the man and his films, from my humble beginnings as the living breathing definition of the term "film bro" to the cynical and mildly pretentious film student I am now, Quentin Tarantino feels like less the mastermind visionary I thought of as a teenager and more like a DJ playing his favorite records (which literally happens all the time in this movie). Blaxploitation, Western, Martial Arts, Noir, any and every B-Movie genre imaginable, Quentin Tarantino has spun them all and remixed them to his will to the point it creates a veil where all of his films seem to take place in a purely cinematic universe. He's his own goddamn MCU.

By setting the film in Hollywood and having it be about all of the films and TV he grew up loving, Tarantino has effectively added ANOTHER layer of cinema on top of his already absurd referential love for film in the first place. Scene by Scene, Once Upon a Time Hollywood switches genres on the drop of a dime as Rick Dalton (Leonardo Dicaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) change film sets. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the ultimate Quentin Tarantino playground for him to do whatever the hell he wants and to emulate all of the media he loves.

I guess this is a pretty roundabout way of going about saying a fairly simple declaration: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the most Quentin Tarantino movie Quentin Tarantino has ever Quentin Tarantino’d, and it doubles down on everything that has made him one of the most loved directors of a generation and it's most polarizing.

As much as Tarantino runs wild here, he also runs wild in all the ways 2019 will have a field day with. I can’t put this mildly: there are so many dirty fucking feet in this movie that it borderlines on self parody. It's hard to call Quentin Tarantino self aware when a scene that subtly takes jabs at Roman Polanski and the sexual climate of Hollywood in that era also has a DIRTY PAIR OF FEET IN FRAME THE ENTIRE DAMN TIME. The male gaze is very real, and despite feeling like a realistic depiction of how women of the era were captured on celluloid, all the future articles ranting about how Tarantino's cinema isn't necessary in 2019 are 100% valid.

Yet Quentin Tarantino is aware of this. Despite this obvious lack of self-awareness in regards to the way he films women, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood might be Tarantino's most self aware film in every other aspect. It's no coincidence that the film's protagonists are losing their place in the world of film as it grows up without them. We now look back at the past with the frame of mind of how dated it is, and Tarantino has remixed a dream of the past into a Hollywood fairy tale that serves the present. On his own terms of course.

Tarantino's POV of classic cinema is layered AGAIN on top of a filtered outlook on 60's Hollywood, and that creates a dichotomy between the "real world" and the "film world" of the setting. This juxtaposition conjures a sensation that the entire film is a Quentin Tarantino movie being filtered through another Quentin Tarantino movie (which actually happens). It's kitsch built upon kitsch, and include the male-gaziness of it all I can easily see why this will be Tarantino's most divisive film.

I came into Once Upon a Time in Hollywood expecting it to be the film where I finally confirm that it's time for me to hang it up on my love for his career. I'm not the teenage boy I once was, and 2019 me couldn't imagine falling head over heels for the world of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. As Tarantino came into the film the most self aware of his own place as a director, I came into the film the most self aware of his antics I've ever been. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood obviously panders to film lovers, historians, nostalgia for 60's L.A., and history revisionism a la The Manson Family here.

There's just one problem:

That's me.

Like, literally me.

Quentin Tarantino just Ready Player One'd my ass and I ate it up.

How the "real world" and "film world" clash, collide, and completely blur in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is absolutely masterful. The way the Manson story is played with and molded like clay is easily the implementation of revisionist history in all of Tarantino's career. The film frames a love for cinema as the ultimate "good" in the characters, and it's as silly as it is endearing. Even though her character is more of an evocation of how she was portrayed vs. a living breathing "real" character, Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate captures the magic of loving movies in such a wholesome and sincere way her performance is a joy. Every scene with child actress Julia Butters she steals the entire fucking scene and it's insane how good she is. And of course, the cinematography is glorious and the soundtrack fucking brings it. As much as Once Upon a Time in Hollywood can meander and wander the streets of L.A., I never wanted to leave.

I don't think a 10th film is necessary: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the ultimate Quentin Tarantino mission statement, and the film that best defines him, the good and the stupidly horny, in his classic filmography. He should bow his head knowing that even though his moment is up, his films will live in the playground of the past where he will remain as an undeniable legend of the screen.

I hate how much I absolutely LOVE this.

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