Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ★★★★★

Caught the last local showing of this in the theater. My sixth viewing but first time revisiting since October. Some stray observations:

-The Bruce Lee scene shows Cliff butting heads with a new kind of stunt man, an actor who does his own fight scenes, a kind of stunt man who's destined for stardom. Lee will come to represent a new kind of action genre (at least, new to America and new to Cliff). Implicitly, Cliff is recognizing that his brand of stunting is old-fashioned, and he's threatened by what the young Lee is ushering in.

-It's similar to the way that Rick is out of step with the counterculture's ideas of masculinity and relevance. The contrast between new, youthful entertainment and the older studio system is emphasized as Bruce and Cliff fight in front of posters of John Barrymore, the Marx Brothers, and Laurel and Hardy.

-Had never noticed but there's a Will Rogers poster on one of the buildings at Spahn Ranch. An oblique reference to John Ford?

-Absolutely love the Bernard Herrmann cues that are dropped in throughout. By chance, a while ago I happened to be watching the first episode of Have Gun Will Travel, which was scored by Herrmann, and recognized the Bounty Law music. The unused Torn Curtain pieces are a nice touch — moody, era-appropriate, and resurrected from obscurity, like so much else in the movie.

-How innocent is Sharon? She's the girl who made dirty movies in Valley of the Dolls but also is surprised to learn that dirty movies have premieres.

-Also hadn't noticed that the passenger next to Cliff on the plane is reading a Time Magazine with John Wayne on the cover.

-Maybe it's because I've been plowing through a bunch of Ford movies lately, but I was reminded of his brand of comedy with Rick's wife Francesca. During the climax she hides in the bedroom, lets Brandy come into the room with her, and then comically pokes her head out to look down the hallway. Later, she's speaking in Italian to the cop who stands there nonchalantly, not understanding a word she's saying. Something about those two moments reminded me of Ford's style of humor —sociable and slightly exaggerated.

-The pacing of this thing is impeccable. I'm in awe of how it manages to generate forward momentum out of a bunch of disparate episodes.

-The dissolve from Rick and Trudi on the Lancer set to Sharon driving is one of my favorite moments in the film. It visually links two scenes, adds meaning to each, and in a way spells out the whole thesis of the film (i.e. the different stages of a Hollywood career). Unless I'm forgetting one, I think it's the only dissolve in the film.

-I know everyone is stoked that Parasite took home a bunch of Oscars, and I don't put a lot of stock in the Academy Awards, but in a few years I really think people are going to look back and think it's ludicrous Once Upon a Time only won two Oscars. It hands-down should've won Original Screenplay at the very least. For characterization alone, this has to be on the short list of great screenplays in the last fifty years.

-All things being equal, DiCaprio should've gotten an Oscar for playing Rick. A strong case can be made it deserved Director and/or Picture. Have to wonder if it would've won those if it had been released in December instead of July.

-I think I mentioned this in another review, but this strikes me as being Tarantino's Vertigo, the most personal artistic statement by a popular entertainer and a film whose reputation will likely grow over time. A couple decades from now it wouldn't surprise me if the critical consensus settles on this being his most meaningful work.

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