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Saturday, August 3, 2019

Once Upon a Time ... In Hollywood: Masterful Alternate Reality



My wife and son and I just saw Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time ... In Hollywood at our son's invitation. He's an even bigger Tarantino fan than I am, and my wife liked a couple of his earlier movies too.

The latest is among the best three Tarantino ever made - right up with Reservoir Dogs (in a class by itself) and Jackie Brown, which was just an all-out brilliant movie.  I use the phrase "alternate reality" in the title of this review.  As many of you know, I'm a science fiction author, and a copious reviewer of science fiction television series and movies.  I don't mean to suggest that Once Upon a Time is science fiction alternate reality, in the way that, say, the recently departed Counterpart on television was.   But as the title surely suggests, Once Upon a Time is a fable, neither docu-drama (though it does touch upon many aspects of real history) nor sheer fiction.

And the aspects of reality woven into this marvelous movie that takes place in 1969 Hollywood range from Bruce Lee to Mannix on television to the Playboy mansion to Charles Manson and Sharon Tate.  The fictitious characters are headlined by Rick Dalton (a somewhat washed up 1950s TV Western actor) and his stunt man double, Cliff Booth.  Rick is played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Cliff by Brad Pitt.  I've been saying ever since the two began burning up the screen decades ago that their looks almost made them interchangeable.  It was good to see Tarantino finally build a movie around this.

The movie is chocked full of memorable scenes, including Sharon Tate enjoying her own movie, Cliff getting the better of Bruce Lee in either a fantasy or a flashback, and Al Pacino playing a agent whose name is Schwarz and insists that people don't call him Schwartz (I've known a few people named Schwarz over the years, and have always been aggravated that I couldn't call them Schwartz).  And a plethora of great lines, including Dalton exulting in fried "sour kraut" when he takes a flame thrower to Nazis in an audition for a movie.  (I wouldn't be surprised if Tarantino came up with that line when he was 15, and was just waiting for a chance to write a scene in which he put it into a movie.)  And a full-house of great stars, most of them no youngsters, playing all kinds of bit and bigger parts, as per just about all Tarantino movies.

But the best part - and I won't say more, lest I give too much away - is the ending of the movie, which is why I say this movie is alternate reality (or alternate history, depending on how you look at it).  With so much of our reality animating this fable, Tarantino lulls us into thinking that just about everything will be the same.  It isn't, and that what's wraps up this wonderful package of what will go down as a quintessential Tarantino masterpiece.


real alternate reality, if that makes any sense
"flat-out fantastic" - Scifi and Scary


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