Dat male gaze dough
Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood (2019): A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood's Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.
Quentin Tarantino is back! The 9th film from the so-called "Godfather of indie films" turns the self-indulgence and self-referential humor up to 11 while inexplicably doing everything he can to derail an otherwise enjoyable film. That's right, folks. The worst thing about Quentin Tarantino's latest film is.... Quentin Tarantino. But, despite Tarantino trying so hard to be the most Tarantino possible, the final product is still a somewhat enjoyable one, thanks entirely to its once-in-a-generation collaboration between two of modern Hollywood's most recognizable stars. Which makes all the Tarantino aspects of this film THAT MUCH MORE FRUSTRATING.
Ok. Look. Before I trash Quentin Tarantino's distracting storytelling style, I should tell you: like every self-proclaimed film buff, I love Quentin Tarantino films. When his style works, it's iconic. I will never forget how I felt when Lt. Hicox held up three fingers the wrong way. Or when Pumpkin decided to hold up a random diner that's not-so-random. Or when any Christoph Waltz character did anything in a Tarantino film. When it works, it works! But when it doesn't, you'll find yourself bored out of your mind, wanting to SCREAM at the screen to move along. This film DRAGS. The Hateful Eight did too, but that film also heavily featured a Tarantino trait that is sorely lacking for most of Once Upon a Time….. tension. Without any sort of tension, Tarantino's overzealous style becomes glaringly distracting, and it does everything it can to derail an otherwise perfectly enjoyable film. Also, where TF are the women?? The male gaze is disturbingly obvious here. Let's not forget Tarantino was BFFs with Harvey Weinstein, and the legendary Uma Thurman had some things to say about his…. abusive directing style once the #MeToo movement was in full force. So, what does Tarantino do in his first post- #MeToo film? Have a female lead who's rich, dynamic, and interesting? Hahahaha NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT. MARGOT ROBBIE HAS NOTHING TO DO BUT BE CAUGHT IN SQUARELY IN THE MALE GAZE. About 2 hours in, when Sharon Tate (Robbie) FINALLY goes to a local movie theater to watch herself in one of her films, she had had basically one line of meaningless dialogue the entire film. (Yes, that one scene from the trailer is basically her only meaningful scene in the ENTIRE film) For the first TWO FREAKING HOURS, Tarantino spent more time uncomfortably checking her out with the camera than actually letting her speak. After SKIRTING by the #MeToo movement…. This ain't a great look, Quentin. Oh, and if you think any other woman will have a notable part to play in this film….. lol! Think again. Squeaky (Dakota Fanning) has ONE SCENE. She was probably on set for a single freaking day! Sure, the same goes for George, (Bruce Dern) but if only the old white dudes were ignored as much as the women. JAY SEBRING (Emile Hirsch) HAS AS MUCH DIALOGUE AS MARGOT ROBBIE. WHAT ARE YOU DOING, QUENTIN. Pussycat (Margaret Qualley) has one scene too, and it's there entirely to serve one of the male leads. And I haven't even mentioned the controversy surrounding Bruce Lee's character! Which is a major problem in and of itself. Seriously, this film flirts with being a #MAGA's wet dream, and the further I get away from it, the more frustrated I am by it.
(Deep breath.) That said…. Maybe it's because Tarantino has unlimited budget and clout in Hollywood at this point, but damnit….this film is also so freaking charming. When you accept this film is essentially a buddy picture between two best friends who happen to be played by two of the biggest stars in the world, who have somehow never shared a silver screen before, in a nostalgia-driven 1960s fantasia Hollywood…. yes, you will have a good time. Leo and Brad are iconic! Leonardo DiCaprio, playing the lead Rick Dalton, in his first role since winning his Oscar no less, reminds us why he is one of the greatest living actors today. And his dynamic with the equally rich Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is palpable and (frustratingly) worth the cost of admission. Both Dalton and Booth are incredibly fleshed out and have a great relationship with each other and everyone around them as the events of the film drive them apart and bring them back together. And the nostalgic odes to classic Hollywood are intoxicating. How many directors would be able to revert the actual Sunset Blvd to its 1969 state? The attention-to-detail is incredible. Just give them the Oscar for Best Production Design right now. These tracking shots are so cool! And the music is so good! Tarantino's taste in music is impeccable once again! H!
This film is so polarizing! It's propped up squarely by its two iconic (white male) leads, while leaving its female star in the dust. The male gaze is so infuriating. Its director does everything he can to ruin the experience. And its ending..... is something. I wasn't a huge fan of the moment where Tarantino finally went full Tarantino at the hands of an acid-dipped cigarette. Your mileage will vary with this ending, but I will put it squarely in my rearview. As I will the rest of this film. Why oh WHY did we have to waste this iconic duo on Tarantino? Can we get a do-over, please? Hey, Damien Chazelle, you watching this?
The Critique: Despite having one of the most iconic collaborations of the 21st century as its leads, Once Upon a Time squanders any hope of greatness at the hands of its overzealous director.
The Recommendation: Film buffs will rush out to see this if they haven't already, but the rest of you? Just rewatch Rocketman or something.
My Number: 4/10
Even though we stayed out long past midnight, we were up early once more with our final day in Cannes. The final day of our accreditation program coincided with the final day of the festival, which meant the primary venue was screening the "best of fest" films. This gave me the opportunity to see the film that won Best Actor, (Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory) Best Actress (Emily Beecham, Little Joe) and the ultimate winner of the prestigious Palme d'Or. (Bong Joon-ho, Parasite) Quite an action-packed day that started bright and early at 8 AM!
Pain and Glory
The queue for Parasite was absolutely insane. And this was before it officially won the Palme d'Or.
And with that, our journey through the wonderful world of Cannes came to a depressing end. For 3 delirious days, we were at the pinnacle of the movie world: not watching the cultural conversation through the lens of social media, but actually at epicenter of it all. It was nothing short of incredible, and something which I look forward to repeating next year in my final year of eligibility for this program. Till next year, Cannes!
The intro that greeted us before every film during the festival. It's kind of cheesy, but it's undeniably iconic.
After sprawling out on a Mediterranean beach until the wee hours of the early morning drinking cheap wine with great company, our journey through Cannes continued with an early morning screening of the new Terrence Malick film, A Hidden Live. At least, it should have. The film gods had something else in store for my early morning screening.
Chambre 212 (On a Magical Night)
Il Traditore (The Traitor)
The first real day of my adventure in Cannes began bright and early with a 9 AM screening at the venue's premier theater, the Grand Theatre Lumiere, for a screening of Xavier Dolan's latest work. We also had a chance to see a film at another venue, the Salle Debussy, which on the outside looks like a tent, but on the inside had some of the best seats in the entire festival. We also took advantage of our accreditation program and saw two films at the Les Arcades, including the best film I saw at the entire festival. Onward!
Matthias & Maxime
The view inside the Grand Theatre Lumiere. Easily a 2k capacity movie theater!
Sorry We Missed You
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
This year, I was fortunate enough to experience one of the oldest, most prestigious film festivals in the world in Cannes, France. I made the most of my trip, seeing 13 films both during my 3 day accreditation program, as well as the day before the accreditation began. This journal will chronicle the films I saw during those dizzying days, the highs and the lows, the good, the bad, and the downright bizarre. (But, for real.... Wounds, though.)
This entry chronicles the films I saw before my accreditation began. There is another film festival the runs simultaneous to Cannes, the Quinzaine, or Directors' Fortnight. We were fortunate enough to see a premier on our prelude day, as well as one of the craziest bad films you'll ever see. First on our journey, though, was a trip to the Olympia, (a cineplex in Cannes) to see the film that opened the festival.
The Dead Don't Die
Fortunately, the fun is just beginning. Now, we step into the big leagues with the first day of our journey.
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