• 1.0 July 2019
  • Certainly like Inglourious and somewhat like Django– this is Tarantino’s correct to rewrite the collective tragic historical past.  Like Pulp Fiction does with the structure of the film with Travolta (and does literally with the OD of Uma)—it resurrects a character (in this case Sharon Tate (played by Margot Robbie)). It also resurrects the dying career of Leo’s Rick Dalton. I think it’s telling that Tarantino chooses these two characters here- Rick and Cliff (an actor and stuntman)- to rewrite history, save Tate, etc. Tarantino doesn’t have an old loved actor to resurrect here like Grier, Carradine, Travolta—he resurrects Tate and an old TV show he loved—an entire town and era and time really
  • While I’m not yet entirely confident in the grade or where this will end up on my top 10 of 2019, my Tarantino ranking, etc—  I am confident that is, yet again, another major accomplishment for Tarantino (my #44 auteur of all-time already) Pitt (my #23 actor of all-time) and DiCaprio (my #20).  Pitt’s cool stoic minimalist no bullshit side-kick is pitch-perfect and DiCaprio’s Rick is as complex a character as he’s played and he pulls it off—and he played (and was terrific) as Howard Hughes
  • An incredible achievement of mise-en-scene for Tarantino, the production design and set design– easily his best work in this department. It contains believable color-saturated production design– or deliberate color motif- almost like the Kieslowski color trilogy or Cuaron’s 90’s work just soaked in the color green—production designer Barbara Ling doesn’t have much of a resume—but Nancy Haigh does and this is the first collaboration with Tarantino- Haigh worked on AI with Spielberg, Bugsy (Oscar win and another detailed Hollywood period piece), Road to Perdition, a ton of Coen brother films— they yellow choice here is important to the film’s artistic achievement. The wolf brand dog food, the shirt(s), car, the yellow album cover, Pitt making yellow Mac and Cheese (absolutely a choice), the Dean Martin “Wrecking Crew” poster—these are all choices
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the yellow poster choice for a film featured within the film– not an accident in a work with this clear of a color palette choice
  • The film has really a three part structure. We start with a day-in-the-life of the three leads- Pitt, DiCaprio and Robbie’s Tate. There’s not a ton of the typical rat-a-tat dialogue from Tarantino here. It luxuriates in his astonishingly and lovingly-recreated 1969. The posters, billboards, local tourist landmarks, great Mexican restaurants and institutions. Small town-ish almost. It is indeed a memory-piece as Tarantino said it was in comparison with Cuaron’s Roma (as Cuaron meticulously recreated entire streets and structures)… driving in cards, hanging out, establishing character—marking the end of an era— slowly and surely—again, much of it is without dialogue (very un-Tarantino)—particularly the Robbie/Tate thread. There are tangents galore in this day-in-the-life—the Bruce Lee fit flashback, the Great Escape dream cutaway (which I don’t love either)—it’s cool to see DiCaprio in the McQueen role—but it would be far more gut-wrenching to stay on DiCaprio’s face as he talks about the sliding door role that never happened and changed the trajectory of his career
  • The second structure is the Italy section with Kurt Russell’s voice-over. I think structurally it is fine as it’s marking the passage of time before the third act which is 6 months later. I don’t love that our narrator is Kurt Russell—who plays a minor character in the film—and he’s giving us information that is not from that character’s point of view or knowledge. It’s a little messy. I especially hate his early “That’s a lie” when Leo’s Dalton fibs about his car being in the shop.
  • I also don’t like that the voice-over is telling us what these actors can easily be told by Pitt and DiCaprio without dialogue. I don’t need a voice-over telling me “these guys are lost and don’t know what they’re going to do next”
  • In many ways it’s his least likely to win the best screenplay Oscar even though it is an excellent flow. But I think the Tarantino film most likely to win production design.
  • There’s so many cinematic references—so much fun to get lost in Tarantino’s homages and influences though here I do think he’s making a point to stick closer to 1969 as a document or reality in comparison with his previous works which were more eclectic—much of what appears on the billboards and what’s playing at the movies is what actually played. I don’t think Franco Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet was an important influential text for Tarantino
  • Extremely metatexual—Timothy Olyphant (who was a “future star” in 1999 and auditioned for roles, amongst others, like Downey’s Tony Stark for Iron Man) telling Leonardo DiCaprio “man that’s a tough break” about a role that DiCaprio’s character went for and didn’t get that could have made him a star… is… well…wild
  • I’ve gone a long way here without mentioning just how damn funny this thing is. Both Pitt and DiCaprio – incredibly funny– “my booze doesn’t need a buddy”
  • Unlike most of QT’s work we have false starts here – this is more description than evaluation but the entire Spahn Ranch/Bruce Dern scene (which is excellent) – is one big formal foreshadow to the epic conclusion.  Within that scene the editing as Pitt and Dakota Fanning go back and forth— magnificent. Canted angles.
  • The third section of the film is after we get back from Rome—the big night August 8, 1969 — 6 months later
  • It’s a linear narrative— and unlike the bulk of QT’s work—there’s no revenge narrative carrying us along the way. Again in many ways this level of floating through the threads (albeit linear here) is Pulp Fiction
  • Tarantino is in love with Hollywood as an industry— it’s infectious
  • I hate comparing films to masterpieces but we’re talking about Tarantino here—it’s worth noting this is not the cinematography (camera movement) showpiece that say Boogie Nights is (also a love-letter to an industry, an era). We may be floating around introducing characters and strands—but yeah—not like this
  • It is also completely BS that it’s taking me this long to get to this but one of the greatest strengths of the film is the sliding doors theme driving (floating may be better than “driving”) our narrative. It’s chance—I wouldn’t call it fate like the Coen brothers—again this is the closest work to Pulp Fiction in this regards. DiCaprio’s Rick was this close to stardom, he just needs a break and he lives next to Roman Polanski. He just missed on the Steve McQueen Great Escape role—what would have happened? What would have happened if the Manson family goes one house over… history is different and Tarantino resurrects Tate, has our two heroes, in a very Tarantino- violent/funny fashion kill them, and we get the sweet ambulance scene with the two buddies and the sliding doors coda as Tate invites Rick in for a drink
  • A shot of the colors at LAX like Jackie Brown, Point Blank
  • No chapters…… I didn’t catch other QT trademarks like the 360 degree shot, the trunk shot or the split diopter— we do, however, have QT’s feet fetish in full effect- it’s all over the place here with Robbie and Margaret Qualley
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QT’s feet fetish in full effect- it’s all over the place here with Robbie and Margaret Qualley
  • I mentioned Cuaron’s Roma and how entire streets were built to get the detail right- again we’re in such good hands with QT– the radio, posters, establishing shots of recreated buildings—I think another comparison could be Spike Lee’s studio backlot remaking of Brooklyn for Do the Right Thing—or even that we have much of an entire film here playing out like Jack Rabbit Slim’s “Wax museum with a pulse” restaurant set piece in Pulp Fiction
  • Another “problem” I had is that horrible opening to the film.  Some will say this is nit-picking and yes, it’s unfair to compare any film to great films but we’re talking about Tarantino and if you compare the black and white television interview here as our toothless opening with the Madonna conversation as we shift around the table at the diner in Reservoir Dogs, the Tim Roth/Amanda Plummer jaw-dropping scene with freeze-frame in Pulp Fiction, the tracking shot of Pam Grier in LAX, the black and white “masochistic” scene in Kill Bill, “the Once Upon A Time In Nazi Occupied Francefrom Inglourious…. Well, this kind of sucks
  • “richly evocative, conceptually jaw-dropping, excessively
    foot-fetishizing, inescapably terrifying and unexpectedly poignant
    movie”. – Los Angeles Times- Justin Chang

2.0 August 2019

  • upon second viewing the formally earned emotional connection is stronger. Instead of laughing at the “great f*cking note” scene and the trailer whiskey sour scene with DiCaprio I had an emotional response. It’s an impeccably crafted (and yes, funny) character by Tarantino and Leo
  • It didn’t feel as tangential the second time around- you are in complete control and Tarantino knows exactly what he’s doing with every aside.
  • key to the resurrection idea with Tate/Robbie is not only her glow and optimism (she’s dancing in almost every scene) but Tarantino pointing us to this saint here
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key to the resurrection idea with Tate/Robbie is not only her glow and optimism (she’s dancing in almost every scene) but Tarantino pointing us to this saint here
  • It’ll take more study at home but I believe there at least 3 crane subtle tracking shots connecting the two neighboring houses and foreshadowing the historical pivot by Tarantino at the end– there’s an interconnectedness– I hesitate to even mention Inarritu (his films often are about the interconnectedness of three characters) because I believe his work, and that of say Amores Perros, was influenced by QT himself with Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction
  • soundtrack– If you had told me before the film that Tarantino uses “California Dreamin” and The Rolling Stones here i would have told him to back off Wong Kar-wai and Scorsese. The entire thing is so well curated but these two drops in particular absolutely slayed me. 
  • so packed full and layered– near the end the Mikey Madison “Sadie” character goes off about how Hollywood to blame for violence and the way they are…. this is Tarantino writing this putting these works in the villains’ collective mouth
  • like above the second viewing showed yellows galore in the mise-en-scene— Robbie’s Tate is almost always wearing outfits draped in yellow, the placement of items all over the place, the yellow acid cigarette– no accident
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like above the second viewing showed yellows galore in the mise-en-scene— Robbie’s Tate is almost always wearing outfits draped in yellow, the placement of items all over the place, the yellow acid cigarette– no accident — the sweater, coffee mug, appliance in the back
  • the hippies on Spahn ranch popping up and multiplying to horrifying effect like the birds on a wire like Hitchcock’s The Birds
  • As far as QT’s ranking– if forced i think right now I’d say 4th but the only one that seems off the table is Pulp Fiction. It’s just so different than some of his works. There’s no trunk shot (i don’t think), no 360 De Palma shot, no split diopter, not as much of that trademark legendary dialogue, no non-linear narrative… but as we’ve documented and agreed upon here this is QT’s zenith when it comes to production design and world-building detail and i think the sliding doors narrative impact atom bomb is even more accomplished than Pulp Fiction in some ways… So yeah– it’s just different and i need time to wrestle with it
  • Must-See/Masterpiece border