Everybody Comes to Hollywood (Film Thoughts: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)

large_8j58iEBw9pOXFD2L0nt0ZXeHviBI can’t remember the last time a film made me so conflicted about whether I liked it or not. Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’ is definitely a head-scratcher for me. I will acknowledge that it is well-made, and has that Tarantino stamp. I have never been a fan of his films – they are fine, for sure, but all of them are just too “bro” for my taste. There’s a certain tenderness in OUATIH that makes me like it a little more than the others.

The film is a love letter to a certain time; Los Angeles in the late 60s. The production values are top notch – you really do feel like you are transported to that specific era – Brad Pitt’s character Cliff Booth listens to the radio and you can even hear the commercials of the time, and of course I was fascinated by the perfume ones. I think I liked that a little more now that I love in Los Angeles – it was interesting for me to physically see how certain streets and monuments looked then – I say it’s a shoo-in for a Production Design nomination at the very least.

But the screenplay was just not enough for me to really get into – an episodic hodge podge of points in Rick Dalton’s life. Rick is an aging actor, played by Leonardo di Caprio, who has maybe seen better days – he has now been relegated to playing bad guys on television shows, even as he is offered leads in Spaghetti Westerns. He has a sidekick of sorts, Cliff Booth, who serves as a paid friend/driver.¬† We see them go from gig to gig, as they live their showbiz lives. And they live next door to Sharon Tate, played by Margot Robbie, a rising actress who starred in ‘Valley Of The Dolls.’ And just when you think you know where the story is going with those details, Tarantino gives you a surprise ending.

I don’t know how I felt about that. On one hand, I don’t know if I want another movie about the Manson murders (Didn’t I just see one, ‘Charlie Says?’) yet I also got where QT was going here, as this is a fairy tale of Los Angeles in that specific time. All in all, this movie is ultimately not really for me, even if I enjoyed some specific parts of it.¬† I gotta give it credit for making me think, and making me feel differently.

Jump For Your Life (Film Thoughts: I, Tonya)

large_Tonya-posterTonya Harding  Рshe fascinates me. I remember the 1994 Lillihammer Winter Olympics vividly РI was glued to the television set while it was on, especially after all the controversy involving her Рshe was involved in having someone whack the knees of her main opponent, Nancy Kerrigan, before the qualifications. It was high drama at its finest.

And now we have ‘I, Tonya,’ which is a film based on those events. Craig Gillespie has mad a funny, mocking film about Tonya Harding and the events that led up tot hose days. Played magnificently by Margot Robbie, the Tonya we see her is a sort-of misunderstood spoiled brat, and in the end we have a little bit more sympathy for her.

I liked the film a lot. It is fiercely entertaining, shot documentary style, with ‘interviews’ from Harding and all the various people in her life: Jeff Gilooly, her husband and purported mastermind of the crime, of Shawn Eckaard, the bubbling cohort of Gilooley, and most woneerfully, of LaVona Golden, Harding’s tough mother who pushed her daughter, for better or worse, to be the woman she became. Allison Janney is near perfection as Golden, a driven performance that’s funny and horrifically scary all at the same time. And while Margot doesn’t really look like Harding, I think she was able to capture her spirit, and by the third minute you re watching, you will have already believed her.

As I said earlier, Gillespie paints a sympathetic portrait of Harding here. Maybe the cynic in me is a little more suspect – I don’t wholly believe she is as innocent as she claims. Though I do think that the US Figure Skating Association banning her for life is perhaps a bit too harsh. As for the film, it is immensely enjoyable and it is even more so for someone like me who followed this when it was first happening.