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143. Once Upon Time… in Hollywood – This Just In (#127)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Phil Bagnall, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.

It’s February 1969. Everything is changing. Hollywood itself seems to be facing an inevitable collision with the turmoil that has engulfed the rest of the world. Against this backdrop, lives intersect and collide. Returning from the United Kingdom, Sharon Tate moves in next door to washed up fifties western star Rick Dalton, both completely unaware of how profoundly their lives will impact one another.

At time of recording, it was ranked 127th on the Internet Movie Database’s list of the best movies of all-time.

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“Ladies, That Was Fun”: What’s Happening Under the Hood in “Death Proof”…

Okay… Warren’s sending over shots, and you know the house rules. If he sends over shots, you gotta do them.

What?

Hey, them’s the rules, baby.

Warren says it, we do it!

I love that philosophy! “Warren says it, we do it.”

The filming of Kill Bill, Vol. 1 and Kill Bill, Vol. 2 took nine arduous months. There were a variety of reasons for this, most obviously that the film represented a departure from the stylistic sensibilities and aesthetic associated with Quentin Tarantino. A director best known for his snappy dialogue and vivid characters was pushing himself outside of his comfort zone, building a movie that would incorporate elaborate action sequences and even an animated interlude. In fact, the films came after something of a short break in the director’s career. The six year gap following Jackie Brown was the longest in his career to that point.

As shooting was winding down, an incident occurred on the set. Details of that incident would not be made public for more than a decade and a half, although it would have a profound impact on all involved. By all accounts, Tarantino pressured Uma Thurman into driving a stunt car herself, leading to an accident. Thurman recalls, “The steering wheel was at my belly and my legs were jammed under me. I felt this searing pain and thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m never going to walk again.’” Thurman was not paralysed, but she was scarred by the experience, with a “permanently damaged neck and […] screwed-up knees.”

It was an act of reckless malfeasance from a director who had – with Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction – announced himself as one of the preeminent directorial voices of his generation. Tarantino is remarkable among directors of his generation for establishing a cult of personality, being as effective on the chat show circuit as behind the camera. Tarantino has been known for making brass pronouncements and asserting his authority, from his famous assertion that he is god within his fictional universes to his insistence on shutting down lines of questioning in interviews to rejecting reporters’ questions outright.

The case involving Tarantino and Thurman is perhaps more complicated than a lot of the similar stories of directorial abuse that have entered the spotlight since the #metoo movement rippled through Hollywood. This complexity is compounded by the fact that Thurman has publicly forgiven Tarantino for his part in the accident, and for Tarantino’s contrition on that point. (Tarantino’s public support of progressive causes like Black Lives Matter also plays a part, even if there is still a larger debate to be had about Tarantino’s relationship with African American culture.)

Even if none of this was made public until after the release of The Hateful Eight, these details hang over a lot of Tarantino’s work since the accident. Tarantino has conceded, “Beyond one of the biggest regrets of my career, it is one of the biggest regrets of my life.” It is notable that Tarantino had always been particularly close to Thurman. The story for the Kill Bill films is credited to “Q and U”, the pair practically living together during the development of the story. (Tarantino allegedly promised the script to the actor as a thirtieth birthday present.)

The tragedy echoes through a lot of Tarantino’s subsequent work. It is notable, for example, that a lot of Tarantino’s later work focuses explicitly on the idea of rewriting history. Inglourious Basterds famously offers an alternate ending to the Second World War, a striking piece of historical revisionism. There are also shades of the tragedy to be found in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, which features two protagonists that are – to quote actor Brad Pitt – “two sides of the same coin.” Rick is a washed-up has-been who worries he is out of touch. However, his best friend is a reckless stuntman who may have killed his wife.

A lot of the discussion around Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood has likened it to Inglourious Basterds. This makes a great deal of sense. Both stories are effectively historical revisionist fairy tales. Notably, the opening chapter of Inglourious Basterds is even helpfully subtitled “Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France.” It is a logical point of comparison, but one that conveniently glosses over an even more obvious reference point for Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood within Tarantino’s filmography.

That point of comparison is Death Proof.

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Non-Review Review: Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is a fairy tale, for better and for ill.

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There Will Not Be Blood: Thoughts on Movie Ratings and a PC Culture…

I feel decidedly behind the times in writing this. After all, the gigantic scuffle over the MPAA’s rating of the documentary Bully seems to have resolved itself, with both the Weinstein company and the MPAA reaching a settlement that both can agree on to get the film distributed with a rating that won’t alienate its target audience. However, I can’t help but feel like this single case of compromise managed to avoid the heart of the issue at question. By allowing this single film to slip through the net, the censorship authority avoid an actual discussion on the role and obligations of a ratings authority. It’ll only be a matter of time before another controversy erupts, and that will undoubtedly be dealt with on its own terms as well, avoiding any actual debate or discussion about how censorship bodies rate particular films.

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The Thick of It – Series II (Review)

The wonderful folks at the BBC have given me access to their BBC Global iPlayer for a month to give the service a go and trawl through the archives. I’ll have some thoughts on the service at the end of the month, but I thought I’d also take the opportunity to enjoy some of the fantastic content.

My expert would totally disprove that.

Who is your expert?

I don’t know, but I can get one by this afternoon. The thing is, you’ve been listening to the wrong expert. You need to listen to the right expert. And you need to know what an expert is going to advise you before he advises you.

– Malcolm explains how advisers work to Hugh

In its sophomoric three-episode season, The Thick of It remains a shrewdly-observed and immensely funny political satire. It’s a very British send-up of the sort of idealism inherent in drama like The West Wing, a show where everything is so murky and uncertain that the script is highly improvised and even the camera wobbles. While it’s still as funny as it was in its first season, though, I have to confess that the second season didn’t quite grab in the same way. The first season represents one of the most cynical explorations of mainstream politics that I have ever seen, but it actually seems relatively optimistic when measured against this much more scornful second cluster of episodes.

The series that coined the phrase “Malchiavelli”…

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Non-Review Review: Fanboys

Fanboys is a film that is borderline mediocre, but the tragedy is that it actually could have been really good. It’s quite strange, because the movie seems intent to straddle two audiences – aiming at once for both cult geek cred and mainstream appeal. Of course, the paradox of such an approach is that it frequently ends up alienating both core groups. The film is arguably too deeply entrenched in geek culture to ever find a large mainstream audience, but it’s also far too bland, safe and stereotypical for a geek audience. So it clearly hopes to please everyone, but winds up satisfying no one. Which is a shame, because it seems like it’s actually having a great deal of fun.

Indulge your Dark Side...

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Leo the Lion: Melissa Leo’s Self-Funded Oscar Campaign…

Melissa Leo took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar last Sunday night and I was quite happy about the decision, to be honest. She was great in The Fighter and – although I personally would have though Hailee Steinfeld from True Grit would have made a more deserving winner – it wasn’t a bad result. In the lead-up to her win, Leo garnered a fair amount of publicity from the fact that she took out her own “For Your Consideration” advertisements, most of it, to be honest, quite derisive. But you know what? I’m okay with that. After all, who else was going to do it for her?

Perhaps not the most Consider-ed move...

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