Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood
A Middle Aged Movie Blog. Being the periodic journal of a film loving middle aged independent science fiction writing father of two and his ongoing adventures in cinema and home video
Attended The Woolton Picture House as planned for Tarantino’s Once upon a Time In Hollywood (2019). A wonderful theatre in Liverpool with an intermission and ice cream and everything. Spent half the film wondering what on Earth I was watching. Two buddies driving round 1960’s LA chatting about their industry salad days??? Really Quentin??? I was at a loss for a bit, thinking Tarantino was having a laugh at my expense… However, sometime around the midpoint, it all started to make sense. Cracking performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as hippy loathing throwbacks and some cute commentary on the artifice and history of period specific Hollywood help smooth the film along. Ultimately, this is a wisely rendered meditation along the lines of friendship, cinema, adjustment disorder, dog food and cults which functions impeccably as an aesthetic departure for the director who plays it free and easy throughout. Disquieting, sad and funny. Great soundtrack. Some of the funniest and most shocking screen violence of the year. Tarantino’s finest film since Kill Bill Vol 1 (2003).
Watched The Lone Ranger (2013) with The Boy after discovering it in the local charity shop for 50p in a bargain bucket. My original thoughts on the film were confirmed. It is a terrifically overlooked Saturday serial throwback, that is way more fun than Verbinski’s pirate movies and deserving of a revisit after its initial box office flogging. Directed by Gore Verbinski. Starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hamer.
Watched Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018) which unfortunately, did not deliver on the promise of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), which I sort of liked on its release, but which was a little bit baggy and visually undercooked.
The plot was muddled and uninvolved. The action sequences were a tad apathetic. As a spectacle, some of the effects weren’t even as good as the first Harry Potter film. Eddie Redmayne is great as autistic animal lover Newt Scamander. Depp, meanwhile, as the central villain of the piece is uncharacteristically subdued. I’ll stick with it, given I’ve come this far with the series, though I’m hoping the third movie planned for the franchise manages to up its game a bit. Directed by David Yates.
Watched Robert Benton’s pre Kramer Vs Kramer (1979) alternative western Bad Company (1972) for the first time in years as a birthday treat to myself. Benton also shares the same birthday as me, so it seemed fated and I couldn’t not watch it given the convenience of coincidence.
The film features the excellent Barry Brown who, tragically, would end his own life in 1978 at the age of twenty-seven. Brown plays conscription dodger Drew Dixon who winds up on the lam cross country during the American Civil War with a band of disenfranchised youths all looking to make it out west. A quality picture, genuinely unique, with real pathos and humour, great performances from its youthful and supporting cast and quality photography from Gordon Willis. A young Jeff Bridges features in an early star-making role. Starring John Savage.
Re-visited Monte Hellman’s quickie Roger Corman backed acid inflected 60’s Western The Shooting (1966) which he shot back to back with Ride The Whirlwind (1966) both of which starred Warren Oates and Jack Nicholson.
Budgetary limitations are obvious from the get-go but the film is an interesting hybrid of traditional and alternative Western tropes as Warren Oates’ ex bounty-hunter Willet Gashade and his half-witted comedy sidekick Coley played by Will Hutchens escort Millie Perkin’s single minded mystery woman across the desert. Jack Nicholson joins the trail as man in black/hired gun Billie. The film subsequently does a tonal volte-face and moves from traditional trail western to existentialist sun-baked doom patrol in an instant. The ending is ambiguity personified. The film’s atmosphere is stifling. Nicholson co-produced with Hellman and though the film was never picked up for theatrical release, it was eventually acquired by the Walter Reade Organisation with a view to a TV release. Get it whilst you can.
Took a ride into Manchester to check out the Chapeltown Picture House and watched The Corpse Bride (2005) with the boy, four floors up in an old building near to Piccadilly Station. The views on the way up the stairs over the roofs of the city were impressive and the cinema, which was intimate and dark, was pleasant. Small screening room. Small screen. Very relaxed. A comforting experience that I intend to repeat.
On returning home later via a BBQ at The Lampshade Maker’s Studio, watched Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Sam Peckinpah’s classic 1972 Western, featuring James Coburn as Pat and Kris Kristofferson as Billy. The film remains one of the great revisionist westerns, an outlaw chase movie with enough violence, sex and slow-motion action editing to sate even the most jaded of Western fans. Bob Dylan features as Alias, though he doesn’t say much and seems to have been cast in the role more for his status as a musician than for his acting chops. Still, Dylan’s soundtrack for the movie is perfect and is as impressive to listen to as the movie is to watch.
Subsequently engaged in an evening home screening of Don Siegel’s Hell Is For Heroes (1962). Featuring an intensive performance from Steve McQueen and able support from Pat Garrett’s James Coburn on platoon fodder duty, the film is a tough black and white World War 2 action flick about a group of GIs left out on the Siegfried line with limited support to defend against superior German forces. The movie is assured and bruising, and given its age, determinedly unflinching in its depiction of combat and the tensions experienced by combatants under duress. Big on action and violent set pieces. Sam Peckinpah reportedly contributed dialogue work on the movie.