Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the 9th film by Quentin Tarantino, so possibly his second last if he keeps to the idea of retiring after 10. For this film, Quentin decided to ask one very simple question that would end up creating possibly the most controlled film of his incredible career… what if the Manson Family had gone to the house right next door to Sharon Tate instead. It’s another in Quentin’s series of “Historical Revisionism” movies, along with Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained but I think this might be the best version of that kind of story that Quentin’s ever done.
I do not think there is a more controversial director working today than Lars Von Trier. His films have an extraordinary ability to divide an audience in 10 minutes. You either love his work or hate it and there is no real room for anything between those. He is one of the few true auteur filmmakers who also helped invent an entire movement in cinema known as Dogme 95, which I highly recommend looking up because it is kind of insane and will go a long way into explaining why Von Trier’s films are the way that they are. Now I’ve always been iffy on Lars, enough that I have just kind of avoided his work. I saw Antichrist years ago, a film that I consider one of the great comedies of all time (provided you watch it directly after you watch Irreversible) and I’ve seen clips of Melancholia but I have had no real desire to watch any more of Lars’ movies… and then I decided to be a reviewer and he put out a film that I would need to watch and talk about, so I’m not exactly in a great mood right now but mostly I just need a nap.
So, here’s a fun thing I do that’s very stupid. Sometimes, if a classic film has a reputation as being one of the all time classics… I won’t watch it. Most of these are films from before I was born or, at least, young enough that I wouldn’t have been able to see upon release but if they’re influential as hell then I probably missed them. This is for a variety of reasons that I think make sense (they don’t, I’m dumb). The first is just a lack of availability, half the fun of being in Australia is that a lot of major films don’t end up on easily available streaming services at an affordable rate. The second reason is simply that there’s so many current films out that I genuinely didn’t have the time to catch up on them, I don’t have time to go back and watch Terms of Endearment because I have to go catch a 3pm screening of Here Comes The Grump (like I said, I AM DUMB). The third, and only legitimate reason I have, is that I have this worry that I will be tainted by the films that referenced the classic so it won’t seem as good by comparison. This actually happened with Psycho, a movie I didn’t watch until this year because I had not only seen a billion people reference the shower scene, but I’d seen the horror films that took influence from Psycho and tried to go beyond the kind of violence that was considered shocking in 1960. For the record, upon seeing it I did promptly kick myself for being so dumb but I still do it. I tell you all this because I should’ve seen Cabaret long ago, but I saw everyone reference it and worried it wouldn’t hold up so please remember to aim the tomatoes you want to throw directly at my face, I deserve it.
Sometimes a film title tells you everything that you need to know about a movie before you even walk into the cinema. A title like Scream, short and pithy as it is, tells you the exact reaction the filmmakers hope to get out of you. A title like Sharknado tells you that you’re in for something gloriously silly and over the top. So how do you think I reacted when I saw that there was a film with the title The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot? That’s right; I was elated because that is one of the most glorious titles that I have ever read in my life. It’s a title that drips with promise and potential, the suggestion of some glorious insanity that will be the kind of film that you watch drunk with friends. It sounded so fun and so camp… and then the film started and delivered a very different film that I’m still unsure about.
Let’s be honest, late-night network talk shows are a bit of a boys’ club right now. Just for a minute, sit and think about all the female hosts of an American late-night talk show that you can come up with. My list includes Joan Rivers and ends there because there haven’t been any that can be named because there are none that are really known. I can name at least three late-night network talk shows hosted by a guy named Jim but one hosted by a woman? I got nothing. Heck, if I expand out from network I can really only throw in Chelsea Handler, Kathy Griffin and Busy Phillips and that’s if I rack my brain and count shows that aren’t on the air anymore. So to see a movie in theatres that tackles this issue head-on really brought a smile to my face, and the fact that the film is actually really good made the smile so much bigger.
In 1971 the world learned the answer to the immortal question “Who’s the black private dick that’s a sex machine to all the chicks?” and turns out, that answer would be an icon of blaxploitation cinema and one of the most badass characters to ever appear on film. John Shaft started as a detective novel before his original trilogy of movies (Shaft, Shaft’s Big Score and Shaft in America) and even ended up with a TV series in the early 70’s before the character was retired until the character was revived in 2000 for a brand new Shaft movie that did fairly well but didn’t get any sequels… until now. Now it has a sequel that did poorly at the box office, was distributed internationally on Netflix and is currently the most critically panned movie in the entire franchise. Does it deserve that kind of treatment? Is the film really bad enough to deserve to be relegated to the trash heap of cinema history? Kind of, but only because it’s kind of bland.
In 2010 the French film À bout portant came out to critical
acclaim. Known overseas as Point Blank,
it’s a story of a nurse who gets dragged into a world of dirty cops and
gangsters when his pregnant wife is kidnapped and he’s under orders to break a
known hitman out of prison. Not only did it get a lot of praise but there have
been multiple remakes in South Korea, Bangla, a Tamil-language remake and there
were even plans for a Bollywood remake, although I can’t find if that one ever
got made. With so many countries remaking it you can almost tell that there was
an inevitable remake to come from America because subtitles are hard to read
and originality is not required anymore so instead let’s take something that
was relatively popular somewhere else, slap America on it and we’re good to
go… I mean, it’s not great but I’ve seen worse translations.
The concept of Time Travel in cinema is one of the most fun and irritating plot concepts we’ve ever come up with. Fun because it allows us to explore history and do variants of “Person from today is stuck in the past” stories that present a fish out of water narrative. Irritating because, every single time it happens, people try to logic the hell out of the time travel and explain why it wouldn’t work that way as though time travel was an actual thing and not a storytelling device meant to act as the most threadbare framework for an actual story. This was evidenced earlier this year with Endgame where people ignored the larger story about acknowledging the past of an entire universe of characters and showing the drastic change and growth of everyone involved and instead said “Actually it makes no sense that they all travelled like that, time travel doesn’t work that way” in a whiny high pitched voice, not unlike Urkel with his testicles in a vice. In case it isn’t obvious, I do not care if the Time Travel element doesn’t make sense because it never has to. It is a variation on the MAGIC SCIENCE that was used in Happy Death Day 2U and nothing more. Now that we have all that out of the way, let’s talk about one of the newest entries into the Time Travel genre and the first Netflix film since Someone Great that actually got a reaction out of me.
On September 6th of 1969, the first episode of the new Friz Freleng series aired on NBC, a series called Here Comes the Grump. Running for 17 episodes, the series followed a grumpy little wizard named Grump who wanted to make the entire kingdom sad all the time. The princess of the kingdom and her friend Terry would search for the magical key that would undo everything and, this would form the basis of the episodes that lead to a large number of assorted slapstick gags… I assume, I never even knew this series existed until I began some research to find out just why this movie existed and now I’m in actual romantic love with the cheesy theme tune for this series that I will be binging right after I spend a thousand or so words complaining about a bad adaptation of a TV series that everyone forgot.
On this blog, I tend to stick to current releases, specifically things that came out the same year I wrote them since this entire blog came to be out of a need for me to try and see every film when it came out. This has meant that films from last year that I missed don’t get talked about and I haven’t done any classic films. Basically, it’s been nothing but new films, old editorials and Drag Race reviews and two of those things aren’t being done anymore SO from now on I’m going to try and do one review of an older film a week. Maybe it’ll be something you’ve heard of, maybe you’ll have no idea what the hell I’m talking about (a common response) but I’m trying something here so let’s see how it goes. To start with let’s go back to 1978 and talk about a classic bit of Australian cinema, Long Weekend.