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.
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.
I almost feel bad for taking so many cheap shots at Netflix and their original films. I’ve lambasted them, I’ve mocked them, I’ve put them on my “worst of” lists but I swear I don’t do it intentionally. Netflix probably makes the exact same amount of good and bad films as any other distributor… the catch is that a bad Netflix film is one you can only see on Netflix with a Netflix branded logo right up the top hammering home just where you saw it. I also don’t mind that they have bought so many subpar films, they have to do their best to try and outright own as much content as they possibly can since they’re having content pulled by their corporate partners who are trying to make their own service. Hell, they just lost all of Disney’s stuff while Disney prepared for Disney+, I can’t imagine that Fox properties will stay on there for long thanks to the Disney merger and CBS is pulling a ton of its stuff too in preparation for whatever they’re doing with their own platform. I get that Netflix is trying to maintain a large number of films and aren’t that fussy about the quality… but god damn I wish they’d maybe try a little harder to not pick up the scraps that fell off Lifetime’s table.
In the 1980s there was a huge refugee crisis in Sudan. Thousands of Ethiopian Jewish refugees fled persecution by making an arduous trip to Israel. To help get these refugees from Sudan to Israel, Mossad agents set up a fake hotel as a cover that they used to keep eyes off them while they were sneaking large numbersof refugees to somewhere safer. The entire endeavour was lead by a man named Gad Shimron and he, along with his team, saved over 12,000 people from persecution. It’s a story that Gad put in a book called Mossad Exodus or you can read a condensed version in an article from The Sun. To quote the end of the article “It is, [Gad] says, important to remember that the bravest people in the story aren’t the Mossad operatives but the Ethiopian Jews who endured endless hardships trying to reach Israel by land, sea or air — uncomplaining men, women and children who crowded into trucks, small boats or planes with no guarantee of safe passage.”… but Hollywood decided that they could get Captain America to play a Mossad agent and that changed the focus considerably.
One great thing about Horror is it has many subgenres and every subgenre has its standout movie. Slashers have Halloween, Zombies have the George Romero trilogy of Night/Dawn/Day of the Living Dead and Found Footage has The Blair Witch Project. There’s a pantheon of iconic movies in each subgenre that help confirm horror as one of the most diverse and fascinating genres of film. The movie we’re going to talk about today, Crawl, fits into the subgenre known as Natural Horror which has given us classics like Jaws, The Birds and Cujo. It might be a little early to make this kind of call, but I would be willing to say that Crawl might be up there with those movies as an example of a great natural horror movie.
The first film that I have any memory of seeing in a cinema is the 1994 animated classic The Lion King. While my memory is a little sketchy (because I was 6) I still remember how enthralling it was, this glorious creation that was chock full of drama and laughs and bright glorious colours that just seemed to leap off the screen. I remember the legendary stampede and my mother crying at Mufasa’s death. Truly it was the film that started me on a journey to loving cinema and of all the movies that I could’ve seen as my first theatrical experience, I’m glad it was that one. Now, here we are, 25 years later and I’m angry and bitter and hate everything and have to watch as the first film I remember seeing is slowly sucked dry right before my eyes and all I’m left with is a withered husk of a film… I’m not going to be happy during this review, just so we’re clear.