I make a point of never rewatching movies that I’ve already reviewed for this blog. I ain’t got time for that–too many other movies I still need to see! But as a part of my master’s thesis project, I’m doing a paper on the power of storytelling (and cinematic storytelling specifically) and one movie that came to mind as a good one to study was Quentin Tarantino’s latest that came out earlier this year, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.
After a second, more intentional watch I somehow came away both with a greater appreciation for the film as well as a greater disgust for it (the infamous climax in particular) and found myself in the unique situation of no longer feeling satisfied with one of my earlier reviews (from only a few months ago at that!). Perhaps once my paper comes together I’ll elaborate more on some of the positive and critical insights I think I gained, but in the meantime, feel free to check out my revised review below (or click here
to see my original post updated to include both the old and new reviews):
On first blush it’s nicely crafted but its one compelling arc (Rick’s disillusionment/friendship with Cliff) is squashed by a bevy of boring referential scenes disconnected from the shocking but empty climax. Upon closer inspection, many delightful details emerge to reveal a fascinating web of narratives meta-commenting on storytelling and identity–yet they also make plain the film’s ugly misogyny, misguided revisionism, and gross glorification of cowboy violence, especially in the climax.
A young boy in Hitler’s army finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home. (IMDb)
There are great moments of dark satire (see the training camp), but it’s the more intimate scenes (some funny, some poignant, some both) of developing relationships that carry the film–that of JoJo and Adolf (a quirky friendship gets ugly as JoJo grows–see Adolf’s anger in the kitchen), Elsa (McKenzie is excellent), and Rosie (see the riverside talk) respectively, and even that of Elsa and Rosie (see the cupboard convo). So the climactic battle felt out of place, but the dance after was perfect.
Con artists plan to fleece an eccentric family using an accomplice who claims to be their long-lost uncle. (IMDb)
The plot isn’t terribly compelling but the upside-down dynamics of the titular family more than make up for it. They’re kooky, crafty, and hilariously morbid (young Wednesday of course is a highlight: “Are they made from real Girl Scouts?”)–and a far cry from the harried suburban Mom & Dad of 90s VHS tapes are parents Gomez and Morticia who ooze romantic passion (“How long has it been since we’ve waltzed?” “Oh Gomez.. hours”). Endlessly quotable and wholly memorable (see the bloody school play).
Eddie Murphy portrays real-life legend Rudy Ray Moore, a comedy and rap pioneer who proved naysayers wrong when his hilarious, obscene, kung-fu fighting alter ego, Dolemite, became a 1970s Blaxploitation phenomenon. (IMDb)
Moore’s exuberance, creativity, and determination as a true and crude man of the people carried his career through any and all obstacles–and through Murphy’s excellent portrayal it carries this film too, with its biggest obstacle being the script’s failure to dwell on any of the obstacles in Moore’s trajectory to the top. So the journey’s a little too light and breezy, but like Moore’s crew you just can’t help but get caught up in the scandalous and silly fun of it all (see the sex scene shoot).
A research team in Antarctica is hunted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of its victims. (IMDb)
Here’s the thing (sorry not sorry), this would’ve been a good movie even without those glorious and gutsy practical effects: the slow-burning plot of discovery and suspicion, the freezing Antarctica setting, the simmering tension and subtle chills of the ambiguous ending (“Why don’t we just wait here for a little while, see what happens?”). But then you add in a cavity with teeth (hah), a spider-head (“You gotta be fuckin’ kidding”), and an octopus dog and The Thing goes from good to great.
MacReady: Somebody in this camp ain’t what he appears to be. Right now that maybe one or two of us. By spring, it could be all of us.
The hypnotic and hallucinatory tale of two lighthouse keepers on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s. (IMDb)
Superhero movies are a treat to watch in the theatre to be sure, but this movie was a true feast (no need to call upon Triton, Eggers, I loved your cooking). Every shot is a marvel, matched by the exquisite sound design and fantastic dialogue as together they capture all the madness, mystery, dark humour, and weathered nature of the two memorable leads and the wild setting they occupy. The cyclical story starts to feel a little soggy 2/3s of the way in, but the searing climax makes up for it.
: What made your last keeper leave?
: He believed that there was some enchantment in the light. Went mad, he did.
Warring Alien and Predator races descend on a rural Colorado town, where unsuspecting residents must band together for any chance of survival. (IMDb)
Holy Colorado, the bloody devastation brought upon this poor ol’ small town with its sheriff and diner and high school pool.. two-thirds in, the power’s out and everyone we’ve met is getting ripped apart. “See? No monsters.” Damn. Say what you want about the rest of the film (the character writing is pretty weak and cheesy; that butt shot was definitely unnecessary), but the horror (not just from the monsters–see the climax), in its bold, unrelenting, and impartial nature, is quite effective.
: You know, when I was your age, I used to have these awful nightmares.
: It was real.