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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood


Quentin Tarantino has said from the start of his career that he is only going to make ten films. I have virtually no idea how he is going to top this, his 9th, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD.

Taking place in the final glory days of the Los Angeles movie scene, it's at once an incredible, nearly CGI free recreation of a time and place, as well as a deep character study of three people at it's center.

Leonardo DiCaprio is excellent as fading actor Rick Dalton. Once one of TV's biggest Western stars, he's now relegated to a litany of declining villain roles in TV pilots.

Hollywood Agent Marvin Schwarzs (Al Pacino having perfectly restrained fun) wants Rick to head to the big screen in an Italian Spaghetti Western or two.

Rick's at a turning point. Are the best days of his career behind him?

Constantly at Rick's side is his stunt double Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt in his most magnetic performance in years. Pitt's goals are lower than Rick's. He's a man of simple tastes and a very low tolerance for bullshit.

DiCaprio and Pitt are amazing together.

Living next door to Dalton in the Hollywood Hills is rising starlet Sharon Tate. Hot off of "Valley of the Dolls" and newly married to Director Roman Polanski, Tate is a 26 year old innocent still soaking in her fame and loving life.

Margot Robbie is terrific as Tate, nailing both her innocence and star power.

Tarantino creates something really special over the nearly three hour running time. He devotes himself to immersing you in his characters AND 1969 Hollywood. Driving around town, every building facade is just as it was. Every commercial or song on the radio takes you back in time. The TVs are all black and white, with "Mannix" or news of the day rolling.

The film should win Oscars for its perfect production design by Barbara Ling and set decoration by Nancy Haigh (AI). QT and his production team covered sections of Sunset Blvd with sixties facades blocks at a time.

It's as if his team time traveled back to the era and rolled their cameras.

Director of Photography Robert Richardson (Inglorious Basterds, The Aviator, Kill Bill) captures LA in every light, including some very menacing nights, courtesy of the destiny we know awaits Sharon Tate and her friends courtesy of Charles Manson's marauding gang of violent murderers.

New Classic Tarantino moments abound.

Cliff's interaction with Bruce Lee (a wow impression from Mike Moh) between shots on "The Green Hornet" is a laugh out loud sequence.

Damian Lewis (Homeland) IS Steve McQueen and fans of "The Great Escape" are in for a treat. Bruce Dern nails his role as George Spahn, owner of the ranch where Charles Manson (Damon Herriman, who also played Manson on "Mindhunter"!) and his hippie band hang out, brewing revolution.

Kurt Russell is a blast as Stunt Coordinator Randy (father of Stuntman Mike perhaps, "Death Proof" fans?) and the late Luke Perry is enjoyable as an actor in Dalton's latest TV shoot.

Tarantino sets up his three leads with separate story trails, weaving them through the streets of LA, cleverly setting up the violent, explosive final act.

If you've seen "Inglorious Basterds", you know that Tarantino loves immersing the people he creates into history, but not always following actual events.

What he unfolds in the final twenty minutes seems to be generating controversy among today's uber-sensitive audiences, but for me, its perfect Tarantino. The tension he builds setting up what you think you know is palpable. What he does with those moments is explosive, bloody genius.

Don't let anyone unveil any of its secrets.

Robbie is great. DiCaprio is terrific and Pitt's even better.

Tarantino solidifies his status as one of our best filmmakers of all time with ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. If Quentin is examining Rick Dalton's career as a reflection of his own doubts about creative relevance, I think he's answered those questions with his most reflective and melancholy movie.

It's filled with laughter, suspense, nostalgia and mystery. It's an original, adult entertainment that stands as one of Tarantino's best.

It gets an A+. Can't wait to see it again to see all the pop reference moments I missed the first time.

We saw it in 35MM at the Alamo Drafthouse, watching one of only fifty-five 35MM film copies that Tarantino created. Kudos to QT's devotion to real, projected film as part of Hollywood's legacy and to Alamo Drafthouse Phoenix for creating a movie buff-friendly atmosphere to truly experience the movies.

Yet another Tarantino masterpiece in my Top 100 films of all time.

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