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Movie corner: I had a good time watching ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’

By HOWARD McQUITTER II

Howard McQuitter

oldschoolmovies.wordpress.com

howardmcquitter68@gmail.com

Drama/Comedy

The year is 1969. Vietnam, hippies, Black Panthers, marijuana, campus demonstrations, Stonewall riots, robust middle-class, man landing on the moon, white flight anywhere but where the blacks, soul music and Afros. Republican President Richard Nixon’s first term telling the American people to stay clear of the leftists on American campuses. Pope Paul VI declares an ersatz new liturgy (mostly in vernacular languages) for the Catholic Church. A historical music event called Woodstock drawing thousands of youth to upper state New York to hear the best of rock- country- soul music.

Director Quentin Tarantino brings authenticity to the year 1969, in his ninth installment “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” It’s summer in Tarantino’s Hollywood starting with an aging television and film star Rick Dalton (Leonardo Di Capri) is rapidly becoming a has-been Western television star. It seems his great success in the once popular television Western “Bounty Law” is now just re-runs. Dalton, though, still has the appetite to get his mojo back and he asks for advice from producer Marvin Schwarzs (Al Pacino) who tells him to go to Italy to act in Spaghetti Westerns. He takes the producer’s advice acting in several Westerns there and when he returns to California he has a bride on his arm. As for Rick’s buddy, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) who operates as his stunt double artist, chauffeur, handyman and soon, finds himself with little work in the industry, too.Cliff’s main problem is the studios have shunned him because responsible for his wife’s murder.

To keep a cash flow going, Cliff works as Rick’s chauffeur plus they both hang out at Rick’s posh crib on Cielo Drive. It so happens he lives next door to Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and his wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), an upcoming actress who just acted in her latest movie “The Wrecking Crew,” starring with Dean Martin. Charming, I guess, two fictional characters Rick and Cliff and, on the other side, two real characters Roman and Sharon. Anyway what a treat!

The conversation between child-actor Trudi (Julia Butters) and her co-star Rick on set before the cameras roll is one of the most memorable ones in Tarantino’s ninth film that is rich with dialogue anyway.

I also think of the hippie girl, Pussycat (Margaret Qualley), Rick picks up to the Spahn Ranch – at one time a Western movie set – is now a commune of Charlie Manson (Damon Herriman) followers, eerie characters, some of his clan go on to murder Sharon Tate (she’s pregnant) and five adults in all.

The Manson character appears only once, but Sharon Tate character is seen several times saying relatively little. She didn’t need a lot to say it’s her presence that proves strong. She stops in at a theater (only 75 cents) where a movie with her and Dean Martin appear together. She’s happy with her life and career; she glows, for me, Mrs. Tate is the sympathetic character, the one (I’ll never forget, I’m 21 years old at the time) smells success before fate’s curtain comes down.

The chemistry between Leonardo Di Caprio and Brad Pitt is terrific. At a party somewhere in Hollywood women in go go boots and men in bell-bottom pants dance away by a swimming pool. Who shows up but Mama Cass from the rock group the Mamas & the Papas. Although there’s Tarantino’s moments of violence, it’s less of it than in his films such as in “Inglourious Basterds”(2009),”Django Unchained” (2012) and Kill Bill (2003, 2004, respectively). I honestly say I had a good, good time watching “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”

Cast: Leonardo Di Caprio (Rick Dalton), Brad Pitt (Cliff), Margot Robbie (Sharon Tate), Luke Perry (Wayne Maunder), Dakota Fanning (Squeaky Fromme), Al Pacino (Marvin Schwarzs), Margaret Qualley (Pussycat), Timothy Olphant (James Stacy), Damon Lewis (Steve Mc Queen), Kurt Russell (Randy), Emile Hirsch (Jay Sebring), Bruce Dern (George Spahn), Rafal Zawierucha ( Roman Polanski), Damon Herriman (Charles Manson), Dreama Walker (Connie Stevens), Sydney Sweeney (Snake), Julia Butters (Trudi), Mike Moh (Bruce Lee). Director:  Quentin Tarantino. Cinematography: Robert Richardson.

Running time: 159 minutes. (R)

The music of the 1960s is plentiful in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” The music scholars are Holly Adams, Mary Ramos, Gary Raymond and Jim Schultz. Some of the songs: The Mamas & the Papas, “Straight Shooter”(1966); Vanilla Fudge, “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (1967); Neil Diamond, “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” (1969); Willie Mitchell, “Soul Serenada”(1968); Aretha Franklin, “The House That Jack Built” (1968); Deep Purple,”Hush” (1968); Neal Hefti,”Batman Theme” (1966); Paul Revere & the Railders, “Hungry” (1966); The Rolling Stones,”Out of Time” (1966); Otis Redding, “Can’t Turn You Lose ”(1967); Simon & Garfunkel, “Mrs. Robinson” (1968); Dee Clark,”Hey Little Girl” (1959); and more…

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