Tarantino Delivers His 9th Film

When it comes to the cinematic universe, its Quentin Tarantino’s world and we all are just experiencing it. No one has created his own world so parallel to our own without ever crossing over the way he has. He has managed to expand that world from pre-civil wartime right down to today.

A few years back Tarantino announced that after his 10 directed feature he was going to stop directing films. Note that I said directing, not completely quit Hollywood altogether. This weekend saw the release of what is considered his 9th feature film, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. So if all holds true that means movie fans and cinephiles has just one film left that will be pure Quentin Tarantino.

With a cinematic universe like Tarantino’s the one thing I’ve found interesting and even unique is how he has never seemed to cross from his world into our reality for the most part. Never has a major plotline or set of characters that exist in our world, followed the same path or taken a foothold in his world in the same way. He is truly an original from concept to completion and it is something that we are never going to see the likes of again.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is no different and fans of the director should expect no different. That is not to say that he hasn’t changed things or attempted to tell the story he sees in his head differently than he has before. He has always tried new things and presented things in ways like he never has before.

When it was announced his next film would take place in Los Angeles in 1969 and involve the famous murder of Sharon Tate at the hands of the Manson family, speculation began to swirl. It wasn’t long until he began to tamp down the speculation that this is NOT a film about the Manson killings rather that is one major event that plays a big part in telling the story that he wants to tell.

The late 1960s were an especially volatile time in America. 1968 saw two of the most upsetting assassinations in the history of our country with Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy both being stricken down just a few months apart. Then as the decade comes to a close, some of the decade and thee centuries most defining events would happen. Woodstock would forever symbolize love and peace, the lunar landing (if you believe that moon landing happened) flexed some of the biggest Cold War muscle and the terror inflicted by Charles Manson and his followers also known as his family let everyone know that the human embodiment of evil was still alive and well.

It is in the Hollywood hills of 1969 that Tarantino has chosen to tell his next story. The ever innocent and beautiful Sharon Tate and her new husband Roman Polanski have just bought the house next door to former western TV star Rick Dalton who finds himself on the back end of a career he has no idea how to revive and has accepted the fact that he is relegated to taking guest roles on current hit shows has the bad guy to just keep his name somewhat alive.

Always at his side is his close friend and former stunt double Cliff Booth. Booth hasn’t found stunt work in quite some time and is now Dalton’s driver (due to Dalton’s many alcohol-fueled mishaps and loss of license) and general handyman.

It is within the telling of this story where Tarantino differs a little from his normal ways. All. The trademarks of classic Quentin are still there mind you. The sharp dialogue the pacing and the overall continuity that he is well. Known and loved for. The main difference I noticed is that it is difficult to see the path the film and its characters are walking down. With all that said it still keeps you engaged and interested and invested in what is going on with them.

By the time the credits begin to roll you are left satisfied in the way, fans are used to being left at the end of a Tarantino film.

Once Upon A Time marks the first time that Brad Pitt (Booth) and Leonardo Di Caprio have appeared together on the silver screen and their chemistry and ability do not disappoint. Margot Robbie makes her Tarantino debut as the immortal Sharon Tate and despite the limited dialogue for her, she is about as perfectly cast as they come.

This, however, is not the traditional Tarantino movie in a sense but when the film has had time to settle in after the initial viewing and one can dwell on it more it becomes another great masterpiece that he can proudly hang his hat on. This film is a great piece in the collection of films that will make up Tarantino’s legacy.

I, Tonya Review

The United States had some of the best skaters in the world with Kristi Yamaguchi, Nancy Kerrigan and the rebel outsider, Tonya Harding in the early 1990’s. Harding’s white trash upbringing and lifestyle made her a natural rival to America’s sweetheart Nancy Kerrigan. The rivalry was so much more than fans choosing sides, there was genuine envy. Harding seemed to be envious of what appeared to be the perfect poster child for good clean American living and felt she was discriminated against because of her background and lack of money. She felt her talent was as good as anyone out there, but no one could look past her brash demeanor. This would go on to be the struggle of her entire life even after her skating career was finished. Who would have thought they would go on to make a Tonya Harding movie that would produce an Academy Award winner?

While I am in no way an expert or historian of figure skating, but I figure it would be safe to say that the sport was never as popular as it was going into the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. The buzz was loud surrounding it even before the infamous crack on Nancy Kerrigan’s knee, that just made it, even more, rock and roll. I mean Kerrigan would go on to host an episode of Saturday Night Live! 

If the story of the competition between Kerrigan and Harding is going to be told, it has to be told from Tonya’s point of view. She was the one with the roller-coaster life and the one who had a variety of colorful characters surrounding her. 

Tonya grew up in a poor section of Portland, Oregon and had only one love and one noticeable talent which her less-than-caring mother quickly decided to exploit. LaVona Harding was a chain-smoking waitress who was bitter at the world for dealing her a raw hand. She sank everything she could into Tonya and trying to get her to the top level of the figure skating world. Her overbearing and highly critical ways are what ultimately drove her and Tonya apart and pushed Tonya into the hands of her future husband and accomplice, Jeff Gillooly. 

Tony Harding was determined to be the best skater she could be, it was the competition part she didn’t like because she was convinced she was getting overlooked. It was these feelings and frustrations that would ultimately lead to her downfall.

The new film I, Tonya shows her life and rise and fall in the skating community in the best possible way. This story had to be told in a darkly comical way and director Craig Gillespie and screenwriter Steven Rogers found the perfect way to show some of the worst moments and make us laugh and empathize at the same time. This story is almost so sad and depressing from Tonya’s viewpoint that if you don’t tell it in a comical way it would be unbearable to watch. These people became such parodies of themselves, it’s hard to believe that 23 years ago all of this was real and that it WASN’T a movie.

The film is clearly driven by Margot Robbie’s complete and perfect transformation into Harding and Allison Janney’s pitch-perfect performance as her dreadful mother. These two together have you transfixed on these two people and the downtrodden life they both lead. Robbie has so many of Harding’s mannerisms and her voice is spot on (google some video interviews of Tonya and you will be amazed). We catch a glimpse of LaVona at the end of the movie and it becomes scary how well Janney did depict her every move. 

As a whole, the movie captured the time period of the very bland mid 90’s in an excellent way and brings us into Tonya’s life in a very real and intimate way that you at times forget you are watching a movie and not reliving the whole time period again. Robbie and Janney steal the movie, but it’s Tonya’s life story that keeps you fixated on the movie as a whole.