Film Review: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (with SPOILERS)


In what is perhaps his most subversive work to date, Quentin Tarantino delivers his 9th feature film with the usual sharp dialogue and scenes of controversial violence in what is essentially a satire of late ’60s Hollywood peppered with an alternative history of actual events.

As one would be led to believe, there are no gangsters to be found, unless you’re including the infamous Manson family, which is something unusual for a Tarantino film. Instead, the audience is presented with a stellar cast, including the star duo of Leonardo DiCaprio as an actor in Westerns perpetually afraid that his career is on the rocks and Brad Pitt as his stunt man and de facto personal assistant; Margot Robbie is uncanny as Sharon Tate and Al Pacino and Dakota Fanning also make appearances, to name but a few.

Tarantino is more than just a filmmaker. As many who are acquainted with his life story will know, he is something of a scholar when it comes to film, with a deep appreciation for all the various genres and periods in cinematic history. I think it is this film which really brings his expertise to the fore. For the first time in his career, he has made a masterpiece of a film about the thing he loves most: films.

As usual, a Tarantino film raises questions about violence. I’m not going to get up on the soapbox and go off on a moralistic diatribe about the issue, because that’s just basic beyond belief. The violence itself is not excessive, but where it does feature, it is usually hyperbolic and amusing. Whether it’s Bruce Lee being smashed into the side of a car and leaving a huge dent in it after picking a fight with Brad Pitt, or the ridiculously hilarious climax, where what seems to be that fateful night in 1969 when Sharon Tate was murdered ends with the perpetrators breaking into DiCaprio’s house instead and being bumped off by Pitt and his dog, with DiCaprio making the finishing touch at the end, the violence is actually entertaining.

One thing I will say though is that without the context of actual happenings (i.e. the Manson family and the murder of Sharon Tate), all of which were tragic and not at all funny, this reimagining of events may not strike the same chord or be as amusing to those who are not in the know.

This was the film I will remember from summer 2019 and I really hope it’s not going to be Tarantino’s last film, as he has implied. But then again, if it is, what a way to go.

Featured image courtesy of Radio Times.

Book Review: “White” (3.5/5)


Written by George R. Jackson

In what is his first work of nonfiction, Bret Easton Ellis, author of the infamous 1991 novel American Psycho, shares his musings on a variety of topics, ranging from Hollywood and the characters in his novels to Trump and the US political landscape. Reading as a collection of essays, the book is part autobiographical, part rant. Renowned for the blunt amorality and impersonal style of his novels, it is interesting to get an insight into what the man behind the books actually thinks about the world and his examinations of popular culture, from Tom Cruise to Kanye West are both easy and fun to read.

He also stresses a preference for what he calls ‘aesthetics’ over ‘ideology’ in art and stresses that, as a writer, nothing should be off limits as far as freedom of expression is concerned. To some, this may raise alarm bells that Ellis, the man whose books they’d enjoyed reading, has become nothing short of a right-wing lunatic, but Ellis himself points out that he feels no affiliation with either side of the political aisle and, instead, acts as more of an observer in a world maddened by ‘hysteria’, particularly on the anti-Trump front.

I think some of my contemporaries have judged this work too harshly, perhaps jumping onto the bandwagon of shutting down anything contrary to the liberal agenda too quickly. However, whilst I agree with Ellis’ point that we are living in an age of oversensitivity towards, as well as complete rejection of, certain ideas, he often makes this point excessively and at times I couldn’t help but feel that I was reading the same copy over and over. More frankly, the work is repetitive and takes on a register that is ‘holier than thou’ in places.

If there is any lesson to be gained from it, it’s that we should not deny the humanity of others simply because they have opinions different to our own, nor should we needlessly break all ties with a person purely because they voted for someone we don’t approve of. Instead, it might be wiser to try and understand each other before rejection ensues. There are exceptions to rules such as these, nonetheless, reserved for people who vote BNP, for instance.

As the late Chistopher Hitchens once said, “Politics is division by definition, if there was no disagreement there would be no politics.” We are bound to be divided, but – in most cases – it’s not worth losing friends over.

Featured image courtesy of Lightbox.