Forget the preamble, let’s get started.
1: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
I saw Tarantino’s new film at 11:30pm on Thursday (opening previews). The next day I bought tickets to see it again in 35mm on Sunday (tonight).
My thoughts still need to coalesce into something more thoughtful and organized, but Tarantino has made another great film that also stands as a monument to cinema as a whole.
Once Upon a Time begins as an enjoyably meandering, wonderfully acted character study of three people, a city, and a culture in transition as the 60s prepare to give way to a new decade. That loose narrative eventually narrows into a sharp, bloody point. To switch metaphors [bad writing! lulz] the tension grows tighter and tighter until the knot is finally taut and the mayhem ensues.
For many, probably even the majority, Tarantino’s films are best known for their violence. That’s more than fair, and that violence isn’t in short supply in Once Upon a Time’s final act. Yet, what too many people miss is the undercurrent of tenderness and hope running through much of his work. Once Upon a Time makes that tenderness and hope harder to miss than ever. More importantly, in dialogue with his other films, this movie brings those qualities in his other work into sharper contrast.
For one, by reshaping the events on the night of the Sharon Tate murders, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood now joins Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained as revisionist histories where Tarantino reaches back in time like some sort of cinematic avenging angel. Those three stories fantasize about turning violence back onto historic perpetrators — two in terms of actual historical people (Hitler and the Nazis, the Manson Family) and one featuring purely fictional characters, but set firmly in the context of the all too true story of slavery in America and our culture’s ongoing dehumanization of Black men and women.
Time for me to watch it again. And again. And of course dive back into the full catalogue.
2. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
Half of my experience of this book: I was chilled to the bone by the gruesome story of the Golden State Killer, a monster who terrorized California for at least 12 years. He is responsible for raping at least 50 women and murdering 13 people that we know of.
His career of terror was horrific, and for all the violence and rage in his crimes, he defied all the odds by never leaving behind enough evidence to be caught. That is until 2018, when 40-year-old DNA evidence combined with the genealogy database craze, finally leading to his arrest at 72 years old.
The other half of my experience: I was in awe of the brilliant mind of Michelle McNamara as she tirelessly worked to track down a monster. Her competence and personality gained her unheard-of acceptance from active and retired detectives still working the case, officially and unofficially.
She wasn’t just a genius layperson investigator, but a talented and compelling writer who turned her obsession into a dark and fascinating work of true crime.
She died in her sleep in 2016, never getting to see the end of the case to which she dedicated so much of her energy. Paul Holes, the investigator who said he saw McNamara as his primary partner during the years they collaborated, was the one who finally tracked the bastard down.
Read this book, and if you’re like me, you’ll follow that up with a dive deeper down the rabbit hole, seeking more information on the GSK’s reign of terror, and then details of the end of this engrossing and disturbing saga.
3: Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film
Until her tragic passing in 2016, Michelle McNamara was married to Patton Oswalt. While reading her book, I decided to listen to Oswalt reading Silver Screen Fiend, his memoir about a time when he was deeply obsessed with film. As he describes it, he lived too much of his life in the darkness of a cinema and far too little in the light of the real world.
I’m not going to lie, the book did less to caution me away from a deep dive into cinema and more to draw me back into the film-obsessed fold. Don’t get me wrong, I totally get what he’s saying. I want to heed his call to stop being so inert in my life; to do and make things instead of just consuming. And yet, this book also made me want to push my way back into a life of cinephilia. I know, exactly the response an author wants from readers of a memoir about a former unhealthy obsession. In fairness, Oswalt still deeply loves film, so it’s not that surprising that his writing would fan the recently growing flames of my returning passion for movies.
For real, though. Gone are the days when I used to watch 200+ movies in a year, or watch 30 westerns or noir films in 30 days. I want that back again. As strange as it may sound, I was actually significantly more creative and productive when movie-watching was a huge part of my life. I’m not saying I want to dive in to the extent that Patton did in those bygone days, but I definitely want to go deeper than any sane, normal person would. But that stands to reason, because I’m neither sane, nor normal.
Speaking of my desire to take a deep dive back into cinema, I took advantage of an unexpected night off by by enjoying an unofficial double feature at the Metrograph.
Side note about my night off, for the curious: I fucked up my left index finger at work when I broke a pint glass. For another day or two, I can’t bend it, and thus couldn’t work this week. #worthit — This is also how I was able to see Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood opening night. Be honest, you’re digging my nine-fingered blog posting skills? Super impressive, yeah?
It’s been waaaaaaaaaaay too long since I’d last visited the Metrograph. The Chinatown/Lower East Side theater specializes in curating an ever-changing selection of important cinema from around the world and throughout the history of film. Tonight I saw Ugetsu and Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down; both for the first time.
If that’s not enough, upstairs you can get food and drinks at the Commissary. Before, in between, and after my movies I enjoyed impressively good cocktails and one of the best bar cheeseburgers I’ve ever had. [Don’t worry, Long Island Bar, I still love you!]
My plan is to start visiting Metrograph closer to once a week, as a way to help renew my film education. My thinking is that week to week, the limited, well curated selection of films will push me into seeing films I wouldn’t normally prioritize. If I’m going to start learning again, I should lean into trusted curation, leaving — or burning down — my comfort zone.
So, you know, if you’re into that sort of thing and what to join, hit me up.
5. Archer: 1999
Okay, I’m not saying there have been seasons of Archer I flat out hated, but my love for the show has noticeably diminished over the last few years. I liked it and still wanted to love it, but something was missing. I just couldn’t put my finger on it (space phrasing!).
However, that was the past. Now we can all bask in the brilliant future of Archer 1999. If you ask me — and actually, this is my blog, so it doesn’t matter if you ask me — this season is up there with peak Archer, or at least close. The premise is entertaining, these iterations of the characters are fantastic, and most importantly, I’m laughing out loud multiple times an episode again.
All aboard the M/V Seamus!