Fortunately, two of our Forgotten Hits Readers DID send in THEIR reviews this week ... so I am now able to lead with those and then just offer some brief commentary of my own at the end of this piece.
Going in, you need to know two things ...
#1 - You're about to read some somewhat "mixed reviews" here ... but to me, that's one of the cool things about doing it this way.
And "B" (I just LOVE when people do it this way), you're going to find some SPOILERS ... so if you haven't seen the movie yet (or simply don't want to know), please be advised. (I will run a SPOILER ALERT headline where they appear so that at least you have the option to divert your eyes and skip over them.)
First up, Clark Besch:
Just a quick warning in advance ... I mention some things about this film, but I don't give much away about the story below. However, there ARE a few SPOILER ALERTS, so please be advised going in.
We went to see this film Sunday afternoon and let me tell you, it's pretty cool to step into 1969, even in an area I did not live near.
The music and KHJ airchecks blaring throughout was great to hear -- especially the obscure songs. The LENGTH of the soundtrack songs as used varied from about three words of Chad & Jeremy's "Paxton Quigley" to nearly the full songs of "Son of a Lovin' Man" and "Bring a Little Lovin'"!! The soundtrack list that Kent ran the other day does not include many other songs that played roles in the film.
For example, there was a 4th Raiders song and The Stones' "Out of Time" gets a long run as well ... as does the Mamas and Papas' "12:30." There is also a funny scene with "Snoopy Vs the Red Baron."
The Heaven Scent jingle is played and I love that little tune still after a million AM radio plays back then. Neil Diamond gets a couple of songs in the film.
The one song that did NOT fit the time frame was Joe Cocker's "The Letter," a 1970 hit.
Altho Buffy Sainte-Marie sang "The Circle Game" in the film, I believe Joni Mitchell's rendition would have been better for this film. Dee Clark gets an oldie play, but why not stick in "Light my Fire" or "My Little Red Book" instead?
KHJ's main Boss Radio jingle gets at least three plays along with the great DJs of the time, Robert W Morgan, Real Don Steele and Humble Harv (who I did not remember hearing when I saw this).
Without spoiling the movie plot, I would greatly suggest reading what happened in the 1969 Sharon Tate murders by the Manson clan. I only knew the basics, so it would have been much better, had I been "informed" on everything that happened. Where reality and fiction meet is sometimes hard to tell, as many things (like TV shows) were real life things.
They did a good job of finding actors who LOOKED like the actual people that were a part of the REAL Manson story. How about Joey Heatherton? She looked EXACTLY like her 1970 look. Michelle Phillips and Mama Cass get nice portrayals as well. Even the dog food dropped out of a can resembled the same muck we fed our cats in the same way in the 60's. I'm not even sure that the main character, a Rick Dalton, is even the MAIN character!
The gruesome part is truly gruesome, but I won't add anymore there.
The TV western the film's star is in is MUCH like any of the early 60's B&W shows like "Branded," "Rifleman," etc. There's TONS of cool TV traits, movie connections and various terms in the film dealing with the 60's, often underlying to be found by those who wish to dig in their memory banks. Also quite a few ironic twists, of which I probably missed many.
The songs were fit in nicely to what was happening in the story, such as "Out of Time" and "Straight Shooter." By the end, I was almost thinking some things were done on purpose, but they may have been invented in MY mind and may NOT have been anything intended. It was like the Paul is Dead clue syndrome! Was it just me or did the film's director play KHJ AM radio throughout the film, yet late when things took a turn, you see a radio dial being turned on the FM dial with Vanilla Fudge playing "You Keep Me Hanging On." Was this the subliminal ending of AM radio to FM? Was I just imagining things? Naming one of the girls "Pussycat" was a bit like "Hell's Angels on Wheels," who I believe had a girl with the name "Mattress back."
One great thing with the film was the use of REAL records and the characters playing records that actually were the correct labels for the time (Raiders on Columbia and Mamas & Papas Dunhill.) I see why Paul Revere & the Raiders were throughout the film now. Of course, Terry Melcher produced these songs and he was the one to NOT give Manson his recording chance that led to ... whatever happens in the film (or doesn't.)
It's funny but the TV show being watched by "the ranch gang" was the Raiders' Saturday afternoon bandstand show, "It's Happening" (complete with the correct theme being played), while in the supposed targeted ill-fated house, their "Something Happening" album is played, featuring music included on that album. Kind of a cool twist. You won't see cassette decks or 8 tracks blaring, but you WILL hear AM radio's glory days and music from reel to reels, which I enjoyed immensely.
If you get there early, you might get the free fake "fanzine" (ala the "That Thing You Do!" one) that has faux stories on the stars and the music and cigarette ads. It was funny to see all the cigarette smoking that went on (just as it DID back then) and then walk out of the show and see three people congregated smoking outside. There was nothing like unfiltered cigarettes! Times have changed.
After watching the disappointing music film revolving around 1964-67 Laurel Canyon in LA last week, I feel like "Once Upon a Time" was almost MORE realistic and could have been the one called "Echoes from the Canyon." I think about what could be used in such a film revolving around 60's Chicago. Imagine a film scene starting with Jim Sohns screaming out "Oh Yeah! Everything's gonna be alright this morning" by the Shadows of Knight. If only gangsta Chitown was in the 60', right? Haha.
It's a pretty cool film and at 2 hours 40 minutes, you get your money's worth of entertainment and great 60's music!
P.S. Once you have SEEN the film, here's a great cheat sheet on who played what person and who that person was in real life and what happened to them all. Do NOT look at this until seeing the film.
Next up ... Phil Nee ...
I went to Once Upon A Time In Hollywood last night and totally loved it.
Unlike the recently reviewed Yesterday, the characters are very memorable and likeable. The movie is very long, but it did not seem like it. I would have turned around and went to see it again.
This movie was funnier than I expected it to be. I was impressed with the old cars on the street, the can labels in the cupboards, the clothes and KHJ radio playing through the movie.
The fantastic soundtrack sounded so good. There are songs in the soundtrack that I have discovered for the first time. When I was a youngster, I loved the t.v. western Lancer.
Most people don't remember it because it only lasted for two seasons.
I found it incredible that they used that forgotten show as a part of the story line.
All of the performances are good. Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate is breathtaking. Mike Moh plays Bruce Lee, and he hails from Verona, Wisconsin.
You and I don't always see eye to eye when we review movies. I am pretty sure you will give this a Forgotten Hits
Phil - WRCO
The film has been playing to nearly unanimous rave reviews ... it even got a seven minute standing ovation after the premier. All of the press seems to be heralding it as perhaps Quentin Tarantino's greatest achievement.
I hated it.
And, once again, I went into it with the highest expectations and anticipation. The idea of melding fiction with the real-life experience of the Manson Family / Sharon Tate murders was intriguing at the very least.
But I found myself sitting there waiting for something ... ANYTHING ... to happen to make me feel invested in the film ... and 2 hours and 40 minutes is a LONG time to sit there if this is what you're feeling. (Truth be told, I started to keep track of time ... never a good sign ... and didn't have my first real "connection moment" with the film until we were 55 minutes in. That's an hour I'll never get back!)
Yes, the soundtrack is brilliant (although at times annoying ... if you're only going to feature four words of a song, why include it at all? In addition to Clark's example, I would include Neil Diamond's "Kentucky Woman" as another.) In fact, the music editing was very abrupt on several occasions ... and including Joe Cocker's version of "The Letter" was an obvious flaw to me as well ... although the average film goer isn't going to notice something like that. (Still, since so much of the music featured came from 1966 - 1969, why not just use The Box Tops' bigger hit version instead?)
As for the story, I hated it ... or perhaps more so wondered where it was. Quentin Tarantino is either spot on or off by a country mile ... and there just doesn't seem to be any middle ground with him. I guess my best characterization would have to be that I always feel like Quentin is laughing considerably harder at his own jokes than anyone else in the room. He has a tendency to ramble on FAR longer than he needs to on many occasion, a trait that has provided the low point in several of his other films as well. (Nothing's going to ever top "Pulp Fiction" for me, where I don't think there was EVER a dull moment of even 30 seconds!)
And it's a shame ... because Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt both put on Oscar-worthy performances. The film is shot in a way that really captures the look of that era ... and the attention to so much of the detail is outstanding ... yet it just never drew me in. I kept waiting for something to grab me ... and it never did.
The character profiles of DiCaprio's and Pitt's roles were well developed and well defined ... but there wasn't really anything new brought in to the stereotype Hollywood has-been story. Margot Robbie IS stunning as Sharon Tate ... but I don't think she had more than eight lines of dialog in the entire film! She was used more as a "prop" than a character in the film.
Yes, the Bruce Lee scene was funny and entertaining ... but we saw THAT in the preview. The standout scenes for me were the ones between DiCaprio and ten year old Julia Butters ... these were the moments that meant the most to me.
So the reader may ask, "How can you point out and praise all of these significantly important things and still give the film a negative review?"
Because the movies for me have always been about escapism ... I want to go off some place else for a couple of hours and be entertained while I'm there. I never felt that way with this film. There were long, drawn-out stretches that were actually painful to sit through. (Seriously, did we need that much background on Leo's trip to Italy to film spaghetti westerns? Although I will say that on the flight back to Hollywood, he looked to be the spitting image of 1969 Tommy Roe! It was uncanny!)
And yes, the actors portraying the incidental sideline characters were amazing ... I, too, would single out Steve McQueen, Mama Cass, Michelle Phillips and the incredibly beautiful Joey Heatherton, who dated our FH Buddy John Madara back in the day ... something that gnaws at me every time I think of it! lol
Throughout the film I kept thinking to myself, "I can't give this movie anything higher than a '2' rating ... I wanted to but just couldn't ... I was that put off by it.
But then ... SPOILER ALERT ... when they drifted COMPLETELY off reality the night of the Sharon Tate murders, that was it for me. DON'T TIE IN SUPPOSED REALITY AS THE BACKDROP TO YOUR FILM AND THEN PRESENT ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE REALITY OF THAT SITUATION!!!
SPOILER ALERT: If the whole motive of the twist of the story was to present "What would happen if the Manson Family murderers went to the wrong house that night by mistake?" ... meaning that everybody else that died that night gets to live ... then this is NOT a film or premise that I can support. People DIED that night ... REAL people ... and to present any other fantasy doesn't lessen that reality. (I immediately down-graded my ranking to a "1".)
END OF SPOILER ALERTS: If any or all of this appeals to you, see it and draw your own conclusions. I can only tell you that I left the theater feeling totally let down and disappointed. (kk)