Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – Top 5 Scenes

***Fair warning, if you haven’t watched Once Upon a Time In Hollywood yet go away, watch the movie and then come back to read this feature…as full spoilers will be discussed***

When Quentin Tarantino’s ode to the heady days of 1960’s Hollywood was released in cinema’s last August it’s fair to say that the movie attracted its fair share of criticism and controversy. Violence against women, racism, and a lead character who has murdered his wife…allegedly being paraded as a hero, were all themes levied at the film.

Despite being critically acclaimed and showered with nominations at awards season time, the movie has also been divisive within the cinema going public. One criticism aimed at the film is that there is no coherent story and is a selection of scenes, something I don’t necessarily agree with. There is a clear narrative, Rick Dalton (Leonardo Di Caprio), once a big star in the 1950’s on NBC prime time cowboy drama Bounty Law, is now reduced to playing bad guy roles on shows like FBI and Lancer. As he slowly works his way back up the Hollywood ladder. Admittedly a bit flimsy but there is a story here. To contradict my opinion above, I have picked my five favourite scenes/sequences below.

5. Rick & Cliff Watch FBI Together

Screenshot_20200514-154546_IMDb.jpgThis is a short and sweet scene but I love it. Coming together after a stressful and bizarre day on set of Lancer and at the Spahn ranch, Rick & Cliff settle down on the sofa to watch Rick’s episode of FBI “All The Streets Are Silent”, in a clever bit of computer trickery Leonardo Di Caprio playing mercenary Michael Murtagh a part played originally by Burt Reynolds. One of the reasons why this film is so good is the on screen partnership between these two Hollywood Heavyweights. They had never acted in the same movie before but you would think they had been acting together for decades. No scene highlights the effortless charm and chemistry between Leo and Brad better. We are essentially watching an episode of Gogglebox as they smoke and drink beer but we are glad to be there with them.

A Killer last line from Cliff too ends the scene. “All The Streets…are silent. Not when Rick Dalton has a fucking shotgun I’ll tell you that”. Brilliant.

4. Sharon Tate watching the Wrecking Crew

I think one of the valid criticisms that this movie has garnered is not using Margot Robbie in the role of Sharon Tate. The Aussie actress plays the part of the tragic up-and-coming movie star with charm and charisma and is a joy whenever she is on screen. No scene encapsulates this more than when she pays a visit to the cinema to watch the little known, James Bond-esque movie “The Wrecking Crew” where Tate had a supporting role opposite Dean Martin. Margot Robbie’s reactions to the audience laughing along at her character’s comedic chops is a delight. You sit there in the cinema in the present day smiling away with her. The fact that the cinema staff have no clue who she is and Tate just takes it in her stride also makes you warm to her more. Plus, you get close ups of Margot Robbie’s dirty feet…if you like that sort of thing…well obviously Tarantino does as he continues his foot fetish on screen. Lovely.
3. 14 Fists of McCluskey

Screenshot_20200514-154712_IMDb.jpgRick is meeting agent Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino) in a Hollywood restaurant to discuss his career and potential new roles. Rick’s stammer and insecurities are played brilliantly by Leo and any confidence this once exciting star of Bounty Law had, have sadly disappeared. Burnt out playing villain guest slots on TV. Schwarz, reveals that he sat down the night before in his screening room with Mary-Alice Schwaaaaaaaarrz for a Rick Dalton double feature of “Tanner” and “The 14 Fists of McCluskey”. The latter, is a delicious throwback to 1960s WW2 movies and Tarantino’s own “Inglorious Basterds”. The clip of the film ends with another classic quote “Did anybody order fried sauerkraut?” as the Nazi henchmen receive a roasting from the flamethrower which makes a reprise later in the movie to such crowd pleasing effect. I would pay to watch a full length version!

2. On The Set of Lancer
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Rick has gotten himself a part on the pilot of prime time show “Lancer” as the bad guy, as is his usual career MO. The adventures of Rick Dalton continue as he is playing Caleb DeCoteau a bad guy with an almost comedic appearance. Filming a pivotal scene with Jim Stacey (Timothy Olyphant) as Johnny Madrid this plays out across numerous scenes and intersected with Cliff and Sharon’s jaunts out and about. The sequence I am going with is after Rick has fluffed his lines a few times and storms back to his trailer. In a scene completely ad-libbed by Di Caprio, Rick loses it and smashes up the place, shouting obscenities in a sequence very reminiscent of the mirror scene in Taxi Driver “Are you talking to me?”. It’s hilarious and shows that Di Caprio does have great comic chops, something first glimpsed in Wolf of Wall Street and Critters 3??

Back on set, they film another scene where he holds the bartender’s daughter Trudi (brilliantly played by 8-year-old Julia Butters) hostage. Scott Lancer (Luke Perry) comes to her rescue. Its superbly acted by all, especially Leo who elevates a somewhat cartoonish villain into a genuinely terrifying threat. This was also Luke Perry’s final on screen role before his tragic death. The scene ends, with praise from the director and Trudi says it’s the best acting she has ever seen…Rick cries and has that twinkle back in his eye. I just think the acting in the scene is breath taking from all and I couldn’t take my eyes of the screen.
But it’s not my favourite scene…
1. Spahn Ranch
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A real edge of your seat sequence, and because this a Tarantino film you just don’t know which way this is going to go for Cliff? This whole sequence would not be out of place in a film like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. After picking up young hitchhiker Pussycat (Margret Quilley), Cliff learns that she is currently living at an old movie ranch he used to work on and is curious to see what has happened to his old boss George Spahn (Bruce Dern). Spahn Ranch of course, was infamous as the hangout of Charles Manson and followers “The Manson Family”. The moment Cliff starts moseying around the place, he annoys Squeaky (Dakota Fanning) enquiring about George’s wellbeing and she informs him that George is sleeping in the back as she so eloquently puts it “I fucked his brains out last night” and he needs a nap before watching FBI later.

The Manson Family members in the room all look sheepish as Cliff maintains that he wants to check that he is ok. As the tension ramps up to almost unbearable levels and dread builds along with the haunting “Radiogram” by Bernard Herrmann in the background. We don’t know what to expect. Turns out George is alive and well (sort of) and Bruce Dern’s cranky portrayal puts us at ease. That ease though suddenly turns back to tension again as Cliff slowly walks back to his car, the once friendly faces now full of anger. One of the male hippies gets a beating from Cliff for putting a hole in his tire. Apart from the fight between Bruce Lee and Cliff this is the first hint of violence in the film so far, the beating Cliff gives is extremely visceral and you feel every punch. As in all movies as soon as someone says “Fuck you” violence will ensue so we know the violence is about to come, this does not mean that the sounds of the punches is any less shocking. Things get a little tense again when the girls send for Tex (Austin Butler). However, it’s too late as Tex arrives on horseback, Cliff drives off into the distance and we can breathe;
I also love the mini sequence at the end of this of the various character’s making their way home for the night as the sun goes down on a Sunday evening with California Dreamin’ by Jose Feliciano plays in the background. Beautiful.
So there you go. My top 5 Scenes from “The 9th Film from Quentin Tarantino”. Do you agree? What are your favourites? Have I missed a trick by not having the final Manson Murders sequence in there? Drop a comment in the section below and let me know.
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