Calendar Feedback: Seeing ‘Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood’ in all the wrong ways

Brad Pitt in “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood”
Readers have a lot to say about “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood,” costarring Brad Pitt.
(Andrew Cooper/Columbia Pictures)
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Regarding “It Is Not Such a Golden Age in ‘Once’” [Aug. 1] by Mary McNamara and “Does ‘Once’ Insult Bruce Lee?” [July 31] by Jen Yamato: I’m fed up with articles in your newspaper criticizing our hometown hero Quentin Tarantino and his new movie. “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood” reflects Hollywood’s taken-for-granted racism in the ’60s. Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, Freddie Prinze and others broke that color barrier in Hollywood in the ’60s and ’70s. Although the Oscars did remain #sowhite, Tarantino’s movies did not.

Tarantino has threatened to make only one more movie. Why can’t we encourage a local born-and-bred creative genius approaching his twilight years to continue? Escapist fans everywhere will continue to flock to these plotless, droning and overly self-conscious pictures. But we’ll have something more.

Gerry Walsh

Redondo Beach

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Mary McNamara sees, and derides, all the touches in the film that reveal Tarantino’s clever, satirical, even nasty takedown of Tinseltown nostalgia.

The “celebration of masculinity,” the “heroic” camera angles, Cliff’s victory over Bruce Lee and the final triumph over Manson’s family, etc., are presenting the protagonists’ view of themselves and Hollywood’s view of itself. The apparent unimportance of Cliff’s wife’s death, the casual, stupid ethnic and misogynistic slights and slurs the men make, Rick’s fear of failure, and the unlikeliness of the Bruce Lee incident (and of the fantastic ending, including the flamethrower thing) — these are all glimpses of the real world, which is acknowledged by none of the characters in the film, from Cliff and Rick to George Spahn to the Manson gang, all of whom are seen to be delusional about themselves and their world and who are, in fact, as shallow as the L.A. River.

Like many old world fairy tales containing symbolic criticism of the status quo, the small clues in this film (small because that’s the way the characters see them) show us the corrupting unreality of the “Hollywood way” of life, as contrasted with the attitudes and inflated heroics of Rick and Cliff.

In fact, this and one other similar essay I’ve seen, get it wrong in exactly the same way, possibly for the same reason: The very existence of slurs, misogyny, etc. are (in the currently fashionable way), regarded as unacceptable outrages in themselves, and not to be included, even when, in context, they’re meant to be: outrageous.

Robert Leet

Valley Village

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Mary McNamara, you took a really big swing in your column about “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood,” but unfortunately missed by a mile. And then, the bat swung around and hit the Times editor on the head. With every paragraph, my jaw dropped further and further at the naiveté and denial of reality.

There is so much to unpack here that I’m afraid to open the suitcase. Maybe what McNamara was looking for was something called a documentary. Maybe what Hollywood needs to do is, from now on, only make movies that take place after the year 2008? What was Scorsese thinking with that stupid movie called “Goodfellas”? And hey, Hollywood screenwriters, stop making stuff up. What are you trying to do, entertain us?

Peter Gaulke

Los Angeles

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“Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood” proves once and for all that Quentin Tarantino has a fascinating and unrelenting desire for music, TV and movies of yesteryear. Imagine if he had his own streaming channel where he could personally program his favorite vintage movies and TV shows.

If not, what about Amazon or Netflix hiring him to showcase his choice of period entertainment including “Mannix,” “FBI”, etc. etc.? I’d surely tune in.

Alan Warner

Los Angeles

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Mary McNamara’s “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood” analysis is exactly what is needed. I’ve wondered why no one with any critical faculties would write about its reduction of the Manson murders to a cliché, or that the script seemed to be based on the art direction.

I have many friends who have fallen for the “nostalgia porn.”

Lee Harris

Burbank

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Of course, we all wish that the horrific events in August 1969 never took place — and have little desire to see them depicted on screen yet again. But by changing the facts with this fantasy, I am afraid it adds a frothy, light, upbeat tone that is utterly at odds with reality.

Don’t Sharon Tate and the other victims deserve to be honored with truth? By making the Manson cult come across as buffoons that are easily defeated by these fictitious action heroes, it minimizes what really happened — and risks younger generations not even knowing or appreciating the gravity and horror of the actual tragedy.

Lawrence H. Stern

Los Angeles

Candidates not up for debate

Regarding television critic Lorraine Ali’s column “At the Debates, Dems Take the Bait” [Aug. 2]: I do take issue with any legitimacy granted by usage of the term “debate.” The later description of it as a “melee” was more accurate.

Ted Rosenblatt

Pacific Palisades

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Lorraine Ali complains that the moderators “pitted the crowded field of candidates against one another.” Isn’t candidates pitted against each other the very definition of a debate? Does she think anyone would watch if they simply stood up there and gave their standard stump speeches?

Robert Chapman

Downey

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It was a sorry display to pit Democratic presidential hopefuls against one another as if it’s a TV game show titled “Who Wants to be the President?” It seems that more time was spent with the so-called moderators interrupting the candidates than on the issues.

Ben Miles

Huntington Beach

She’s right. This is unacceptable

Regarding Mary McNamara’s column “Do Not Accept this Way of Life” [Aug. 6]: This was a bravura column. Not if. When. Yes, yes, yes. I am the father of two teens, and you articulated my fears. I do not describe myself as a fearful person, either. But the odds have shortened. I used to find the odds in my favor, “if” seeming a remote possibility. But at some point, it became “when.” I have struggled to accept that, through any lack of any meaningful government action, this is the country that we the people have decided we want. It makes me a little heartsick, and sick to my stomach.

Thanks for articulating so well what I’ve been feeling.

Andy Faught

Fresno

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I agree with your goal of banning assault weapons. Although, I think you missed a prime opportunity to clearly point out the crux of the problem. Why didn’t you use this as an opportunity to make it clear to your readers that it’s the Republican wing of Congress that is the problem? Nearly all Republican members of Congress get an “A” rating from the NRA and nearly all Democrats get an “F” rating. There are plenty of Democrats that support a ban on assault weapons.

Dave Courdy

Huntington Beach

Bow to a Prince of Broadway

Thank you for theater critic Charles McNulty’s sensitive, smart and glowing appreciation of Hal Prince [“Prolific legend changed course of Broadway,"Aug. 1]. It is wonderful to read so many superlatives he richly deserves.

I knew Hal, did not work with him directly, but had the pleasure of visiting him and his family at their second home in Majorca, Spain. It is unforgettable as is his inspiration.

Merry Lynn Katis

Carlsbad

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Hal Prince will be remembered for having produced or directed legendary plays like “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Cabaret,” “Phantom of the Opera” and “Show Boat.” However, a part of his 1966 flop “It’s a Bird ... It’s a Plane ... It’s Superman” became part of the soundtrack of my life as well. A one-minute segment from the play’s opening musical number was used as the closing music for Washington, D.C.’s Channel 9 evening news broadcast when I lived there in the early 1980s.

Stephen A. Silver

San Francisco

Do not denigrate the dragon

Regarding “Does ‘Once’ insult Bruce Lee?” [July 31]” Apparently, Bruce Lee comes in for some mocking in a scene from “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood.”

Elvis Presley has been mocked, parodied, and roasted for over 60 years now, and his legacy stands as tall as ever.

Ted Herrmann

Los Angeles

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I don’t understand the fuss people are making about “insulting” Bruce Lee? Tarantino is pure Tarantino and we all understand, as in past films of his, how unpredictable he can be. I think that the satire extended to Lee does not intend to degrade him by any means. No one can deny the outstanding legend of Bruce Lee and the amazing craft he provided.

To take offense in this movie seems ridiculous.

Wendy C. Souza

Seal Beach

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Regarding the depiction of Bruce Lee in “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood,” it is the second funniest part of the movie and, in my mind, does Bruce Lee a big favor. My 16-year-old son had never heard of Lee, but was interested enough to look him up on Wikipedia and YouTube. Voila, a whole new generation of Bruce Lee fans. Thank you, Quentin Tarantino. (BTW, I hear Tex Watson and Susan Atkins are none too happy about their on-screen portrayals.)

William David Stone

Beverly Hills

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For the cinema fans who’ve seen “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood,” they’ve discovered a cornucopia of movie and TV references from the 1960s and 1970s. The depiction of Bruce Lee quite possibly has its inspiration from the 1969 film “Marlowe” with James Garner. In the film, Lee has two memorable scenes.

In the second one, Garner gets the best of Lee in a memorable fashion.

Joseph T. Porter

Redlands

Nail-biting TV fare

Regarding “They are Nailing it” [July 23]: Thank you so much for putting Lorraine Ali’s column about “Claws” on the front page of Calendar.

I’ve been trying to get my friends to watch that show since it started. It’s such a tonic for the times we’re living in. I’m an old lady, but what I wouldn’t give to be part of Desna’s crew.

Nancy Ramseyer

Burbank

Quentin Tarantino’s movies are not misogynistic

Regarding “A Toast to L.A.” [July 26]: Kenneth Turan’s comment on Quentin Tarantino making “gut-clenching ultra violence, especially against women” was pointedly unfair. Objectively, most of Tarantino’s “ultra violence” is male on male. Tarantino’s two “Kill Bill” films are equal parts male on male, male on female, female on male, female on female violence. Only his “Death Proof” movie is more male on female violence and even in that one, women prevail in the end.

Mark Turner

Studio City

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Calendar Feedback Aug. 4: From ‘Once Upon a Time’ to happily ever after?
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Leonardo DiCaprio in “Once Upon a Time.”
(ANDREW COOPER/Columbia Pictures)

Regarding “Tarantino’s Evolving Legacy in Hollywood” by Justin Chang [July 28]: Being able to tell a story stylistically and compellingly is evidence of a talented director. Doing it repeatedly from wildly original scripts that he himself has written is evidence of a gifted director. I’ve enjoyed and admired every movie Tarantino has made. All I ask is that he stop appearing in them. The man is a terrible actor.

David Macaray

Rowland Heights

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When Quentin Tarantino specifically requested that critics refrain from revealing the ending of “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood,” Justin Chang expressed contempt at such a request and revealed the twist ending. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that most moviegoers prefer not to know twist endings and other “spoilers” prior to seeing a film or a TV show. It is unbelievably arrogant for a critic not to respect a reasonable request from a filmmaker and it also shows a disrespect for the audience to ruin the enjoyment of a surprise ending.

Leni Corwin

Altadena

Editor’s note: Justin Chang’s article about “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” which generally referenced but did not give details of the film’s ending, contained a spoiler warning at the beginning of the story and just before the relevant paragraph.

He didn’t want the spotlight

Regarding “A ‘Family’ Rift in Sharp Relief” by Greg Braxton [July 28]: I’ve just returned from seeing “Crawl,” and even after 87 minutes of watching alligators hungrily dismembering a half-dozen Floridans, I’m still impressed by the savagery with which Braxton mauls Norman Lear.

I suspect most Calendar readers are well aware that myriad effective partnerships involve both an outside partner and an inside partner. What Braxton’s piece fails to make clear is how this (unsuccessful) attempt to lower Lear raises Bud Yorkin. Even as a young man watching Lear and Yorkin’s productions, I knew both names, but I also knew Lear was the front man, the face of the brand. After reading Braxton’s piece, nothing regarding that has changed.

According to the article, Yorkin was OK with their arrangement but Yorkin’s family is not. Understandable as that is, how does it honor a man who seems always to have wished to remain in the background to now insist on his getting posthumous publicity and credit?

Would it have been a nice gesture to have named the show Lear and Yorkin’s “All in The Family?” Sure. But from what Braxton tells us, it wouldn’t have mattered to Yorkin. And if the now-96-year-old Lear engages in a bit of ego-driven self-aggrandizement, well, “Hooray for Hollywood.”

Gary Karasik

Los Angeles

She knows the book on Manson

Patrick Kiger’s article “Getting a Read on Manson, Killing Spree” [July 28] had two glaring omissions in its catalog of books related to the Manson case. In the “To get into the heads of his followers” section, there was no mention of Lynette Fromme’s 500-page memoir, “Reflexion,” which chronicles her two-and-a-half years with Manson and includes not only all of her own writing but also more writings by myself, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten, Mary Brunner and many other so-called Manson “family” members. Fromme was an early so-called member of the Manson family who served 34 years in federal prison after being convicted of attempting to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975.

For the “To understand the crimes” section, I would recommend George Stimson’s “Goodbye Helter Skelter,” the first reasonable and critical examination of Charles Manson, his family, and the crimes attributed to them. Stimson based his book on his own decades of research and his 20-plus year relationship with Manson that included hundreds of letters and phone calls and almost two hundred prison visits.

Sandra Good

Hanford

Editor’s note: Sandra Good lived with the Manson family at Spahn Ranch and was in jail at the time of the Tate/La Bianca murders.

LACMA redo could use a redo

I totally agree with the comments from reader Linda Bradshaw Carpenter [“Feedback: Does LACMA Even Need Redo?” July 28]. I’ve been a member of LACMA for years, and the first time I saw the proposed redo, I thought it was a joke. The joke will be on the county of Los Angeles and its taxpayers if the project goes forward. There’s an old saying: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Susan Strickland

West Hills

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Yes, the building needs renovation — as does my 70-year-old house — but that doesn’t dictate a replacement that reduces the space for exhibition of our world-respected collection of arts of the world, diverts funds from art acquisition, will reduce attendance due to the physical demands of visiting the elongated plan [and] negatively affect the whole area around LACMA.

I’ve supported LACMA since it was moved from Exposition Park to the Miracle Mile. I’ve been a docent. I’ve seen directors come and go. Now is the time to change the director and change the course. Trustees, do your job.

Tobey C. Moss

Los Angeles

Roaring back at this film critic

Regarding film critic Justin Chang’s article “‘Lion King’ Finds Tech and Loses Heart” [July 23].

What did Jon Favreau and “The Lion King” ever do to Justin Chang to prompt such an avalanche of vitriol and bashing of every single element of the film? Does Favreau owe him money?

In our current frightening and divisive times, why not let people simply escape the doom and gloom and encourage a couple hours of fresh and stunning visual achievement?

As it was with some critics picking apart “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which went on to earn a staggering $900 million and counting, the box-office results for “The Lion King” will be the final arbiter of what is a good movie.

Randi Mont-Weiner

Los Angeles

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Film critic Justin Chang’s article about “The Lion King” lambasted the movie for retaining the plot loved by huge audiences over the years. In essence, Chang was repudiating an earlier review by Kenneth Turan, who praised the movie and its innovative visual qualities. Can we assume The Times will give Turan free reign to sabotage one of Chang’s reviews?

James Fulton

Glendale


Ed Stockly handles the TV Listings and highlights for the L.A. Times and is the resident TV Skeptic, occasionally writing about TV shows that feature the paranormal, bad science, mermaids, Big Foot, aliens and quackery.