The Essential Tarantino – What to watch before Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Tarantino just released his ninth film, Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood.  The movie follows the lives of fictional characters actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), and real life actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), in the days before the Manson Family murders.  The movie debuted in second place behind The Lion King, and is receiving rave reviews. Now is the perfect time to review the director’s catalog and suss out the essential Tarantino films. 

Reservoir Dogs

Tarantino’s first film premiered at Sundance in 1992, and was picked up by Miramax.  The film also played at Cannes. The story concerns a group of bank robbers reconvening after a bank heist gone wrong, to figure out what happened.  The movie introduced several staples of Tarantino’s work, including pop culture references (the Madonna debate in the opening scene), long scenes of dialogue (including the opening scene), profanity, extreme violence, a story told out of chronological order, and a hip soundtrack. 

The movie features three actors Tarantino is fond of working with: Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, and Tim Roth. The title doesn’t have a specific meaning. It just sounds cool. 

Pulp Fiction

When Tarantino returned to Cannes in 1994, he was a star.  He had a following, and anticipation was high for his new film Pulp Fiction.  Inspired by pulp novels, the movie weaved together the tales of several criminal figures, including two hitmen (John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson), a corrupt boxer and his girlfriend (Bruce Willis and  Maria de Medeirios), a gangster’s girlfriend (Uma Thurman), and two robbers (Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer)….among others.

Pulp Fiction took Cannes by storm and won the Palme d’Or.  It revived Travolta’s career! The movie was nominated for Best Picture, and Travolta, Jackson, and Thurman were all nominated for Oscars.  Tarantino was nominated for Best Director. Tarantino and Roger Avary won Best Original Screenplay. The film also received a nomination for Best Editing.

This is the director’s most essential work, and the film against which all his other movies are judged.  

The last quarter of Four Rooms

Four Rooms is kind of a “throw away” film.  It was a fun anthology where four directors each got to direct a quarter of the flick.  To illustrate how forgettable the movie is, I can only remember three of the four sections of the movie. 

Tim Roth plays a bell boy who will break all of his mentor’s rules by the time one fateful New Year’s Eve is over.  Tarantino directs the end of the flick — the last room that Roth has to deal with. This section of the movie is a remake of a classic “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” episode that originally featured Peter Lorre. 

Bruce Willis, Quentin Tarantino, Jennifer Beals, and Paul Calderon play a game of poker, where the stakes go beyond money. This section of the movie is wicked fun…and if I were programming a QT film festival, I’d definitely include it.  

Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2

Volume 1 is Tarantino’s martial arts film.  And Volume 2 is his first western. But together, they’re a compelling drama about revenge and its consequences.  (Tarantino has gone on record saying that he recently talked to star Uma Thurman about making a part 3 featuring Vernita Green’s adult daughter seeking vengeance against her character.) 

The House of Blue Leaves sequence in Volume One is probably one of the longest action scenes ever filmed.

The change of tone in Volume Two is daring. Thurman gives a tour de force performance as The Bride.  These movies came out during a period in my twenties when I felt a lot of anger. There was something about them that was very special to me. A catharsis. Waiting for Volume Two to start was like waiting for The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King to begin.  

Inglorious Basterds

I’ve only seen this one once, so it’s hard for me to speak of it eloquently or at length.  There is something quite satisfying in Tarantino’s rewriting of history. Violence and revenge are major themes of this film as well.  Christoph Waltz won his Oscar for this movie and he as cold blooded and terrifying here as he is lovable in Django. The tense opening scene is a breathtaking highlight.  Our review is here

Django Unchained

Tarantino crossed the Western and the Blaxploitation film to create this controversial picture.  Say what you will about it, but the image of the slaves’ abused ankles alone at the beginning of the film drove home the horror of slavery to me, in a way few things ever have.  I have never forgotten it. The inhumanity of it. Whatever other parts of the movie may be over the top, that stuff really happened. Christoph Waltz’s retelling of the Broomhilda legend is a highlight.

Take RunPee to the Movies

Don’t miss the best parts of a Tarantino film or any other movie.  Use the RunPee app every time you go to the movies. Especially for films that are over two hours like Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.  We add new Peetimes every week for all the Hollywood hits. You can also keep up with all the latest movie news and reviews by following us on Twitter @RunPee and liking us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RunPee/.  

Movie Review – Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Movie review : Inglourious Basterds

Movie Review : Django Unchained

Hey, #Tarantino fans, are you ready for #OnceUponATimeInHollywood?  #GoldenMan takes a look at QT’s #filmography with The Essential Tarantino.  #ReservoirDogs #PulpFiction #Uma #TimRoth #Travolta #SamJackson #ChristophWaltz

Movie Review – Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Movie Review - Once Upon a Time ... in HollywoodOnce Upon a Time… in Hollywood is, without question, the least enjoyable movie I’ve ever given an A+ to.

The writing and directing are some of Tarantino’s best. The acting was as good as you’ll see. Leonardo DiCaprio was at his best, which let’s face it: is the best ever. Brad Pitt was fantastic. My only mark against Pitt in this movie is that his character isn’t much of a stretch from many other roles he’s played.

To be fair, there were a few scenes, here and there, where I saw DiCaprio’s character from Wolf of Wall Street.

However, even though the movie gets high marks all around, I didn’t love it. I’m certainly impressed by the acting and craftsmanship on display. I just found the setting disinteresting. It’s the 70s, for crying out loud. They thought neon was amazing. If there’s a decade that needs to be flushed down a time toilet, it’s that one.

However, I can hardly knock a movie for that, now can I?

Spoilers to come if you want them:

Click to read spoilers.

Going into the movie, all I knew about Manson was that he lead a cult, or something like that, and his followers killed some people. I didn’t know who, or why.

By the end of the movie I understood the reason for the movie title: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. Tarantino winds the story around two characters Rick and Cliff, played by DiCaprio and Pitt, with Sharon Tate and the Manson clan in the background. He does this so well I didn’t realize the ending was fictitious until the credits were about to roll.

“Wait, they killed someone, right? … Ohhh, ‘Once Upon a Time…'” I get it now. That much was brilliant. This is how Hollywood wishes things had turned out.

I guess I should go read up on the real events of the story, but I don’t think it ends well in reality. Maybe it’s best to just roll with Tarantino’s fictitious version. I’m pretty sure I’ll sleep better.

Grade: A+

About The Peetimes: There are 4 good Peetimes, nicely spaced out through the movie. Any one of the 3 will work for you, but I suggest the 2nd one, since it is the longest and has a very short synopsis.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) for language throughout, some strong graphic violence, drug use, and sexual references
Genres: Comedy, Drama

The Essential Tarantino – What to watch before Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

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