The Tulare Cinema runs a series of flash back movies every Sunday and Wednesday. It's a wonderful thing. I've already seen Big Trouble in Little China and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
This last Sunday, my brother and I watched The Big Lebowski. On the big screen. While sitting in recliners. Munching on a bucket of very expensive pop corn. I haven't enjoyed a movie so much since I watched Harvey Lembeck play Eric Von Zipper in Beach Blanket Bingo. I will admit that Annette Funicello's going from being a Mouseketeer to rocking a two piece swim suit had something to do with my enjoyment on that afternoon.
Annette's swimming attire was certainly demure by today's standards. but she also had more sexual appeal than a whole theatre full of the dental floss wearing, butt cheek revealing, vacuous, store bought women with plastic body parts who appear in movies nowadays.
Anyway, I noticed right away a certain similarity between the Big Lebowski and one of the last movies I had seen, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.
Both movies were visually striking and both were of an absurdist
bent. They both made a lot more sense than Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot but so did the first Democratic debate of 2019, so that's actually a pretty low bar.
Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time a Time in Hollywood started with a better premise. I mean who is not fascinated by the Manson Family's shenanigans? The Cohen brothers, however, did more, much more, with the material that they had.
Tarantino is famous for his use of antiheroes. I don't usually like the protagonists in his movies and have on occasion walked out of the theater because I didn't care one flying fuck about any of his characters, so when he's killing them off by the hundreds, I thinking they all deserved their fate and I don't need to wait around to see it. This pretty much also the reason I quit watching The Game of Thrones.
In Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it is not as bad as some of the other films that he has made, but as protagonists, both Brad Pitt's and Leonardo DiCaprio's characters lacked some appeal. Check that. They had some appeal but enough but not enough for me to commit to them or to care about what happened to them. Either one of them could have ended the movie burnt to the crisp, and it would have been all the same to me.
The dog food scene with Pitt's character marked him as someone I totally could do without. That scene was somewhat balanced out by the scene where he punched out the Manson family member who had flattened his tire, but not quite.
DiCaprio's character was a bit more likable but not by that much. He was seriously narcissistic, and narcissists are not generally real fun to be around. There were a couple of scenes where I felt some empathy for his character: 1) when he was chastising himself for flubbing his lines 2) at the very end of the movie when he goes next door to meet his neighbors.
Of course, this perspective could have totally changed if the ending had been different. I believe the ending reveals a lot about Tarantino's twisted psyche. I think it reveals that he needs some serious therapy to help him gain some much needed maturity. If I had known beforehand how the movie would end, I would have walked out because it felt more like a temper tantrum than a real ending.
Tarantino also used the alternative history bit before and not to good effect. Everybody in the world would have loved for the events at Sharon Tate's to have turned out differently. Thing is, they didn't, and movies that try to exploit that type of wishful thinking after the fact are built on a foundation of never to be realized desire.
Even movies about hopelessly grim events do offer audiences some hope in that they are cathartic and let us feel grateful that the events are not our own, and we can also leave the theatre having some idea of how avoid the fate that befell the characters in the movie. This is not true of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood because the events the movie depicts really happened, and there's no amount of wishful thinking that is ever going to change that.
The Cohen brothers are not above grinding someone up in a wood chipper either, but in Lebowski they don't. It is a weird tale they give us with very strange characters cast into absurd situations. The protagonists are strange and have some serious character flaws, but for some reason that befuddles me, we like them anyway; and we like them because of these flaws. They are somewhat lovable misfits.
I want to know more about Jesus Quintana and Walter Sobchak. I don't really understand why, but I like knowing that there are people like them inhabiting the underbelly of America, drinking and arguing in the thousands of bars and bowling alleys across this country. They remind of people I know, and like the real people, I want to know what makes them tick.
I don't need to know anything else about Cliff Booth, at least until the fool learns how to buy dry dog food and actually put it in the bowl without spilling it across the floor. Opening both ends of a can of dog food and plopping it down so that most of it gets on the floor, offends my sensibilities. I don't even want to know the story behind it because I am sure it is just as hideous.
And then there are the endings? Lebowski's ending, strange as it is, seem to make perfect sense, even the Sam Elliot character in the bar. That character lends the story some transcendence and makes it bigger than a story about a bunch of losers. The biggest problem with all of Tarantino's movies is they lack anything that would make them something other than a comic book stories translated to the screen. And yes, I do understand the comic books can offer transcendence too, but not apparently not in Tarantino's world.
If he had had the car containing the Manson members just drive off into the night and then have Rick Dalton meet Sharon Tate and her friends as they all pour out into the street to investigate the car's backfire, it would have been a much more satisfying movie.
Instead, he makes the audience feel pity for the demon possessed monsters who butchered Sharon Tate and her friends. That's a pretty fucked up thing to do. I do hope someday that Tarantino quits being such a arrogant piece of shit, grows up and finally realizes his true potential.
But, that's just wishful thinking.