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Headscratchers / Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

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  • So overall, what was the theme or message that Tarantino was trying to get across with this film? Cause all I seemed to get was that it was just meant to be a love letter to 60's film making while giving the era a happy ending by preventing the Sharon Tate murders. But the way the film seems to play it off, makes it seem more like Tarantino is going "Films were better back in MY day!" like some old man wearing rose-tinted glasses.
    • "Giving the era a happy ending by preventing the Sharon Tate murders" I mean, isn't that the point? It's called "Once upon a time in Hollywood," it's a fairy tale where Sharon Tate lives, Manson's minions are dispatched by a stuntman anti-hero, and TV cowboys like Rick Dalton have long, fruitful careers in the new Hollywood. And maybe part of the point is that "films were better in My day!" but I took it as less Tarantino thinking that films were automatically just better and more Tarantino mourning the loss of the innocence of 50's Hollywood and superstars of yester-year.
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    • I mean, think about it for a little bit: Rick Dalton is kind of infantile, right? He reads cheap westerns, cries all the time, throws tantrums in his trailer, he gets giddily starstruck by Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate, but while he is kind of immature, he's also a symbol of the old Hollywood that was rapidly shifting away from that innocence. You can see that in the way he bitches about starring in Spaghetti Westerns, which were famously much more violent and, along with Japanese samurai thrillers, helped inspire the violent New Hollywood movies of the 70's. In the real world, Sharon Tate - a superstar and icon for so many, Rick Dalton included - is murdered and public attitude turns violently cynical. In the world of "Once Upon a Hollywood," people like Rick Dalton get their fairy tale ending. Him and Cliff save the princess. Hollywood doesn't have to grow up so violently.
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    • I took that to be Tarantino mourning the world that could have been. Alternate Histories are all about how the world might change if there's a point of divergence - E.G. you watch The Man in the High Castle to see what a world ruled by Nazis might look like - but OUATIH doesn't give you that closure of seeing how the world might have been different. He lets you see the beginnings of that world, when Sharon Tate invites Rick Dalton in for drinks, but then he slaps you with the "Once Upon a Time" title screen. In a way, it's like Tarantino's other fantasies about a slave uprising destroying tyrannical plantation owners, or a group of Jews banding together to destroy the Third Reich with movies. But here, he explicitly points out that it's a fantasy, that it's not real. And that was my main takeaway: he's showing you an innocent world - accurately - but then gives it a happy ending, and then reminds you that that's not the way it ended.
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    • "all I seemed to get was that it was just meant to be a love letter to 60's film making while giving the era a happy ending by preventing the Sharon Tate murders." Does it have to be anything more than that? It's Tarantino's homage to period of history and filmmaking which clearly means a lot to him, coupled with a bit of wistful wish-fulfilment. If he wants to put on some rose-tinted glasses and pay tribute to the last days of Old Hollywood, well, why not? It's his movie, he can do whatever he wants.
  • Is the scene of Rick in The Great Escape an Imagine Spot or is it another Arrested Development-style correction showing he was cast and fired?
    • It's a Imagine Spot. Rick is imagining how he would have done that scene - which is almost identical to the way Steve did it. If he had been cast and fired, it might be a little different in terms of body language and intonation.
  • Why is a lot of people unsympathetic to Rick killing the last of the Manson family. Sure, killing her with a flamethrower might been a little brutal but his response on killing her was perfectly reasonable. I mean ignoring the real life history and the fact they were going kill him and the people in the house, In Rick's perspective, a woman just burst out of his window door, has a gun and shooting it all over the place(which in pain or not still renders her dangerous if not even more so with her firing all over the place) and is screaming like a mad woman. Rick had every right to use lethal force.
    • To be fair, the woman still had the gun in her hand and she turned and pointed it at him before he lit her. Even though she had fired off multiple rounds, he wasn't aware of the first shot fired inside of the house because of the fact he was listening to music out in the pool. So, for all he knew, she still had at least one round left in that revolver and decided not to take the chance.
    • People also forget that Rick is incredibly drunk, so if a mad woman crashes into your pool firing a gun in all directions madly then you're going to have an extreme reaction even if you're not sossled. Rick may also have been thinking of Cliff and Francesca who could be in danger of getting hit by stray bullets.
    • Also, we are talking about a scenario where a man literally cooks a teenaged girl to death with a flamethrower. Now, granted, there's a lot of context and extenuating circumstances being elided over with that glib description, but even the most ardent stand-your-ground gun-rights activist would probably have to concede, even if grudgingly, that that's a little on the excessive side. Granted, it's Tarantino, a certain amount of excessive violence is to be expected, but it's still a bit of an eyebrow raiser.
    • It speaks to an existing Double Standard in our society that Tarantino doesn't appear to subscribe to - Women Are Delicate, Men Are the Expendable Gender, Females Are More Innocent, whichever one you'd like to pick. There's a reason 'violence against women' is considered worse than regular violence - whether it's the patriarchal belief that women are all dainty little damsels (hence the 'women and children first' attitudes in some situations), uncomfortable reminders that domestic violence still happens or the subconscious fear of seeing a woman's beauty potentially disfigured in a fight (Beauty Is Never Tarnished has far more female examples than males). The way the film, and indeed most Tarantino films seem to operate is that a female villain will get the same comeuppance as a male one - and that's exactly what happens here. Think of it like a contract - Sadie and the other members of the Manson Family entered into the contract for a combat situation, they threw the first punches and therefore left themselves open to the same retaliation in the situation they entered into and escalated. The fact that it is a man doing it to a woman makes some people uncomfortable purely because a lot have those above prejudices or feel more sympathy for female villains than males. There's also less awareness about the Manson Family than say the Nazis or slave owners - the average viewer doesn't know that Sadie's real life counterpart participated in two brutal massacres, including stabbing a pregnant woman multiple times despite her begging for her child's life. And even in real life, there was a petition to get these women released from jail because a few people saw them as feminist icons. Yes, really. So it's a very complicated and grey issue that could be discussed for days without a clear answer, but those are just some of the possibilities.
  • So were we just expected to have a mid-level working knowledge of the Manson murders, Sharon Tate, and late-60s Hollywood? It’s pretty confusing to watch something that suddenly and veers into an alternate-history story if you aren’t that familiar with the actual history. That said, there’s no reasonable way to explain in-movie what happened in real life but not in the film.
    • Viewers Are Geniuses. Tarantino clearly has enough respect for his audience and expects that anyone going in will at least have a passing knowledge of the Manson Family Murders, considering how integral they (and Sharon Tate) are to the plot.
    • Also, the Manson Family Murders are a pretty well-known event of the 1960s. While Tarantino takes it further than most, as with stories like Titanic and Dunkirk it's not entirely an unreasonable expectation that the viewer come to the film with a certain amount of historical knowledge about what went down. Especially if you're a watcher of Quentin Tarantino's work, since he doesn't really make a secret of his interest in and influence from movies of the 1960s and 1970s or that he assumes his audience shares those interests and influences to a degree.
  • Is there a reason why everyone on the main page seems so sure that the entire segment with Bruce Lee is based on Booth’s actual recollection of what happened and not him daydreaming about a “what-if” scenario, as he does in other, briefer moments of the film?
    • Three reasons: First, it serves to establish him as a genuine tough badass, which is important later in the film. Second, it would be kinda odd that if it was a fantasy, it would end in a draw instead of him completely trouncing Lee. And third, the scene is actually based on the famous encounter that happened between Gene Lebell and Bruce Lee.
    • Also, remember that the flashback scene is prompted by Rick informing Booth that he's unable to get him any work in Rick's most recent project because the stunt director is the same person who was in charge of the set and won't hire him. It's subtle, but notice how after the flashback, Booth sort of gives a wry chuckle and shakes his head in a "Well, can't argue with that" fashion. The implication is that he's reflecting on the circumstances that got him fired and are preventing him from getting anymore work, not just having a daydream about what it would be like if he'd kicked Bruce Lee's ass one day.
  • If the crazy girl had dunked her head underwater as soon as Rick started torching her, could she have survived it, or would the ambient heat of the flames above the water's surface cooked her to death anyway?
    • Probably not, but not so much due to the temperature boiling the water (even a flamethrower would take some time to sufficiently heat the volume of water in a swimming pool to bring it to boiling point). A flamethrower basically works by spraying flammable liquid (kerosene, napalm, etc.) that's been set alight onto the target, and it squirts out a lot in one go. On getting a faceful of that stuff, even if she'd immediately managed to dipped her head under water she'd still have almost certainly received horrific and likely life-threatening burns to her head. And many flammable liquids can float on water, so even if she managed to duck down under the water before getting hit there'd probably be a floating fire waiting for her to resurface for air. Had she managed to dip under the water immediately before Rick hit her and held her breath under there long enough for Rick to run out of fuel then possibly, but realistically Sadie was pretty much dead when Rick pulled out the flamethrower.

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