None-ce Upon a Time in Hollywood

Kristin Devine

Kristin has humbly retired as Ordinary Times' friendly neighborhood political whipping girl to focus on culture and gender issues. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of

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35 Responses

  1. J_A says:

    When looking back on pop culture people often forget that the trajectory of all culture is laid upon a foundation of technological advance. The fascination we had with celebrity in 1967 could not have happened in 1897 or 1907 or even 1927 because the technology simply did not exist to create the phenomenon.

    Though I agree with most of your post, I think you are displaying a strong case of reverse presentism, too. The idea that our ancestors did not share our interests because they didn’t have our technology.

    Ever since the start of the printing press, gossip about celebrities, be it in the fawning style of Hello! magazine, as displayed by le Mercure Galant since 1674, or in the pasquins that fiercely criticized royalty, ministers, and royal mistresses all the way through the French Revolution.

    In 1820 the public eagerly followed the divorce proceedings of George IV and. Caroline of Brunswick in weekly twopenny bulletins. Fifty years later, Eduard VII as Prince of Wales was both praised and howled by the popular press, and cutoffs and sketches of his mistresses visages were for available for sale as postcards (see Lillie Langtry) the same way you can buy today a Marilyn or Che t-shirt.

    And who can’t forget that Luella Parson’s first gossip column was published in 1914, and that in 1923 W.R. Hearst gave her national prominence. Hedda Hopper followed not long after (and died herself in the 60s) and through them the public knew every detail fit, and unfit, to print about the lives of Charlie Chaplin, Fattie Arbuckle, and their entourages.

    Yes, I can do without reading about celebrities, and I don’t, But I assure you, it’s not a boomer thing. Take if from this (very tail) boomer. It’s been with us since Suetonius used contemporary gossip to write biographies of people that had died one hundred years before him.

    Who knows, perhaps historians of the future will appreciate having those gossip archives available.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to J_A says:

      I agree in that gossip seems nearly universal across time and culture.
      I do think though, that technology supercharges our natural desires.

      Which isn’t a startling insights ,since “making it easier to do what you already want to do” is the chief selling point of any technology.Report

      • atomickristin in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        Supernormal stimuli.

        There are birds out there who will take care of an egg shaped rock and let their own eggs die because the rock is a little bigger than their normal egg.

        It’s how people are with gossip. We’re programmed to pay big attention to the doings of our leaders. Technology enables us to care about the doings of the Kardashians and somehow some of our brains get tricked into perceiving that as being as important, or nearly so, as things going on in our actual lives.Report

    • Ozzy! in reply to J_A says:

      There is a wonderful blog doing a weekly reread of the New Yorker, week by week, with images and snippets. I think they are up to the mid 30s.

      It is approximately 70% sass, 10% celebrities, 20% booze, very very interesting, if you like that sort of thing.

      This was a fun read Kristen. Thanks!Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Ozzy! says:

        The New Yorker was founded as a magazine for the hipsters of the Jazz Age. Sounds about right. The original writer of the Table for Two column was a Vassar-educated flapper whose pen name was Lipstick. She was writing about speakeasies instead of restaurants back then. She was a bit of a 1920s version of a Jezebel/Pitchfork writer.Report

        • Ozzy! in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Yep, gossip all the way down.Report

        • atomickristin in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          And Farmer Brown in French Lick, Indiana knew/cared nothing of any of it, most likely. He cared about some other people’s gossip.

          Just because a handful of rich wealthy people were massively interested in the doings of other rich wealthy people at points in the past does not negate the point that the ability of human beings around the world to be interested in a very small handful of people has grown exponentially with technology.Report

      • atomickristin in reply to Ozzy! says:


    • atomickristin in reply to J_A says:

      I understand that there were certainly celebrities in the past. But the worldwide obsession with them could only have been a thing in modern times. The people interested in the divorce of George IV in 1820 were a very small minority of the world’s population vs. the number who are interested in reading about Brangelina or Bennifer’s.Report

  2. Aaron David says:

    I am planning to see the movie tomorrow (or maybe today, not sure) so I am going to skip your post until my viewing is complete.

    On a side note, I haven’t been to a major movie screening since Hail, Ceaser! and I disliked the last Tarantino movie I saw, Hateful Eight. Didn’t see the movies he made before that, Django or Inglorious and I thought Kill Bill was relentlessly stupid. Not really sure why I want to see this one, but there you have it.Report

    • I watched Hateful Eight on Netflix recently. I’d been putting it off because the thing is so damn long, but the prospect of watching Samuel L. Jackson and Walton Goggins together finally sucked me in. A mistake; it was bloated and turned into a blood orgy at the end, just like Django.

      The preview for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood actually looked fun until one of the characters introduced herself as Sharon Tate, and the next scene showed one who was clearly Charles Manson. IMDB says it’s 2 hours 41 minutes, so no doubt the same thing all over again.

      I’m going to disagree somewhat with Kristin; I think there could be a great movie made about the absolute evil Manson embodied; Polanski’s later crimes would be irrelevant to it. But Tarantino isn’t the guy to do it.Report

      • Aaron David in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I started to type up a long thing about Polanski but decided to save it for a post.

        Anyway, I am not sure if Tarantino is or isn’t the right director for the whole thing. Who would be, and what source would they use? Bugliosi’s? Hollywood Babalon? How much “truth” would there be in any of those, verses myth and legend? At this point, there are so much of both of those aspects to it that Tarantino could be just as truthy as anyone else.

        I decided to see it due to Caitlin Flanagan’s review of it over at The Atlantic. That was enough to get me over the hump of disliking his works in general post-Jackie Brown. The wife absolutely loathes his films, so we decided that I would go see it, and she would watch so TV dreck that I would spend the whole time rolling my eyes at while making disparaging remarks under my breath so blatantly as to ruin her enjoyment of it. Win-Win! If it is bad, I will walk out. Not wasting my time along with my money…

        (I am with you on Jackson and Gogins being part of the reasons about trying H8, along with Russel, Leigh, and Roth. And the people at a film site I go to sometimes loved it and gave many interesting reasons for that. But, boy was I let down.)Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        But Tarantino isn’t the guy to do it.

        I’ll repeat what I said way back when:

        “I’d feel like criticizing QT for making a movie like this one… except, of course, he’s the only one who is making movies like this one.”Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

          There aren’t many worthwhile movies being made these days, period; it’s all remakes, sequels, superhero crap, and remakes and sequels of superhero crap. If something worthwhile about Manson comes out, my bet is it’s a TV miniseries.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Charles Manson plays a very small role in the movie himself. You see him in one or two scenes. The “girls” are more of a presence and in a bit of inspired casting, many of them are played by the daughters of Hollywood heavies. Andy McDowell’s daughter and the daughters of Bruce Williis/Demi Moore and Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman.Report

      • atomickristin in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I have had to watch the last few QT movies twice before I felt like I got them. I think THE is a masterpiece but it’s not easy to watch and I didn’t get it till the second time through.

        I actually don’t think we do disagree, Mike, inasmuch as my complaint is not that there isn’t an interesting movie to be made here. There is (and for all I know this may be one.) I would file a movie about the inner workings of the Manson compound as “one of those things from the 60’s that hasn’t been well-explored”, the dark side of the hippie movement and all that. My complaint is the ubiquity of movie after movie being “the Boomer Gods” and the 60’s philosophy and worldview over and over again. There are endless stories to be told and I’d like to see something different, that’s all.Report

    • atomickristin in reply to Aaron David says:

      Curious if you liked it?Report

  3. George Turner says:

    I suspect that part of the nostalgia isn’t really nostalgia, it’s that CGI makes it affordable to film old streets filled with old cars, and even entire cities and highways of them. Now they can go back 50 years and still use expansive cinematography, whereas many earlier production would restrict all the action to a limited view of a couple of blocks, perhaps interspersed with some obviously period lower-quality stock footage left over from Adam-12 or some government documentary on LA highway construction.

    Another common route is to simply avoid movies set in cities where the changes are too hard to hide, so wilderness stories are still fairly cheap. (“The Revenant” must have blown most of their budget on the cast and crew because the horses and a CGI bear couldn’t have cost very much). The recent Bonnie and Clyde movie “The Highwaymen” mostly took place in the middle of nowhere, although the small town scenes they did use were excellent.

    But with Tarantino movies accuracy isn’t even a goal because he’s often telling a glorious, over the top story about what would have been really epic if it did happen, as opposed to what was really going on.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    One of the things that I like about Tarantino is that he gives me two things at once:
    1) A movie I’ve seen a thousand times.
    2) A movie I’ve never, ever, even come close to seeing before.

    He made a WWII movie, sure. But he made… the Americans the comic relief? And the Jewish squad shot Hitler? There was also some stuff about the Germans watching a movie about a German sniper and cheering every time the sniper hit somebody and showing us a dark mirror to what we were doing… which was weird… but there were some great speeches and a great dinner table scene.

    Django Unchained had two movies I’d seen before… the Western and the Slavery Movie. Heck, pick any of his films. They’re a pastiche. But they’re a really, really *GOOD* pastiche.

    Rumor has it that his next film will be a Star Trek movie. I kinda think that this will be a mistake of some sort… but I also can’t help but wonder if his pastiche of Star Trek will pretty much make all of the other Star Trek movies (themselves pastiches) obsolete.

    I’ll see this one (because I’ve somehow seen *ALL* of the Tarantino movies…) and I’m already simultaneously looking forward to it and dreading it. I know it’ll probably be the most memorable movie I see this year. I know that I’ll want to talk about it with other people who saw it too. But I also know that it’ll have some seriously unpleasant parts… that I’ll remember and want to talk about with other people who also found them unpleasant.Report

  5. Saul Degraw says:

    I am largely on J_A’s side this stuff has always been with us despite the wishes of some. This includes me.

    I dislike nostalgia as much as you I think but in different ways. I see a lot of people in my generation (mid to late Generation Xers) seemingly stuck in an endless loop of childhood nostalgia. Nostalgia for the sugary cereals, cartoons, etc of their youth. This seems limiting to me in so many ways but I also think it is a sign of increased economic uncertainty. When we are children, our parents take care of us. Also we were children during the days of Old Economy Steve/Stacey. Those days are gone but still fresh in memory.

    That being said, I liked Once Upon a Time in Hollywood a lot. I found it as more of a revisionist take/fantasia on a very particular moment in cinematic history* rather than a nostaliga trip.

    *The mid to late 1960s were a bit of a crisis point for the filmmaking industry. Lots of people were bored and no longer wanted the draconian censorship of the old Hays Code but there were also lots of stogy studio executives of the old school (Jack Warner was still alive) who didn’t want to recognize this. Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth were old Hollywood, square-jawed, traditionalist, not very complicated stories of good and bad men. Polanski and Tate were new Hollywood. Tate’s movie the Wrecking Crew was a bit of dip your toes in the water attempt at making a movie slightly more liberal than the Hayes Code would like but not enough to scare the old guard. It even stared Dean Martin! How old school can you get?Report

    • atomickristin in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      We’ve talked about this before Saul and I have a piece coming about that, that I think you actually may like (but that’s probably just crazy talk.)

      I think that GenXers have a lot of childhood nostalgia for other reasons – namely that many of us didn’t have childhoods per se and so we glommed onto those things that represented childhood to us and we refuse to let them go*. Additionally, at the same time, as adults we came of age in a pretty dark period for quality movies and entertainment, so it’s not exactly like we had an ample supply of the “better” product to look forward to. When every movie is Independence Day it’s hard to develop a taste for anything better.

      *(I know this is 100% true for me.)Report

  6. davidly says:

    No royalty is a mere technicality. Due to the rule of the law of the land, an internet sensation from the greater or lesser nordic county cannot become president and be fawned over as such, which is a cultural phenomenon that, to my understanding of cultural phenomena, at least, resonates much deeper and for much longer than the proverbial 15 minutes of a gazillion subscribers. So far as I’m aware, the cewdiepie fella is not important enough to get away with leaving his passenger (or date or whatever) at the bottom of a body of water to drown while he comes down from the mesc. Royalty is just the rubber stamper from the newsstand covers who enables certain details of how and where the money is thrown around or hoarded. And I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell anyone here that the Declaration of Independence was but a way to rest the rule from the royal and give it to the landed gentry. And so it’s been ever since.Report

  7. Slade the Leveller says:

    Not having seen Tarantino’s latest opus, I have no idea if it’s meant to be nostalgic, but merely setting a movie in a certain time period doesn’t necessarily make it nostalgic. You have to set a movie sometime!

    For instance, Almost Famous is certainly nostalgic for the time it was set in. From the soundtrack, to the costumes, to the dialogue, all you want to do is go back to 1972. On the other hand, Good Night, and Good Luck sure doesn’t make me long for the time of McCarthyism.Report

    • Aaron David in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

      I think the difference is not that you see the movie and want to spend time in ’72 (or whenever) but the movie is more of a flip through the Sears WishBook for that year. A lot of it depends on what the director’s focus’ is on, but you know it when you see it.Report

    • atomickristin in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

      That is a fact, and so my point is why can’t they start setting more movies at other time periods OR telling unusual/unexpected stories set in time periods that have been used a lot? Good Night and Good Luck is the exact type of thing I’m talking about – deviating from the expectation and coming out with something totally unique (even though I maintain George Clooney is unattractive ;))Report