Tuesday, August 27, 2019


MINDHUNTER season 2 has been mind-blowing, in particular the episodes helmed by David Fincher and Andrew (CHOPPER) Dominik. There is a coldness to it that is completely absorbing and frequently chilling, but this time around we are also given a much more harrowing insight into the personal lives of two of the show's main protagonists, Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and Wendy Carr (Anna Torv).
Like the first season, a big part of season two's gravitas is provided by the supporting actors putting in turns as some of the world's most infamous and reviled serial killers. Cameron Britton returns as Ed Kemper and is joined this time by Oliver Cooper as David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz, Christopher Livingston as Wayne Williams, Robert Aramayo as Elmer Henley and Australian Damon Herriman in his second onscreen performance as Charles Manson this year (having also played him in ONCE UPON A TIME IN...AMERICA). All of them put in terrific, skin-crawling performances, and Herriman's Manson is much more developed and effective than his (very brief) appearance in the Tarantino flick.
Having the horrific Atlanta child murders of 1979-81 as its main backdrop was a good dramatic move, allowing the writers to deal with subtexts of racism and political agendas. I love the way the series is leading to what seems inexorably towards a confrontation with Dennis Rader (BTK), though since Rader was not caught until 2005 I imagine there will still be at least one more season before then. A likely backdrop for season three would be the Green River killings, which would make sense as they started not long after the Atlanta killing spree stopped, and FBI agent John Douglas was also involved in the case. It would also give the filmmakers the opportunity to weave Ted Bundy into the series if they wanted, since Douglas consulted Bundy about the Green River case.


Programmer Zak Hepburn has done a terrific job in bringing ONCE UPON A TIME IN...HOLLYWOOD in 35mm to the Astor Theatre in Melbourne, ensuring the walls of its beautiful art deco interior are adorned with era-appropriate one-sheets (though some party pooper had spoiled part of the fun by stealing some of the faux Rick Dalton one-sheets during last night's screening). I caught the Saturday morning session of ONCE UPON A TIME IN...HOLLYWOOD with the sad passing of Peter Fonda still bouncing around in my head, which I think helped put me in a more melancholy mood as the film swept over me (after all, the film takes place in the Hollywood of Peter Fonda's prime, and EASY RIDER is one of those films whose one-sheet posters line the Astor lobby at the moment).
ONCE UPON A TIME IN...HOLLYWOOD is sure to be one of those movies that will take some time and a couple of viewings to fully appreciate and digest. My initial thought are that as a piece of drama or storytelling it is no masterpiece and nothing particularly special. There is little of the kinetic dialogue that made Tarantino's earliest films so quotable, but it is easily his best film since JACKIE BROWN (1997) in my opinion, as well as being amongst his most restrained and romantic work. As a love letter to 1969 Hollywood and the film and the television industries of the time, it is impeccable and a veritable gourmet feast for the eyes (especially in 35mm on the giant Astor screen).
What the story lacks is more than made up for by the plot twists and surprises, as well as the wonderful characterisations and performances from Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, both playing men staring down the barrel of career irrelevancy as they age, while living next door to them is Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate, the symbols of current Hollywood glamour, youth and success. Margot Robbie doesn't have a lot of dialogue but doesn't really need it, bringing Tate to life with her physicality and aura. Some of the supporting roles and bit parts fall flat, though I did love Bruce Dern as George Spahn, Damian Lewis as Steve McQueen and, especially, Nicholas Hammond as Sam Wanamaker. Dakota Fanning also brings an effective level of menace and creep as Manson girl Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme.
As its title eludes, ONCE UPON A TIME IN...HOLLYWOOD is a fairytale, one man's own vision of what once was and what might have been. The Manson Family element is just one thread which weaves its way in and out of the story, but it is always not far off and constantly building an atmosphere of tension and gloom as it moves towards the climactic confrontation which we all know is coming.
The Astor will be screening the film in 35mm several times a day until next Thursday (August 21st). Definately worth the effort to get along to see there (and get there early to enjoy the pre-movie selection of classic snack bar ads and movie slides). I managed to score one of the cool little promotion souvenir booklets for the film, a great nostalgic momento that even contains faux vintage cigarette, automobile and fast food ads ($1.25 for a Big Kahuna burger!). One of the things I always loved about seeing movies as a kid was buying the souvenir booklet from the box-office - some of the earliest ones I recall buying (and reading over and over) were for THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, STAR WARS, SUPERMAN, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, ALIEN, Langella's DRACULA, MOONRAKER and STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE. Still have all of them and have collected some other favourites over the years.