Scenes That I Love: Cliff Booth Beats Up Clem Grogan in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood


Today is Quentin Tarantino’s 59 birthday.  In order to celebrate the occasion, here’s Brad Pitt beating up a hippie.

This scene, of course, is from my favorite Tarantino film, 2019’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.  While some may say that Cliff goes overboard on the hippie, you should understand that this is no ordinary hippie.  This hippie is meant to be Steve “Clem” Grogan, a real-life member of the Manson Family who, in 1969, murdered an actor and stuntman named Donald “Shorty” Shea.  Shea, who worked on the Spahn Rannch, had apparently once taken Grogan under his wing but, when it was decided the Shea knew too much about Manson’s crimes and that he was a threat to Manson’s control of ranch owner George Spahn, the order apparently went out that Shea had to die.  While Manson, Grogan and Manson’s second-in-command, Bruce Davis, were the only three people convicted of Shea’s murder, it’s felt that they were probably aided by Tex Watson (played by Austin Butler in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood).  In real life, Grogan was sentenced to death for Shea’s murder, though his sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment, with the judge reportedly saying that Grogan was obviously too stupid and too stoned to decide to murder Shea on his own.

The 18 year-old Grogan was a high school drop out and was also nicknamed Scramblehead, due to even the members of the Manson Family considering him to be abnormally dumb.  Grogan, reportedly, wrecked several cars, including one owned by Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys and, shortly before the murders, he was arrested for exposing himself.  That said, it’s also been suggested that Grogan was never as dumb as he pretended to be.  According to Ed Sanders’s book, The Family, Grogan did turn his life around once he was locked far away from the rest of the Family and free from Manson’s influence.  A model prisoner, he eventually led the police to the location of Shea’s body and he was paroled in 1985.  To date, he is the only one of the Manson murderers to have been released from prison.  (Bruce Davis, who was also convicted of killing Shea, has been ruled suitable for parole six times over the past ten years but, each time, the decision has been overturned by California’s governor.  He was mostly recently ruled suitable for parole on January 22nd of this year but Governor Newsom has yet to announce whether he will be blocking the decision.)  Grogan is 69 years old now and, as of a few years ago, he was working as a musician in the Los Angeles area.  Regardless of whether Clem Grogan turned his life around or not, considering what happened to Shorty Shea, it does seem appropriate that Once Upon A Time In Hollywood sees Clem getting his ass kicked by a stuntman.

In fact, Cliff’s entire visit to the Spahn Ranch is one of the best moments in Tarantino’s entire filmography.  It plays out like a combination of a horror flick and a western and there’s just enough odd humor tossed in to keep the audience especially nervous.  Given just how creepy the entire sequence is, there’s something very cathartic about Cliff’s refusal to play any games with Clem and the other hippies.  Cliff’s refusal to even let Clem wipe the blood off his face feels especially satisfying, in an odd sort of way.

Anyway, a happy birthday to Quentin Tarantino!  Last year, I observed Tarantino’s birthday by ranking all of his film, in order from worst to best.  You check that out by clicking here!

Spring Breakdown: Hunk (dir by Lawrence Bassoff)


Released in 1987, Hunk tells the story of Hunk Golden (John Allen Nelson).

At first glance, Hunk seems to have everything.  He lives in a huge house on the beach and he’s good-looking and muscular enough that he can actually pull off the rainbow speedo look.  Women want to be with Hunk and men want to be Hunk.  He’s rich.  He can eat all the food in the world without putting on a single pound.  He’s got a great smile and wonderful tan and he even knows karate!  Hunk drives a red convertible that has a personalized license plate, one that reads: HUNK.  If anyone else did it, it would seem narcissistic but Hunk can pull it off.

However, Hunk is deeply dissatisfied with his life.  As he explains to his psychiatrist, Dr. Sunny Graves (Rebecca Bush), he wasn’t always Hunk Golden.  He used to be a nerdy writer named Brady Brinkman (played by Steve Levitt).  After Brady’s girlfriend left him for an aerobics instructor, he somehow managed to write a guide to how to become rich.  Brady’s wasn’t sure where his inspiration came from but he was still able to make a fortune off of it.  After Brady moved to the beach to work on his next project, he discovered that being wealthy didn’t mean anything unless he also had the right look.

That’s when he was approached by O’Brien (Deborah Shelton), an emissary of the devil (James Coco).  O’Brien turned Brady Brinkman into Hunk Golden and taught him how to be …. well, how to be a hunk.  The only condition was that, after a number of months, Hunk would have to give up his soul to the devil.  Hunk agreed but now, with the deadline approaching, Hunk isn’t so sure that he wants to condemn his soul to eternal damnation.  Is being the hottest guy on the beach really worth an eternity of burning in fire and being poked with those little pitchfork things?

Now, it probably won’t come as a surprise to our regular readers to discover that this film was produced and distributed by Crown International Pictures.  From the 70s through the 80s, Crown International specialized in low-budget exploitation films, with a surprisingly large number of them taking place on the beach.  Nowadays, of course, the Crown International filmography can be found in countless Mill Creek boxsets.  Hunk can be found in several.  I own enough Mill Creek boxsets that I’ve probably got a dozen copies of Hunk in my DVD and Blu-ray collections.

That said, while the film’s low budget is obvious in every frame, Hunk is actually slightly better than the typical Crown International beach film.  While it seems to take forever for Brady to become Hunk, the film has got a likable cast and it actually delivers its message about self-acceptance with a surprising amount of sincerity.  This is the rare Crown International Film with a heart and, for every joke that falls flat (and there’s several), there’s at least a few unexpectedly clever moments.  The film takes an especially strange turn once Hunk becomes a celebrity and starts to wonder if he should accept the devil’s invitation to become a demon and help start a world war.  Steve Levitt and John Allen Nelson both do a good job playing Brady and his alter ego, though all of Nelson’s dialogue appears to have been dubbed.  James Coco delivers his evil lines with a properly devilish glee.  Incidently, this was also Brad Pitt’s first movie.  While he had no dialogue and went uncredited, he can be easily spotted as an extra in one of the beach scenes.

See him?

If you’re looking for silly and occasionally strange 80s beach movie, you could do worse than to check your Mill Creek boxsets for a copy of Hunk.

Across the Tracks (1990, directed by Sandy Tung)


Joe Maloney (Brad Pitt) is a senior at a high school in Los Angeles.  He lives with his mother (Carrie Snodgress) in a trailer park, located in a high-crime neighborhood.  Joe has managed to resist giving into all of the temptations around him.  He’s a good students with a clean record and a bright future.  He’s a track star and all he had to do is when the big race at the end of the year and he’ll get a scholarship to Sanford.

Joe’s slightly younger brother, Billy (Rick Schroder) is a different story.  Billy is always getting into trouble and, because he got caught driving a stolen car, he’s spent the last few months in reform school.  Once Billy is released, he returns to the trailer park.  His mother welcomes him with open arms but Joe wants nothing to do with his good-for-nothing brother.  Because Billy has caused too much trouble at his old high school, he’s transferred to a school in a rich district.

Things get even worse when Billy joins Joe for one of his morning runs and he discovers that he’s also a good runner.  Joe suggests that Billy try out for his new school’s track team.  Billy does so and soon, he and Joe are in direct competition.  With the the scholarship to Stanford on the line, who will win the big race?

With the exception of some language that was probably only tossed in to get an R-rating, Across The Tracks feels like an old after school special.  The brothers may not always get along but they learn a lesson.  It’s not really a bad movie but it is a very predictable one and, if you’re watching this to see an early performance from future Oscar-winner Brat Pitt, keep in mind that his role is largely a supporting one.  Rick Schroder is the star of this one and he gives a performance that, like the rest of the film, isn’t really bad but isn’t exactly memorable either.  Across The Tracks was designed to make audiences look at Rick Schroder and say, “He really can act!” but Schroder is miscast as both a juvenile delinquent and a track star.  Ironically, Brad Pitt is more believable as a high school student even though he was 26 when this film was made while Schroder was only 20.

Personally, if I had an older brother and his entire future depended on him beating me in a race, I’d probably let him win.

Here Are The Oscar Winners!


Best Picture — Parasite

Best Director — Bong Joon-ho for Parasite

Best Actor — Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Best Actress — Renee Zellweger, Judy

Best Supporting Actor — Brad Pitt, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress — Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Best Original Screenplay — Parasite

Best Adapted Screenplay — JoJo Rabbit

Best Animated Feature Film — Toy Story 4

Best International Feature Film — Parasite

Best Documentary Feature Film — American Factory

Best Documentary Short Subject — Leaning to Skate In A Warzone (If You’re A Girl)

Best Live Action Short Subject — The Neighbors’ Widow

Best Animated Short Film — Hair Love

Best Original Score — Joker

Best Original Song — Rocketman

Best Sound Editing — Ford v Ferrari

Best Sound Mixing — 1917

Best Production Design — Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Cinematography — 1917

Best Makeup and Hairstyling — Bombshell

Best Costume Design — Little Women

Best Editing — Ford v Ferrari

Best Visual Effects — 1917

Lisa’s Oscar Predictions For Sunday Night


The Oscars are tomorrow and I guess that means that it’s time for me to post my predictions for what will win at the big ceremony on Sunday night!

So, without further ado:

Best Picture — 1917

Best Director — Sam Mendes for 1917

Best Actor — Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

Best Actress — Renee Zellweger in Judy

Best Supporting Actor — Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress — Laura Dern in Marriage Story

Best Original Screenplay — Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Adapted Screenplay — Taika Waititi , JoJo Rabbit

Best Animated Feature Film — Klaus

Best International Feature Film — Parasite

Best Documentary Feature — American Factory

Best Live Action Short Film — Nefta Football Club

Best Animated Short Film — Sister

Best Documentary Short Subject — Learning To Skateboard In A War Zone (If You’re A Girl)

Best Original Score — 1917

Best Original Song — (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again from Rocketman

Best Sound Editing — Ford v Ferrari

Best Sound Mixing — Ford v Ferrari

Best Production Design — Parasite

Best Cinematography — 1917

Best Makeup and Hair Styling — Joker

Best Costume Design — Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Editing — Parasite

Best Visual Effects — The Irishman

The SAG Honors Parasite and All The Usuals.


The SAG Awards were held tonight.  I did not bother to watch them but apparently, a good time was had by all.  Parasite won the award for Best Ensemble, which is the SAG equivalent for Best Picture.  (1917, which won at the PGA  Awards earlier this week, was not nominated for the Ensemble award.)  This might mean that Parasite is the new front runner for Best Picture or it might not.  Do you remember what won last year?  Black Panther.

(I’m a little bit surprised that SAG didn’t go for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, which is is a film about actors.  I mean, Birdman won a prize it didn’t deserve by appealing to the ego of actors.  Then again, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood centers on an actor whose career is going downhill so maybe it hits too close to home.)

Joaquin Phoenix, Renee Zellweger, Brad Pitt, and Laura Dern won the acting prizes and I imagine that they’ll repeat at the Oscars.  To be honest, it’s hard for me to remember who else is nominated in any of those categories.

Avengers: Endgame won for Best Stunt Ensemble.  Why isn’t their an Oscar category for Best Stunts?  Seriously, that’s messed up.

Anyway, here’s your list of film winners.  They also gave out some TV awards but, to be honest, who cares about that in January?  The Emmys are over!  If you want to see a full list of winners, click here or do a google search.  Whatever works for you.

Best Ensemble — Parasite

Best Actor — Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Best Actress — Renee Zellweger, Judy

Best Supporting Actor — Brad Pitt, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress — Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Best Stunt Ensemble — Avengers: Endgame

Here Are Your 2019 Golden Globe Winners!


Best Actor, TV Musical or Comedy — Ramy Youssef in Ramy

Best Actor, Limited Series or TV Movie — Russell Crowe in The Loudest Voice

Best Supporting Actor, Series, Limited Series, or TV Movie — Stellan Skarsgard, Chernobyl

Best TV Series, Drama — Succession

Best Actress, TV Musical or Comedy — Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag

Best Foreign Language Film — Parasite

Best Actor, TV Series Drama — Brian Cox, Succession

Best Screenplay, Motion Picture — Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Motion Picture, Animated — Missing Link

Best Supporting Actress, Film — Laura Dern in Marriage Story

Best TV Series, Musical or Comedy — Fleabag

Best Original Song, Motion Picture — “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” from Rocketman

Best Supporting Actress, Series, Limited Series. or TV Movie — Patricia Arquette in The Act

Best Actress, TV Series, Drama — Olivia Colman in The Crown

Best Director, Motion Picture — Sam Mendes, 1917

Best Actress, Limited Series or TV Movie — Michelle WIlliams in Fosse/Verdon

Best Limited Series or TV Movie — Chernobyl

Best Original Score, Motion Picture — Joker

Best Supporting Actor, Motion Picture — Brad Pitt, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor, Comedy Motion Picture — Taron Egerton, Rocketman

Best Actress, Comedy, Motion Picture — Awkwafina, The Farewell

Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical — Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor, Drama, Motion Picture — Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

Best Actress, Drama, Motion Picture — Renee Zellweger in Judy

Best Motion Picture, Drama — 1917

 

Lisa Marie’s Oscar Predictions For December


Well, here we go!

This is my last set of Oscar predictions for the year.  With the critics groups and some of the guilds having now announced their picks for the best of 2019, the Oscar picture is now a lot more clear.  Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Parasite, The Irishman, 1917, and Marriage Story all seem to be guaranteed to pick up a nomination.    

I am going to go out on a limb and predict that, despite being ignored at SAG and by the Golden Globes, Uncut Gems will get some nominations as well.  Right now, the film just seems to have momentum on its side.  Realistically, I’m not a 100% convinced that it’ll be nominated, not the way I am with some other films.  It’s divisive film and I’m sure that some people think that rewarding Adam Sandler will just lead to him using his newfound respect to get a theatrical release for the next Grown Ups sequel.  But I’m going to take a chance and go with it.

(Of course, Nightcrawler and Jake Gyllenhaal also had a lot of momentum a few years ago and ended up getting totally shut out of the Oscars.)

Below are my predictions for December.  If you want to see how my thinking has evolved, be sure to check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November!

Best Picture

1917

Bombshell

The Irishman

JoJo Rabbit

Little Women

Marriage Story

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Parasite

Uncut Gems

Best Director

Bong Joon-ho for Parasite

Sam Mendes for 1917

The Safdie Brothers for Uncut Gems

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor

Leonardo DiCaprio for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Adam Driver for Marriage Story

Taron Egerton for Rocketman

Joaquin Phoenix for Joker

Adam Sandler for Uncut Gems

Best Actress

Scarlett Johansson for Marriage Story

Luptia Nyong’o for Us

Saoirse Ronan for Little Women

Charlize Theron for Bombshell

Renee Zellweger for Judy

Best Supporting Actor

Willem DaFoe in The Lighthouse

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Al Pacino for The Irishman

Joe Pesci for The Irishman

Brad Pitt for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

Laura Dern in Marriage Story

Scarlett Johansson in JoJo Rabbit

Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers

Florence Pugh in Little Women

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

 

The Oscar nominations will be announced on January 13th!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Oscar, in happier times

The Black Film Critic Circle Select Dolemite Is My Name As The Best of 2019!


On Sunday, the Black Film Critics Circle announced their picks for the best of 2019!

And here they are:

Best Film: Dolemite Is My Name
Best Director: Martin Scorsese (The Irishman) and Kasi Lemmons (Harriet)
Best Actor: Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name)
Best Actress: Lupita Nyong’o (Us)
Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time In Hollywood)
Best Supporting Actress: Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Dolemite Is My Name)
Best Original Screenplay: Lena Waithe (Queen & Slim)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Steven Zaillian (The Irishman)
Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins (1917)
Best Foreign Film: Parasite
Best Documentary: Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am
Best Animated Film: I Lost My Body
Best Ensemble: Dolemite Is My Name
Pioneer Award: Ruth E Carter
Rising Star: Kelvin J. Harrison
Special Mention: Lloyd ‘Kam’ Williams

The Dallas-Ft. Worth Film Critics Association Names 1917 As The Best of 2019!


Reunion Tower (picture by Erin Nicole)

Here are the winners in Dallas!

BEST PICTURE

Winner: 1917

Runners-up: MARRIAGE STORY (2); PARASITE (3); THE IRISHMAN (4); ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (5); JOJO RABBIT (6); LITTLE WOMEN (7); THE FAREWELL (8); THE TWO POPES (9); KNIVES OUT (10)

BEST ACTOR

Winner: Adam Driver, MARRIAGE STORY

Runners-up: Joaquin Phoenix, JOKER (2); Antonio Banderas, PAIN AND GLORY (3); Leonardo DiCaprio, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (4); Robert De Niro, THE IRISHMAN (5)

BEST ACTRESS

Winner: Scarlett Johansson, MARRIAGE STORY

Runners-up: Renée Zellweger, JUDY (2); Charlize Theron, BOMBSHELL (3); Saoirse Ronan, LITTLE WOMEN (4); Awkwafina, THE FAREWELL (5, tie); Lupita Nyong’o, US (5, tie)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Winner: Brad Pitt, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Runners-up: Willem Dafoe, THE LIGHTHOUSE (2); Joe Pesci, THE IRISHMAN (3); Al Pacino, THE IRISHMAN (4); Shia LaBeouf, HONEY BOY (5)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Winner: Laura Dern, MARRIAGE STORY

Runners-up: Margot Robbie, BOMBSHELL (2); Florence Pugh, LITTLE WOMEN (3); Jennifer Lopez, HUSTLERS (4); Annette Bening, THE REPORT (5)

BEST DIRECTOR

Winner: Sam Mendes, 1917

Runners-up: Bong Joon-ho, PARASITE (2); Martin Scorsese, THE IRISHMAN (3); Quentin Tarantino, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (4); Noah Baumbach, MARRIAGE STORY (5)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Winner: PARASITE

Runners-up: PAIN AND GLORY (2); THE FAREWELL (3); LES MISÉRABLES (4); PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE (5)

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Winner: APOLLO 11

Runners-up: ONE CHILD NATION (2); AMERICAN FACTORY (3); HONEYLAND (4); FOR SAMA (5)

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Winner: TOY STORY 4

Runner-up: I LOST MY BODY

BEST SCREENPLAY

Winner: Noah Baumbach, MARRIAGE STORY

Runner-up: Steven Zaillian, THE IRISHMAN

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Winner: Roger Deakins, 1917

Runner-up: Hong Kyung-pyo, PARASITE

BEST MUSICAL SCORE

Winner: Thomas Newman, 1917

Runner-up: Alexandre Desplat, LITTLE WOMEN

RUSSELL SMITH AWARD (best low-budget or cutting-edge independent film)

Winner: THE LIGHTHOUSE