So what are we to make of the scene?
July 31, 2019 7:35 AM   Subscribe

[Tarantino] seems to have gone out of the way to make fun of my father and to portray him as kind of a buffoon.” - On Bruce Lee's appearance in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Jen Yamato, LA Times.
posted by Think_Long (80 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
[Couple comments deleted. "A number of people of the affected group say this is racist, but I, a random internet person, know the real truth that it's not racist" is a pretty crappy opening move; have a day off.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:47 AM on July 31, 2019 [114 favorites]


That Tarantino as ever confuses cinema with schtick. He has seen every film but understood none of them so as ever women and minorities are scenery and props for his hollow white male characters to pose against in shots that strive for art but barely reach pastiche.
posted by fallingbadgers at 7:52 AM on July 31, 2019 [70 favorites]


I haven't seen the film yet, but I thought that was the case in the trailer that was released a few months back - Lee, or a character that is clearly derived from him (not sure which), delivers some cornball line about his hands being deadly weapons that he has to register with the police, before sparring with the stuntman character, who seems to hold his own.
posted by thelonius at 7:59 AM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


I think with this article, even more than most, it's important to read the whole thing, because there is no unanimity regarding the portrayal of Bruce Lee, at least when analyzing what is happening purely on screen.

But a film in a theater is not only about what happens on the screen, and audiences are taking it as buffoonery and that Lee's presence is only there to burnish a character's badassery and be the butt of a comeuppance joke rather than being a three dimensional character himself, however brief the screen time.

I think it doesn't very much matter whether Tarantino intended to be disrespectful of Lee or not, but audiences are taking it as a joke, and in that way Tarantino has failed.
posted by tclark at 8:18 AM on July 31, 2019 [16 favorites]


I won't speak to how audiences react to the scene in question but I found it odd that the article accused the film of "hazy misremembering" considering that is the entire point of the film made obvious from the title card and then throughout the film all the way to the reinforcing climax.

I'm entirely fine with questioning the value of portraying certain subjective perspectives (and I found the Bruce Lee scene off putting too) but let's not pretend that the film ever presents them as factual or even historically accurate and in fact the inaccuracy is the point.
posted by Kinski's Ghost at 8:26 AM on July 31, 2019 [8 favorites]


I did not care for this film, which I thought was basically a grown-up version of the movie the kids make that runs over the credits of Super 8, too long, extreeeeeemely self-indulgent and mostly boring to boot. The only significant laughter it elicited from the crowd was during the scene described in this article, the shot of Brad Pitt holding a speargun pointed towards the wife it is implied he murders, and throughout the ultra-violent ending. The extent to which an artist is responsible for the reactions of their audience is always going to be up for debate, but this audience member is fucking bored of being prodded to laugh at women and minorities being knocked down a peg, beaten up or killed just for cheap yuks.

Those quoted in support of the Bruce Lee scene in this article argue that maybe it’s a false memory of Cliff’s or is in keeping with he historical revisionism the movie trades in or whatever, but I’m really not sure why so many people are so eager to go so far to give Quentin Tarantino the benefit of the doubt when it comes to accusations of racism and/or misogyny.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:30 AM on July 31, 2019 [27 favorites]


Defending Tarantino's a mug's game, but I suspect the writer/director knows that the real-life Bruce Lee's legacy remains intact.
posted by whuppy at 8:30 AM on July 31, 2019


"in fact the inaccuracy is the point"

This is just another expression of forgiving the movie because the racism makes sense in context. We're tired of Hollywood giving us racism in any way, shape, or form and would like them to do better.
posted by turkeybrain at 8:31 AM on July 31, 2019 [63 favorites]


Giving us UNANSWERED racism. If it's not a documentary, the moviemakers get to decide how their heroes respond to racism. Letting their heroes skate through racist scenes is cheap, frustrating, and racist.
posted by turkeybrain at 8:37 AM on July 31, 2019 [50 favorites]


I’d be more receptive to the hazy misremembering/“it’s a fable” viewpoint if QT hadn’t taken pains to lovingly fill every frame of the film with period-specific radio ads, cereal boxes, cars, tv shows, restaurants, posters, comic books...
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:44 AM on July 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


Not dismissing the CURRENT contextual racism, but...doesn't anime/video games/etc. do this to Bruce Lee all the time? And if so, what are the opinions about this?
posted by Young Kullervo at 8:50 AM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


That scene stands out like a sore thumb in an otherwise pretty damn magical film. It plays like a bad Will Ferrell comedy sketch. It's the kind of thing I could imagine seeing as a deleted scene in the DVD extra features of a Paul Thomas Anderson movie and thinking "Yeah, he definitely made the right choice when he decided to axe that bit."
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:52 AM on July 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


as ever women and minorities are scenery and props for his hollow white male characters to pose against

I think it's more than valid to challenge his movies on racist and misogynist tropes, but women/minorities "as ever" only being scenery and props? That's not even factually accurate.

Jackie Brown, Jules Winfield, Beatrix Kiddo, Shosanna Dreyfuss come to mind. There is plenty of criticism even for those characters, but there is no way that these characters are just "scenery and props."
posted by tclark at 9:00 AM on July 31, 2019 [26 favorites]


Giving us UNANSWERED racism. If it's not a documentary, the moviemakers get to decide how their heroes respond to racism. Letting their heroes skate through racist scenes is cheap, frustrating, and racist.

This ☝️
posted by terrapin at 9:02 AM on July 31, 2019


. .. I, a random internet person, know the real truth that it's not racist

So, I didn't see the deleted comments, but one of the reasons I wanted to share this piece wasn't just the subject, but that it's a piece of really good film criticism. It's not campaign to cancel or delegitimize Tarantino, it's a thoughtful critique on a specific aspect of the movie. No one in the article even calls this a racist scene or Tarantino a racist or problematic director. They describe the audience reaction as racist, but I think they are very careful and limited in the conclusions they draw.
posted by Think_Long at 9:09 AM on July 31, 2019 [18 favorites]


I’d be more receptive to the hazy misremembering/“it’s a fable” viewpoint if QT hadn’t taken pains to lovingly fill every frame of the film with period-specific radio ads, cereal boxes, cars, tv shows, restaurants, posters, comic books...
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:44 AM on July 31


There's something interesting in that scene on this note. (I know you read it, I'm just pulling it out for others who might not have.) From the article:

The scene opens on the Fox lot where “Green Hornet” was filmed, panning down from a billboard for the Pearl Harbor war drama “Tora! Tora! Tora!” — a film that wouldn’t be released until 1970, three years after “Green Hornet” was canceled. Lee’s later-era hairstyle too is anachronistic, another indicator that Cliff’s memory, or even the film’s memory, is subject to hazy misremembering.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:17 AM on July 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


there is no way that those characters are just “scenery and props”

Yeah there is. They are not ever fleshed our characters; they are caricatures, at best. Dolls. Jules Winfield and Jackie Brown come closest to appearing to have a complex inner life, and those are the films where Tarantino shares a writing credit or adapted someone else’s material.

My impression, from his work, is that he doesn’t, in general, seem to understand people, like in a theory of mind sense. He doesn’t even seem interested in them. That is most obvious in the characters that he doesn’t view as Gary Sues. When you don’t really see other people as people unless you identify with them, your racism and sexism and the rest is going to be really fucking obvious.

It’s so adolescent and so fucking boring. There is zero emotional depth to a Tarantino film. How is that possible? I’m not saying every movie needs to have people brooding while looking out of windows or whatever, but like, SOME acknowledgement of the complexity of emotional response, rather than one note melodrama of “COOL FUCKING REVENGE BRO.” Even within the genre of revenge or whatever, he has no concern with how actual human beings respond to extreme situations. It’s just a grown man playing with dolls.

I wouldn’t be so annoyed by this if it wasn’t also the prime example of a white dude getting the auteur treatment for what are essentially flashy popcorn movies (and movies that fucking drag without his female editor to fix them).
posted by schadenfrau at 9:18 AM on July 31, 2019 [61 favorites]


I was going to see this on Sunday but heard about the controversy and decided to give this film a hard pass. I expressed my disappointment before about his usage of Bruce's iconic yellow tracksuit being recontextualized in Kill Bill and now this. Lots of white folks are making excuses for Tarantino but imagine if he was mocking MLK? I know it's absurd to compare a civil rights activist to a movie star but in the Asian-American community we have so few heroes that define our place in this world.
posted by cazoo at 9:26 AM on July 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


All else aside, isn't it a bit much asking for a cameo role to be a three-dimensional fleshed out character? The very word cameo means a two-dimensional silhouette.
posted by M-x shell at 9:41 AM on July 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


Not MLK but...

“If you’re going to try to set up how indestructible a person is, having them fight Bruce Lee and doing a good job [is the way to do it],” the 56-year-old director said. “He could either fight Bruce Lee or Jim Brown … either one would really set up [that] the guy is a bad ass. I like the fact most of that whole fight scene is done in one shot – that’s the part I was proud of.”

http://www.weareresonate.com/2019/07/brad-pitt-and-quentin-tarantino-discuss-bruce-lee-fight-scene-in-once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood/

Also, one of his tweets is used in the article but Walter Chaw expands on his thoughts in this twitter thread:
https://twitter.com/mangiotto/status/1155538390386761728
posted by LostInUbe at 9:43 AM on July 31, 2019 [9 favorites]


I figured this would turn up on Metafilter.
When I saw the movie I was initially bothered by portraying Lee this way because Lee was a badass and wouldn't have lost a fight to pretty much anyone, especially Cliff Booth. But the point of the scene is that it's Cliff Booth's daydream fantasy of what would've happened if he'd fought Bruce Lee, not reality. I thought that was pretty clear. Im sure most people who haven't seen the movie don't get that aspect.
But yeah, I wish Lee had been shown as more of the strong character he really was.
posted by Liquidwolf at 9:58 AM on July 31, 2019 [7 favorites]


Jackie Brown come closest to appearing to have a complex inner life

Jackie Brown has always struck me as a very fully-realized human being, which is why Jackie Brown is the only Tarantino film I would rewatch just because it happened to be on TV one day. But that may be down to the actress and to the fact that, as you point out, Jackie Brown is an adaptation of someone else's work.
posted by praemunire at 10:09 AM on July 31, 2019 [14 favorites]


Thanks for the link to that Walter Chaw thread; it's interesting and nuanced.
posted by praemunire at 10:13 AM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


I was going to see this on Sunday but heard about the controversy and decided to give this film a hard pass. I expressed my disappointment before about his usage of Bruce's iconic yellow tracksuit being recontextualized in Kill Bill and now this. Lots of white folks are making excuses for Tarantino but imagine if he was mocking MLK? I know it's absurd to compare a civil rights activist to a movie star but in the Asian-American community we have so few heroes that define our place in this world.

Do what you want but since you haven't seen it I'd say you may be making some false assumptions about the actual film overall.
posted by Liquidwolf at 10:13 AM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


I enjoyed "Once Upon A Time . . .in Hollywood" (due to some weird work/social stuff I've seen it twice in the theatres) quite a bit. But I will admit that I was uncomfortable enough, especially upon the second viewing, with what the audience laughed, or laughed hardest at, that it took me out of the movie for a minute or two.
posted by thivaia at 10:18 AM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


The scene opens on the Fox lot where “Green Hornet” was filmed, panning down from a billboard for the Pearl Harbor war drama “Tora! Tora! Tora!” — a film that wouldn’t be released until 1970, three years after “Green Hornet” was canceled. Lee’s later-era hairstyle too is anachronistic, another indicator that Cliff’s memory, or even the film’s memory, is subject to hazy misremembering.

I think with any other filmmaker this might be a good theory, but with Tarantino, not so much. He doesn't care about history and facts. He has a Bowie song playing in Inglorious Basterds. And the Basterds killing Hitler. Hardly a stickler for reality. The T!T!T! poster isn't there because a character is misremembering -- it's there because Tarantino wanted it there.

All else aside, isn't it a bit much asking for a cameo role to be a three-dimensional fleshed out character? The very word cameo means a two-dimensional silhouette.

This implies the scene must be present in the first place. If you can't have all your characters be three-dimensional, maybe consider not having them and if the beat is important, express it in some other way.

Also, this isn't a "cameo" -- it would be if Lee was actually in the movie. Or some other big actor. But Lee as a character isn't a cameo -- it's a crutch.
posted by dobbs at 10:19 AM on July 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


From Bruce Lee's daughter herself, via The Guardian:

“I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie. I understand that the two [lead] characters are antiheroes, and this is sort of like a rage fantasy of what would happen … and they’re portraying a period that clearly had a lot of racism and exclusion,” she said. “I understand they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super-badass who could beat up Bruce Lee. But they didn’t need to treat him in the way that white Hollywood did when he was alive.”
posted by rather be jorting at 10:20 AM on July 31, 2019 [59 favorites]


I keep thinking that if I was test-screening a film and the audience was laughing in a way I had not intended at any character, it would bother me, but if it was a POC, I'd probably reshoot, because obviously I'd misjudged my audience in a way that would hurt others.
posted by praemunire at 10:35 AM on July 31, 2019 [6 favorites]


"It's not functionally a depiction of Bruce Lee, it's just this guy's vague memory" really isnt the excuse you think he is. You're basically admitting that Tarantino is using Lee's name as a prop. And like, thats the whole problem.
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:43 AM on July 31, 2019 [21 favorites]


Like, yeah, I get that the scene is a fantasy about being so very badass that you can defeat a renowned martial arts icon, and not specifically "I am a white man who wants to mock a dead Asian American cultural icon but it's cool because I'm a fan who totally respects him outside of this dramatized way recorded for mass audiences to see," but the film is literally depicting a white man fantasizing about beating up a Chinese man. Those optics are way different than, say, a white man fantasizing about beating up Chuck Norris or Arnold the Terminator in hand-to-hand combat. No matter how wonderfully shot or surreally ludicrous it is, I can already tell I am not going to find it worth my time, and I don't need to confirm this assumption by actually seeing the scene itself.
posted by rather be jorting at 10:46 AM on July 31, 2019 [12 favorites]


I keep thinking that if I was test-screening a film and the audience was laughing in a way I had not intended at any character, it would bother me, but if it was a POC, I'd probably reshoot, because obviously I'd misjudged my audience in a way that would hurt others.

Especially given how Tarantino has said that he likes sitting towards the back of the theater when watching his own work, because he wants to see how the audience responds. I'm firmly in the camp that the scene was intended to reveal Cliff as an unreliable POV character (thus calling into question the entire ending), but at the same time my Bargain Tuesday audience of mostly white 20somethings-to-50somethings laughed their heads off at Bruce Lee getting his ass whupped by a deeply weathered-looking Brad Pitt and it didn't entirely sit right with me. Maybe if we'd had a follow-up scene with Kurt Russell's character calling Cliff on his self-mythologizing bullshit, but as it stands I think the egregious unreality was lost on a lot of people.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:49 AM on July 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


I'd like to see the film and not have non-white-men decide for me whether this is racist. I heard about Lee's daughter/foundation piece yesterday, but her explanation IMO was vague. American director treated her father in this way how? Always the how is vague, and on this occasion I want to decide for myself rather than people, especially when they are not Asian American men, discursively throwing around yes/no racism theories.
posted by polymodus at 10:56 AM on July 31, 2019


I think with any other filmmaker this might be a good theory, but with Tarantino, not so much. He doesn't care about history and facts. He has a Bowie song playing in Inglorious Basterds. And the Basterds killing Hitler. Hardly a stickler for reality.
dobbs

Not touching on the Lee issue one way or the other, but this is probably the worst possible example you could have chosen for your point. Inglorious Basterds is intentionally absurdly ahistorical. It was, explicitly, not an attempt at historical accuracy, and if you went in thinking it was you were sorely mistaken. If anything, you've only reinforced the point you were trying to argue against about Tarantino and his manipulation of narrative reliability.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:57 AM on July 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


All Tarantino really needed to fix this if it was really just Cliff mis-remembering what happened is someone relating what actually happened or, better yet, showing us the memory of someone else who was there the way is really happened.

Because interactions like that did happen with Bruce Lee. People thought that because he was an actor and so cocky that he was all show and no go so they'd challenge him to a fight. That's when they'd discover that he was, pound for pound, among the strongest people on the planet at the time, could move so fast he had to slow himself down so his movements could (barely) be captured on film, and was one of the very best martial artists to ever have lived.

When this sort of thing happened to Lee in his life, the challenger was always quickly put on their ass.
posted by VTX at 10:59 AM on July 31, 2019 [35 favorites]


Those optics are way different than, say, a white man fantasizing about beating up Chuck Norris or Arnold the Terminator in hand-to-hand combat.

Speaking of Norris: My discomfort with the Bruce Lee scene comes partially from how Chuck Norris went from being remembered as a shitty Kmart-level '80s action star whose movies were mostly cheap fodder for Sunday afternoon matinee programming on local UHF stations, to being revered as an actual epic badass thanks to a bunch of online joke memes. I feel like the reverse might start happening with Bruce Lee, where a whole generation of kids who never actually watched one of his movies and have no other point of reference for him as a bona fide cultural icon will get the idea that he was this big phony who danced around and made goofy noises while not having the actual goods as a fighter and athlete, because they saw Brad Pitt beat up an impersonator in a movie.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:59 AM on July 31, 2019 [26 favorites]


there is no way that those characters are just “scenery and props”

Yeah there is. They are not ever fleshed our characters; they are caricatures, at best.


I continue to disagree with you on this bit. Scenery and props don't have agency. They don't seek and achieve goals. Scenery and props don't do anything, they just sit there as a backdrop or a support for another character to use or to see.

Caricatures they may be. Ciphers into which the audience can pour their sense of helplessness and desire for vengeance, most likely. Vapid and shallow? Most of them, unquestionably.

But they do have wants (as vapid as they may be), they do take action (as unrealistic they may be), and they do achieve goals (as reptilian and bloodily-vengeful they may be). Many of them are little more than walking retribution fantasies, and certainly many only exist for the titillation of the hindbrains of the audience, but scenery and props? I'm gonna still say no.
posted by tclark at 11:02 AM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


By the way, I wouldn't really describe the scene as Lee "getting his ass whupped."

As I recall, Bruce got in the first shot (knocking Cliff to the ground) and Cliff got in the second (hurling Bruce into a car) and they were both up on their feet and ready to continue fighting before Janet the stunt coordinator had to intervene. It reads less like a display of physical domination and more like two unruly school boys—one a brash young whippersnapper trying to make an impression; the other a grizzled showbiz veteran who should know better—causing trouble on the playground.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:09 AM on July 31, 2019 [14 favorites]


In the scene in question, Cliff DOESN'T beat up Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee takes Cliff down the first time with a huge kick to the chest. Then, Cliff throws Lee for the second fall. They start to fight for the third fall when they are interrupted by Zoe Bell's character and Cliff is summarily fired and thrown off the set.
posted by vibrotronica at 11:09 AM on July 31, 2019 [10 favorites]


Tarantino's Bruce Lee gingerly steps away from getting thrown against a car with nary a scratch nor a limp. The portrayal might have insulted the man's personality, but at the very least it didn't insult his physical prowess.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:16 AM on July 31, 2019 [7 favorites]


I feel like the reverse might start happening with Bruce Lee, where a whole generation of kids who never actually watched one of his movies and have no other point of reference for him as a bona fide cultural icon will get the idea that he was this big phony who danced around and made goofy noises while not having the actual goods as a fighter and athlete, because they saw Brad Pitt beat up an impersonator in a movie.
The legend and brand of Bruce is still turning up in unexpected places, so let's hope this situation doesn't happen. Bruce Lee's writings for a martial arts TV show, racebended into Carradine's Kung Fu, are finally being realized in Warrior on Cinemax. And even this absurd video game cameo a few years ago.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:26 AM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


I was initially bothered by portraying Lee this way because Lee was a badass and wouldn't have lost a fight to pretty much anyone

The real Bruce Lee was a small guy (he would be bantamweight or featherweight) and he used to explain to people that if he were ever to fight Muhammad Ali he expected to get pounded into dust, which to his credit is entirely accurate. Weight classes exist in combat sports for a good reason.
posted by Kinski's Ghost at 11:28 AM on July 31, 2019 [6 favorites]


Tarantino's Bruce Lee gingerly steps away from getting thrown against a car with nary a scratch nor a limp. The portrayal might have insulted the man's personality, but at the very least it didn't insult his physical prowess.

People being injured by being hurled across the screen ended in Hollywood a long time ago, especially in an 'action' drama. It doesn't mean anything.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:29 AM on July 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


Well, good to know the degree of demeaning isn't quite as extremely terrible as the audiences yukking it up at Pitt fighting with fictional daydream Bruce Lee make it sound, and that the top of fictional-Lee's head didn't get sliced off by Pitt wielding a katana or anything.
posted by rather be jorting at 11:29 AM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


I dunno, the scene sounds like some White Guy Fantasy (to be so naturally talented that you could hold your own against someone like Bruce Lee) which from how people are describing it sounds like it's supposed to be a major theme of the film: White Guy remembers stuff wrong? Like, I do enjoy media with unreliable narrators (or other characters), but the trope of unreliable narrator is best used when the unreliableness of the narrator is used to point something out. Is there a point to all the hazy memories in the movie?
posted by 23skidoo at 11:31 AM on July 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


The whole fight was a draw. Bruce neatly chest-kicked Cliff down in the first round, got thrown in the second round, and then you get the whole elaborate traditional martial arts strike-counter-block choreography in the third round that was broken up by Janet. This leaves the audience with the unanswered question of who could beat the other, who is stronger, as the fight remains incomplete.

Of course, the very fact that Cliff was able to hold his own against Bruce Lee is a White Guy Fantasy; but it's more ambiguous than the former wiping the floor with the latter.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:35 AM on July 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


as ever women and minorities are scenery and props for his hollow white male characters to pose against

The movie was, in large part, hagiography of Sharon Tate, so I'm not sure this comment applies fully to this movie.

The Lee bit seemed intended to cut at Lee's earnestness. As in, it's harder for audiences today to watch and listen to Lee and not feel awkward because the current youth culture didn't grow up with the simmering background culture of familiarity with how he sounds and moves. It also seemed like that scene tried to ground itself by having Lee be invested in stepping up to the fight in question, getting into it, getting bummed when it got interrupted. I agree that it didn't feel right, and we left the theater wondering what Tarantino's aim was with it. Like, was there some subtext about Lee being a shit stirrer that we aren't clued into because of our age?

(I probably have to add, Asian-American household commenting)
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 11:40 AM on July 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


Bruce Lee's daughter explains it well, it doesn't matter who "won" the fight, he wouldn't have picked a fight in the first place. He was dismissed by Hollywood, including allegedly stealing his concept for The Warrior television show, rebranding it as Kung Fu and giving it to David Carradine (a role which Tarantino pays homage to in Kill Bill). So yeah, it's hard to see a context for this scene that makes any sense. Was Bruce Lee seen as a pinnacle of masculinity at the time? Or only by guys like Tarantino who watched his films as a kid?

Tarantino knows that there is a dual reaction to his films - I'm not a film critic and I don't know the language, but basically half the audience is uncritically enjoying all the racist, sexist, violent shit he puts on screen and the other half is thinking "Gosh, Tarantino is making fun of the very audience he is selling his movies to." He's been doing this same maneuver since at least Django Unchained. The backlash and the backlash to the backlash is built right into the movies themselves.
posted by muddgirl at 11:43 AM on July 31, 2019 [14 favorites]


"Gosh, Tarantino is making fun of the very audience he is selling his movies to." He's been doing this same maneuver since at least Django Unchained.

I'd say Inglourious Basterds also fits that bill. A theater full of people gleefully watching a massacre... of a theater full of people gleefully watching a massacre.
posted by tclark at 11:46 AM on July 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


I get the order of those two movies wrong every time :)
posted by muddgirl at 11:48 AM on July 31, 2019


Tarantino is pretty well established to be a slimeball. I'm not sure which is the worse interpretation: that Tarantino intended the scene to be racist, or that he just didn't consider it at all.

But, in general, fuck Tarantino.
posted by sotonohito at 11:55 AM on July 31, 2019 [11 favorites]


Am I really supposed to continue giving this dude the benefit of the doubt, asking as a person who managed to miss Kill Bill and early Tarantinos but has since caught up with all the recent ones? Like, am I supposed to be parsing so finely his ironic wateverisms just because his reputation was made back when we're more forgiving as a society so that we can continue to pay attention to him? I mean, I thought that was settled when Uma Thurman came out about how poorly he treated her on set, and everyone heaved a sigh of relief when she gave the fig leaf of public forgiveness, so that we can continue to enjoy him, because cancelling* gross dude directors is just tiring, man.

*Or, 'properly situating them in their era and subsequently engaging their output with that asterisk they deserve' or whatever.

Anyway, here's an interview with the actor who played Lee in the movie.
posted by cendawanita at 12:05 PM on July 31, 2019 [12 favorites]


I'm just hoping more people become aware of Warrior and watch it instead, to support a production based on the writings of Bruce Lee himself, co-produced by Shannon Lee, and featuring a largely Asian cast. It's been renewed for a second season, really hoping it makes it to more. And it kicks ass.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:26 PM on July 31, 2019 [17 favorites]


Warrior on FanFare.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:48 PM on July 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


Sure it was a daydream, a fantasy, but why present THIS PARTICULAR daydream/fantasy? Why would Tarantino think I would want to see this?

Yeah, I'd love it if Sharon Tate had lived. And the Mansons had gone down earlier. How wouldn't the Mansons be ideal villains? Horrid violent murder of people just at the cusp of having a good life, and sex with kids...

But this movie didn't seem to offer nostalgia for the era depicted: it offered nostalgia for the era that was disappearing at that time, the rugged cowboys...

Manson and his followers were not just "free-loving hippies" but the guy wanted to provoke a race war. One of the Beach Boys says he saw Manson shoot a black guy to death for no reason. So I thought not just Bruce Lee was grossly mischaracterized (he was) but also it was "hippie punching" on behalf of sturdy pre-hippie cowboys.

The Manson kids spout off about the Vietnam War, about Hollywood violence, the culture that cowboy-worship established. And... That's put into the mouths of villains, but it's largely right! American predilliction for feeling good about gun-victories against dehumanized "others" (whether Indians or Vietnamese) came from a bad place...
posted by Schmucko at 1:04 PM on July 31, 2019


By the way, I wouldn't really describe the scene as Lee "getting his ass whupped."

I think it is in the alternate-universe version we are discussing in Fanfare.

I think I speak for everyone when I say that while we appreciate the good work CERN is doing with the LHC to get us back to the Hillary timeline, the knock-on effects are starting get distracting.

Really, guys, just one little change so a draft board in 1968 turns down the bribe to accept "bone spurs" and we are home-free.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:28 PM on July 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


Popped in to make sure Warrior was getting some hype here, and it is. Very well-earned. Works as both a diverse, historical drama and an intensely violent fighting show with people having hatchet fights and ripping throats out.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:48 PM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


Works as both a diverse, historical drama and an intensely violent fighting show with people having hatchet fights and ripping throats out.

SOLD!
posted by schadenfrau at 1:52 PM on July 31, 2019 [9 favorites]


"in fact the inaccuracy is the point"

Tarantino is not evolved enough as a writer or director to make this work. Whether it's the intent or not, all audiences are going to remember and remark on is the bit where Brad Pitt's Nobody Stunt-Dude is so badass that he can hold his own against Mike Moh's Bruce Lee. It's cheap comic book shit.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:52 PM on July 31, 2019 [9 favorites]


Jackie Brown has always struck me as a very fully-realized human being, which is why Jackie Brown is the only Tarantino film I would rewatch just because it happened to be on TV one day. But that may be down to the actress and to the fact that, as you point out, Jackie Brown is an adaptation of someone else's work.

Jackie Brown has always felt more like an Elmore Leonard movie than a Tarantino movie to me. True Romance, which Tarantino wrote but didn't direct has always felt more like a Tarantino movie that Jackie Brown does.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:19 PM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


We're ignoring the real question: Could Bruce Lee score a point off of Serena Williams?

My guess? Maybe? If Bruce Lee worked very hard, got very, very lucky and Serena was both very hungover and very unlucky it might be technically possible.
posted by stet at 3:42 PM on July 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


Side note: it is fascinating to me that you can totally identify an Elmore Leonard movie when he doesn’t write or direct the films. Like his style is so pervasive that it comes through multiple directors and adaptation attempts.

Didn’t Shane Black steal the toilet bomb thing from an Elmore Leonard opening?

Man, Elmore Leonard was a better filmmaker than Tarantino.
posted by schadenfrau at 3:42 PM on July 31, 2019 [6 favorites]


The movie was, in large part, hagiography of Sharon Tate, so I'm not sure this comment applies fully to this movie.

She's barely in the film. She barely has any dialogue. (SPOILER) She's excluded from the climax entirely -- her ending hasn't just been revised, she's been written out of it.

This is a hagiography in the way women are thought to speak an equal amount in a meeting if they speak 15 percent of the time and speaking too much if they go above that amount.
posted by maxsparber at 4:16 PM on July 31, 2019 [23 favorites]


Didn’t Shane Black steal the toilet bomb thing from an Elmore Leonard opening?

Conceivably? Leonard's Freaky Deaky came out in 1988, and Lethal Weapon 2 came out in 1989, although Shane Black was apparently responsible for very little of the shooting script. (He did kill off Riggs, though, so he gets partial credit)

I AM SURE THAT THERE IS A PART OF 3RD GRADE MISSING IN MY MEMORY TO MAKE ROOM FOR THIS TRIVIA.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 4:27 PM on July 31, 2019


More seriously, as mentioned in the LA Times article, "the film’s glaring-if-you-notice-it lack of people of color" and "In its version of 1969 L.A., African Americans are also invisible and a few Latinx characters — arguably authentic to how 1960s Hollywood treated them, as Erick Galindo writes in L.A. Taco — are largely nameless and silent."

Is the stuntman the racist, is the writer of the stuntman racist, is the director of the stuntman racist, how can we ever separate the art from the artist, oh dear.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 4:35 PM on July 31, 2019 [8 favorites]


Weird that the film is supposed to be a fantasy and yet hews closely to reality in representing racism.

I'm seeing a lot of have your cake and eat it too support for the film, which is par for the course. When the film is problematic, you can either justify it by saying that's accurate to the time period or by saying it doesn't have to be accurate because it is a fantasy.

QT is a clever man, I'll give him that, but clever is often a cover for a lack of maturing.
posted by maxsparber at 4:39 PM on July 31, 2019 [11 favorites]


When I saw the film I totally read it as a shot against the legend of Bruce Lee. If Tarantino wanted to show Kurt Russell's characters strength and grit, or his fighting skills, he could have had Russell pound anybody into a pulp to prove the point. Because it felt like a smear job to me, I didn't like the scene - which is funny because it is about the only truly entertaining moment in the whole film. Everything else went down hill from there. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is one big,boring, self indulgent turd.
posted by hoodrich at 5:28 PM on July 31, 2019


> Is the stuntman the racist, is the writer of the stuntman racist, is the director of the stuntman racist, how can we ever separate the art from the artist, oh dear.

Well, of the Tarantino films I have actually seen, Kill Bill Vol. 1 basically focuses on showing a white protagonist killing off women of color for most of the movie, which, considering that most of the body count was played by actresses of my particular color, thus births a viewer (myself) who must be ransomed by the death of the auteur (Tarantino), where my power to create meaning of the text overwhelms the circumstances of the auteur. In focusing solely on the text of the film and how it depicts Beatrix going on a revenge spree resulting in numerous dead women of color, the art itself ends up being racist to my eyes and visual memory, even if the accompanying soundtrack had some good song selections on it. Had I known nothing about the auteur's intentions with the movie, such as his loving attention to enormous amounts of fake blood (for the Asian women to bleed in the film) or his intent to pay homage to various martial arts movie scenes of yore, the art still reads to me as "idk man, looks racist to include women of color just to kill them off as part of serving the protagonist's journey, especially when that protagonist does so by using skills traditionally associated with numerous East Asian cultures better than her opponents who are actually Asian." Great soundtrack, gross memories.
posted by rather be jorting at 5:50 PM on July 31, 2019 [17 favorites]


Kurt Russell? What the hell am I talking about? I meant Brad Pitt in my above comment. Yeesh.
posted by hoodrich at 6:16 PM on July 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


Don’t worry about it. It is the Large Hadron Collider acting up again.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:27 PM on July 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


I wonder if there was something racist going on in QT's subconscious to portray Bruce Lee that way--the way that, at that time, the U.S. was losing the Vietnam War (to Asians), and we can see in movies like Rambo the hunger from audiences to imagine the white tough guy going in victorious...
posted by Schmucko at 6:36 PM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Great soundtrack, gross memories.

Pretty much. Tarantino being such a packrat of old media that he loves makes him a much less disturbing creator of mixtapes.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 6:42 PM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Side note: it is fascinating to me that you can totally identify an Elmore Leonard movie when he doesn’t write or direct the films. Like his style is so pervasive that it comes through multiple directors and adaptation attempts.

I don't agree. There have essentially been 6 great movies (and one great tv show) made from Leonard books and maybe a handful of so-so ones. The rest -- 30+ are forgettable garbage.

Of the six great ones, only 3 seem Leonard-esque to me: Jackie Brown, Out of Sight, and Get Shorty. But those three excellent films couldn't be more different from 3:10 to Yuma (original), The Tall T, and Hombre, which are amazing movies. That's not even taking into consideration that 3 are crime and 3 are westerns. As well, the westerns couldn't be more different from one another.

But watching those 3, and the other so-so titles (52 Pickup, Mr Majestyk, Stick, Valdez is Coming)... they don't seem very Leonard-ish to me. When you factor in the pure dreck that's come from his novels (Touch, Big Bounce (twice!), Glitz, Pronto, Kill Shot, Freaky Deaky, etc.), I don't think his genius really shows in the majority of films to come from his work, and I certainly don't think the work has transcended the screenwriters and directors who've fucked them up.

It is astounding to me that the same person who wrote Out of Sight or Get Shorty also wrote Hombre and 3:10 to Yuma. Incredible talent.
posted by dobbs at 8:30 PM on July 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


I'd like to see the film and not have non-white-men decide for me whether this is racist. I heard about Lee's daughter/foundation piece yesterday, but her explanation IMO was vague. American director treated her father in this way how? Always the how is vague, and on this occasion I want to decide for myself rather than people, especially when they are not Asian American men, discursively throwing around yes/no racism theories.

Bruce Lee's daughter did not feel the need to elucidate the ways in which Bruce Lee was treated shittily because anyone with a passing knowledge of Bruce Lee's treatment in Hollywood, and the treatment of Asian people in general by Hollywood, knows about the racism. It is not new or mysterious and only requires you to show an inkling of curiosity about the experiences of POC in white-dominated spaces. If your reaction is "Racism? In MY Hollywood? But WHERE?!" then yeah, maybe you DO need to have non-white-men decide for you whether something is racist, because your barometer is hopelessly screwed up and you are desperately ignorant about some incredibly basic facts about the movie business.
posted by schroedinger at 8:53 PM on July 31, 2019 [11 favorites]


That was a typo, I was on my phone and meant to say non-Asian-American-men and the "especially when they are not" should have that typing obviously inconsistent.
posted by polymodus at 11:52 PM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


What I was saying earlier is that Lee's daughter as quoted in the article doesn't give me the actual teaching instance of how this was racist. I am an Asian American male, and that is the bit that I look for. Also, I was saying I don't want the decision of whether this was racist to be centered on white people all the time, in particular white people dominating a conversation how how something is racist. The fact that Hollywood others and emasculates Asian American men is a given, to anyone who has seen a lot of the sociology about Asian Americans. But it is not for white people to decide the terms of discourse on racism, because they are not in a good epistemic position to do that.

Part of social justice affirmation is doing the much harder work of articulating why and how a particular instance was a problem. If someone frames the discourse in the way that obscures that, that goes against values underlying diversity and openness. Lee's daughter not disclosing her conflict of interest as owner of Bruce Lee's brand, for example, makes this problematic. The downplaying of Walter Chaw's comments in the LA Times article, for example, also makes this problematic. Demanding that Shannon Lee, or Angry Asian Man, come up with a better argument is not the point, because maybe she or he are nevertheless correct, and thus impacted by this. It is not necessarily their requirement to go further than raising the necessary attention. The point is that a vague argument does not help me understand and build my story: the fact that people Said So is profoundly not relevant to constructing an independently articulated understanding. The point is that a space, especially a white-dominated one, that keeps repeating the same and easy vague reasons and narratives without critical inquiry, passively reinforces that approach. It is antithetical to the left project, because it is anti-intellectual, even if unintentionally so. In my experience, if you look at the core of social justice, the hardest things about it is upholding the ideals in face of everything making you think, why bother.

There's a big difference between the circumstantial arguments of the form that a) Hollywood in general is racist against Asian men, or b) Tarantino has mistreated PoC in prior films, versus the direct critical analysis using the parameters of the specific actual film, its text, and how it was produced. That is something I need for my social justice narrative claims. What I don't find useful is when people make 2, 3-line reasons as to racism and then not realize that there exist logical counterarguments to what they just said. It's like the dynamic of checking one's limiting beliefs when they reified what they said. I believe an analysis of a particular scene is worthwhile, but the way this was presented, today, does not serve that task. It's a long-read type of thing, and maybe some author or writer or critic next week or next month will come up with it. That is the substantial framing that is what I am looking for. It is not to deny Lee and other Asian media's concerns,

So it is because I might, randomly, be bothered to know, to see and to think for myself why this one thing has touched a nerve while I cannot see an explanation to my satisfaction of why that is the case, that I might have to go see the film. A few days ago, I saw the Bruce Lee bit in the trailer and that got me so excited! Now, this weekend I might have to go because it might be a unpleasant but necessary object lesson that indeed the portrayal of figure who I only know a little about from my Hong Kong heritage, because it is my obligation to carry this burden of knowledge as an Asian American and one who passes as male.
posted by polymodus at 12:19 AM on August 1, 2019 [9 favorites]


Not dismissing the CURRENT contextual racism, but...doesn't anime/video games/etc. do this to Bruce Lee all the time? And if so, what are the opinions about this?

I remember when World of Warcraft chat channels were plagued with people who thought they were funny by quoting absurd Chuck Norris 'facts'. My response, that worked on all but the most clueless, was always: "Bruce Lee could kick Chuck Norris' ass."
posted by Merus at 1:48 AM on August 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


"Bruce Lee could kick Chuck Norris' ass."

Canonical.
posted by hanov3r at 3:52 PM on August 1, 2019 [3 favorites]


I was gonna say. Subjunctive? Nay: indicative is called for here.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:05 AM on August 2, 2019


I mean if they insisted I'd swap over to the indicative, but I wasn't equipped for an argument about Bruce Lee's filmography so for me it worked better as a counter-argument.
posted by Merus at 6:38 PM on August 5, 2019


Tarantino's response goes about as well as you can guess, imo.
posted by cendawanita at 10:10 AM on August 13, 2019


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