' ' Cinema Romantico: Perspective

Thursday, August 29, 2019


Like most (all?) Quentin Tarantino films, “Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood” sparked impassioned opinions both for and against, especially amongst the critical and/or cinephile community. I liked the movie, and I’ve enjoyed articles by others who did, which has helped further crystallize my thoughts, though I’ve also enjoyed reading dissenting opinions, which have also helped me crystallize my thoughts too, whether about the things I still very much like or the parts that left me feeling a little uneasy despite enjoying the whole, like that Bruce Lee cameo. It’s complicated, in other words, necessitating a discussion, which is good. But it’s not good in the world of Twitter where ‘Twitter is not place for discussion but let me have this discussion anyway’ has become the new ‘No word is overused like [insert word here] but let me use [insert same word here] anyway’. Those discussions lose any hope for nuance and respectful rhetoric right quick, devolving into assertions, preening quote tweets and smirking subtweets. And if none of that makes any sense, well, it’s because Twitter is so insulated, an economy, to paraphrase the sportswriter Ray Ratto, based solely on bitching at each other, an echo chamber addling all brains that make tragic contact with it, just like Mad King Big Brain I, for whom Twitter exists simply to stoke all his preexisting aggravations and confirm all prior biases. During the height of “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” social media outrage I would surf through Film Twitter for a few minutes at a time and feel like I couldn’t breathe.

At some point during The Great Tarantino Twitter Terror, My Beautiful, Perspicacious Wife and I had the Chicago White Sox game on in the background. It was the 8th inning and the Sox were leading the Miami Marlins 9-1. The game was essentially over and had been for a long time, it was late July and it was late at night, and the minds of play-by-play man Jason Benetti and color man Steve Stone were wandering. As they returned from commercial break, prerecorded footage showed Sox minor leaguer Tate Blackman of the Winston-Salem Dash being asked to name his favorite movie. He answered: “The Sandlot.”

“What was your favorite movie growing up?” Stone then asked Benetti. “’The Land Before Time,’” Benetti replies, going all the way back to 1988 when the first Tarantino joint was but a gleam in the eye. “And later on,” Benetti continued, “‘Best in Show.’” Stone agreed about “Best in Show”, saying “That was a wonderful movie. You can go back and watch it tonight and it’s still equally as funny as when you saw it for the first time.” I was hoping Benetti would then add a Busy Bee reference but, hey, you can’t get everything.

Then, apparently consulting Twitter on his laptop since it’s 2019, Benetti cited a few responses from fans watching along in real time, movies like “Home Alone” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”, respectively the 1990 box office champ and 1988 box office runner-up. Stone, though, bless his heart goes even more old school, praising “Gone with the Wind” as a personal favorite, which, for once, came without the danger of Cultural Cancellation. Then Stone says “I can remember a movie and no one will have seen it. It’s called ‘Giant.’” Sure enough, Benetti wonders “What is that?” “All I remember,” says Stone, “is there was so much land around”, which was the exact movie review I needed to hear that night, no analysis, just a gobsmacked observation you might have in the lobby after the show – like, “What about all that land, huh?” Benetti, trying to pinpoint “Giant”, then says “Not ‘My Giant’, with Gheorghe Muresan and Billy Crystal?” No,” says Stone, before adding, wonderfully, “that was a good one though.”

Several Oscar seasons ago, a few days before the Academy Awards, at a neighborhood burger joint, I overheard the people at a table over conversing about the Best Picture nominees. And their discussion, never minding the precise details, made me remember how closed off Film Twitter really is. And that’s what Benetti and Stone reminded me too. And I thought of that conversation in “The Untouchables” where Kevin Costner’s Eliot Ness is made to observe that even amidst so much trauma some part of the world still cares what color the kitchen is. You come up from the demoralizing rabbit hole of Film Twitter where any one mind has more breadth of insight into the oeuvre of Quentin Tarantino then absolutely everyone else ever and remember that some part of the world still cares about “My Giant.”

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