Thursday, September 12, 2019

A Flaccid Fairy Tale: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood.

The following contains spoilers.
Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, Once Upon a Time...  in Hollywood, is a noted departure from his norm. It’s devoid of most of his worst habits, like the repetitive use of racial epithets for sheer shock value, which African American filmmaker Spike Lee has properly called him out on, as well as the mucho macho posturing of his male characters, which has always been a tiresome feature of his films. Those motifs certainly permeated his last two mediocre features, Django Unchained (2012) and The Hateful Eight (2015). By comparison to those, this movie is actually quite an amiable effort on his part and a bit more ambitious than some of the season’s other films, such as the vapid Danny Boyle/Richard Curtis alternate-history comedy Yesterday and Jim Jarmusch’s one-note deadpan zombie flick The Dead Don’t Die. But its wispy story line is not thought through and ultimately it’s a slight movie that fades away once the credits have finished running.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Song and Dance, Part III: Brigadoon

Matt Nethersole (centre) and the cast of Brigadoon at the Shaw Festival. (Photo: David Cooper)

If you love classic American musicals, then you may feel, as I do, a creeping dread when you attend a revival of one and find a credit in the program for “revised book.” I wasn’t aware that Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s lovely 1947 musical fantasy Brigadoon required revising, but the Shaw Festival’s production uses a 2014 rewrite, first seen at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, by a playwright named Brian Hill. Hill has apparently sought to make the show more relevant to today’s audiences by turning the protagonist, the American Tommy Albright (George Krissa), into a World War II veteran and altering the motivation for the spell cast on the town of Brigadoon, which Tommy and his friend Jeff Douglas (Mike Nadajewski) come upon when they get lost in the Scottish Highlands during a hunting vacation. As Lerner wrote it, Brigadoon’s late minister asked God to put the town to sleep every night for a hundred years in order to keep it from falling under worldly influences. In Hill’s version, it’s war – and specifically (though it’s unnamed) the tragic Battle of Culloden – that devastated the Highlands and from which the minister wanted to protect his beloved Brigadoon. The director of the Shaw production, Glynis Leyshon, underscores this idea by beginning the show, clumsily, with Second World War newsreel footage. Who first came up with the harebrained notion that if an old dramatic property can’t be linked to contemporary concerns it’s not worth taking down off the shelf? City Center staged Brigadoon two years ago using the original book and the audience gave it a (well-deserved) standing ovation.