Once Upon A Time In Hollywood · Hustlers · Amanda Knox
Plus: Do you have an "If I Go Missing" folder?
At age 55, Brad Pitt might be the height of his powers. After seeing Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood Tuesday night, I texted my husband, saying that Pitt was the “best looking, most charismatic white man I have ever seen.” “No duh” was his response.
In a movie that regularly works to remind you that it is, indeed, a movie -- watch for the jumping hats during the conversation between Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and James Stacy (Timothy Olyphant) -- the conceit that Pitt is the gofer to DiCaprio’s star is perhaps the least believable element in the tale. That isn’t to say that DiCaprio struggles with his assignment as an actor in career decline: not at all. In fact, his realistically sweaty desperation rivals Bradley Cooper’s in A Star Is Born, only this time the debasement is tempered with laughs. But Pitt, goddamn. He just makes it look so easy.
That ease is especially important given how hard you can feel Quentin Tarantino trying. Never has the director seemed like such a striver, and his performative effort can at times overwhelm. It’s clear that Tarantino took incredible pains to ensure that the production design was impeccably period-specific, but it’s hard not to -- at times -- feel like the room’s air is being sucked out by his efforts to show you the Los Angeles of 1969. Thank god for Pitt’s free-wheeling performance, which helps the lengthy shots of classic cars being driven through lost-to-time bits of L.A. real estate go down a bit easier.
Hovering over the entire film is, of course, the threat of the Manson family. Early on, we see that Dalton lives next door to 10050 Cielo Drive, the new home of Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie, who in my opinion has a lot more to work with than Tarantino’s reaction to questions about the Tate role might suggest), and we see Dalton and Cliff Booth -- that’s the character Pitt plays -- cross paths with several of Manson’s followers from the jump. We even catch a brief glimpse of Manson himself, as (in real life) he was an occasional guest at 10050 when it was occupied by Terry Melcher and Candice Bergen before Polanski and Tate moved in. You know what’s coming, and regular dates and time codes flashed across the screen remind you if you forget over the course of the film’s 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Reviewers have been asked not to spoil the film, so I won’t say too much about the film’s final act -- except, perhaps, that if you introduce an an acid-dipped cigarette in the first hour, you can damn well guarantee that it will get lit in the third. If you’re looking for a historically accurate recreation of the earliest hours of August 9, 1969, you’re going to be frustrated by this movie. But if you approach it for what it repeatedly tells you it is, you’ll come away with your heart full of joy. After all, the title begins with “Once Upon A Time.” This movie, for all its grit and inevitable gore, is a fairy tale. -- EB
As long as we’re on the topic of 50-somethings who have never looked better, let’s talk about Hustlers. The trailer for the film, which stars Pitt’s fellow quinquagenarian Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, Lizzo, and Constance Wu, is based on a New York Magazine true crime yarn from December 2015 called “The Hustlers At Scores.” (Interestingly, the piece is by Jessica Pressler, the same journo whose piece on “Soho Grifter” Anna Sorokin will be adapted by Shonda Rhimes for Netflix. That’s how you do it, y’all.)
According to Pressler’s piece, dancers who worked at the high-profile New York venue familiar to any listener of Howard Stern engaged in a systematic scheme to drug patrons, then scam them into dropping loads of money, with blackmail allegedly threatened for those who later objected. Three dancers at the club eventually admitted to conspiracy charges and were convicted in late 2015. The alleged ringleader, Samantha Barbash, said in April that she’d be taking legal action against Lopez and the film’s production house, and would be “putting a stop to” the film “because she’s actually misrepresenting me.” That effort was apparently unsuccessful, as promotions for the movie are ongoing, and the film’s release has (per Lopez, via Instagram) been set for September 13. -- EB
Amanda Knox wants to crowdfund her wedding. Knox apparently shares a website with fiancé Christopher Robinson, which seems kind of weird to me since most of their ventures are not joint ones -- but what do I know, I don’t even live with my husband (true story). On their site, they’ve set up a funding platform for their impending nuptials, complete with a rapidly ticking clock intended to convey a sense of urgency, I guess?
Donor levels begin at $25 and go all the way up to $10,000, all “so that we can shower our friends and family with love and celebration.” Donors will receive a free copy of The Cardio Tesseract, a book of love poems the two penned together. The tome, which will cost $15, will reveal “the dynamics of their private life, their hopes, fears, and dark places.” It is set to be released in February of 2020. As you can imagine, people who use social media were taken aback by the effort. You can see Knox’s response to the critiques above. -- EB
After Crime Junkie host Ashley Flowers encouraged listeners to pull together “If I Go Missing” folders, thousands reportedly complied. Speaking with NBC Charlotte, a spokesperson with the Union County Sheriff’s Office applauded the plan, saying that “if you have one centralized location” for information like social media passwords and your mobile carrier login, “it does circumvent having to write search warrants, court orders, trying to find someone who can give lawful consent to get access to this information.”
Looking at the Crime Junkie site, it appears that the podcasts offers a form to collect all the information to visitors who provide their email and name (but I also found it in PDF form here). I’ll be honest, there’s something a bit fear-stoking about the prod that doesn’t sit quite right with me, as abduction statistics in the U.S. are quite low.
That said, this is still a good prompt: After all, as anyone who has dealt with an unexpected death of someone close to them (raises hand) can tell you, it’s next to impossible to easily get your arms around the information you need to handle their affairs. (And an unexpected death isn’t the only scenario in which loved ones might find this helpful.) And yet, it’s so hard to admit that you too will one day die, and that you will also need to get that intel together for others (raises hand yet again). Does putting together your information for a scenario that involves your eventual safe return make the act seem more palatable? Perhaps! If so, here’s a list (scroll down) of what most law enforcement agencies say could aid in your recovery. Now get to work. -- EB
A biopic of alleged musical fraudster Lou Pearlman is in the works. Pearlman, who died in prison in 2016, “indisputably changed the course of popular music, and what he envisioned influenced the entertainment business as we know it today,” says Edward R. Pressman, the film’s producer. The impresario, who assembled boy bands like N’Sync, Backstreet Boys, and O-Town prior to his conviction in a historically large Ponzi scheme, has been the subject of numerous true crime takes, including an episode of Misfortune that The Blotter Presents covered last year, as well as a YouTube doc that dropped in April (that its trailer, above).
According to Rolling Stone, this effort will be an adaptation of two Pearlman-focused properties: “Mad About The Boys,” a 2007 investigation into Pearlman’s scheme by Vanity Fair writer Bryan Burrough, and The Hit Charade: Lou Pearlman, Boy Bands, and the Biggest Ponzi Scheme in U.S. History, a 2009 book on the same subject. Sarah says she’d like to see Jeremy Bobb in the Pearlman role, but I say we just put Russell Crowe back into his whole Ailes getup and let him go to town. -- EB
Friday on Best Evidence: More R. Kelly fallout, Murder in the Bayou, and another take on the No One Saw A Thing case.
What is this thing? This should help.