WEIRDLAND

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Mr Robot's 3rd personality theory

Is there actually a solid answer to that pressing question of identity of Elliot's 3rd personality? According to the theory of 1Individual_1ne: As some have already noted, this is possibly not a particular person or character that we have already encountered. The identity of the Third One might be a person in/behind the Fsociety Mask. I suppose that the exact face wearing that mask is not even relevant (it could be both Elliot/Mr. Robot, but it still does not matter, the mask is the key). The first time we see it is when Gideon shows Elliot the first video message of fsociety, which seems to be in line with Esmail's explanation that this has been planted "from the beginning". Whenever this or any other video is being shown to Elliot, he seems to be totally puzzled by it and also creeped, and he clearly has no memories of recording or directing. The narrative in fsociety videos is actually cold and terrorizing, which proves the point that the 3rd personality is more of a cold-blooded person. We also hear what sounds like Mr Robot in mask say "made in the orient, just for your head" as he hands a mask to Elliot. When Elliot shatters the mirror in the end of season 1, we see there a glimpse of several persons (Darlene, Angela, Tyrell, Mr. Robot, Sam Esmail, etc), including a Person in Mask. In Season 2, when we revisit Halloween with Elliot and Darlene, we see Elliot put both jacket and a mask before he turns into someone else and declares a plan on taking down E-Corp. We do know that the jacket stands for Mr. Robot, but Mr.Robot itself never wears that mask. The mask itself is worthy as a distinctive attribute of the separate third personality.

Sam Esmail On casting Rami Malek: When we were auditioning people, and we must have seen I would say close to 100 guys if not more ... we had great actors coming in. They would do these beautiful interpretations of the scene, but the character just came off very cold, very obnoxious, and I was almost going to tell USA [Network], "Let's not do this. This doesn't make sense," or, "I got to rewrite this. I think this guy is annoying and I don't think anybody is going to want to spend every week with this person." Then Rami came in, and when he did the scene, he added this vulnerability... where it doesn't come off as commanding or egotistical, even though the words are that — he added this subtext that it was coming from a place of real pain and real vulnerability and real wanting to connect. And that was the spark that really made that character come to life.

Sam Esmail On why Elliot wears a hoodie all the time: This is something directly lifted from my life. I wore a hoodie every day. And for me, that was easy to visualize. I'd visualized it just with myself walking down the street, knowing where to put the camera, and I loved that you could see that he was hiding. Even though I couldn't see his face at all times... we could see a piece of him. It's not about capturing someone's face. It's about capturing that person, that character, and always trying to tell a story with wherever you put the camera on that person. So it's not about getting both eyes and having it symmetrical. We wanted a frame and to always express what Elliot is doing, who he is, and so it was easy. That made it easier, because the limitations of where you can put the camera when Rami was in that hoodie made us closer to who Elliot was. Source: www.npr.org

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Will Mr. Robot Have a Happy Ending?

Sam Esmail: Mr Robot was never about “Capitalism: Is it good or bad?” or “How can we fix the world economy?” or “How can we fix the geopolitical nature of money?” This was about wanting to connect and not being able to connect. When you got to season three, I felt like Elliot was the thinker and Mr. Robot was the muscle. Now we’re in season four and Mr. Robot is doing things that Elliot might otherwise do and vice versa. We’re starting to see the two of them meld together into this one person because, in fact, they are. Season four kicks off with Angela’s violent murder, and Elliot has become unhinged in a way. He’s just out for vengeance. He’s gonna be like what Mr. Robot was like in the first season. Of course, Mr. Robot, throughout the last three seasons, has seen the consequences of that aggression, so now he’s taken a step back and has become more like Elliot.

Sam Esmail: The thing about Elliot is, he can be obnoxious. He’s very angry at the world. He names his hacker group “Fuck Society.” It’s a very delicate thing for an audience member to watch a character like that, week in and week out, and be able to root for them. The thing that Rami allowed me to do as a writer and director is that no matter how difficult Elliot became, no matter how inaccessible I wrote him, or no matter how closed off he needed to be, Rami found a way to add that vulnerability. Mr. Robot can get complicated, Rami has that gift of being able to ground it. I mean, we’re inside the guy’s head. We don’t even know what’s real or what’s fantasy, and Rami was able to always walk that tightrope and make us be with him, whether or not we understood what was going on around him.

-Matt Zoller Seitz: The paranoid thriller is one of your favorite genres. One point of disagreement between us is that I believe it can’t be a true paranoid thriller if it has a happy ending. But I’m looking at season four and it really seems like you want hope to come out of this. I can’t picture you leaving the viewer feeling completely shattered.

-Sam Esmail: I always think about the Three Days of the Condor ending, which is very haunting, right? To some people, it’s clear-cut: The system has won, it will always win. Or maybe not. Maybe you have that optimistic point of view that Robert Redford is gonna figure out a way and the press is gonna blow this thing wide open. I love endings where you can choose. But the thing about the paranoid thriller is it’s always man versus the system, and the system in our real lives continues on. Source: www.vulture.com

To prepare for Mr. Robot, Rami Malek learned about cybersecurity and read textbooks on schizophrenia and took typing lessons for hacker verisimilitude and found a psychologist who assigned him homework. “There were times when I would go to Sam and say, ‘This doesn't quite match up for me,’ and I would have a reason why the psychology didn't feel accurate, and I would reference some book on dissociative disorder by Elyn Saks,” Malek says. Instead of being annoyed at Malek's conspicuous overachieving, Esmail hired the psychologist onto the show as a consultant.

Rami Malek Gets Lucy Boynton's Support at 'Mr. Robot' Final Season Premiere on Tuesday (October 1) in New York City. The pair turned the star-studded affair into a stylish date night, with Malek rocking a flawlessly tailored pinstripe suit with a black-and-white patterned button-down. Meanwhile, Boynton looked chic in a black dress, with ruffled collar, which she wore with a pair of strappy black shoes.

Their sweet red-carpet outing was perfectly memorialized in a beaming snapshot of the pair, standing below the theater marquee which read "Mr. Robot. The final season. Goodbye, friend." “People's perception might be altered,” Malek says, in the wake of his Bohemian Rhapsody Oscar win, “but when you sit down and talk to me, there's nothing that's mystifying. I'm not fucking covered in gold.” 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Mr Robot Christmas episode: 404 Not Found

Mr Robot Sci-Fi Theory: If Elliot's true identity is an AI created by White Rose, it would explain why in the scene where Elliot's mom is dead and Darlene and him are getting her belongings, the clock says 11:16, and Darlene finds a pack of Marlboro cigarettes in her Mom's coat pocket (both of which are tied to the Season 4 Episode 3 with White Roses background). Edward Alderson might have helped create Elliot, and maybe even had part of his consciousness transferred to this supercomputer/AI. Maybe that's also why Edward and Mrs. Alderson were always fighting/arguing in Elliot's memories, basically his Mom wanted to just treat Elliot like a machine (hence the abuse) but Edward understood he was a full consciousness. Let's take the assumption Elliot is silently being tested on which is why he suffers from such vivid and powerful delusions. Also, Elliot might be the project Whiterose has designed. Sam Esmail: "Whiterose clearly has an agenda and that agenda does involve parallel universes. The most powerful people in the world—not unlike a lot of people in our real world—go after these loftier goals because they can, because they have the money and the power to do so. In the “Mr. Robot” world there is a character who is fixated on this idea of parallel universes. Do they exist? And can she somehow find a way to harness that?"

Zhang was Minister of Security of China at a young age and wielded considerable power in China during that tenure. Zhang started DEUS in 1989. Deus essentially owns/controls ECORP and many governments. So Zhang had plenty of access to Ecorp and other countries/various governments for many years, which she used to her advantage to build her secret project under the Washington Township nuclear power plant. Zhang is WhiteRose, the head of the Dark Army, a highly motivated and skilled hacker group that includes some cult-like members willing to die for their cause. This all leads me to the following questions: With all those resources at her disposal already, why did WhiteRose ever really need Elliot and fsociety? Why bring in outside parties without the same level of loyalty who had the ability to complicate things? What is so special about Elliot that he had to be involved to the point that WR let his will be her guide? Many folks have questions about how Elliot is truly connected to WR's project. How does this mysterious, complicated project depend so much on Elliot's involvement, and how/when did WR decide Elliot was so credible that she would place all her faith in him when she had many other resources/methods at her disposal that could have likely allowed her to get things done much more easily? 

Why does Elliot need to live until the project ships? I get that fsociety were the fall guys, but again, WR had adequate resources to pull that stuff off internally between China, DA, and the Deus club. So why chance it and leave any part of the operation and the fate of your project in the hands of people who are not fully under your control or fully loyal? It even seemed to me that Elliot managed to mess with WR's timeline several times, not even counting the 71 building's blowing/martial law imposition and Ecorp logistics shipping delays. So what is really so special about Elliot, and how does WR know? When did she know.....when did she meet him? Why is WR allowing Elliot's will to be her guide for her project?

Is Elliot some enhanced human or AI/other entity human hybrid? Why is his "unadulterated, focused rage" really needed for her project? We're missing some bigger-picture information that is very important to the story. I mean, the same guy who is now getting her project shipped to the Congo actually caused the situations that delayed her project from shipping between the 71 buildings blowing/martial law placement, and by owning the Ecorp shipping logistics system (something Elliot told us he was trying to create his "paper record mirage" while working at Ecorp). 

And when I ponder these questions, I again must wonder if a lot of this story is just Elliot's delusions and we're seeing the depths of his mental health struggles in the same way he sees/experiences them, if we the audience being lied to/conned as part of a "cautionary tale", and if so, who is conning us? Elliot, WR, Ecorp, Mr. Robot? Or is Elliot actually some sort of enhanced/superhuman/AI, or someone with knowledge vital to WR's project locked away in his head that WR has to extract in some unconventional way? Is Elliot himself the project? Is Sam Esmail trying to go so far with surrealism as to out-Lynch David Lynch? Maybe Whiterose's project could be just a super computer, and Whiterose plans to upload him/herself to it, live as an immortal AI, and control the world. Elliot's first words sound as an AI consciousness directed to us, when he says “hello friend” to the world. Theoretical physics has models of black hole creation being possible with the use of a powerful supercollider. Black holes might be access to parallel universes. A parallel universe in which Whiterose's true love didn't off himself.

According to Weiler’s theory, these singlets should have the ability to jump into an extra, fifth dimension where they can move either forward or backward in time and reappear in the future or past. “One of the attractive things about this approach to time travel is that it avoids all the big paradoxes,” Weiler said. “Because time travel is limited to these special particles, it is not possible for a man to travel back in time and murder one of his parents before he himself is born, for example. However, if scientists could control the production of Higgs singlets, they might be able to send messages to the past or future. Whiterose might want to use the machine to "hack time", controlling Higg's singlet particles. Source: news.vanderbilt.edu

Martin Wallström tells The Hollywood Reporter why Tyrell was so obsessed with Elliott: "Here, we get the missing piece of Tyrell with Elliot: Elliott just doesn't care, Tyrell doesn't have to be someone for Elliot. Elliot turns out to be almost an idol, someone Tyrell wishes he was, that he didn't have to care about what other people think of him, to fit into this frame that he created for himself and his wife, all of it. Elliot stands for all the freedom that Tyrell really wants." Moments after the epiphany, Elliot and Tyrell come across the Dark Army operative, who kills himself, but not before fatally shooting Tyrell. Recognizing his own impending demise and the ramifications of what happens if his body is discovered by the Dark Army, Tyrell chooses to walk back into the woods to die alone, buying Elliot some time in his quest against Whiterose. The episode ends with Tyrell stumbling toward a glowing blue light (maybe an allusion to the Shutdown Error/Windows 'blue screen of death'), before the scene fades to white.

According to Wallström, Tyrell's final episode hit all the right notes: "It was funny, it was sad … it had everything." He also feels it has one surprising component for Tyrell: redemption. "For him, taking that bullet was one good thing he could do," says Wallström. "The fact that Tyrell and Elliot are all alone in the woods, physically left to each other without any other choice other than continuing on with each other… and as soon as he gets to clear up all of his stuff with Elliot, he finally gets to do something good. Because in a way, he takes the bullet. He's sent off having finally done something good — one good thing after four seasons. It just feels natural to me that he had to die. But it was very heartwarming to see that he at least did one thing good in the end." As for the enigmatic nature of Tyrell's final moments, bloodied but bending toward a great blue glow, the actor is just as confused as the viewer: "It wasn't clear to me what that was. Sam and I talked about it, but in my mind, we weren't sure if it's something that's in his head. For me, I saw it as him realizing that his son would be okay. It's not the way he planned things, but his son will be okay now, and Elliot will be okay, too — and he'll take down Whiterose. It's a relief for Tyrell. I think he's thinking: 'All of this struggle, it was useless, but it's fine now. I'm going to die now.'" Source: www.hollywoodreporter.com

Elliot is lost. Mentally and physically. In the Season 4 Episode 4, he reveals he feels he cannot defeat Whiterose. In what was a very emotional scene, he expresses to Tyrell at this point he just wants a chance at having a chance of saving Darlene. It's not even a guarantee he can save her but he just wants the chance to try. The gas station is called Salamano's, after Salamano, a character in Albert Camus' The Stranger (The Outsider). Janice's taxidermy shop is La Mort Heureuse, also a Camus reference. An odd detail is Elliot’s voice shifting in tone at times. Like when he was talking with Tyrell just after yelling at him? It sounded like multiple voices talking at once: one sounded like it was Elliot’s, another like it was Mr. Robot’s (meaning Christian Slater), and another that sounded like someone else talking through a modulator. Tyrell's assumptions about Elliot are deeply flawed, though. Elliot’s hoodie is his armor, true; but he’s never been uncaring. Closed off, perhaps, but that’s generally because Elliot always seems to feel so much, virtually all the time, no matter which personality he’s wearing.

That said, his confession that he can’t stop fighting to try and save Darlene’s life is extremely moving. Dom’s Dream (told to Angela in the S02E09): ‘In that dream when I was being drowned, I stopped fighting it. When I finally let go and stopped struggling so much...that’s when I survived." Tobias (in full Bad Santa attrezzo) drunkenly quotes Jimmy Stewart’s character from It’s a Wonderful Life at one point during his car ride with Darlene. A classic holiday movie, to be sure. But also a film about the power of the people in our lives, and the ways that caring about one another can change the world. And if that’s not the true meaning of Christmas—and largely Mr. Robot, as well—I don’t know what is. Source: www.denofgeek.com

Friday, September 13, 2019

‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ and the ’60s Filmic Simulation

Joan Didion wrote in her book of essays White Album (1979): “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, at exactly the moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brush fire through the community.” Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) is divided into two parts: the first one surrounding the (mostly fictional) events of February 1969, and the second part—August 8 and 9, 1969—reinventing the fatidic Charles Manson’s massacre in semi-comical fashion, after the Rolling Stones’s Out of Time tune plays as a nostalgic swan song.

Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is a stuntman, a WWII vet, and a close friend—”a buddy who is more than a brother and a little less than a wife”—of Rick Dalton (Leonardo di Caprio), a former 1950s film star whose popularity in war films and westerns has been fading while the ’60s counter-culture is booming. For the very first time, Rick is experiencing crippling doubts about his career, especially when his agent Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino) warns him he must stop playing the villain in TV shows, because if he continues to do so the audience will forget his “heroic” filmic background.

“What he’s dealing with is even more than the TV and movies transition. The culture has changed underneath him, the entire Earth has gone topsy-turvy as far as a whole era of leading men is concerned,” Tarantino explained on the Pure Cinema Podcast. Rick Dalton’s screen persona is kind of a composite of such yesteryear actors as Steve McQueen, Edd Byrnes (77 Sunset Strip), Ty Hardin (Bronco), George Maharis (Hullabaloo), and Pete Duel (Bonanza). Dalton’s fictional Bounty Law show is sort of a duplicate of Steve McQueen’s Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958-1961).

Rick Dalton’s nervous breakdown at his trailer—after having failed at a rehearsal—connects intimately to Pete Duel’s ghost, since Duel (an undiagnosed bipolar alcoholic) was the TV western Alias Smith and Jones‘s star and he took his own life in 1971. This is indeed a traumatic scene for the viewer, when Rick experiences both alcoholic confusion and suicidal ideation in one of the film’s few dramatic moments. Among the multiple fan homages, Sergio Corbucci (director of The Great Silence) is mentioned when Rick decides to try his luck acting in spaghetti westerns in Italy. 

Corbucci also directed Django in 1966, which inspired Tarantino’s racially-themed neo-western Django Unchained. While Rick enjoys Italian food and a shotgun wedding to co-star Francesca Capucci (Lorenza Izzo), Easy Rider hits US theaters in July 1969. After Rick’s comeback home, we’ll witness an uncomfortable wink to Easy Rider‘s star Dennis Hopper, when Charles Manson’s right hand Tex Watson (Austin Butler) confronts a drunken Dalton in his private driveway.

Steve McQueen (Damien Lewis) allegedly had a crush on Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie)—as he confesses to Connie Stevens at the Playboy mansion—and he pondered attending Tate & Polanski’s home at Cielo Drive the night of the Manson Family murders. Rick fantasizes about reaching McQueen’s level of stardom (we even see a playful insertion of Rick as Captain Virgil Hilts in the classic The Great Escape). Therefore an inevitable erotical tension is subliminally established between the ascendant starlet Tate and the “has-been” Dalton, who symbolize New Wave and Golden Age Hollywood respectively.

There are two consecutive stunning scenes in the middle section of the film that bestow a touching humanity upon Rick’s and Cliff’s personalities. First, Rick has an epiphany while shooting an episode of his TV show Lancer when a child actor (Trudi, played with relish by Julia Butters) praises his improvisation technique: “That is the best acting I’ve ever seen in my whole life!” Trudi’s affability and her helpful guidance to Method acting have operated wonders on Rick’s self-esteem. Second, Cliff’s visit to Spahn Ranch—after flirting with a member of the Manson Family named Pussycat (played expressively by Margaret Qualley)—takes on a different meaning about a real threat on the horizon.

Intertwined with Rick’s and Cliff’s professional and personal challenges, we become enthralled (although progressively worried about her safety) by a radiant Sharon Tate—strolling around the City of Angels—whom the camera follows in such an affectionate and palpitating detail that it has an electrifying effect. The pounding of Sharon’s white boots on the bygone L.A. pavement is mirrored by our heart beating in response, the decades in-between collapsing onto our mental collages of her memory. She manages to sneak cost-free into the theatre, where she delights in her own comedic performance in The Wrecking Crew while surrounded by unsuspecting fans. It’s such a beautiful, zany, and powerful scene we sense the audience is irremediably, completely siding with Sharon from that moment on.

The fictitious 14 Fists of McCluskey (echoing a sequence from Inglourious Basterds) is a homage to Roger Corman’s war film The Secret Invasion (1964). Also, I infer Tarantino was influenced by Two Weeks in Another Town (1962) by Vincente Minnelli, since its plot is built around a washed-up actor (like Rick Dalton) who accepts a role in a minor production in Rome after spending three years in an asylum, looking for some type of redemption.

The nostalgic references keep piling up. All the glamorous faces, shady outsiders, vibrant marquees, hot spots, and shindigs reverberate as though conjured up by a cinephile’s wistful spell. The breezy and sumptuous tone used to rebuild this legendary dream factory—where so many ambitions turned sour—might even connect Once Upon a Time in Hollywood thematically to other similar radiographies of the industry, like The Big Knife (1955) by Robert Aldrich or the screwball comedy Bombshell (1933) by Victor Fleming.

It’s odd reminiscing about the nightclub scene from Bombshell, filmed at the now demolished Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, or about The Motion Picture Herald‘s review of Bombshell as “one of the funniest, speediest, most nonsensical pictures ever to hit a screen.” Indeed, Jean Harlow and Lee Tracy’s characters share a similar relationship dynamic to Rick and Cliff’s. Bombshell is partially a satire of the stardom years of Clara Bow (Jean Harlow’s Lola Burns), arguably the first Hollywood “It girl.” Lee Tracy’s E. J. Hanlon invokes the pioneer film producer B. P. Schulberg, whose last film was City Without Men (1943). Schulberg also produced Clara Bow’s Wings, which won the first Academy Award for Best Picture at the first Oscar ceremony in 1929.

In his ninth film, Tarantino has again incited abundant controversy—over his treatment of Bruce Lee, over Sharon Tate having little dialogue, along with accusations of being “obscenely regressive”—but I see it as his most sincere and optimistic film to date, despite its puzzling flashbacks and Cliff’s unreliable memory. What distinguished a typical Tarantino film was its sarcastic tone and fetishization of violence; in that regard Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is atypical, because its approach mimics those “good times” of the ’60s.

What remains a constant is Tarantino’s avoidance of melodrama, which differentiates him from Scorsese, Stone, or Paul Thomas Anderson. More in that line, of mixing nihilist hilarity with violent situations, is Matthew David Wilder—an underrated screenwriter who combined underground crudity with absurdist humor in Paul Schrader’s insane thriller Dog Eat Dog (2016). Within his often effectist style, this is somehow Tarantino’s Roche limit, the closest distance a celestial body can come to a planet like Earth without getting pulled apart.


The song Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon by Paul Revere & The Raiders marks a pivotal sequence, the clash between the inscrutable American (symbolized by Cliff) and the destructive subculture (symbolized by the Manson clan) that darkened and dimmed our immediate future. By the way, there is a Saturn’s Moon named Mimas, also known as Saturn I or the Death Star, whose existence is something of a miracle after it suffered a huge impact that caused its giant scar of a crater, called Herschel. Fractures are visible on Mimas on the opposite side of Herschel, indicating that the impact had the potential to disintegrate the moon. But it didn’t.

How big a hit can a planet or moon or scenario take before being utterly obliterated? Incomprehensibly, in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood the maniacal potential to disintegrate the Hollywood scene crashes against its own madness and perishes. Momentarily, Mimas seemed to be crashing into Saturn’s rings. But this proved an optical illusion caused by the way the image was taken. Likewise, cinematic illusion or simulation can make us appreciate things that are not actually there.

A film doesn’t have to hold all the answers, but it should have that almost-destroying impact when it depicts such a dark period of social upheaval. Despite its self-indulgence and banality, Tarantino’s ninth film establishes itself as another of his absurd masterworks. “Every actor in his heart believes everything bad that’s printed about him,” Orson Welles once said. And Rick Dalton may have believed so. But as Cliff retorts to him: “You’re Rick Dalton—don’t ever forget it.” Source: blogcritics.org

Kim Morgan's interview (excerpted from Sight & Sound, September 2019): As Tarantino said, “Sharon does her pratfall, our audience in the theatre laughs. So, I love that Sharon’s getting a laugh. The real Sharon Tate gets a laugh... When Sharon’s on screen we need to slow everything down. Just slow the whole damn thing down and just hang out with her… it’s about behavior; it’s about what people in Los Angeles do. You throw the things you don’t care about out of focus and you throw sharp focus on the things you care about – so… I’m looking out the window and see Los Angeles out in front of me and I’m being more selective about what I’m looking at as opposed to Jacques Demy in Model Shop (1969).”

QT: “Rick Dalton would have worked with guys like Paul Wendkos… If he was lucky, he would have worked with Phil Karlson, Leslie Martinson, people like that. One of the things about the actors of that era [and Rick Dalton], like I said, they were status conscious, so they would love to be in a Burt Kennedy western. Not because they think Burt Kennedy is the greatest director in the world, but because he makes movies for Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox.”

Rick has a William Witney's The Golden Stallion poster hanging in his house. QT: Well, people have given me some things – like Films in Review, in the 1970s – had a piece on Whitney that was really cool. And somebody sent me a Cahiers du Cinéma article… but they were talking about random things… It was kind of funny because I went to a big event in France and Bertrand Tavernier spoke about me at the event and he said, “Quentin is a film fan and a film scholar. And I am a film fan and a film scholar. And we have similar tastes and similar obsessions and interests. However, I have one thing over Tarantino that he will never have! I have it and I’m very proud that I have this over him. I have met William Witney! And he will never meet William Witney!” (laughs) His family passed on to him my admiration… But he was so unknown that he wasn’t even included in the Oscar Farewells.

QT: I actually don’t think Roman [Polanski] would have cottoned to Rick. I think Roman would have been immediately suspicious of a guy like Rick… Polanski had problems with John Cassavettes, he had problems with McQueen too… He hated McQueen, and McQueen didn’t like him. When they, Roman and Sharon [in the movie] show up at the Playboy Mansion, and Sharon runs up to Steve, Roman didn’t like it, but Steve was one of her big friends when she moved out here, so he had to put up with it. But the first thing McQueen does is he picks her up and spin her around… so that’s the kind of dynamic they have. If you also look at Edd Byrnes, his Italian western career is, more or less, what I modelled Rick’s career on – his Italian spaghetti western career. And when he came back it was like he wasn’t even famous anymore… His name didn’t mean anything. And it was pretty degrading frankly.

But then that changed when he was put in Grease, because his whole persona was brought up again, and you have the whole aspect of mothers taking their daughters to take Travolta, and saying, “Well my Travolta in my day was that guy.” And then that actually made him famous again.

QT: Burt Reynolds' joke used to be “Navajo Joe, a movie so bad they walked out on it on airplanes.” Even when I got on the phone with him, I was like, “OK, I got a bone to pick with you, you’ve talked shit about Navajo Joe forever and you’re wrong.” [He asks], “What movie?” [I say], “Navajo Joe.” [Burt says], “You can’t like that movie!” “[I say], “Yes, of course I like that movie, it’s fantastic and Sergio Corbucci is like one of the great western directors of all time.” [And Burt says], “Well I didn’t say I didn’t like Sergio! Sergio was great!” (laughs) Rick and Cliff are the Hollywood insiders who have become outsiders.

KM: And I love that Cliff lives right next to the drive-in (and that gorgeous shot) – movies all around… I also thought, wow that would be great!

QT: That’s the One from the Heart section of the movie (laughs) where everything is slightly larger than life… but I love that about it. The thing is, Leo’s around ten years younger than me or Brad. Leo didn’t grow up watching The Rifleman or anything like that, so those kinds of shows were all brand new to him. So, I watched a bunch of Wanted: Dead or Alive [starring Steve McQueen] so I could cherry-pick the episodes [for Leo] because it was the closest to Rick Dalton’s Bounty Law. But the guy and the episode he went nuts over – and you’re gonna get a kick out of this – is the Wanted: Dead or Alive with Ralph Meeker and James Coburn. So, we’re talking about it, and literally, his eyes light up and he’s like, “Who the fuck was that guy?”

And I go, “That’s Ralph Meeker.” [DiCaprio says,] “He was fucking amazing!” He’d already seen Paths of Glory, and then he watches The Naked Spur and Kiss Me Deadly and I think I gave him Glory Alley and I sent him The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. I realized one of the things that Meeker does that makes him so powerful and he does it in all of his scenes in The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre is when he’s having a confrontation, he just doesn’t blink. And there’s really only one way to do that. You just have to work on the muscles of your eyes and everything and it takes control and it’s a hard thing to do. So, we go do the movie and then I go to Leo and say, “Guess who does a full-on Meeker in this movie?” He goes, “Who?” [I say,] “Dakota Fanning [as Manson Family member Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme].”

In the scene behind the screen she doesn’t blink. It’s a full-on Meeker. And, she knows: “If I blink, I lose the scene.” And she can control her eyes and she can lock it in for the course of a scene. It has the same power it has with Meeker in The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. And she’s the most formidable character Cliff comes across. She’s like a concrete pillar on the other side of that screen door. And when she acquiesces, it’s kind of sinister, because she had won the stare-off. Source: www.bfi.org.uk

Monday, August 26, 2019

Theory about Cliff Booth in Tarantino's "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood"

Did Once Upon A Time In Hollywood's Cliff Booth really kill his wife? Quentin Tarantino's 9th film largely ties things up quite neatly - and violently - at the end. However, one of the biggest questions the film leaves behind is what really happened to Cliff Booth's wife Billie? Throughout the first half of the movie, there are a number of allusions to Cliff killing his wife, which is somewhere between a dark rumor on Hollywood lots, with various whispers going around about him and some people we meet believing he truly did it. Zoe Bell (who plays Randy's wife Janet) answered with uncertainty: "I reckon it’s a matter of Cliff having that kind of character where he doesn’t really care if other people like him or don’t like him. I think that probably really rubbed quite opinionated people the wrong way, and Janet is definitely an opinionated person. I just don’t think he cares enough to try to dissuade people from the beliefs they have around him, and that probably puts people like Janet off. Just that there’s a possibility that he may have killed his wife, or that maybe she killed herself or it was an accident — that it’s sort of shrouded with mystery just speaks to the character that he is."

Tarantino frames the key mentions of the death in a flashback, and the circumstances ostensibly just before it happens as a flashback-within-a-flashback. It's a hazy memory, which is our first indicator that things aren't quite as they seem. The context of the memory, and the memory-in-a-memory, is important. This isn't a scene where a regretful Cliff is thinking about how he killed his wife, or at least it doesn't seem that way. It's instead him ruminating on how that ill-fated boating trip, where his wife did die in some way, has come to define his entire career, and that makes more sense if he didn't actually do it. We hear the waves at the end, which suggests this was an accident, and that makes the death of Billie a greater tragedy, but also makes Cliff's own story tragic as well. While Cliff Booth is a fictional person, Tarantino does draw upon some real people for the character and his story in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Like much of Rick Dalton can be found in Burt Reynolds, so too can Cliff be seen in Reynolds' friend and stuntman Hal Needham. 

If Cliff killed his wife, it's more likely that Tarantino would show it, but instead this ties not only into his mythologizing of Hollywood's past, but touches on the idea of assumed guilt, and the way rumor can spread around the system. It's a delicate line to try and walk on, but given where Cliff's story goes, it only really works if he is innocent. If Cliff didn't kill his wife, then his arc works much better. He's a man haunted by ghosts, and has been punished by Hollywood - and yet, in the end, finds a sense of redemption by becoming the hero, after so long just being the stunt double. That's much more in fitting with the kind of fantasy story Tarantino is telling in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Cliff's actions throughout the film - and in particular his uses of violence - are typically justified within its internal logic. His wife dying was a tragic accident, which then loops into Once Upon A Time In Hollywood being the tragedy - and redemption - of Cliff Booth. Source: screenrant.com 

Friday, August 16, 2019

"Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties" by Tom O'Neill

There's at least two 'points' to the story of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The first is stopping the murder of Sharon Tate and her friends which was a historical tragic event. It's a cathartic 'what if?' scenario where over the top violence is almost Tarantino's (and potentially the audience's) anger being taken out on the real world murders. Tarantino went for the ultimate catharsis, and let us enjoy a world where things don't have to be so bad. The second is the resurgence of Rick Dalton's career. Throughout the movie we see him come to terms with his failing career, he then starts to take acting more seriously which leads him abroad for search of work. At the end of the movie before the big showdown, it's revealed that Dalton is going to sell his house after his time in Rome as he's finally accepted his career is effectively over (him selling the house is symbolic of him abandoning the Hollywood dream). So as the movie ends we see Sharon Tate is alive and Ricky Dalton's career is possibly going to have another chance. Hence the two 'points' of the story converge. Al Pacino's character mentions earlier in the film about how the good guy always stomps the bad guy in films at the time. I think Tarantino was trying to invoke that kind of storytelling that was common in 60's cinema. Source: medium.com

Faking a “Hippie Crash Pad”: Dr. Jolly West performed Jack Ruby's psychiatric evaluation, and he was in charge of UCLA's department of psychiatry and the Neuropsychiatric Institute for 20 years. Late in the fall of 1966, Dr. Jolly West arrived in San Francisco to study hippies and LSD. The Bay Area had seen an unprecedented migration of middle-class youth and an explosion of recreational drug use. West secured a government grant and took a yearlong sabbatical from his professorship at the University of Oklahoma, nominally to pursue a fellowship at Stanford, although that school had no record of his participation in a program there. The summer of love had yet to come, and the Tate–LaBianca murders were still years away, but West would effectively predict them both. In a 1967 psychiatry textbook, he’d contributed a chapter called “Hallucinogens,” warning students of a “remarkable substance” percolating through college campuses across the United States. It was LSD, known to leave users “unusually susceptible and emotionally labile” as it caused a “loosening of ego structure.” That language was reminiscent of the “reprogramming” spiel that Charles Manson would soon develop, urging his acid-tripping followers to “negate their egos.”

When Dr. West cautioned against the “LSD cults” springing up in America’s “bohemian” quarters, he described exactly the kind of disenchanted wanderers who’d flock to a personality like Manson’s in the years to come. West had a hunch that alienated kids “with a pathological desire to withdraw from reality” would crave “shared forbidden activity in a group setting to provide a sense of belonging.” Another paper by West, 1965’s “Dangers of Hypnosis,” foresaw the rise of dangerous groups led by “crackpots” who hypnotized their followers. Contrary to the prevailing science at the time, West asserted that hypnosis could make people so pliable that they’d violate their moral codes. Scarier still, they’d have no memory of it afterward. West cited two cases to back up his argument: a double murder in Copenhagen committed by a hypno-programmed man, and a “military offense” induced experimentally at an undisclosed U.S. Army base. He “personally knew” of two other instances, and he’d “heard on excellent authority” of more, but he didn’t elaborate. Later, I’d get a sense of what, or who, he might have had in mind. When he arrived in Haight-Ashbury, then, West was the only scientist in the world who’d predicted the emergence of potentially violent “LSD cults.”

Getting his bearings at the HAFMC, Dr. West arranged for the use of a crumbling Victorian house on nearby Frederick Street, where he opened what he described as a “laboratory” disguised as a “hippie crash pad.” The “pad” opened in June 1967, at the dawn of the summer of love. Who was paying for all this? According to records in West’s files, his “crash pad” was funded by the Foundations Fund for Research in Psychiatry, Inc., which had bankrolled a number of his other projects, too, across decades and institutions. I concluded that the Foundations Fund was a front for the CIA. Before Dr. West moved to the HAFC, he’d supervised a similar study in Oklahoma City. The title of the project was "Mass Conversion." As I was soon to see, its funds came from Sidney J. Gottlieb, the head of the CIA’s MKULTRA program. West’s excitement was a sham, his feelings for hippies dripping with condescension. He soon concluded that the constellation of sex, drugs, and communalism shining over the Haight that summer was “doomed to fail”: “The very chemicals they use will inevitably enervate them as individuals and bleed the energies of the hippie movement to its death.” He called this an “ineffable tragedy,” but it’s hard to imagine he saw it that way. For West, the failure of sixties idealism was the most desirable outcome—one that he was quite possibly working toward.

Senate investigators condemned MKULTRA unanimously. Kennedy branded it “perverse” and “corrupt,” an erosion of the “freedom of individuals and institutions in the name of national security.” The Times had called MKULTRA “a secret twenty-five year, twenty-five million dollar effort by the CIA to learn how to control the human mind.” The CIA’s new director, Stansfield Turner, swore that he’d sent all existing MKULTRA files to the Justice Department, which would mount a thorough investigation. Still, between the destruction of records and the subpoenaed agents’ sudden memory lapses, everyone knew that “the full facts,” as the New York Times editorialized, “may never come out.”  In 2001 I found letters between West and his CIA handler, “Sherman Grifford.” I didn’t recognize the name, so as soon as I got home, I began tearing through every book I had that mentioned MKULTRA, hoping that it would jump out at me. In the first and most definitive of the bunch, John Marks’s The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, there it was, buried in a footnote: “CIA operators and agents all had cover names,” it said, “even in classified documents. Sidney Gottlieb was ‘Sherman R. Grifford.’”

In April 1953, Sidney Gottlieb became head of the secret Project MKUltra, which was activated on the order of CIA director Allen Dulles. In this capacity, Gottlieb had administered LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs to unwitting subjects and financed psychiatric research and development of "techniques that would crush the human psyche". So West really had lied all those years. Not only was he a part of MKULTRA, he’d corresponded with the “Black Sorcerer” of MKULTRA himself. Preserved in his files, the letters picked up midstream, with no prologue or preliminaries. The first one was dated June 11, 1953, a mere two months after MKULTRA started. West was then chief of psychiatric service at the airbase at Lackland, Texas. Addressing Gottlieb as “S.G.,” he outlined the experiments he proposed to perform using a combination of psychotropic drugs and hypnosis, honing “techniques for implanting false information into particular subjects… or for inducing in them specific mental disorders.” West wanted to reverse someone’s belief system without his knowledge and he hoped to create “couriers” who would carry “a long and complex message” embedded secretly in their minds. All of these were the goals of MKULTRA, and they bore a striking resemblance to Manson’s accomplishments with his followers more than a decade later. -"Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties" (2019) by Tom O'Neill