Sunday, May 24, 2020

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019).

Quentin Tarantino can be a difficult artist to talk about.  Not because there's nothing there.  The problem is kind of the exact opposite.  I don't know if it's too much to say guys like Tarantino contain multitudes.  I know anyone who's talked with him in person claim the guy has so much of a mouthful that sometimes you can't keep up.  In a way, that's a good metaphor for the whole problem.  The fact that its drawn from life just gives a bit of needed weight.  With directors like Tarantino, the problem is there can sometimes be so much to talk about that often the critic doesn't even know where to begin.  The worst part is that in a way, the director himself presents very little challenge at this late date.  The real worry in writing about the films of Tarantino is that you have to keep looking over your shoulder in case someone else made your own point for you a long time ago.  There's very little original to be said or unearthed about one of the most successful and defining careers in the history of filmmaking.  In other words, there's a lot to talk about, and its all been said before.  Still, the critic has to report something about his subject if he's to do the job right.

I suppose the best place to start is with the guy himself.  That can also be difficult because there are ways that his life can sound like that of a fictional character who shouldn't even exist.  He was a video store clerk, a rare and by now almost extinct form of retail wildlife that flourished for a brief span of time during the 80s and 90s.  What used to happen is people would actually bother to leave their houses, get in their cars, and go to an actual block of brick and mortar where VHS copies of old films were stored and housed.  They did that because back then it was possible to buy or rent the movie you wanted to watch right there in the store itself.  It was even possible, during this brief span of two decades, when some of these video stores were successful enough to become an actual business chain.  The most famous of these remains Blockbuster Video.  Tarantino never worked at one of these.  His own place of employment was an indie outlet called Video Archives.

This seems to have been the place where Tarantino first cemented a public awareness for himself.  He would sit behind the counter and market with the customers.  This was easy enough and enjoyable because all he had to do was tell anybody who chanced to walk in how much he loved the movies.  He would try and spread the enthusiasm around, get the buyers talking about what they liked, what films they found enjoyable, and what was it about the art-form that even made them want to set foot in establishments like the Archives?  It was a good way to drive up sales.  On personal level, though, it got customers talking not just about the business, but also about a motor-mouth clerk who also seemed like he had something promising in him.  It helped a lot that Quentin was an avid consumer of all things celluloid.  The man has been able to amass an incredible amount of detailed knowledge about movies past and present.  He was already well read, film wise, when he got his start back in the early 90s with Reservoir Dogs.  I don't even know how much more he's been able to accumulate since then.

Just recently Tarantino released his 9th film in theaters.  It's kind of a big deal because some time back he declared that he was going to limit himself to just 10 films under his own banner as a director.  This sort of marketing scheme is interesting for several reasons.  On the one hand, it creates expectation in audiences.  It gives them something to think about in a way that keeps the buzz around your name going.  At the same time, it puts a necessary amount of pressure on the artist to deliver on his promises.  Tarantino knows he has to make every film he releases count.  Any kind of screw-up on his part is going to put a dent in both his reputation and prospects.  That means every film he makes has to be as top quality as he can possibly make it.  The guys must hav a great luck to go along with his natural talents if he wants to succeed.  So far, most of his output has been greeted with popular and critical acclaim.  It's the reason why audiences are now in a heightened state of anticipation because they know his last film has to somehow sum up and account for it all.

According to the director himself, that film is still somewhere on the horizon.  Part of his strategy is to space out his work so that a legend is able to generate around his oeuvre.  It's another bit of his marketing skills.  Right now, his latest film is a bit of a nostalgia piece.  It's called Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and as the penultimate notch in his belt, it seems worth a look to determine just how well it holds up.

The Story.

Once upon a time, there was a land.  This land was more like a valley than a kingdom.  It still had palaces, courts, lords, ladies.  More than anything else, the kingdom had stages and players to perform in them.  You could almost say it was a realm made by and for players, tumblers, minstrels, troubadours, Rick (Leonardo DiCaprio), Cliff (Brad Pitt), and then there's me.  Rick is a nice man, though sometimes a sad one.  He used to be a player.  His stage was the Screen Gems Productions, and his performance was in a show called Bounty Law.  It's an old western.  That means its a show where ordinary people dress up like cowboys and pretend to go around shooting at one another.  It sounds strange, yet it also comes with the territory, especially in a place like the kingdom.  All the world's a stage to people like Rick, or half the entire population.  It seems to be their life blood.

Though Rick is a nice man (at least he was always good to me), he has fallen on hard times.  Bounty Law has come to an end, and now he just drifts from one stage to another.  Never finding a place to settle down, and not knowing what comes next.  This makes Rick sad.  This also makes Rick turn to Cliff.  Cliff is Rick's best friend.  He was also a stunt double back when Rick "trod the boards", as most of the players call it.  A stunt double is someone who takes the brunt of all the physical punishment that fictional characters endure if it is part of the story.  It's called "dedication to the craft", and Cliff is very dedicated to his job.  He has been a double for Rick throughout  their whole time in the kingdom.  As Rick says, "you can drop him off a can set him on fire".  Once Cliff even got into a dueling match with another player named Bruce (Mike Moh).  It was just a friendly tournament, though the director lady didn't like it.  So she sent Cliff home.  She needn't have worried, though.  Cliff is very brave.

I don't think Rick is quite like that.  He is very insecure.  He's been like that ever since he lost his job with the Screen Gems stage.  Now he has to do what's called "weighing your options".  In addition, a very nice and pretty girl named Sharon (Margot Robbie) has moved in with her husband Roman next door.  This adds to Rick's insecurities for no good reason  A nice man named Marvin (Al Pacino) has offered Rick a job in Italy, but Mr. Dalton (that's Rick's last name) isn't sure if that's the right thing to do.  Rick is nice, he's just not very bright sometimes.  The good news is Rick has won an audition to a new series called Lancer.  They start "trodding the boards" (or as the people call it) "first day of shooting" today.  Rick is very nervous, yet if he plays his cards right, he should do fine.  I've got other worries.  Cliff picked up a strange hitchhiker the other day.  Her name was Pussycat (Margaret Qualley), or something like it.  There was nothing cat-like about her.  Believe me, I would have known.  Instead, there was just something off about her.

She took Cliff to where she claims to live at Spahn Ranch.  Cliff knows the place, as that's where he and Rick made a few episodes of Bounty Law back in the day.  The ranch has become run down since then.  The place has changed, and not for the better.  The buildings are dilapidated. A lot of young girls just seem to hang around out there.  They all talk about someone named "Charlie" (Damon Herriman) a lot.  I think I know who they're talking about.  An ice-cream truck pulled up to Sharon's house once, and a funny looking man got out and asked if Brian Wilson still lived there.  Brian is a musician and another very nice man.  I don't know why Brian would hang around with the ice-cream man.  There was something off about him.  Like something vital went missing and never came back.  I do not like the ice-cream man.  It bothers me that Cliff knows people who know Charlie who drives the Ice-Cream Truck.  I hope Cliff never sees those humans again.  Sometimes bad choices have a way of coming back to haunt you.  The reason I worry is because it's my job to look after Cliff.  Brandy is my name, by the way.  I'm Cliff's pet dog.  And I can tell you for a fact, in places like the kingdom, anything can happen.  I mean anything.

The Good.

I know I have some very definite opinions about Tarantino's 9th film.  I'm just wondering if their the right ones.  Let's start with all the positives the film has going for it.  At it's core are the duo of Rick and Cliff.  As played by DiCaprio and Pitt, they are able to keep the audience interested in what kind of twists and turns may come at them next.  The fact that the majority of what happens to them is of the slice-of-life variety is a testament to the talent involved.  The entire plot of the film is a day in the life for the most part.  The audience is treated to an opening scene with a meeting between DiCaprio's washed-out actor and Pacino's mogul producer where all the stakes of the picture are laid out in neat succession.  It's a very economic way of establishing a setup, and Tarantino deserves a genuine amount of praise for the way he handles it.  From there, Tarantino does a very uncharacteristic turn in the way he lets the film almost take us by the hand and guide us through the lives of Cliff and Rick as they go through the motions.
The rest of the action weaves in and out of history as the main leads play out their individual interconnected stories.  The main action seems to center around the character of Rick, making him the film's de-facto main lead and the center of the story's focus.  In addition there are two others.  The second story involves Cliff and a run-in he has with the Manson cult.  The third and shortest involves the exploits of an alternate history version of Sharon Tate.  As the main character, Rick's treatment at the hands of the narrative is a more or less constant see-saw motion.  He is both sympathetic and pathetic by turns.  This is a process that can sometimes play out all at once in the same scene.  As a has-been actor, the narrative arc of Rick's character is generally towards the point where he is able to gain a greater sense of self-confidence.  It's the journey to that point that Tarantino seems to want us to focus on.

While all that's going on, however, there are the film's B and C plots.  These are both interconnected in a roundabout way as both of them are where Tarantino decides to let fiction intersect with the facts of real life.  The related plots center around the exploits of Cliff Booth and Sharon Tate.  We follow Cliff as what starts out as a simple home repair job soon shifts to a run-in with history.  The connecting thread for the film's B and C plots is the figure of Charles Manson.  It's a sad state of affairs when the possibility arises that audiences might have to be informed of just who he is, and what makes him notorious.  In real life he was the ultimate murderer of Sharon Tate.  It was a violent tragedy that somehow has managed to cast a larger than life shadow on the popular imagination.  I've got to admit there's something unhealthy about the way the murders have lingered on in historical memory.  As the years have gone by, Manson and his cult seem to have achieved an official bogeyman status.  He's no longer a maladjusted drifter, but the one who waits for you in your closet at night, biding time until the moment you let your guard down in sleep.
I'm still looking for a good explanation of why we've let someone like Manson grow to such a stature in our society.  It seems like even Tarantino can't shake the aura of this figure, as Manson and his cult form the main hinge around which the story's plot turns.  Tarantino allows real life to intrude into his secondary world by letting Cliff have a run-in with Manson's cult.  He gives one of them a lift back to the ranch where both the character and the audience begin to get the sense that all is not quite right in Denmark.  It's to Tarantino's credit that this is perhaps the most effective scene in the entire film.  The pacing is careful and deliberate, with the director allowing each line of dialogue and dramatic action build on one another in such a way that allows the narrative to ratchet the tension up by discernible inches.  A particular standout in these scenes is a now mature Dakota Fanning as what amounted to the group's "clan mother", "Squeaky".  She was tasked with the difficult job of being the one who has to bring all the sense of menace necessary for the scene to work and its to her credit that she is able to keep both character and audience on edge for the scarce amount of time she has on screen.

I've heard some viewers complain that the payoff to this sequence seems a let down.  The whole thing revolves around Cliff's attempts to make his way towards a closed door located in a decrepit old house on the ranch.  In a way I can understand where at least some of the criticism is coming from.  The very description of the sequence above, and even the way it is portrayed in the film, is one that any horror fan has been familiar since almost time out of mind.  It's even granted its own segment for discussion by Stephen King in his nonfiction genre study Danse Macabre.  What he has to say about the horror-behind-the-door concept there may have a relevance to Tarantino's scene.  The challenge and always potential pitfall of this kind of sequence, according to King, is that often what's waiting behind the locked door is often a letdown.  In the end, every horror comes down to little more than a guy in a mask, a fake monster suit complete with zipper running down the back, or else a special effect a varying and ultimately unreliable quality.  Still, its what Tarantino goes with, and I think the reason it works for me is because of the way it fools the audience.

All that Cliff finds waiting for him behind the door is a weary and worn out old man, played with a kind of irascible glee by Bruce Dern.  I think it's the nature of the scene and the way it is written to play for a laugh that gets to the audience.  They come away feeling disappointed because every fiber of their being leaves them expecting something horrendous to happen.  We expect Cliff to meet a very unkind fate ate the hands of the cult the moment he opens that door.  Instead, we find a relic of Classic Hollywood as a symbol of how low it has fallen.  If that were all that's going on with the scene, then I'd have to agree to it as a letdown.  However, that doesn't take Tarantino's narrative strategy into account.  The entire sequence is meant as a setup for the payoff to come later.  Looked at from this perspective, the scene makes as much sense as it possibly can.  The one downside I can think of is that Robbie's character is also just a part of this setup, and nothing more.  It's an element that has a lot to do with my criticisms of the film.  However, that moment is still for later.  Right now, there is one other positive to talk about.

The second (really its meant to be the primary) set piece in the film details the trials Rick undergoes as he struggles to reignite his flagging career on the set of TV Western.  The whole sequence has a much more slice-of-life feel than anything else in the picture.  The real standout performance in these scenes is that of Julia Butters playing the role of child actress Trudi Fraser.  She serves as something of a shoulder for the main character to cry on, and there are times when it is just possible to wonder if she isn't meant to be the conscience of the film.  Either way, she's more than capable of holding her own against a seasoned veteran like DiCaprio.  On screen, the character displays a committed sense of competence coupled with a groundedness that is not easily impressed with her co-star just because he's like one of the top performers of the era.  There's something refreshing in the way she is able to put him in his place that's encouraging in a way that's hard to pin down.  Yet the viewer is thankful that it's even there.

Aside from her, DiCaprio is able to carry the scene like his usual professional self, and we are allowed to care for Rick as its pretty clear the guy is struggling to hold the lines together in his head.  The trick is that it's a whole sequence written throughout with a good dose of pathos mixed together with an equal or greater amount of irony and humor.  The audience feels a great amount of sympathy for Rick even as you can't help but sort of laugh at him.  He's a very comic figure in these scenes.  It's a creative choice on the directors part, and it might not make sense to some viewers.  However it should start to fit together the moment we see Rick walk on stage in character and deliver a performance that is able to knock it right out of the park.  As Sam Wanamaker explains in that scene, "Evil Hamlet scares people".  It's the job Rick was tasked with, and the fact the main character is allowed this moment of glory somehow manages to leave the audience celebrating in his private victory, which is usually the one occasion that really counts more than any other in a work of fiction.

The Not So Good.

There's plenty of stuff in Once Upon a Time to heap praises on.  The hits come fast and quick, and they're easy to appreciate.  That's why there's a reluctance to admit there are elements of the film that may not work as well as others.  The biggest hassle for me is the way Tarantino frames the way the audience sees the Manson cult.  The character of Rick is given several opportunities to make disparaging remarks about the counterculture of the 1960s.  Whenever this happens, the Mansons are either on-screen, or else they're not too far away.  It is just possible to write this off as a simple flaw in the character and not the writing.  However, I'm not so certain.  It sounds like a minor quibble, and maybe it is.  If that's the case then it's one that I just can't shake.  What bugs me about it is I get the sense that the director is in danger of misrepresenting a social and cultural movement that had fundamentally nothing to do with Manson and his followers.

It is this creative decision which leaves me wondering if there isn't a kind of creative misstep amounting to a near fatal flaw at the center of the narrative.  The whole picture is framed as a love-letter to the 1960s that Tarantino grew-up in.  There's one scene in particular near the end which sort of encapsulates the kind of reverence the director has for this time in his life.  It's a simple sequences of establishing shots as the viewer sees business and theater marquees slowly begin to light up the L.A. strip.  Each marquee and scene is setup in such a way that you can tell the director almost wanted to use as many kid gloves in these moments as possible.  He's like a royal guard carrying the crown in these sequences.  That's how much devotion Tarantino has for the period and its artistic culture.  There's no doubt that the affection is genuine.  It also can't erase any of the potential creative traps a director can fall into if they aren't careful.

The missteps that Tarantino falls prey to is best summed up by saying that he goes with his gut without stopping to take a clearer look at the overall picture of which his story is a part.  We are treated to sequences and scenes featuring real-life personalities like Tate and Bruce Lee.  I think the way Tarantino handles each of these individuals helps shed light on the moments where his lack of insight gets the better of him.  The director has made no secret of his fan street cred when it comes to actors such as Lee.  This is obvious enough anyone bothers to take a simple look at the way Tarantino choreographs the action in films like Kill Bill, where the not just the fighting, but even the wardrobe forms one great big callback to Lee's Enter the Dragon.  Tarantino is nothing, if not a connoisseur and advocate for Lee and his style of filmmaking.  Perhaps its this very knowledge of the director's reverence which contributes to not a sense of letdown, so much as a wondering if that's the best he could do when the time came to finally portray his idol in a work of fiction.  After all the homages, and tributes, the best Quentin can do is to introduce a parody of Lee that rings with a hollow sound that's hard to define.

With Sharon Tate, it seems like the opposite problem is at play.  Tarantino frames and tells her side of the plot as if she were a princess in a fairy tale.  Again, it is not, in itself, a necessarily bad decision.  However, it does mean we are given less of a character, and more of a symbol.  To be fair, there is no real reason to argue against allegory, even when its on film.  The trouble is, if Tarantino really is trying to write an allegory, then the way he handles it leaves its exact nature as somehow muddy and muddled.  We know Tate is meant to symbolize this ideal of innocence and youthful hope.  These are values that have been explored before in the past.  It is even possible for several great artists, like Dickens, Shakespeare, Twain, or the in-film example of Thomas Hardy to not just explore the concepts, yet also give a resonance that makes them stick in the mind and act as benchmarks for not just artists but also as references for audiences to draw on in sorting out their own lives.  It could be that Tarantino had at least something like this as the over-arching theme of his film.  The trouble is he doesn't seem to have been able to define what or how that concept is supposed to be told.  The result is that somehow, even with a fairy-tale ending, something vital has failed to be realized on-screen.

Conclusion: An Intriguing Premise with Mixed Results.

The final act involves the re-writing of history.  There is nothing out of the ordinary about this.  Tarantino has pulled off this same trick once before with Inglorious Bastards.  There audiences got to view the treat of Hitler gunned down in a way that everyone sane wishes or hoped that he should have been.  The same idea is being applied once more to the Manson Cult.  It is easy to see why the director would want to take the same approach.  In many ways, the target this time is not just similar, but virtually identical to the nazis.  Manson was a lunatic, yet what makes him dangerous is that he was a loon with a lot of bad ideas.  Therefore it makes sense to wish for a better outcome.  The trouble is in trying to reach an ideal goal, Tarantino's missteps are able to muddy the waters in a way that might be a creative form of the author tripping himself up.  For instance, its hard to tell how much he knows, and hence how much accurate information the director is able to give about Sharon Tate.  For instance, he has her show fear at the thought of hippies, when its heavily implied elsewhere in the film that she is (along with the likes of Cass Elliott and Michelle Phillips) very much one herself.  It creates a sense of artistic contradiction that totally suspends one's disbelief and takes you right out of the movie.  I'm just left with the sense that I was receiving a lop-sided and inaccurate portrait of a real person.  Rather than any proper sense of dramatic closure.

This is just part of an overall unsatisfying aspect to how the finale plays out, even if the ostensible good guys win.  I chalk this up to the same slipshod approach Tarantino has with pretty much all the material in this movie.  I said up above that while the director has a genuine love for the era and its movies, he leaves a notable gap as to the exact meaning of it all.  It could be this artistic inability to define and clarify his terms that leaves a sense of hollowness where a well-outlined sense and sensibility would normally go.  Perhaps this same lack of meaning is the big reason I came away less than satisfied.  The result means that I'm sort of in an unintentional quandary over just what to make of this film.  There are a lot of things to like about, and there's something missing.  Does that make it a bad film?  At the very least, I can't help arguing that it's a flawed one.

At one point, after the film had ended, I found myself turning to another picture with a similar premise that I'd seen a while back.  It was called Hail, Caesar!, and was the brainchild of the Brother's Coen.  Like Once Upon a Time, the latter film also takes the slice-of-life approach to Old Hollywood.  The major difference is that the Coen's set their own project during the 1950s.  I recall walking away from that picture in a very enjoyable and satisfied mood.  I think part of the reason for that is because the Coens somehow managed to have just this more well-defined sense of what they were trying to accomplish with their film.  At the center of Caesar's narrative is an almost fundamental question about the nature and value of the arts in general, and of movies in particular.  The Coens are able to give their answer to this question by the time the credits role, and while it might sound trite to some of the more jaded in the audience, it left me grateful that the film was around for others to one day appreciate.

I get the sense that Tarantino might have been trying to go for the same goal as the Coens with Hollywood.  If that's the case then something needs to be pointed out.  It is useless to complain about an artist trodding similar ground.  For one thing, it can be argued that films like A Star is Born and 81/2 were able to beat both Tarantino and the Coens to the finish line long before any of them saw daylight for the first time.  The self-reflexive film about filmmaking was and is well-established territory before either of them thought of making their own riffs on the subject.  Nor do I think it's valid to raise the stale argument that either film is "the same story".  A quick look at the narrative basics of Caesar and Hollywood will be enough to inform anyone paying attention that the two narrative trajectories couldn't be more different.  Instead, it all seems to come down to a simple question of which artists were able to better realize their respective projects.  I think there's a lagging quality in Tarantino's film that stems from an inability of the director to realize whatever it was he was trying to say.  I've no doubt that Tarantino knows what it all means in his mind.  It's just that perhaps he should have taken more time to make this entire stance and nostalgia clear to audiences.  In the end, I am willing to say you should go see this film, if only for the experience.  I just wish we were given a better glimpse at the substance that is clearly there, somewhere, underneath all the style.


  1. (1) That bit written from Brandy's point of view was excellent.

    (2) "I've heard some viewers complain that the payoff to this sequence seems a let down." -- I loved the entire movie, and I loved this sequence in particular. I watched it the way I would watch a horror film; I think you are right on the money making that comparison, and it worked on me completely. Tarantino created some great tension there; it felt like anything could happen ... and yet, when what DID happen happened, that felt like the only way it could have gone. Still not sure quite how he managed that. And it doesn't play that way for everyone; I think it does only if you are on exactly the same wavelength the director was on.

    (3) "I think there's a lagging quality in Tarantino's film that stems from an inability of the director to realize whatever it was he was trying to say." -- I think he was saying that Hollywood is, as you say, a fairy tale. We all know it's nothing more than that, but we still believe in it, even though we know better. We know that those actors on the screen are mostly just putzes like Rick Dalton, but so what? In the movies, happy endings are possible, so why not take 'em while we can?

    1. (1) I didn't know if I'd even got that bit right in any way, shape, or form. How many people can actually think like a dog, for example. That's the best I was able to do. The character had to be smart and simple at the same time. I think that was about the only character note I was able to hit on, and even then, the whole thought process wasn't exactly on my mind, even as I was composing it. In other words, don't thank me, thank pure dumb luck.

      (2) I think it's possible to guess how audiences thought everything would play out. In their minds, Cliff opens the door, and the expected happens. He gets jumped by the cult members and that's the last of Brad Pitt in the movie. Rick finds out about it, is devastated, spirals down the drain, his career is over, and all he can think about is finding out who got Cliff and paying them all back. From there, the film would go into standard Revenge pic territory, similar to "Death Proof", or something like it.

      (3) You're probably right. I know I can see myself coming back to look at this over time for multiple re-evaluations. Maybe I'll find a better vantage point on it sometime.


    2. (1) Nah, that ain't luck; that's skill!

      (2-3) These are very related topics to me. For whatever reason, I went into the movie assuming that it was going to be a relatively straightforward examination of the Tate murders. Now, given how "Inglourious Basterds" (a movie I adore) ended up, I have no idea why I thought "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" was going to be straightforward. But I did, and I found myself wondering the entire way through how Rick and Cliff were going to factor in to the killings. I didn't try to figure it out or anything, but it was persistently in the back of my mind, and that was a big part of why the movie played so tension-filled for me.

      It literally never occurred to me that it might end on a note of fantasy the way it did. In other words, since this reaction was clearly what Tarantino was hoping for, I must have been something fairly close to the ideal audience member for him. Right up until Cliff throws that can of dog food, I was assuming the worst, because what else could it possibly be?

      So when the film made that shift at the end, I was about as delighted as I have ever been watching a movie. Because suddenly I realized, OF COURSE this was where the movie was going! In retrospect, it seemed so obvious. And yet, never crossed my mind. I don't know how else to describe it; pure delight.

      But I see how it could come across as fake and flimsy to someone else; maybe even as manipulative and offensive to the memory of the people who died. Those seem like valid reactions, too; they just weren't mine.

      I ended up seeing the movie three times, and it held up for me on each revisit. I really love that little scene at the end where Rick speaks to Sharon on the intercom. I found that to be incredibly touching, in a weird way. Obviously part of that is because in real life, Sharon met a very, very different end. The implication is that most of the Ricks of the world -- guys who are past their prime and barely hanging on to their dignity -- also rarely have happy endings. But here, Tarantino says, "Well, yeah, of course reality sucks. So why in the hell would you want your movies to be realistic?"

      I think there's a place for everything, of course; but as cinematic arguments go, I can't blame Tarantino for taking that stance. I know he says he's only making one more movie, but personally, I hope that ends up not being the case.

    3. I have to admit, whatever missteps, it is still possible for me to think. I wish it had been real. Then I get images of Tate as, say, the main character in "The Sugarland Express, or something like it, and then I just get weirded out by the whole concept for some reason.