I’m a Tarantino fan, I’m not really into the Coen Brothers. They do pastiche very well. All of their films feel a little too intellectual for me. Fargo and No Country For Old Men are classic films. They are masterpieces that get better with repeat viewings.
The rest of their movies ranges from very good to aggravating.
I dislike their comedies, a lot. It always feels like if others found them as amusing as they found themselves, they’d be household names.
You’re wondering why the hell am I telling you all this?
Here’s the thing, I’m telling you this because I want to make it clear how much I prefer Tarantino to the Coens. When I ask you to forget about Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and watch Hail Caesar instead.
What’s it about?
There is a plot, sort of.
A movie star get’s kidnapped, and it’s up to the studio fixer to get it sorted. Josh Brolin is the fixer. He spends the majority of the film running around trying to solve the kidnapping whilst putting out other fires.
One of the things that makes this film so enjoyable is that it is so brazen in the desire to entertain. There are dance numbers, comedy routines and the like.
This film is the epitome of those kinds of movies that you put on when you want something on in the background. There’s a light, breezy quality to the film but give it a chance, and it hooks you in.
That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
What’s the appeal?
Hail Caeser is as close as you can get to a version of a sketch show.
The scenes have a pretext, but it is flimsy at best.
Why are you watching Channing Tatum tap dance? Well because the fixer goes to the set, leaves a case of money to be picked up then hangs around and watches the filming.
Same again with Scarlet Johannson in her mermaid film. The fixer wants to talk to her, but he has to wait until she’s done filming.
One scene even feels like the set up to a joke, A rabbi, a priest and a reverend walk into a movie studio…
The sketches are so good and brief, you don’t mind.
In Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, you get elongated scenes showing how good Leo is playing a bad actor. I think or maybe a secretly good actor (I gotta be honest, I’m not sure what the point of the scene was). In Hail Caesar, you get synchronised swimming. You get a posh director giving a hick a lesson in eloquence, tap dancing, intrigue and Clooney hamming it up. If you don’t like one scene another one will be along in a moment.
What makes Hail Caesar a better film?
It’s the variety.
That’s not to say Hail Caesar is blinded by the rose tint of nostalgia. If anything the darker side of Hollywood is better integrated than in Once Upon A Time.
The red scare is present, as is homophobia. A starlet has to give her child up for adoption to avoid a scandal.
The darkness is present but the Coens do not pass judgement.
It is easy to judge the past from the vantage point of the present. The Coen’s could easily finger-wag the past and hit us over the head with moralising. Thankfully they don’t. Hail Caesar presents us with darker qualities of life in LA and says, “That’s the way it was” and let us make our own mind up.
Once Upon A Time or Hail Caesar?
Hail Caesar! lacks the “cool” that comes with a Tarantino film. It doesn’t have that cathartic gory, bloody almost slapstick level of violence. As a cohesive whole Hail Caesar! hangs together better.
One of the significant advantages is that it is a much shorter film and it zips along at top speed.
Hail Caesar! has digressions, but unlike Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, they aren’t dwelt on.
I prefer Tarantino to the Coens. I do not like Coen comedies in general. They are way too shrill for my liking. There’s always a lot of yelling in their comedies.
Even the title Hail, Caesar! annoys me with its punctuation mark.
What I’m saying is that as someone who considers himself a Tarantino fan Hail Caesar is a much better film than Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
If you like Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, there is no reason for you to dislike Hail Caesar. Apart from the difference in setting, they are similar films.
Tarantino, at one point, was cool. He has used up all his street cred, in my opinion. He’s got lazy and hasn’t pushed himself like other writer-directors *cough* Paul Thomas Anderson *cough*. There’s definitely some kind of loyalty that his fans have towards him. To say that they didn’t like it all that much is some kind of sacrilege.
My prediction is that it will go the way of Hateful 8. When Hateful 8 came out, everyone said it was good. Sam Jackson was in it, Channing Tatum got his head blown off. A few years of passed and I am yet to talk to any Tarantino fan who likes it.
I like Tarantino the man, I love Tarantino, the filmmaker. So believe me when I say fuck Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and watch Hail Caesar instead.