Thursday, December 31, 2020

One More Nick on the Teens

Many things have changed in the long stretch since I first started putting my cultural musings here. But one that has not is my stubborn belief that quantities are gathered from 1 to 10 and not 0 to 9, and unless you are an astrophysicist there is no such thing as Year Zero. Therefore the Teens began in 2011 and ended on this date today. There may be long stretches of silence here as I go about other demands of the world, but there is something to be said that I've kept this blog operating long enough to post a second Best of the Decade list, and there are still correspondents who will read it, especially knowing how much of an ornery cuss I am in sticking to this unpopular system of counting. So thank you up front for finding room in your heart for this fussbudget; everybody needs a little love.

And with love comes...



While it seems that some lustre has fallen from the Pixar brand since, like any other enterprise, they have been tapping into their existing characters to offer audiences comfortable familiarity, when they choose a challenging topic, they still prove themselves peerless in rising to the opportunity. After all, what has felt more impenetrable for generations of parents than unlocking the workings of a young child's mind? Pete Doctor and his brain trust spent years making sure the psychology was accurate, and integrated some of their own self-reflection into the plotting, and that intensity yielded a entertaining and, pardon the pun, thoughtful recognition of how all emotions do ultimately intersect for the better.


When it comes to the spectacle genres, there are several examples of Black-fronted action-adventures and horror stories, but very few fantasy outings, a particularly frustrating matter in light of how popular such material has been with Black viewers. So on that low metric this would already be a welcome contribution. But what director/co-screenwriter Julia Hart does to elevate this to greatness is present a compelling generational drama among its main characters that would sustain an entire movie without any supernatural element, combine it with a new contemplation of a superhero origin story, and finally subvert the kind of expected showdown climax with a cathartic theme of rapprochement and hope that feels earned and not contrived.


Beginning from the source novel RETURN FROM THE ASHES, depicting a woman after WWII re-seducing the lover that does not recognize her (and perhaps betrayed her), which previously inspired one of my favorite unsung films, then essentially rubbishing it and starting from scratch in the manner of Coppola with Mario Puzo or P.T. Anderson with Upton Sinclair, director Christian Petzold and screenwriter Harun Farocki keenly take escapist pulp and expand upon it to depict characters, and thus a nation, that for decades, lost the very notion of pulp, pop culture, and escape. What long ago had been conceived as an an entertaining but not exceptional spin on the "who's going to die last" question to which many potboiler stories hinge upon becomes unforgettable by flipping the question instead to become "how do you go on living."

10. ELLE

As an uneasy but necessary discussion about women's sexual abuse and trauma took focus in the tail end of the decade, many were shocked at the hardened observations of some women of earlier generations and life experiences, where they in effect shrugged off horrifying events they endured. In the heightened but all-too-plausible environment created by Paul Verhoeven here, we get a significant taste of the minefield such women have steeled themselves to navigate and rise above, with allusions to the manner in which years of outside hostility and interior stewing create such a mindset, delivering on themes that were previously touched on in SHOWGIRLS but ultimately muddied in its disjointed blend of camp and grit. 


In the 90s, after watching the first batch of films Richard Linklater directed, my roommate said, unprompted, "I think he's a got a THE GODFATHER in him." While the idea of a family epic sounded odd for a filmmaker finding drama in the outwardly bland incidents of people, consider that Francis Ford Coppola had earned praise for similarly small intimate films as YOU'RE A BIG BOY NOW and THE RAIN PEOPLE before making that iconic film. As such, Linklater did fulfill that prediction, demonstrating how, over the span of years, moments that seemed inconsequential impact and loom large in the formative time of adolescence. And by taking it further with shooting in yearly installments to cement the verisimilitude, took the kind of bold production risk that Coppola probably contemplated in his own youth. To say that ordinary life is complex sounds quaint, but when presented in this chronicle, the evidence hits home.


Back in 2011, where most of the attention in the film community was taken up either by the complacent nostalgia of THE ARTIST and THE HELP or the existential questions of THE TREE OF LIFE and MELANCHOLIA, director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, reteaming after their successful collaboration on JUNO, took the truly ballsy step of asking audiences to find kinship and empathy with a destructive monster who seemingly could not or would not repent for their damage. Roger Ebert famously said that the gift movies provide is to allow viewers to experience lives they would never know, and even though this protagonist, mired in self-loathing over the failed promises of the past, is a person one would hope to never know or emulate, this glimpse into their broken heart is as much a moving revelation as any comparably upstanding character.


If Bill Morrison had decided to make a documentary just on discovering hundreds of nitrate film reels in a remote Yukon outpost, that probably would have been an interesting story in itself. Or if he'd told the story of that former Great White North boomtown, that would have been informative also. But by taking the time to look deeply into both their their histories, how they mirrored each other, and the unexpected tangents they steered into, he was able to lay out a larger, sprawling tale of ambition, capitalism, hubris, and for some involved parties, recovery, taking this beyond the realm of dry information about the past, and into a stunning hypnotic odyssey. It stands as a grounded cautionary tale and a dream narrative.


Bong Joon-ho has been swinging for the fences from his first feature forward, and to have a resume where MEMORIES OF MURDER is your second film is what every auteur dreams of. PARASITE is the culmination of years of telling energetic tales of suspense infused with exploring the ripple effects of class disparity in THE HOST, MOTHER, and SNOWPIERCER. This edition however stands out thanks to its mastery of switching from fear to comedy and back, its mounting stakes leading to a cathartic finish, and yet never letting its pronouncements get larger than the prime focus on its characters and our rooted interest in them. As he has demonstrated in all his best films, no matter the chaos outside, there is always time to stop for family meal.


I would proffer that the reason some chroniclers resist counting a series of films as a single unit is because they rarely get released in the span of one calendar year; the last time I can recall one making that window was Kieslowski's THREE COLORS trilogy. And the puritans screaming, "It's TV!" aren't helping things either. But any sensible cineaste can see that Steve McQueen's collection of overdue stories about West Indian lives in '70s England - their loves, challenges, epiphanies, and activism - have the meticulous composition of all of the director's previous works, and with Amazon's bullish support of other iconoclast artists and desire for theatrical respect, they would have readily released them in cinemas were they not shut down in 2020. Structured like a mixtape, with the strong start of MANGROVE, the bold increase of LOVERS ROCK, the reflective descent of RED WHITE AND BLUE and ALEX WHEATLE, and a conclusion in EDUCATION that makes you want to start the whole thing over again, this may well be McQueen’s stamp on the canon.


Satire may be what closes on Saturday night, but when it's done right, it captures all of the troublesome parts of a time and place and manages to present it to you in a way that doesn't make you want to regret your existence. And Boots Riley calls out multiple sources of grief of this past decade, and acknowledges how some of them manage to stay indestructible, without leaving the viewer feeling completely pessimistic, deftly blending the "pilgrim's progress" surrealism of O LUCKY MAN! with BLUE COLLAR's still relevant maxim, "They'll do anything to keep you on their line...Everything they do is to keep us in our place." It's laughing to keep from screaming bloody murder, but when the jokes come as quick and correct as they do here, you understand why comedy matters in a bleak time. 


While a case can be made that his longtime friend and peer Alejandro González Iñárritu engages in production stunt work meant to draw attention to itself, Alfonso Cuarón has always figured out how to make technical virtuosity still be in the service of a story and not take it over. In this film, he presents astounding visuals (especially when viewed in its native 3D), the kind that audiences seek when going to a big screen event picture, but constrains them to focus almost exclusively on one person and her real time life-or-death crisis above the Earth; effectively staging a literal THE HUMAN VOICE in Space! The existential struggle of the micro of a single soul against the ultimate macro of the vast infinite has rarely been more wondrous, terrifying, and emotional, and Cuarón shows how that balance can be met in craft and in life.


If anyone not already familiar with the recent history of this country wanted an explanation for the disease that has devoured so much of this decade, this bravura documentary, that unrolled with a furious speed that belied the 7.5 hours of its theatrical release version, is the primer I would offer them. Addressing the longstanding open racial animus Los Angeles law enforcement unleashed upon its Black citizens, and the more covert racial animus that slowly poisoned a once shining hero of the community, and the ugly series of events they spawned, you hear from many people with a stake in the saga, many of whose voices either lacked amplification or got distorted during that maelstrom. And as the participants have some benefit of hindsight in their present to recognize mistakes made, viewers of today will likely all too well recognize how those mistakes led to even worse mistakes in our present. 

And after all of that, what could be the one film to represent ten years' worth of thousands of dreamers putting their visions forth on screens of varying size, to sum up everything that was exciting and moving about the art form, and set up a homestead in your head for weeks, months, years after the first viewing? Well, for me, there is only one answer...


I don't know if I could roust the uninitiated with a sober recitation of the basic outline of this movie - an actor capable of complex changes of appearance travels by stretch limousine to perform a wild array of scenes over the course of one day - because this is a movie that is inebriated with the joy of immersion in other worlds for a short spell. Action, fantasy, discord, regret, death, rebirth, and even a little song and dance - the emotional moments we seek entertainment to reenact for us from the comfort of a cinema seat, whether you're the loner at a matinee wanting a good cry over lost love, or the wide-eyed naif at a midnight show looking to discover some way out sheeit. Like rambunctious children playing house one minute, cowboys the next, and monsters afterward, anything is possible and no ideas are wrong. To invert that old beer commercial, it is Everything You Always Wanted in a Movie...and More. 

Or, to libarally quote from my more erudite friend and colleague Alonso Duralde, "It's a movie [that] if you feel like interpreting it, it's open to a lot of this a movie, is this a dream, is this a movie having a dream of being a just goes into wonderfully weird directions and you have to just kind of stop asking questions after a while and just go with it and follow its own rhythms, but it's rewarding if you allow yourself to do that...this is a movie for movie lovers who really love all kinds of movies and are willing to go on all kinds of rides with a movie...there's a story here if you want there to be one, or not if you don't..."

For a decade that's definitely been a long and suspenseful ride full of inextricably tied instances of elevation and humbling, despair and comfort, fear and hope and the Whole Damned Thing...and no good answers about what is coming can it not be represented by HOLY MOTORS?

Thus I close the door on this year and this decade, and send you my wishes for a grand '20s run, and my promise to help make them grand for you.

Friday, December 25, 2020

2020 Visions Are Enough to Leave One Blindsided

After four years of ass-kicking, 2019 somehow finally served the impression things were improving. But that was a delusion brought on by all the buffeting because 2020 happened. And in a most bizarre circumstance, as everyone's personal lives became more fraught, mine became...different. 

Last year my milestone was reaching 50. This year it was losing a parent. A parent that, well, spent more time being an impediment to my aspirations rather than a supporter. Anna Rita Storelli survived WWII trauma, and fancied tennis and languages. Maybe that explains all the years of clashes we had. There was always love between us, but not a lot of fun. She was publicly likeable, privately difficult. And I’m my mother’s son. 

Now, in her passing, I possess multiple forms of independence I've not known for years. I do wish it had not been this kind of transition that brought about mine own. I wish a lot of things were different, for everyone I love; it's aching to see so many of them also coping with personal sorrow independent of the world's crisies. But for me, I got all cried out about this specific corner of my life a long time ago. In my altered trajectory, I'm in a better position to help make positive differences for other people, so that's the mission now.

I'm tired of 2020. Let's just address the good movies, okay? The Top 13 of 2020:



11. i'm thinking of ending things











"I just like to stay busy, and I like to work with interesting people."

 - Adam Schlesinger, October 31, 1967 – April 1, 2020

So, as you and I enter into what is going to be a very different New Year, just...keep on doing That Thing You Do.

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Three-Night-Five-Ratings-Points-Palm-Exploding-Heart Technique

For as much as there have been thousands of words written in regard to the lifetime of hours that Quentin Tarantino has spent in a cinema seat, there should also be a significant amount of discussion about how many hours in his youth were spent with television, and his ability to distinguish and appreciate the details unique to that medium that would otherwise be in conflict with the theatrical experience. In multiple interviews, when discussing laudable moments of actors, he has frequently cited guest star roles on television on an equal level of praise as film appearances. His occasional forays into directing for TV, helming episodes of "E.R." and "C.S.I.," resulted in strong ratings and are cited as standouts of those series. And his recent blockbuster ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD spends more time addressing how it has been television rather than the movies that has made and could break Rick Dalton's career, as well as provide shaky foundation for the Manson acolytes' violent behavior. Most importantly, over-the-air television contributed to the budding cineaste's education long before VHS tapes and video stores were a viable option. In a 1992 interview with Michel Ciment & Hubert Niogret, he stated, "I just watched TV in my childhood all the time...during the weekend in Los Angeles, these old movies constantly played on TV all day long..."

Thus it's an irony that while his catalog has enjoyed plenty of cable and on-demand play, only one of Tarantino's feature films has ever been aired on free broadcast TV. Granted, the amount of language and violence contained within any of his stories would be a nightmare for the average editor trying to create an edition suitable for the FCC; when Miramax and Disney prepared such a cut in 1997 for a first-run barter syndication premiere, the Los Angeles Times' news story headline literally asked, "PULP on TV?" Their reedit eliminated most of the curse words, several lines of dialogue, and even eliminated The Gimp as a character, using strategic cropping of the 2.35 image to keep him offscreen. Not an optimum way to watch one of the most important films of a decade, to be sure. The whole situation likely was a love/hate moment for Tarantino - on one hand, appreciating seeing his own movie on TV the same way he consumed movies for years, but also having to see it severely altered the same way Jackie Gleason may have reacted to seeing himself confoundingly scream, "Scum bum," with someone else's voice in the 1979 NBC network premiere of SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT.

A year ago, a slow ripple of shock made its way through several fandoms when Netflix began airing an expanded edition of Tarantino's 70mm epic THE HATEFUL EIGHT, broken into 4 episodes of roughly 50 minutes each. Talking to SlashFilm after its stealth debut, he detailed how the platform approached him about this alternate idea, and why he accepted. "[I] thought, wow, that’s really intriguing. I mean, the movie exists as a movie, but if I were to use all the footage we shot, and see if I could put it together in episode form, I was game to give that a shot....We didn’t re-edit the whole thing from scratch, but we did a whole lot of re-editing, and it plays differently...It has a different feeling that I actually really like a lot. And there was [already] a literary aspect to the film anyway, so it definitely has this 'chapters unfolding' quality." He further elaborated, "Well if you like the movie, the movie is a movie, and I worked really hard [on it]. So even if I come out with a version that has more stuff in it, that doesn’t invalidate the first version...But now if you’ve seen that, and you like that, and you want more, this version gives you more…and it gives you more in a slightly different format...if you’re just watching it like a chapter at a [time], which is basically 50 minutes at a time, then you’re able to absorb it. And in a fun way, you’re able to look at it slightly differently. Do you want to keep watching it? You can, but you don’t have to. Each episode ends it an emotional place and you’re also able to see the whole original narrative complexity of the whole piece." Naturally, the question was raised if his other films would be revisited in a similar fashion, and while there were frequent musings that ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD could see an expanded episodic revision in the future, he stated that, "in the case of KILL BILL: THE WHOLE BLOODY AFFAIR, KILL BILL is the one movie I’ve made where everything I shot is in the movie..."

More than one critic observed the similarity between this reconfiguration, and the 1977 NBC presentation of THE GODFATHER SAGA. Seeking additional revenue to fund his expansive APOCALYPSE NOW, Francis Ford Coppola made a deal with Paramount and the network to create this hybrid blend of his two Academy Award-winning films, reedited in chronological order by editor Barry Malkin, and also including scenes that had been removed from each film. The four-night event was a ratings smash, and even drew rave reviews from those who had not cared for the theatrical editions: TV Guide's Judith Crist, who had panned THE GODFATHER in New York magazine saying, "The film is as ‘good’ as the novel; essentially immoral and therefore far more dangerous," said of the reconstructed miniseries, "[It's] a knockout...a brilliant editing job by Barry Malkin...he has come up with a gangster-oriented 'ROOTS'...the 'charms' of the Corleone family have been de-emphasized; we have instead a chronological study of the blood bond of the Mafia and, most particularly, of the father-to-son or don-to-heir transmission of character." The four-night event was a ratings smash, with NBC re-airing it in 1980, and holding onto the rights until 1987. Variations of this linear version were created for home video and other cable channels; more recently, AMC aired a slightly more violent edition in HD in 2012, and HBO offered a full-strength R-level edit for streaming in 2016. Generally all fans of Coppola's films, in direct rebuke to Crist, will always caution the first-timer to watch each GODFATHER film as its own separate film experience, but after that is done, many also enjoy the alternate miniseries option, and Paramount's multiple solicitations of such are testament to its enduring appeal.

KILL BILL has always held a special place to me in the Tarantino canon, because even though it has been described by its creator as a story that exists in a stylized "movie world" as opposed to the slightly more realish "Tarantinoverse," (to borrow from its originally intended male lead Warren Beatty, it is DICK TRACY versus BULWORTH) it's that stylization that speaks to me as a early film devotee. I can't really point to one single moment or screening from my childhood that pounded in the Golden Spike to make me a lifelong obsessive, but somewhere in 1976 the switch flipped and I started poring over Friday newspaper ads and drawing studio logos in my notebook. And as all this was developing in parents had a very acrimonious divorce, an event that put a wedge between my mother and I that's never fully healed. Like, I call her every Sunday and check up on her and pray for her health, but as Nick Nolte softly growled in THE PRINCE OF TIDES, she's done a lot to piss me off, and I don't know when my parents began their war against each other - but I do know the only prisoners they took were their children. In those early months when my dad moved out of the house, and they were hashing out property divisions and visitation access, in some ways, I can understand how she would have identified with The Bride: feeling like her true love and all their friends had abandoned her and left her for dead, and her in turn making sure they would viscerally know her pain long after everyone else had ostensibly moved on. And yes, I know she loved me, in her own Conroy-esque hardness, and would have fought against anyone who tried to keep me from her. But I won't associate her with The Bride. For starters, she would not have appreciated the significance of falling asleep with SHOGUN ASSASSIN playing in the background. While she found my found my film addiction cute, she never took it seriously - she kept referring to it with the "H" word, and if you've ever heard someone use that word to describe the only thing that gives you elevation and a sense of purpose in the world, then you know why it's an epithet. More importantly, The Bride, even in her righteous fury, exercised an enormous amount of nuance in how she regarded her ostensible enemies list, and everyone else that was in the path; my mom was much more binary in her thinking. Basically, middle school was me devouring TV, teaching myself how movies work, and trying not to stir up more trouble between the folks so I could have some peace. And while I had a rollicking time watching KILL BILL as an adult, I would have downright plotzed if such a film existed in my tweens.

The rub is that if KILL BILL had existed in my tweens, I would have had no way to see it at the cinema. Definitely neither of my parents would have taken me: my mom can't even abide the word "damn" in her presence, and my father, who to his credit loved INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS and ONCE UPON A TIME  IN HOLLYWOOD, wasn't a fan of "low" culture. Even with the rise of cable and videocassettes, it would have been too hard to sneak something like that past them. And I did not yet have any cool friends or relatives who could drive and were willing to take me to movies like it. So, yes, I would have to wait until some ridiculous edited version showed up on one of the Big 3 in prime time, or if I was lucky, on the local pre-Fox independent station where they often got uncut 16mm prints and sometimes ran them in the late night hours. Sure, it would have been sanitized and full of commercials and not the high-octane experience I deserved, but in light of my options then, I would have been satiated. I knew there'd be opportunity to see the "real" thing when I was older and on my own.

Thus, as an enthusiastic fan, an incurable collector of movies in multiple edits and formats, an empath to the less-digitally-advanced, and a hopeless nostalgic for the era before media overload where there was a thrill of catching movies on free analog television, with the broadcast to millions at once and the pageantry of the network intros, much like the alternate history proposed by ONCE UPON A TIME..., I have envisioned my own divergent timeline:

It's 2007. To shake up the February "Sweeps Week" programming, and in anticipation of the highly-touted GRINDHOUSE, NBC approaches Disney's now-brothersless Miramax, and expresses their interest in having the network television premiere of KILL BILL. In the retro spirit of the drive-in double feature that has yet to open in theatres, they're even going to revert to the old '70s "Big N" logo and their old "THE BIG EVENT" imprimatur to promote it. However, rather than simply air KILL BILL VOL. 1 one night and KILL BILL VOL. 2 a following night, they make the unusual proposal to present the unified story over three nights as a miniseries!  Their argument is that VOL 2 is too long to air in one night anyway, this will allow them to sell more commercial time for this unique premiere, and besides, they're not going to completely yield the schedule over because there's no way they're giving up those sweet hour-long ratings that "DEAL OR NO DEAL" and "TO CATCH A PREDATOR" have been delivering. Bucking conventional wisdom, Tarantino and Disney agree to the proposition, and thus comes...

The terrific art repurposed here is by Joshua Budich, see it in full color at his website!

In order to accommodate this three-evening structure, and agreeing in this fantasy that most but not all of the inherent carnage will be allowed to remain in the film and still be acceptable to run on the public airwaves opposite "7TH HEAVEN," "TWO AND A HALF MEN," and "DANCING WITH THE STARS," there will indeed be some radical rearrangement of the scenes. Indeed, the whole chaptering of the film will be different than any theatrical presentation.

I can already hear thousands of Hattori Hanzo swords being unsheathed at this point, ready to cut me down for speaking this kind of heretical idea in public. As your admittedly hubristic correspondent, I often anticipate, and indeed encourage you from time to time, and always in a respectful manner, to question my logic. If you're unconvinced that a particular opinion I've espoused is the wisest, tell me so, but allow me to convince you and I promise you right here and now, no subject will ever be taboo. Now, back to our program.

If you think very deeply about the emotional arc of the film, while there are five people on The Bride's kill list, there are three characters that are of the most paramount significance in her quest for bloody satisfaction. So, each evening's installment allows those three confrontations to be their respective climax. Remember the quote regarding the segmenting of THE HATEFUL EIGHT: "a slightly different format...a chapter at a [time]...look at it slightly differently...Each episode ends it an emotional place." 

This was something already understood in the theatrical releases. We see The Bride fight Vernita Green first even though she is second on the kill list. Why? Because the O-Ren fight is a larger battle in all senses, there's no way to top it, so Volume 1 has to end shortly after it's done. But it's going to be a while to get to that point, so in order for the captive cinema audience to not be left like Milhouse van Houten waiting for Itchy & Scratchy to get to the explosives factory, you get to see The Bride in action early in another nicely-staged fight, and once that's done, now you're ready to learn how she came back from a bullet in the prologue. It's like Ed Sullivan in 1964 knowing that the teens in his studio are chomping at the bit to see The Beatles, so it's better to let them go up front and then promise they'll come back later than make them wait through Topo Gigio and get restless.  A TV miniseries, conversely, can be a little more deliberate with allocating story elements. "TWIN PEAKS" opens with Laura Palmer found dead, the viewer is willing to start meeting all the suspects because they know something important's going to happen later.

So, here is how the story would play out under the auspices of the Sheinhardt Wig Company:

Night 1: ROAR

The episode opens as V1 does, with its ShawScope and Astro Dater teases, the black-and-white prologue of The Bride in her "final" moments as Bill sends her off with a gunshot, and the mournful "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" credit sequence. However, after that, the broadcast goes directly into "The Blood-Spattered Bride," which now becomes Chapter One, and everything from there unfolds as it did in the V1 theatrical edition, albeit with each subsequent chapter within ("The O-Rigin of O-Ren," "The MAN from OKINAWA," and "Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves") being bumped up a digit. The teases of V2 from the end of V1, which were not included in THE WHOLE BLOODY AFFAIR, are retained, but Bill's cliffhanger final line is not uttered at the end of the episode, to help further the surprises to come later on.

In this incarnation, the initial two-hour installment becomes even more focused on The Bride's recovery, and her appointment with O-Ren Ishii. Even though it would ostensibly be easier to find and kill Vernita and Budd first, since they don't command a literal army like O-Ren does, The Bride has chosen this path precisely because if she can take out a now world-famous criminal warlord, it's mostly downhill from there. It'll put a little more fear into the rest of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. And most importantly, besides Bill, O-Ren is the squad member that she loved most. It is why she is given an entire chapter for her backstory - O-Ren's rise from trauma to a level of untouchability to rival Bill himself is something The Bride respects. It is also why, after having the kind of friendship where they finished each others sentences, it hurts the hardest that she willingly agreed to betray her. By decimating all of her lackeys, to the point where they must fight one to one, O-Ren will now have to respect what damage she did to her former friend. And by killing someone she still carries fondness for, The Bride will be better prepared for her confrontation with Bill.

Night 2: RAMPAGE

The episode opens with a reprise of The Bride's trunkside warning to Sofie Fatale, then after fading to black on "They'll all be as dead as O-Ren," goes straight into "2," the chapter which previously opened V1 but has now been moved here to start this evening's installment, making it Chapter Five. That is followed by the "We deserve to die" conversation between Bill and Budd, and the remainder unfolds as it did in the V2 theatrical edition, up to the finish of the "Elle and I" chapter, upon which the episode ends.

By delaying the prologue and chapter which would otherwise open the theatrical version of V2, this installment is all about delivering retribution to the remaining members of the Squad, but most importantly to Elle. If O-Ren was The Bride's best friend, Elle is her worst enemy and emotional antithesis. Besides her general misanthropy, Elle particularly fumes over the fact that she is always in the shadow of The Bride, as a fellow student of Pai Mei, as the rebound girl for Bill's affections. The only reason she even utters a single sentence of respect for The Bride, saying that she deserved better than Budd getting a lucky ambush on her, is because she knows the only witness to that statement will soon be dead. Elle knows that no matter how skilled and fearsome she is, she will always be compared to The Bride, and The Bride knows Elle's been starving for her head before she showed up at the church. Vernita and Budd certainly put up a significant challenge, but Elle as the anti-Bride is the climax to this group vendetta, and closing the night's broadcast on the finish to their feud is a clean breaking point to stop and breathe before the final showdown.

Night 3: REVENGE

The episode opens with The Bride's driver's seat address which previously opened V2, followed by the chapter "Massacre at Two Pines," and then going into the final chapter "Face to Face." Again, when watching in a theatrical setting, the Massacre is put at the front of V2 so that it is always in the back of your mind as the Vipers are dispatched and the march to meeting Bill advances, but in a TV setting, reshuffling to put the final episode entirely on the fall and finish of The Bride and Bill's relationship fulfills the same concept as the HATEFUL EIGHT Netflix edition, to look at the story slightly differently and put it in its own emotional space. And in these final two hours, concentrating all their history together and estranged, when all the secrets Bill and The Bride hid from each other come out on the table, it's a conclusion that, while perhaps forgone at the start, the TV audience would still excitedly anticipate the way they did Meggie Cleary and Father Ralph hooking up in "THE THORN BIRDS," which, oddly enough had its ABC network premiere on Tarantino's birthday, March 27, 1983.

Which is as good a time as any to break for some commercials from that broadcast date. Even fight master Pai Mei himself would agree with Sheer Elegance's proposition that nothing beats a great pair of legs.

No, if this alternate 2007 had happened, it would not be any proper way to discover KILL BILL for the first time viewer. It would have at best been an interesting experiment like THE GODFATHER SAGA or THE HATEFUL EIGHT series, or at worst a mutation excoriated by fans yet still coveted by tape traders and torrentors alongside NBC's two-night stretch re-edit of EARTHQUAKE in 1976.
But that's the thing with artists of any discipline - it's not enough to behold the perfectly assembled watch, there's always the desire to look at its parts and attempt to assemble it another way...

So happy birthday to Mr. Tarantino, one of the best watchmakers in the business.

And here's to any sheltered child today who doesn't have cool parents and/or easy access to cinemas or streaming or DVDs, that is still fending for themselves with what constitutes "free" TV: may they find something that, even in a family-friendly edit, blows their mind and spurs their own creative fancy.