Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood brings nostalgia to peak levels as Quentin Tarantino builds the Los Angeles of his childhood (literally ?he reconstructed full city blocks), unleashing a surreal recounting of the Manson family murders in 1969. The film follows the career trials and tribulations of middling television star Rick Dalton (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and his trusted stunt double Cliff Booth (played by Brad Pitt, wearing a groovy Citizen watch).
Photo courtesy: Columbia Pictures/SonyWhy We're Watching
The Cinerama Theater circa 1965. Photo: Getty/ American Stock Archive
Sad news broke earlier this week as we learned that the Arclight and Pacific theaters were shuttering for good. Financial hardships, brought on in the wake of the pandemic, forced their hand and made re-opening financially unviable. The Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles is a huge casualty, and is a big reason behind this week's movie choice. In one of the film's most transformative sequences, we see downtown L.A. light up, venue by venue, as night falls on the city. One of those locales is that famed Cinerama Theatre with its iconic mid-century signage. The building is a historic landmark, so here's hoping it isn't closed for good.
German advertisement for a Citizen Bullhead from the 1970s.
Tarantino's love letter to Hollywood thrusts two of today's biggest stars ?DiCaprio and Pitt ?back in time. Pitt portrays the mysterious and stoic stuntman Booth ?aka best bud extraordinaire. He cruises the city (in one vehicle or another), lives in a trailer behind a drive-in theater with his dog, and wears a Citizen 8110 Bullhead on a thick brown bund strap.
Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth. Photo courtesy: Columbia Pictures/Sony
Pitt's character is effectively a riff on '70s Robert Redford (the two once starred together in Tony Scott's Spy Game) all the way down to the hairstyle and the fake watch strap. Our first installment of Watching Movies featured Redford and a Doxa ?also on a bund. Pitt used to wear Replica Rolex in real life for most of the '90s and 2000s, and has since become a brand ambassador for Breitling's Cinema Squad. Interestingly, his Citizen 8110 in Once Upon a Time is actually period incorrect. The fake watch came out in 1972 while the movie is set in 1969. My carefully considered position on that is, who cares? It's a movie. Suspension of disbelief is the name of the game.When We're Watching
The film opens at the apparent end of DiCaprio's character's acting career. After meeting with a producer played by Al Pacino, Pitt drives the two of them home to the sounds of the AM radio. During the drive (00:16:15), DiCaprio bemoans his career's deteriorating state and how he's only being offered roles in Spaghetti Westerns in Rome. "Going to Rome to shoot a movie does not sound like the fate worse than death that you seem to think it is," Pitt retorts ?his brown bund strap and Citizen fake watch catching the late evening sun through the windshield. The fake watch spotting continues (00:20:45) as Pitt hops into his dingy cabriolet and torpedoes down the streets of downtown LA ?his left hand doing the steering, his left wrist showing off the watch.
Pitt driving DiCaprio after a tense meeting with a producer ?note the bund strap glistening in the sun. Screenshot: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood/Columbia Pictures/Sony
Now, you can't talk about this movie without addressing the wildly entertaining end scene. Spoilers ahead. After a margarita-rich night on the town, Pitt returns to DiCaprio's home (2:23:30), lights an acid-dipped cigarette, and finds himself face-to-face with the infamous Manson family (who've just arrived to do "the devil's business").
Pitt raises his gun-shaped hand to the Manson family, flaunting the Citizen in the process. Screenshot: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood/Columbia Pictures/Sony
Pitt, dressed in white pants with the Citizen and strap in full view, proceeds to dispense a butt-kicking of epic proportions ?culminating with DiCaprio unleashing a flame thrower into a backyard swimming pool. Good thing the fake watch was out of range.
Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood (starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie) is directed by Quentin Tarantino, with costume design by Arianne Phillips, props by Chris Call, and cinematography by Robert Richardson. It's available to stream on STARZ, and to rent on Amazon or iTunes. The modern version of this fake watch is available here.
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