Why I waited to watch 'Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood'

I'm not the first to see Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to an idealized Hollywood. Why I've learned to wait before watching. 

REUTERS/Christopher Gallagher
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio and director Quentin Tarantino pose for a photo during a news conference for the film 'Once Upon a Time In Hollywood' in Tokyo, Japan August 26, 2019.

Dear Reader,

Last night, I finally saw Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood.” The box-office smash hit is nearing the end of its big-screen run and so the cinema offered only one showtime each night this week.

I am often the last person to see things. That’s by design.

I credit television for turning me into a late adopter of all things pop culture. Too often, TV shows started out promisingly and then lost their way as it became apparent that the writers were hurriedly laying pieces of track just ahead of the onrushing locomotive. (Dear makers of “Lost,” I’d like to get those 121 hours of my life back – and also get an explanation of who built the magic lighthouse on that infernal island.)

So I adopted the following maxim: I only have time for great. That entailed changing my TV-watching habits. I only started watching outstanding television shows such as “The Wire,” “Breaking Bad,” “Friday Night Lights,” and “Game of Thrones” many seasons into their runs after hearing consistent buzz about them. 

In the broadband era of seemingly infinite entertainment options, each week brings an overwhelming spigot spray of new movies, TV series, albums, and books. I keep abreast of what’s coming out, but given that it’s impossible for anyone to ingest everything, I often let others winnow through the bad, the OK, and the merely good on my behalf. I’ll happily use the wisdom of the crowds to belatedly discover what’s really worth investing precious time in.

Mr. Tarantino’s love letter to an idealized Hollywood of a bygone era lives up to the many recommendations I’d heard. (Read the Monitor’s review of it here.) Given that the director may finally win an Oscar for best picture, I won’t be late in tuning in to the next Academy Awards.

Stephen Humphries, culture writer 

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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