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"Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood" shows off Quentin Tarantino's best and worst moves

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Quentin Tarantino is a pastiche artist. His films all imitate other, sometimes better, movies. His latest effort, “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” shows just how good Tarantino is at his craft. For more than 160 minutes, he recreates everything on screen from a fictional 1950s cowboy TV series — “Bounty Law” starring Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) as Jake Cahill — to an episode of “The F.B.I.,” where Dalton guest stars as a criminal. Tarantino uses this show business setting as an excuse to create TV series and shoot mini films-within-his-film. He has a scene from a fictionalized war movie where Rick Dalton cracks wise and decimates a group of Nazis with a flamethrower. He screens a black and white TV series in a square frame ratio to recreate the format. He includes a musical number from a 1960s TV variety show, and he even presents Rick Dalton’s screen test for “The Great Escape” (a part he might have had if Steve McQueen turned it down).

Tarantino has such a fondness for these products of Hollywood that it is impossible not to admire his achievement in (re)creating them. The film is brimming with clever, authentic-sounding radio advertisements for perfumes, colognes and tanning products. Movie posters and theater marquees appear in more than half the scenes. (A quartet of Spaghetti Westerns that Dalton starred in later in his career are particularly impressive). TV sets are always on, playing commercials or programs like “Mannix.” There is even an arguably too-clever-by-half bit of business involving a Wolf’s Tooth brand dog food label that reads “rat flavor.”

Every scene in this film is full-to-bursting with references, homages, and in jokes. One of the best has Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) entering a bookstore, admiring a Maltese Falcon statue, and asking for a........

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