Pop Culture

Alamo Drafthouse Gets Ready for Once Upon a Time With Homework Series

Official trailer for Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood.
Official trailer for Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood. Screenshot from official trailer for Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood/YouTube.com

As the joke goes, when Quentin Tarantino was asked who he wanted to star in his ninth feature film, the reply was "Yes." So among the 176 actors appearing in the upcoming Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood, set to release July 25, you'll see Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio — possibly knocking Redford and Newman off the pedestal for best buddy match-up of all time — plus Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Dakota Fanning and the late Luke Perry.

At the screening of the three hour flick in Cannes, the writer/director begged audience members to keep the plot a secret, and that seems to have been respected, though we can expect separate but intertwining storylines, violence, foot fetishes, a great soundtrack (including Neil Diamond's "Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show"), and nods to Tarantino's previous films. Margot Robbie plays the breathtakingly beautiful but doomed actress Sharon Tate and Damon Herriman has the role of demented guru Charles Manson.

There's a lot of buzz over this three hour film that took five years to write — including the fact that Tarantino severed ties to The Weinstein Company when it came out that its co-chair was behaving badly — and Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is getting Houstonians ready with its special Homework for Hollywood... series, spotlighting films that either inspired or informed Tarantino's new flick.

"I personally knew that I wanted to include at least one film that paid homage to the naming convention. We showed Once Upon a Time in America," says Robert Saucedo, programming director for Alamo's Houston, Lubbock and El Paso locations, about the Sergio Leone directed gangster flick.

"I knew I wanted to spotlight Sharon Tate, though it was a limited body of work in her short career. I went with Valley of the Dolls," says Saucedo.

Saucedo says that Rick Dalton, DiCaprio's character, seems to be inspired by a few people, including Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood, but that Alamo was already scheduled to show Hooper, the Burt Reynolds-Hal Needham film, in August. So instead he went with a 4K restoration of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

"Specifically since the character in the film started his career in television westerns, went to Italy to make spaghetti westerns, and now is back in Hollywood," says Saucedo.

Alamo is closing the series with Pulp Fiction — a great choice where the iconic soundtrack goes hand in hand with the twisted, fractured story line — though based on the trailers Once Upon a Time also pays homage to Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight.

"I'm eagerly looking forward to [the film's release]. The tricky part about programming a series, this movie is still very much shrouded in mystery, thanks in part to Tarantino's wishes. It made it a little bit difficult to find the inspirations," says Saucedo, though he culled clues from marquee materials, film reviews and published interviews.

The remaining screenings of Alamo's Homework series are selling out fast, and Alamo is opening Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood on Thursday, July 25; tickets go on sale this week. Alamo's sister company, Birth.Movies.Death., has published a special commemorative magazine that gives an overview of Tarantino's film, which will be available for sale at the theater.

"It's got a great soundtrack. It's gonna be a fantastic movie. It's over three hours but when Tarantino says it's his second to last film, I want to soak in all the Tarantino I can before he departs his filmmaking career," says Saucedo, adding that the tickets for the Homework series are just $10 on Mondays.

Homework for Hollywood... series schedule:
7:30 p.m., July 8, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
7:30 p.m., July 15, Valley of the Dolls
7:30 p.m., July 22, Pulp Fiction (25th anniversary screening)

Screenings of Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood begin July 25 at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema - LaCenterra, 2707 Commercial Center Boulevard, Katy. For information, call 281-492-6900 or visit drafthouse.com/houston/theater/lacenterra.
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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney