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S01.E07: A Hollywood Ending

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As the Oscars approach, Ernie shares devastating news, Camille listens to sage advice from Hattie McDaniel, and Archie takes a stand on the red carpet.

Dropping on Netflix on Friday, May 1, 2020.

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I couldn’t enjoy this episode as much. I get what they were going for, especially with the title of the ep, but knowing the reality of what really happened (Rock Hudson keeping his sexuality a secret -at least publicly, first AA to win best actress not happening until freaking 2002 when Halle Berry won) interfered with my enjoyment.
 

Also, it was a bit schmaltzy for me. 
 

I did like the ending scene though. 

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This series was cringe as hell to me. The acting was so bad most of the time. The second-hand embarrassment I got from most of them was astronomical lol! And the writing was just, well, Ryan Murphy so.

And yet I kind of appreciated how incredibly stupid, bad, and schmaltzy it was. I do love shows that aren't afraid to be unabashedly cheesy in that way.

I was mad they killed Dick though. Rude! 

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God did I learn I am a sucker for happy endings watching the final episode. I think I need to dust my house because dust got in my eye way way too many times during this episode. I honestly don't care how cheesy and ridiculous the finale was I enjoyed it. Everyone got a happy ending (Yes even bloody Harry in a way) and I don't care.

The happiest moment for me was Anna May Wong winning her Oscar, since in real life she was denied because of stupid racist rules. I also felt the ceremony was reflective of how the Academy has behaved in recent years with awards, they get a theme in their head and they decide they are going to reward that theme even if it's not the best output of the recepient's career. The ceremony in this episode felt like the Academy (and I guess Ryan) patting themselves on the back for acknowledging non-white people exist in the industry. But ready yet to accept homosexuality based on the boos. It was interesting that in this alternate history Rock Hudson didn't become a big star, even before he walked the red carpet.

Am I wrong for thinking it bizarre that an nominee for best Screenplay and a producer for Best Picture was sitting in the very front row? Or am I overthinking because the ceremony was not televised so there was no need for only actors to take up the first 20 rows haha.

I had no idea Hattie McDaniel was prevented from sitting in the auditorium despite being nominated. My heart broke hearing that story and then continued to break hearing that the win did not open up doors like she thought it would.

The little speech that really got to me was Archie's one to Avis  about wanting to walk hand in hand with Rock on the red carpet. It hit quite close to home about why he wanted to do it. Because I felt/feel the same way. Growing up the only gay men I saw on TV or heard about were those dying from AIDS. It wasn't until my late teenage years that TV started showing gay people as regular people and not the story of the week. I do sometimes think about how quicker I would have embraced who I was if there was better representation for me. So I can only imagine as a white gay man what it must be like for a black gay man to have grown up in the era shown in Hollywood. 

I admit the show got me with the funeral, I thought it was Ernie and not Dick. And then it got a lot sadder but I'm glad that he got to be honest to himself before he died.

And sure everything was wrapped up in a perfect little bow. But I don't care. It's the type of schmaltz I love.

And I think I said it in The Politician forum, but I think Netflix is the ideal platform for Murphy. He is forced to make an entire season before it airs. He is forced to write beginning, middle and end before it airs. It stops him making things up on the spot because something happened in the world. I feel Netflix makes him and his team more focussed story tellers.

And as much as I enjoyed the show, I don't need a follow up. I'm happy for this to be one and done.

P.S. I loved during the studio lunch room scenes checking out the background extras to find the table containing extras still dressed in costumes from whatever movie they were shooting. I thought it as a nice little running subtle gag.

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I watched this over two days, and friends, I WAS BORED. Ryan Murphy productions have made me feel a lot of things, some good, some bad, but boredom is a first. I agree that his wishful thinking really got the better of him here.

On the upside, I thought the acting was really, really good. Dylan McDermott, especially, was having a ball with his role. Every time he was onscreen the energy level went up by a million. And the production values were fantastic. Patti LuPone must have loved swanning around in those dressing gowns. And some of her clothes did make her look like Norma Desmond, hee. I also loved all the hats. Holland Taylor had some great ones.

But the overall story? I totally get what they were doing, but I felt like the happy ending was wish fulfillment. Not that it had to be completely realistic, but at least make me feel like it was earned. 

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1 hour ago, dubbel zout said:

On the upside, I thought the acting was really, really good. Dylan McDermott, especially, was having a ball with his role.

I had said the acting was super bad but I do agree that he was quite good.

Mostly, I'm just thinking of the guy who played Archie, who I thought was super cringey, Darren Criss who I just find bad in everything I've seen him in plus he gives me the heebie jeebies for some reason lol, Camile, who I still like seeing because I love when anyone from One Life to Live is in anything, and Jim Parsons, who in his defense was given the worst writing of them all so.

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The acting was so bad most of the time.

It's true for many shows - the experienced actors are so good that their work throws  the inexperienced/younger ones into sharp relief. The younger ones here are essentially beautiful eye candy (Pope is an exception). They are coming across as regional theater/summer stock.

In the end I most enjoyed the trip back through time to old Hollywood, which has always fascinated me, warts and all.

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I think Rock Hudson got the worst writing. Some of it was downright cruel, imo, in that he was SO naive. Winnetka is a northern suburb of Chicago, so even when he was there in the '20s and '30s, it's not as if he'd been living in the middle of nowhere.

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I LOVED the acting.  I thought Jim Parsons was fantastic and Patti LuPone is my personal hero.

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I'm in the hated the ending camp. Sure it would have been great if Anna Mae Wong got the Oscar she deserved and if Rock Hudson got to be himself. But that's not what happened.

And the happy ending for the fictional characters did not feel earned.

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5 hours ago, dubbel zout said:

I think Rock Hudson got the worst writing. Some of it was downright cruel, imo, in that he was SO naive. 

True, but every single line Jim Parsons got was so bad. I was truly embarrassed for him lol.

Apparently him and the actor who played Archie have hype around them though and critics thinking they will get nominated for Emmys when I found them to be maybe the cringiest of loads of cringe so it just goes to show you how subjective it really is I guess lol.

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48 minutes ago, Spartan Girl said:

And the happy ending for the fictional characters did not feel earned.

I'm actually glad they skipped over the acceptance speeches for Best Director and Best Picture. For some reason, I just didn't care what it meant for these characters to win.

What I did like about the acceptance speeches we saw, was the way the win impacted the folks at home listening and why a little trivial award can have an impact in the wider community.

 

40 minutes ago, peachmangosteen said:

I think Rock Hudson got the worst writing.

I felt a lot of the time, the direction the actor was given was pull that face Brendan Fraser used in Gods and Monsters. I actually feel the actor is a lot better than what he was given to work with.

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This episode felt like they were told they had to condense 3 episodes worth of material into one, what with how they breeze through the movie's rediscovery, release and reception, the awards campaign, etc. in such a quick span of time.

6 hours ago, Spartan Girl said:

I'm in the hated the ending camp. Sure it would have been great if Anna Mae Wong got the Oscar she deserved and if Rock Hudson got to be himself. But that's not what happened.

I enjoy alternate histories.  I don't think there's anything unworkable about imagining different courses of events.

I don't think Hollywood's version of this worked particularly well, though, largely because the road to success ends up being so easy that it ends up feeling indulgent and lacking weight.

On paper, a lot of the things that happen here aren't even that far off -- the stuff around Camille, for instance, in great part is just moving Dorothy Dandridge's Carmen Jones role up by seven years and then having her win.  Likewise, Miyoshi Umeki won Best Supporting Actress for Sayonara in 1957, ten years after the events depicted here, so the idea of an East Asian actress winning an Oscar is hardly outlandish. 

But the narrative piles so many easy victories one on top of the other.

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On 5/2/2020 at 11:13 PM, Bill1978 said:

God did I learn I am a sucker for happy endings watching the final episode. I think I need to dust my house because dust got in my eye way way too many times during this episode. I honestly don't care how cheesy and ridiculous the finale was I enjoyed it. Everyone got a happy ending (Yes even bloody Harry in a way) and I don't care.

The happiest moment for me was Anna May Wong winning her Oscar, since in real life she was denied because of stupid racist rules. I also felt the ceremony was reflective of how the Academy has behaved in recent years with awards, they get a theme in their head and they decide they are going to reward that theme even if it's not the best output of the recepient's career. The ceremony in this episode felt like the Academy (and I guess Ryan) patting themselves on the back for acknowledging non-white people exist in the industry. But ready yet to accept homosexuality based on the boos. It was interesting that in this alternate history Rock Hudson didn't become a big star, even before he walked the red carpet.

The little speech that really got to me was Archie's one to Avis  about wanting to walk hand in hand with Rock on the red carpet. It hit quite close to home about why he wanted to do it. Because I felt/feel the same way. Growing up the only gay men I saw on TV or heard about were those dying from AIDS. It wasn't until my late teenage years that TV started showing gay people as regular people and not the story of the week. I do sometimes think about how quicker I would have embraced who I was if there was better representation for me. So I can only imagine as a white gay man what it must be like for a black gay man to have grown up in the era shown in Hollywood 

Going by your screename I'm about 7 years younger than you and I basically got the two versions of gay being either sexless comedians like Jack McFarland or go-go hedonistic guys in stuff like Queer as Folk. Then when I was 17, I saw two college-aged guys, totally normal-looking guys on a date, who kissed in public. That was the first time I'd ever seen that, and it really made me happy to see it. The overall message of this series seems to be that representation matters, and I can't say I disagree. It did to me at that moment, and it's also why I felt crushed  when I was 16 and read about Kerr Smith only wanting to do "one liplock" a year as Dawson's Creek resident gay teen. As for Rock himself, though, I thought they should have just made up a name because nothing about this character felt like Rock Hudson. They made him come off as painfully shy and naive, and most importantly, without his charisma. That's something that can't be taught.

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13 hours ago, methodwriter85 said:

The overall message of this series seems to be that representation matters...

Of course. But, in the rewriting of history RM sort of weakened the struggle to get there. I do not think he did a service to those whose histories he changed, i think he did them a disservice. 

Suppose a filmmaker made a film that took place in 1815 and he showed a reimagined history with no slaves. I think that would anger many people because it negates the struggle and horror. It is almost offensive. 

RM's concept might have come from some "feel good" place but I think it backfired. Representation matters but you can't change history; you have to show the truth and that is what does more justice to those who lived through the nightmare. 

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Overall this was so woke, it out did itself. It was RM dreamland version of Hollywood.

I might have enjoyed it better if all the names were made up and they didn't include real names like Vivian Leigh, Hattie, Rock Hudson etc. as it what happened would have never occurred during that time period.  Those people would have been shot, lynched or worse.  It's sad that it took so long for an AA actress to win the best actress award and a film made by Asians to win for Best Picture just last year but that is the sad truth.

I agree they really did a disservice by portraying Rock Hudson the way they did. 

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The younger cast members were weak at times especially the young ladies and Roy/Rock.   I  also thought was odd how much the non POC got in comparison to  the WOC.

Maybe an unpopular opinion but was the prostituting gas station even needed? I mean it brought a few characters together but it seems more a story Ryan liked, so he threw  it in there.

I think instead of it being  Rock Hudson it should have been an amalgamation of  Jim Parson’s clients.   TBH I saw nothing in the Roy character that would make people fall for him or believe in him.  He was not even the best looking guy on the show.

The best characters were the studio executives  Dick and Ellen.  The only two with really nothing to gain but to do the right thing. But it also meant the white guys "saves" the day trope. I wish there were a way to make it more how Anna May, Camille and Archie made it happen, but they still had to work within the system, so I guess  it had to be that way.

One last thing, the whole Camille getting to sit  in the front would have been way better if once she told off the usher  we didn't see that the gay black man was already in the front row anyway.

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It was alright. The older actors saved this from being a complete mess, especially Ms. Patti.

I absolutely hate the dumbing down of Rock Hudson. That actor captured nothing of the real Rock Hudson's charm. It was painful and a blight on the series, if you ask me.

All this talk of inclusion and acceptance, and they had lighter skinned Queen Latifah play darker skinned Hattie. No bueno, in my opinion. Very disappointing and highly ironic. RM would have scored a million points with me if he had used someone that looked like the real Hattie,even if she wasn't a household name.

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Add me in to the line that didn't understand why they had to use the name Rock Hudson. If you change his life arc so radically, you may as well just give a new name.

I can see the merits of this alternative history. It's optimistic tone tells us more about todays societal discussion though. But that's okay, we can have other avenues for serious discussion of the media. Series are entertainment and also have the task to wet the appetite. And I do think that this series manages this marvelously.

I also like the emphasis that culture is just as political and most often a more productive investment of your energy than politics - if you want to change society. We have a bit lost our belief in the transformative power of cultural works. This shows the effect very competently.

And I lastly also agree that Netflix does wonders for Ryan Murphy. The mini series format with beginning-middle-end and completed story arcs works so well. I am wondering if the next step is not to shorten these story arcs and we are back at movies - after the 24-episode seasons that was all the hype before streaming and binge watching came around.

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Just finished this series; I had such high hopes for it in the first two jam-packed episodes, but it started to unravel about midway through the third episode for me. This is nowhere near the quality of “The People Vs. OJ” or “The Assassination of G.Versace” or even “Feud”, but those shows were different animals.

Nevertheless, like the rest of you, I’m just as disillusioned by the real life characters depicted, the schmaltzy script/unrealistic for the times moments, and the blatant miscasting. Like THAT lame, bland guy was the best they could find to cast as Rock Hudson? Seriously?! Similarly, the actresses depicting Tallulah Bankhead and Vivian Leigh were shockingly awful; it’s like they didn’t even bother to study their voices or mannerisms, let alone actually look enough like those actresses. Jim Parsons is playing his part as way too much of a gay caricature. And much like Cuba Gooding Jr playing OJ Simpson, Queen Latifah playing Hattie McDaniel is just stunt-casting to bring a bigger name/draw to the cast. Ridiculous.

On the flip side, I absolutely loved Dylan McDermott: he’s so good at playing sleazy old playboy types. Ditto Patti Lupone; she camped it up with enough restraint to be pure fun to watch in all her gorgeous gowns.

Otherwise, this all just felt like a gratuitous ode to Old Hollywood excess and a campy minority fantasy. I expected so much better based on the cast/trailers, so oh well.

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13 hours ago, watches2muchtv said:

One last thing, the whole Camille getting to sit  in the front would have been way better if once she told off the usher  we didn't see that the gay black man was already in the front row anyway.

Yep, I noticed that.  Epic fail.

13 hours ago, AgentRXS said:

I absolutely hate the dumbing down of Rock Hudson. That actor captured nothing of the real Rock Hudson's charm. It was painful and a blight on the series, if you ask me.

Yes, totally agree.  That pouty poo poo face.  I can accept that Rock may have been just a pretty face that they made him a project to turn him into a leading man.  I don't know Rock's history, if that was a real thing.  But with this series I guess it doesn't matter what was real and what was sugar schmaltzy coated revisionist history.

I won't be recommending this to friends.  I would have rather seen something more based on a truer history.

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13 hours ago, AgentRXS said:

It was alright. The older actors saved this from being a complete mess, especially Ms. Patti.

I absolutely hate the dumbing down of Rock Hudson. That actor captured nothing of the real Rock Hudson's charm. It was painful and a blight on the series, if you ask me.

There's an anecdote I remember seeing in a Rock Hudson documentary that he would wear a sexy little outfit and lounge in front of some building on the lot trying to get attention when he was a contract player. They also said that Rock pretty much gained his sexual prowess with men during his time in the military. We saw none of that guy here. It kind of felt like "protecting your star" aka they wanted to make sure their lead Jack/David Corenswet didn't get shown up by Rock.

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On 5/4/2020 at 6:51 PM, DakotaLavender said:

Suppose a filmmaker made a film that took place in 1815 and he showed a reimagined history with no slaves.

There are works of Afro-futurism that do exactly that sort of thing, imagining a world where the Transatlantic slave trade and European colonization didn't happen.  Or, in another specific case, Terry Bisson's Fire on the Mountain, an AU historical narrative where John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry succeeded, leading to a mass uprising that eventually resulted in the creation of a separate, independent nation.

History, whether through freak events or the deliberate choices of individuals, could have taken innumerable different courses, and there's plenty of worthy things that can be accomplished by exploring alternate scenarios -- dystopian alternate histories seem to be widely accepted, so I don't see why more positive outcomes are disrespectful.  The version of the world we live in now is far from the worst possible version, but it's not by any means the best possible version either, and well-told AU history can do interesting things with highlighting how we ended up where we are and what else might have been possible.

As I said, I don't think Hollywood does this particularly well, but the basic idea is interesting.

 

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On 5/2/2020 at 10:13 PM, Bill1978 said:

I had no idea Hattie McDaniel was prevented from sitting in the auditorium despite being nominated. My heart broke hearing that story and then continued to break hearing that the win did not open up doors like she thought it would.

 

She wasn't allowed to attend the Atlanta premier at all. Clark Gable apparently threw a huge fit about it, but they wouldn't budge.

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23 hours ago, watches2muchtv said:

One last thing, the whole Camille getting to sit  in the front would have been way better if once she told off the usher  we didn't see that the gay black man was already in the front row anyway.

I didn't even notice this stupidity as I was too distracted by a writer sitting in the front row. But yes, in hindsight it really does take the power away for Camille standing up for herself

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19 minutes ago, Bill1978 said:

I didn't even notice this stupidity as I was too distracted by a writer sitting in the front row. But yes, in hindsight it really does take the power away for Camille standing up for herself

Also, if the producers didn't want her to sit there, why was there a seat for her in the first place?  The Academy Awards are assigned seating.

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11 hours ago, SeanC said:

Also, if the producers didn't want her to sit there, why was there a seat for her in the first place?  The Academy Awards are assigned seating.

I had a feeling it was the Studios that got the tickets and because Ace had maybe the most nominations, they got Row A. 

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I am surprised Ryan Murphy never tackled a Sal Mineo story. That had a lot of stuff to tackle with. I know Ryan likes old Hollywood, but a FX story on him would be somewhat up his alley if you read the recent book. You could do a 11 part episodes of Sal Mineo. His relationship with a 15 year old Jill Haworth, the nude painting hung at the Guggenheim, Bobby Sherman, Courtney Burr, the LGBT production of Fortune and Mens' Eyes, his untimely death, and so much more.

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Does Ryan Murphy hate Jim Parsons? I’m trying to figure out why that role was so badly written and directed. 

Can I please see a show where Dick, Ellen and Patti(!) run the world with Ernie’s help? Cause I’d recommend the hell out of that. Not so much this. Sorry, Ryan. I hope your and your peeps are happy with this—your intentions may have been noble, but it didn’t quite work.

Also, I was no Rock Hudson fan, but dude got a raw deal here. Well, everywhere, I guess.

 

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On 5/2/2020 at 11:13 PM, Bill1978 said:

I had no idea Hattie McDaniel was prevented from sitting in the auditorium despite being nominated.

I've read some stories that she actually wasn't prevented from sitting. They shoved her back against the wall, but she got to be there. I get the point of that scene but knowing that bothered me. They could've still gotten across the point with the truth because she was still treated terribly.

I guess I'm in the minority, but I liked Jim Parsons in this. I'm not even a fan of his, but I thought he did some good work with the lackluster writing. The turn around for his character was a bit jarring but I thought he did really well in the last scene with Rock. You could actually see his humanity.

I can't imagine another season unless they just do a totally different decade or something. Maybe keep the same cast in different roles. They need to rethink the younger actors though. I like Samara Weaving in other things (Ready or Not is amazing) but she was so blah and Darren Criss was so bland he blended into the wallpaper most of the time. I think a large part was the writing for them but the older actors got crap writing and made it work.

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I get what Ryan Murphy was going for here, an alternate universe wish fulfillment story where we get the "representation matters!" message with the subtly of being smashed in the head with an anvil (because its Ryan Murphy) and its all happy happy Hollywood endings for everyone, but it just didnt work for me as much as I wanted it to. I dont dislike the idea of an alternate history where the US experienced more rapid social change and acceptance of people of color and LGBTQ people due to Hollywood stepping up their representation game earlier, but this just didnt feel earned. It makes it seem like fighting against institutionalized racism was totally easy and could get fixed with one movie, a movie that of course wins ALL of the awards (except for Jack) breaks ALL of the records and leads to sweeping social change, its all just so over the top smaltzy in way that, again, hasn't been earned. I love a happy ending, but this was just so much, that even Disney would tell them to tone down the cheese and sugar! If they wanted to do this, I wanted to see struggles, I wanted to see something more real when they showed how hard it was to really put a dent in something as entrenched in society as racism or homophobia, and then we can really feel the triumph when they succeed and make real change, this just seems like everyone just needed to make one movie, see one gay couple kiss, and thats that. In fact, its kind of insulting to the people who actually did struggle with racism/sexism/homophobia/etc in Hollywood, including the very people featured in this show. It can leave people thinking "Well I guess the people who really did struggle with oppression just didnt try hard enough! Why were they all struggling when it was totally easy to fix these oppressive systems, it must have been because they just weren't good enough!" I like Alternate History stories, and I think you could easily do a story where things diverged at some point and society progressed in matters of social justice quicker, even due to movies and pop culture, and that would work just fine, but this just didnt commit enough. I would have preferred more true to life, or more alternate history, instead of this weird hybrid that we got.  

I think this would have been better if they had just left real people more or less out of this. Giving Rock Hudson and Ana Mae Wong their happy endings that they were denied in real life probably seems nice, but in reality, it just feels...tacky. I dont mind using real people in fictional stories of course, but changing them so much that they become unrecognizable makes me wonder what the point even is. There was not even any real reason to even make them those real people, especially Rock Hudson, who is so divorced from his actual life that he might as well be another guy entirely. I think I would have liked it more if they focused on totally new characters who are stand ins for real people, and then they can do whatever they want with them. I guess its because Ryan Murphy wanted to make a wish fulfillment story, like imaging an alternate WWII where Hitler was killed by a pissed off New York Jew shooting him a billion times in the face because damn it it feels so right, but the opposite. However, knowing what really did go on with these people, seems almost insulting to their real struggles, covering their lives with the schmaltziest sugar in the whole world. 

There were a lot of things I liked. I love me some old school Hollywood so the references and the aesthetics were a lot of fun for me, like seeing Hedda Hopper or other real people in minor supporting roles or getting referenced, the acting was generally quite good, especially by the many veteran actors playing the older characters, and the premise, both the gas pumping (wink) and the alternate history, but it didnt exactly land for me. Its too bad, because I really liked most of the show, especially the first half, but then it started to fall apart in the second half, until we got to the frankly silly ending. Again, I love a happy ending, but this almost felt more like Ryan Murphys real life fanfic somehow got a budget and a deal with Netflix, not a real narrative about social progress and representation. I also could have used a few less "REPRESENTATION MATTERS SO MUCH YOU GUYS!" speeches, complete with thematically appropriate people listening to the radio broadcast of the Oscars and then cheering and crying like they just announced the cure for cancer. I totally agree that representation matters, and its a great message, but oh my God Ryan, your laying it on so think that I cant even see the story anymore!

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Wow, folks, it wasn't the acting, IT WAS THE HORRIBLE SCRIPT. Only a few old pros were able to rise above it. God, that was horrible, but of course I watched every golden fake moment, because I am an old Hollywood Freak. 

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2 hours ago, tennisgurl said:

I love a happy ending, but this was just so much, that even Disney would tell them to tone down the cheese and sugar!

As much as I was a sucker for the happy ending presented, I did find it a tad unbelievable that after ONE successful movie with a non-white lead, Hollywood would OK and embrace a love story between 2 men instantly. Out of all the happy endings, that felt a bit far stretched. Cause in reality Hollywood would have jumped on the Meg bandwagon and made more movies in that style because trailing something else radical. Hell today's Hollywood still hasn't reached that level of comfortability with gay leads and they have experienced award success with movies like Brokeback Mountain and Moonlight, And even with the success of  Love, Simon Hollywood hasn't even followed up that movie with similar ones. If only Rock Hudson had taken his boyfriend to an Oscar ceremony...

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On 5/5/2020 at 9:35 AM, Sun-Bun said:

Just finished this series; I had such high hopes for it in the first two jam-packed episodes, but it started to unravel about midway through the third episode for me. This is nowhere near the quality of “The People Vs. OJ” or “The Assassination of G.Versace” or even “Feud”, but those shows were different animals.

Nevertheless, like the rest of you, I’m just as disillusioned by the real life characters depicted, the schmaltzy script/unrealistic for the times moments, and the blatant miscasting. Like THAT lame, bland guy was the best they could find to cast as Rock Hudson? Seriously?! Similarly, the actresses depicting Tallulah Bankhead and Vivian Leigh were shockingly awful; it’s like they didn’t even bother to study their voices or mannerisms, let alone actually look enough like those actresses. Jim Parsons is playing his part as way too much of a gay caricature. And much like Cuba Gooding Jr playing OJ Simpson, Queen Latifah playing Hattie McDaniel is just stunt-casting to bring a bigger name/draw to the cast. Ridiculous.

Otherwise, this all just felt like a gratuitous ode to Old Hollywood excess and a campy minority fantasy. I expected so much better based on the cast/trailers, so oh well.

 

Exactly how I felt!  I did read the reviews beforehand so I wasn't surprised.  Yes, Murphy knows how to write storylines many typical gay men will drool over and rub their palms together with delight and anticipation, but it felt like I watched Ryan Murphy jacking off for seven hours.  To be fair a lot of his productions are like that: gratuitous nude and/or gay men, his favorite celebs making cameos for no reason, bitchy rich women, opulent sets, etc.  He loves camp and fantasy.

And that's just it; this was fantasy.  Yet he had to throw in everything including the kitchen sink.  I'm sorry but if you're writing a fantasy don't try to make it seem like it's what really happened by using actual dates, movies, and real-life stars and events as if this was based on reality (as was done far more effectively with "Feud").  Despite his intentions (which may be giving voice to the marginalized -- and as I said also self-gratification to display "what floats his boat" up on the screen), he actually did do a disservice as another poster wrote.  What if he was depicting the mid-19th Century showing that slaves actually liked being on the plantations and were happy and were not mistreated, as if they were just employees?  Nice notion but almost insulting.

This self-indulgent dreamworld was so lite and breezy and schmaltzy where everything worked out perfectly for all in the end that I simply lost respect.  It's hard enough to suspend disbelief when I can see Murphy's signature all over a movie (it pulls the viewer out of things when the director's personal fantasy stands out more than an actual compelling storyline) but making it way too light and warm and fuzzy was a bad mistake.  It was all so out of left field when Rock Hudson is portrayed as a mentally challenged simpleton; a big oaf who fell off a turnip truck, instead of the dashing, deep-voiced, square-jawed matinee idol whose charm was quite magnetic, even if his acting skills were not top notch.  A gas station runs like a modern-day drive-thru brothel for hot male gigolos who please old rich women and closeted homosexuals and is set right in the middle of town (would never happen then and not sure even today).  The golly-gee squeaky clean lead is such a swell veteran that he wants to do right by his wife but realizes he doesn't even love her but would never tell her, and lo and behold conveniently she doesn't love him and the babies aren't his and she leaves and he is now free and off the hook.  An overtly homosexual black man walks hand-in-hand and kisses a white man on the Oscar red carpet and the black lead female says "don't f#ck with me" and that is that.

There's some public resistance and protest sure, but simply make a movie that is a hit (and honestly "Meg" didn't seem like it would be anything special) and suddenly homophobia is dying and interracial couples are no big deal for most.  It's as if Murphy is saying that if only people in this day had a little more gumption and courage all of this could have been resolved; they were so close that all along they were only a hit movie away from breaking down all those barriers and long-held taboos.  If only those people who suffered those barriers in the 1940's had just spoken up a tad more this could have been achieved 50-70 years earlier than it was (although still not completely today).  Simplifying things like that and re-writing history just for your own gratification or fantasy-fulfillment is pointless to me at best, and irresponsible at worst.

I liked some of the song interpretations on "Glee" but never really got into the characters or storyline of the series.  I did really like "American Horror Story" the first two or three season, but that started going downhill progressively each season.  I really enjoyed “The People Vs. OJ” and “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” and “Feud” (although there was plenty of his typical indulgent tropes mentioned above in the last two as well).  But "Hollywood" was mostly Ryan's fantasy or vanity project -- very much like Quentin Tarantino, a great director whose own agenda and gratification often seem to be a priority over storyline and enthralling the audience, even if it means rewriting history.  At least when Tarantino rewrote it the events weren't something that could never happen at the time, if at all.

Edited by SWLinPHX
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1 hour ago, SWLinPHX said:

gratuitous nude and gay men,

As a woman, I'm all for gratuitous male nudity. Given how often women are underdressed or naked for no reason, it's about time the scales tip a bit in the other direction.

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31 minutes ago, dubbel zout said:

As a woman, I'm all for gratuitous male nudity. Given how often women are underdressed or naked for no reason, it's about time the scales tip a bit in the other direction.

I'm torn because I agree with this but also I'd rather not see penises. It's quite a conundrum lol.

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I honestly thought we were going to find out that Meg being a hit, the Oscars, and all the public acceptance was a dream... and the opening each episode where the main characters are climbing the Hollywood sign is just a few moments before they all leap to their deaths. Only to have the next scene be exactly what Henry had suggested for Meg - a pool at a big party, so we're not sure if they are really dead or if it was a dream. Roll credits.

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On 5/7/2020 at 4:07 PM, Robert Lynch said:

I am surprised Ryan Murphy never tackled a Sal Mineo story. That had a lot of stuff to tackle with. I know Ryan likes old Hollywood, but a FX story on him would be somewhat up his alley if you read the recent book. You could do a 11 part episodes of Sal Mineo. His relationship with a 15 year old Jill Hayworth, the nude painting hung at the Guggenheim, Bobby Sherman, Courtney Burr, the LGBT production of Fortune and Mens' Eyes, his untimely death, and so much more.

They could cast Sal with Christopher Abbott. Ooh, that'd be good.

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2 hours ago, QQQQ said:

I honestly thought we were going to find out that Meg being a hit, the Oscars, and all the public acceptance was a dream... and the opening each episode where the main characters are climbing the Hollywood sign is just a few moments before they all leap to their deaths. Only to have the next scene be exactly what Henry had suggested for Meg - a pool at a big party, so we're not sure if they are really dead or if it was a dream. Roll credits.

That would’ve been kinda cool, actually; and far more of a believable, thought-provoking ending! 

And I completely agree with all of you who mentioned how unfair/disrespectful it was to the real life struggles of minorities/gays to minimize the cruel realities of Hollywood the way they did in this goofy fantasy. Sure, it’s not that deep and it’s obviously an equal rights/Hollywood newcomer fairy tale, but to base it within actual real life events/characters seemed so pointless; it honestly took away from my enjoyment of the series because most of the time I was grunting in various scenes, “Oh come ON, that would *never* happen!”

I think it might’ve worked much better had they kept it *completely* fictional and not woven in actual real life stars and movies, just kept it loosely based on actual folks. Why couldn’t there simply have been fictional versions of Rock Hudson, Hattie McDaniel, etc like the other various characters? (Let’s not even get into how ridiculous Queen Latifah’s characterization of Hattie was, taking a talented and poised actress and suddenly making her some swearing, smug soul sister straight out of the 90’s)

The reason “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” worked so well as a fantasy twist on actual historic events was because it didn’t completely sugarcoat the reality and attitudes of that era; it paid genuinely loving, believable homage to the period without completely mocking the audience’s intelligence. Those events depicted very well could’ve occurred in the right circumstances; “Hollywood“ was just too much unbelievable *everything*, from the revisionist/immediate acceptance history to the bad/cartoonish acting to the laughable Oscar ceremony sweep of such a silly little film made by a bunch of young nobodies.

5 hours ago, dubbel zout said:

As a woman, I'm all for gratuitous male nudity. Given how often women are underdressed or naked for no reason, it's about time the scales tip a bit in the other direction.

I hear ya: if there HAS to be nudity, it’d better be from all genders involved! But I’m not into nudity just for nudity‘s sake or for shock value, hence the “gratuitous” label; if I want pointless smut I’ll go find it online like your typical perv.

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The conclusion was disappointing big-time. I was enjoying the ride for the first half, but it started to feel too fantastical, too schmaltzy, too pat, too trite. As someone mentioned above, it felt like a back-patting session for white guy showing how progressive he is. It does a disservice to real-life people like Anna May Wong and Hattie McDaniel, who truly had to face obstacles and terrible treatment. I love happy endings, but this felt totally unearned.

I guess I'm just not a fan of alternative histories, because the reality is so grim and impossible to dream away. Black people are gunned down in the street for jogging, and many Hollywood actors are still in the closet.

On 5/8/2020 at 5:50 AM, xander874 said:

I can't imagine another season unless they just do a totally different decade or something. Maybe keep the same cast in different roles. They need to rethink the younger actors though. I like Samara Weaving in other things (Ready or Not is amazing) but she was so blah and Darren Criss was so bland he blended into the wallpaper most of the time. I think a large part was the writing for them but the older actors got crap writing and made it work.

Agree 100%. I thought Samara Weaving & Jeremy Pope were pretty decent, but the rest of the younger cast was entirely forgettable. I was there for the veterans, who managed to spin gold out of malarkey.

Also bummed that they killed off Dick Samuels. I'd honestly watch another season if it featured more of him and Holland Taylor.

Honestly? My favourite part of the conclusion was the costuming. The Oscar dresses and jewels were fun to look at.

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I am a big fan of both Ryan Murphy and  alternate history stories.    I thought this was really well done and told an interesting story about Hollywood recognizing talent regardless of color, gender and sexuality while still keeping the predatory nature of the business.   
 

of course there was real people that got screwed over but that is what alternative history is about.   What if Rock Hudson came out instead of spending his career hiding and still manages to succeed.   

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On 5/9/2020 at 1:53 PM, methodwriter85 said:

They could cast Sal with Christopher Abbott. Ooh, that'd be good.

That would be awesome. I am wondering who would play the others as well? It was noted that he did find Bobby Sherman(he was a struggling artist) and he was not known then. It wasn't until Shindig that he was gaining recognition and decided to dump Sal for a better career offer. Sal was quite upset about that because he wrote two songs with Bobby Sherman. Not to mention Jill Haworth catching them in bed while having sex. This was when everything crashed for Jill. She loved Sal, but you could have sense everything was just crashing down for him. He was unfortunately not money smart like Jill. He was financially struggling even during his popularity in the 50s. It would be a great tale to be told, for sure. Ryan Murphy would have fun with this. It had everything.

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The self congratulatory happy endings was just hard to take.

Where was the genuine struggles of all these incredibly talented and perfect for their roles young Hollywood types to make their triumph seemed earned?  The Director's whose true love girlfriend happens to be the absolute perfect actress for the role in his visionary film written by their screenwriter friend who prostitutes  himself as a gay male hooker but it's OK because he's doing it to follow his dreams.   Voila, Oscars all around!  Played straight, it almost seemed a parody.

 

 

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Overall, I was underwhelmed with the whole series. Wonderful actors were tossed around as caricatures instead of characters, while the script was tired and cliched. As usual, Murphy promised a hell of a lot and delivered very little. The only thing which saved this was the handsome male actors and the fact that they weren't afraid to strip for the cameras. 

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On 5/9/2020 at 8:50 AM, SWLinPHX said:

Murphy knows how to write storylines many typical gay men will drool over and rub their palms together with delight and anticipation, but it felt like I watched Ryan Murphy jacking off for seven hours.  To be fair a lot of his productions are like that: gratuitous nude and/or gay men,

Even if we were to accept this premise regarding RM's intentions, he failed in this particular instance to satisfy the supposed fantasies that allegedly induce drooling in the presumed target audience. I think the only truly naked males were seen during the pool party; it is well known that Cukor’s pool parties had a reputation for being pretty raunchy, as did those Hudson hosted some years later. Overall, the series showed ar least as many female boobs as male nudity as I recall.

On 5/9/2020 at 8:50 AM, SWLinPHX said:

A gas station runs like a modern-day drive-thru brothel for hot male gigolos who please old rich women and closeted homosexuals and is set right in the middle of town (would never happen then and not sure even today).

Actually, the guy this is based on (named Scotty Bowers) did run his gigolo service from his garage in L.A. at the time; on-line reference sources even usefully provide the address it was at, 5777 Hollywood Boulevard, at the corner of Van Ness Avenue, just a few blocks from the Pantages Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

This was an alternative history, something science-fiction readers are rather familiar with since it is a frequent literary device in the genre (it is also called "uchronia"); some authors have even made a career of writing practically only that.

The points of divergence can be rather minor, as was the case in this TV series, where the premise is that a few people were ready much earlier than in our reality to stand up for diversity, with a certain  success.

In SF the differences are often much more radical, like the numerous fictions having to do with Hitler dying young or emigrating to the US right after WW I, Louis XVI correcting his foolish blindspots and preventing the Revolution, or Lincoln not being assassinated; I also remember one dealing with Ancien Greece winning over the world and the Roman Empire never emerging, as well a one where Muhammad becomes a Christian saint instead of founding a new religion. And as another poster mentioned, there are examples of the colour divide being obliterated or even reversed in the history of slavery.

The use of real life characters is useful and probably often necessary to anchor the story with familiar points of reference, which help the reader or viewer understand where precisely things are different in this other reality for characters that are already known to them. One prominent current example is the TV adaptation of Roth's The Plot Against America, with Lindbergh and other contemporaries being central to the modified history of US politics during WW II. It’s most often an intellectual game of speculation, an exercise in "what-if". It can be simply an amusing diversion or carry more serious implications and messages (which RM and his team probably aspired to, but did not quite achieve). The portrayal of real-life people in uchronias can be open to criticism. In this present case, from what I remember reading Rock Hudson was indeed reportedly a bit naive when he came to Hollywood, but perhaps not as much of a hick as in this series.

I do not think real-life characters were used to deny the harm that was done to Wong or McDaniel for example; these facts are fully acknowledged. It does not change their past history nor does it cheapen their negative experience to speculate for a few minutes how things might have turned out later in life if things had been just a little different.

On 5/2/2020 at 10:46 PM, DakotaLavender said:

I think this is one of the shows that would anger Spike Lee. It seems to be a white man's feel good revisionist story to try "to make things right."

Anything that causes SL to tie his panties up in a knot is doing a worthy civic duty in my view.

I think a good argument can be made that the happy conclusion came about through a coalition which cut across lines of gender, colour and sexual orientation working to bring about the happy conclusion.

Fiction’s function can be to challenge and even shock. Although I know that today it is fashionable to avoid anything that might offend anyone; knowing full well that someone, somewhere, will unavoidably be offended, since people have such thin skins today, especially the numerous habitual pearl clutchers. I see a lot of that in the LGBT community for example and it exists elsewhere.

The plot was perhaps a little simplistic and overly optimistic, although they were realistic enough to show that even Meg’s success did not miraculously eradicate all prejudice. Which might be explored in a second season, although they would have to dig deeper into darker material.

Edited by Florinaldo
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Another example of alternate history stories is Amazon’s The Man In The High Castle which is about The Axis powers winning WW2.   What would the US look like as a conquered nation a generation after the war where it was all but divided up by the Nazi’s who incorporate the East as a nation state while the west becomes an occupied territory of the Japanese.   Of course real people get mentioned and histories get changed but that is the nature of these kinds of stories.

What if the golden age of movies had been a little more fair?   If a few people had stood up for their beliefs or if a few actors hadn’t been typecast.    Yes it’s revisionist history but that is the point.   Good and bad alternate fiction shows us we are and always were a few choices a way from calamity and the reverse as well.

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Honestly, it could have worked if ANY of the younger characters were more developed than a two-line casting call. I still have no idea why they bothered with the blonde actress daughter at all. At this point, the characters in a Murphy/Brennan production are all just caricatures of an idea, whether portraying a real person or an imagined one.

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On 5/12/2020 at 11:59 AM, Chaos Theory said:

Another example of alternate history stories is Amazon’s The Man In The High Castle which is about The Axis powers winning WW2.

TMITHC is certainly a classic alternative history; I did not mention it because my list of examples was already long. The point of divergence in the Philip K. Dick’s novel is rather brutal: the assassination attempt on FDR which failed in our reality, succeeds in that world, which means he does not even get to be inaugurated. I am certain that many US readers (and viewers) would be offended by a premise based on a long-serving President being killed before he can accomplish anything.

It's certainly much more radical than anything that was done with the real-life Hollywood characters in this series. Although in neither case do I do not find that way the real-life characters, FDR or the actors and others from Hollywod, were used in this series disrespected their real history.

 

On 5/8/2020 at 8:50 AM, xander874 said:

like Samara Weaving in other things (Ready or Not is amazing) but she was so blah and Darren Criss was so bland he blended into the wallpaper most of the time.

DC's character is not very spectacular in this series. The truly dramatic sub-plots mainly involve other characters (professional rivalry, infidelity, crushing business opposition, etc.). He does not get to do much drama or angst. As a matter of fact his role exists more to establish conditions that will propel the active plots involving other characters and then give them a few pushes along the way to help move them along. That is essentially what his movie directing assignment turns out to be: a catalyst or pretext for other characters to play out their story. The kind of character for which one author coined the expression "fifth business", to convey that they are far from being a central protagonist. He did a good job with it, for instance Raymond's devotion to his girlfriend and his loyalty to his friends, but it was not a meaty part beyond that.

By contrast, other roles are more showy and generate more buzz. Willson for example is given an abundance of one-liners, but not much else; watching Parsons do them reminded me of Sheldon Cooper delivering his zingers, only in this case with bitchiness and vulgarity. I was half-expecting Willson to add "Bazinga!" after each putdown.

The rest of the cast was variable. Some old-timers had better material and did an excellent job, like Taylor and Reiner, but Lupone was very good in one scene and then overplaying for the rafters in the next one.

Amongst the younger cast, I found the actress playing Camille rather forgettable; both her performance and her character paled besides her rival Claire.

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I enjoyed the series up until this last episode. Not only did it veer into complete fantasy but it also felt very didactic. The story of how Hattie McDaniel was denied entrance to the Oscars ceremony was certainly poignant, but the scene in which she tells her story was immediately followed by Archie explaining how hard his life is to Avis, and thereafter the grievance speeches just kept right on rolling, one after another. 

Here's the problem with turning history upside down to make this kind of point. If you want an alternate universe where everyone got an anachronistically happy ending, you don't fill the script with one speech after another about the hardships of life. It's counter-productive. I want to see those struggles defined in the story. What this episode did was define them in dialogue and then contradict them in story.

I've learned not to expect much from Ryan Murphy beyond camp and glam, so I wish he'd aim a little lower and avoid message-oriented stories. I agree with those that ultimately found this rather disrespectful of the real-life characters it portrayed. 

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