Bruce Lee Was My Friend, and Tarantino’s Movie Disrespects Him

NOTE FROM LB: I didn’t know Bruce Lee, but many of my friends did.

Hey, what can I say? I used to hang out with martial artists. My martial artist friends were all good guys as well as world champions, and they made me feel safe. In many ways it was like being around superheroes.

Yeah, I was very young back then.

Be that as it may, I’ve been hearing from several of the champs recently, and they’re all upset about one particular thing – the completely inaccurate way Bruce is presented in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.

There’s a genuine line (and not necessarily a fine one) between an artist exercising their creativity and just plain being a jerk. This article by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says it best.

by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Remember that time Dr.?Martin Luther King Jr. kidney-punched a waiter for serving soggy croutons in his tomato soup? How about the time the Dalai Lama got wasted and spray-painted “Karma Is a Beach” on the Tibetan ambassador’s limo? Probably not, since they never happened. But they could happen if a filmmaker decides to write those scenes into his or her movie. And, even though we know the movie is fiction, those scenes will live on in our shared cultural conscience as impressions of those real people, thereby corrupting our memory of them built on their real-life actions.

That’s why filmmakers have a responsibility when playing with people’s perceptions of admired historic people to maintain a basic truth about the content of their character. Quentin Tarantino’s portrayal of Bruce Lee in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood does not live up to this standard. Of course, Tarantino has the artistic right to portray Bruce any way he wants. But to do so in such a sloppy and somewhat racist way is a failure both as an artist and as a human being.

This controversy has left me torn. Tarantino is one of my favorite filmmakers because he is so bold, uncompromising and unpredictable. There’s a giddy energy in his movies of someone who loves movies and wants you to love them, too. I attend each Tarantino film as if it were an event, knowing that his distillation of the ’60s and ’70s action movies will be much more entertaining than a simple homage. That’s what makes the Bruce Lee scenes so disappointing, not so much on a factual basis, but as a lapse of cultural awareness.

Bruce Lee was my friend and teacher. That doesn’t give him a free pass for how he’s portrayed in movies. But it does give me some insight into the man. I first met Bruce when I was a student at UCLA looking to continue my martial arts studies, which I started in New York City. We quickly developed a friendship as well as a student-teacher relationship. He taught me the discipline and spirituality of martial arts, which was greatly responsible for me being able to play competitively in the NBA for 20 years with very few injuries….

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Diana Vacc sees “The Founder”

by Diana Vaccarelli


Last week, I watched The Founder, a film I found accidentally, through a friend. It follows the life story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), who took a local fast food eatery owned by a couple of brothers and turned it into the world’s largest restaurant. (McDonald’s is a restaurant, isn’t it? Even though healthy eaters might not agree?)


  • The story of McDonald’s is so interesting that I was on the edge of my seat. Well, metaphorically anyway. Writer Robert D. Siegel has made this a story full of intrigue and excitement. Not only was I amazed by all the historic elements of this story and how much I didn’t know about Mickey D’s, I was astonished at how the script made me care.  I expected a kind of infomercial and instead found drama and humor that swept right into me.
  • Michael Keaton delivers an astonishingly layered performance as Ray Kroc. When we meet him, he’s a struggling salesman who can’t seem to sell a milkshake mixer. Then he goes to the original McDonald’s and is blown away by its speedy system of making and delivering the food. Kroc talks Dick and Mac McDonald into joining with him and franchising the business. It’s a tough road, and the script pushes all my “rooting for the hero” buttons as the franchise becomes a success. And then the twist hits us: Kroc gets too greedy and screws the brothers over. I felt as though my heart was torn out. Well, okay, that’s metaphorical too. But my belief in human nature took a very nasty turn.


  • Watching this film, there was nothing I did not like…except for Ray Kroc’s horrific hustling and inability to see himself as the shameless huckster he really is…and since creating this ambivalence is the whole point of this film, this “badness” is all to the good of the theme.


  • Go and watch this film.  The Founder gives insights into greed and the lengths one will go to to get the almighty dollar that may help you understand our current political situation more than just a bit better.

Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and a student in the TVWriter™ Online Workshop. Find out more about her HERE

Diana Vacc sees “Back to the Future” Throwback Thursday Review

It would sound weird, wouldn’t it, if we changed this to “The future was now!” And yet…?

by Diana Vaccarelli

Although This Film is Over 30 Years Old So is There Really Anything to Spoil?

Released back in 1985, Back to the Future follows the story of Marty Mcfly, a 17 year old teenager who takes part in a hilarious time travel experiment and finds himself stuck in the 1950’s and hanging out with his own parents as teenagers.


  • There is so much delicious goodness here. Let’s start with the fun fact that the writer-director Robert Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale used the late, lamented and so very exotic Delorean automobile as the time machine. I don’t know which I love more – that concept or that so-cool car.
  • Christopher Lloyd as Dr. Emmett Brown is mind blowingly eccentric in the role. Everything he brought to the character was  original.  The hair, the clothes, and the voice. He was far more than the Doctor Who or Rick (of Rick & Morty) some recent critics have compared him to.
  • Great cast all around.  Michael J. Fox as our hero Marty McFly brings innocence and humor to his role as a young man who brings his family back from the edge of extinction.  Lea Thompson as Lorraine Baines/McFly, Fox’s mother, is so full of warmth and sweetness that you’re completely hooked into wanting her to find true love with Marty’s teenage father, George McFly (Crispin Glover).
  • The filmmakers give us a tale that seems as fresh and original as it was when it first came out, mixing family and sci-fi with such energy that you can’t help but watch over and over again.
  • So much more! The way Marty’s then teenaged mother falls, hard, for a teenager she doesn’t know is her own son! The pseudo-science gobbledygook! Fox’s amazing – and perfect – physical humor. You name it, Back to the Future has it.


  • Some people in our currently repressed age may be a bit creeped out by the Marty/Mommy sort-of-a-romance, but there’s a reason this film has become such a classic ala It’s a Wonderful Life.


I can’t recommend Back to the Future (and its sequels) highly enough. The good news is that it’s available just about everywhere, on so many different media.  You can watch on dvd, on-demand, via netflix. You name it. Binge watch the whole series with your families and have some great fun!

Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and a student in the TVWriter™ Online Workshop. Find out more about her HERE

Diana Vacc sees “Titanic” Throwback Thursday Review

by Diana Vaccarelli

Although This Film is 20 Years Old So is There Really Anything to Spoil?

With the popularity of “Throwback Thursday” on social media and the current lack of quality in both film and television as of late, I thought it would be fun to share my thoughts on some classic films. Titanic follows the story of star-crossed lovers Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) aboard the ill fated luxury liner.


  • The chemistry of DiCaprio and Winslet is reminiscent of Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh in Gone With The Wind and Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca.  These two actors have created an onscreen couple for the ages.  The audience can feel the love the characters have for one another.
  • Writer/Director/Editor James Cameron had his hand in everything. This is the true testament to a legendary director.  He even did the drawing of Rose (Winslet) featured in the film.  He brought a story to life that has moments of laughter and brings you to tears, especially the end.
  • Billy Zane’s portrayal of the villainous Cal Hockley was breathtaking.  There were moments when I hated him more than that boss I once had who – never mind. But there also were moments that filled me with empathy for the character.  An example is when he watched from afar Rose and Jack’s kiss when they were reunited.  In this small moment you I definitely felt his pain as he realized he had lost his fiance.
  • The costumes, the sets, the scenery, every little detail was carefully considered by the filmmakers and crew and led to an overall feeling of reality.


  • Total spoiler alert just in case: I still wish that Jack didn’t die at the end of this film and instead he and Rose livee happily ever after.  But then, I’m a sucker for happy endings.


  • Since there isn’t much at the theaters these days I highly recommend you watch or re-watch this classic film, which can be found just about everywhere, online and off. I confidently predict you’ll be very glad you did.

Diana Vacc sees “The House”

Sorry, but this isn’t in the film. Not that even a scene like this could have saved THE HOUSE

by Diana Vaccarelli


Last weekend, The House, starring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, opened in theaters all around the U.S.  This film follows Ferrell and Poehler as Scott and Kate Johansen, who find out that their daughter Alex has lost the town scholarship that has made it possible for her to pay for her college tuition.

Since Will and Amy can’t afford said tuition, they get to work raising the money.  Hijinks ensue as they decide to open an underground casino.



  • The concept is relevant to today.  The struggle to pay a college tuition and the hardship it can bring into a family’s life are are part of our current middleclass crisis.  Millions of Americans can and, unfortunately do, relate to it.


  • Writer/Director Andrew Jay Cohen script can’t seem to pull off the laughs that we are used to from his previously work on Neighbors and Neighbors 2.  As I entered the multiplex I was expecting to find myself rolling on the floor laughing when the film bagan. However, as you can tell reading this review – and from the fact that you probably haven’t found many other reviews of this, um, well, a disaster is what The House is – I never fell down laughing. Not once. In fact, I didn’t laugh at all.
  • Probably the worst part of the whole thing was when Ferrell character Scott transforms into a butcher and cuts someone’s finger off… and then promptly chops off the arm of another character. The blood shoots everywhere, and while I would like to believe that was an attempt to establish that this is comedy and therefore fake and acceptable, you know what? It wasn’t, and isn’t acceptable. Not one bit.
  • I’ll spare you more details because I don’t want The House to ruin your day as much as it ruined mine.


If you want to enjoy a new film, The House is not for you. In fact, it isn’t for anybody, for any reason whatsoever. To put in the simplest of terms, this film is a redefinition of the word “awful.”  I definitely do not recommend it.

Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and a student in the TVWriter™ Online Workshop. Find out more about her HERE