"Sure, Kill Bill's a violent movie. But it's a Tarantino movie. You don't go to see Metallica and ask the fuckers to turn the music down."
In case you were wondering, this post is about Quentin Tarantino.
Besides being my second favorite director, he’s the unabashed eccentric that was sued for $5 million for assaulting a guy in a restaurant, ranked high on the “want to work with directors” lists of most actors, and was a guest judge on the 2004 version of American Idol.[ibid] In other words, he’s talented and takes no shit. An understatement.
His 1992 breakout film, Reservoir Dogs won him instant fame and both commercial and critical success. His unmatched screenwriting skills introduced us to his famous signature dialogue: long, real, deep, and knock-your-pants-off. His cinematography: realistic, precise, and brutally mesmerizing.
Tarantino also introduced us to the rare phenomenon of a director successfully acting in his own films, taking more than bit-roles but coming off as real as the top-flight actors that had memorized his golden words.
By the time Pulp Fiction rolled around in ’94, he could already attract an all-star cast and give new life to old numbers. John Travolta got his Oscar nomination alongside Sam Jackson’s for supporting male. Travolta’s performance is incredible, vivified by QT’s epic script and direction. If not for Forrest Gump, Q’s Fiction would have cleaned house at every awards’ ceremony of the year.
"[Y]ou go to the awards ceremonies all year long; you keep losing to Forrest Gump! It's really annoying the hell out of you - what do you do? You go to the MTV Awards!" (Tarantino at the MTV Awards Ceremony)[ibid]
He did manage to get the coveted Palme d’Or at Cannes for PL, about which he humbly states: “There's only one list that's more illustrious than the list of directors who won the Palme d'Or. It's the list of directors who didn't.”[ibid]
Pulp Fiction remains one of my favorite films for its ingenious and transcendental storytelling. As a novelist-turned-filmmaker, Tarantino intro’s his films (especially Inglorious Bastards) with book-like grandeur and, especially in the case of Fiction, he plays with the timeline so as to capitalize on a seemingly unimportant conversation between Tim Roth’s petty thief and Sam Jackson’s ruthless hit man at his finest moment. I won’t spoil the film for you, but if you can overcome “shock and awe” (magically artistic in the line of great noir painters) you may experience the cathartic redemptive ending. Awesome. Nuf said.
Kill Bill (Volumes 1&2, 2003 & 2004, respectfully) were films of a different color. A rebirth of the Japanese style action flicks and hybrid spaghetti western, KB is the truly epic story of the justice and vengeance of a woman who had everything taken away. It keeps you rooting for her every step of the way like you’ve never rooted for a hero(ine) before!
Quentin’s awesome (just can’t put a different adjective there) usage of Japanimation and spec effect fighting are, well, awesome. And I almost cried at the dramatic dialogue at the end of Volume 2. Okay, I won’t say anymore, you just have to see it!
On the epic battle scene at the end of Volume 1: “Funny. Solemn. Beautiful. Gross. All at the same time.” (QT) [ibid]
On the violence in general (graphically brutal and in your face), classic Tarantino:
Quentin: When I was on The View, Barbara Walters was asking me about the blood and stuff. And I said, “Well you know it’s a staple of Japanese cinema.” And then she came back,
Barbara Walters: But this is America.
Quentin: And I go, “I don’t make movies for America. I make movies for planet Earth.”[ibid]
As my brother would say, “Owned!”
For Jackie Brown, Tarantino’s ’97 “between greats” flic, Tarantino attracts an all-star cast and writes an interesting miss-mash of events story, Pulp-style. Viewers consider it the lesser of his major films but still good among movies. The final elongated sequence of Jackie Brown staring out the window of her getaway car demonstrates to me the unrivaled genius of QT’s music usage in his films. I still get that cathartic rush remembering Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street” playing over the still and masterful acting of Pam Grier.
On language offensive to African Americans, especially in Brown which showcased a small part of the black underworld, Spike Lee publically criticized Quentin; to which Quentin retaliated on Howard Stern characteristically saying Lee would have to “stand on a chair and kiss my ass.”[ibid]
Samuel L. Jackson also defended Tarantino:
Black artists think they are the only ones allowed to use the word. Well, that's bull. Jackie Brown is a wonderful homage to black exploitation films. This is a good film, and Spike hasn't made one of those in a few years.[ibid]
Denzel Washington confronted QT on the same matter, but added Tarantino was a “fine artist.”[ibid]
Inglorious Basterds was another explosive QT film that won both fans and critics, receiving nominations for various major Oscars including Best Picture, garnering the supporting award for Christoph Waltz as the incredibly cold Col. Hans Landa.
On Basterds being not just a revenge fantasy about World War II, but a torture and terrorism fantasy:
Definitely. You took it right out of my mouth. Yes. I mean, basically what they're doing - you described it really, really well. To put in even shorter nutshell, they're actually doing literally the Apache resistance, but against the Nazis, against the Germans. […] We've never seen it before. I was trying to do like a spaghetti western but using World War II iconography. So in my re-imagining of this whole thing, I kind of placed the Jews as the Indians in this scenario. And that is part of the whole thing. You know, when they say they ambush a German patrol of six guys and then they scalp them, maybe even take their shoes off, so when they are found there is even less dignity in the death - all these little things that they do.[ibid]
On critics: “It feels like the critics are IMDB-ing everything I do. It just rubs me the wrong way because they end up using it as a stick to beat me down with.”[ibid]
On how a remake of The Dirty Dozen is impossible: “Ernest Borgnine. Charles Bronson. Those guys were real men, […] a different breed. Many of them had been to war. Today’s young actors are soft.”[ibid]
On Late Night with Conan O’Brien, responding to how he comes up with such great writing: “Well, not to be facetious or anything, but… I’m a good writer!”[ibid]
QT fans are already very hopeful about his announcement of Kill Bill 3 (2014, groan!) which undoubtedly will reach record-breaking status on Rotten Tomatoes’ anticipated polls. You can bet I’m going to see whatever he puts out next.
His advice to aspiring filmmakers: “"If you want to make a movie, make it. Don't wait for a grant, don't wait for the perfect circumstances, just make it."[ibid] Whoa.
On "rival" Guy Ritchie’s marriage to Madonna: "I guess I'll have to marry Elvis Presley to get even."[ibid]
A high school dropout, despite being 60 points above average I.Q., whenever asked whether he went to film school, the great screenwriter/director replies, “No, I went to films.”[ibid]