Ian: Welcome back to another Director Talk with Ian, Fogs, and PG Cooper. And this edition of DT we have a special guest: Alyson from The Best Picture Project! welcome Alyson. Today we are going to be discussing one of the most notorious Directors of the modern age, Quentin Tarantino. I’m going to start off by throwing this question out to the panel. When Tarantino first started, he had quite a lot of hype and hoopla around his films. Do you think he still has that kind of pull today? Do his films attract the same level of notoriety and popularity as they once did?
Alyson: First off, thank you all for inviting me for the Tarantino edition of DT. To answer the question, I do believe he still creates a good amount of hype. His work has been consistently great for 20 years now, and always delivering his unique, uncompromising style. His fans certainly get excited for his new films, and the general film community praises and can make immediate connections to most of his previous work. However, with his Oscar recognition it’s a little harder to be notorious, but he’s still pulling that image off. Basically, if a preview says “a Tarantino film” people sit up and take notice wondering what in the world he is bringing next.
Fogs: Ah. Love when these things start up.
Yeah, definitely. Django’s getting a lot of buzz around the hive… definitely. He’s put together a great cast, sure, but I don’t know that the excitement has anything to do with that – OR with the crazy bounty hunter/slavery story… People are excited for it because it’s Quentin Tarantino.
Cooper: Tarantino definitely still has a lot of pull. Film fans always tend to geek out over his projects and he has tremendous respect in the film community. I’d say that recognition extends to “casual” film viewers as well. Odd movies like Kill Bill and Inglorious Basterds could have been flops, but Tarantino turns them into tremendous box-office smash hits.
Ian: It seems unanimous then, and I agree. When Grindhouse came out a few years ago, I wondered if his prestige was slipping. But Inglourious Basterds was a smash with critics and many Tarantino fans declared it as his best yet.
How do you think Tarantino will do with the western genre in this years Django Unchained?
Fogs: I’m sure he’s going to be fantastic at it. In fact, I’d say it has more recognizable tropes to mine than a lot of other genres he’s paid homage to. Because that’s one of Tarantino’s calling cards. Taking a genre staple and utilizing it within his film. Like a master DJ sampling an endless library of classic beats, Tarantino finds ways to take the familiar, shuffle it slightly and serve it up so it seems completely original.
Alyson: I agree, the way Tarantino can slip into different genres and still make a film distinctly his has me very excited for Django Unchained. The way he turned a “martial arts” movie into the amazing Kill Bill, and “war movie” into the mind blowing Inglourious Basters, has me itching for what he has in store for his western. I am expecting Django to be so much more than a western and yet nothing like it all at the same time.
Personally, I like to go into any film nearly blind and see what surprises me. So far, I’ve checked out the cast for Django (very exciting choices) but I’m making sure to keep away from spoilers.
PG Cooper: Django Unchained is one of my most anticipated films of the year. I don’t really know what Tarantino is going to do with the genre, but I’m eager to find out. What I like about a lot of Tarantino’s films is the way they embrace the more cliche and absurd aspects of the genre there in and yet still become exceptional. I’m pretty confident we’ll see some of that and Django. Especially considering at it’s core, Django is going to be about racism. So while I’m sure a lot of Western tropes and oddities will be sprinkled throughout, there’s still a very serious subject matter.
Ian: Yeah, I’m starting to get pretty excited about it. And it will be interesting to see how he tackles the racism PG. It won’t be conventional, that’s for sure. Perhaps how he dealt with anti-Semitism in IB? With gruesome revenge?
Westerns are not my favourite genre by a long shot, but I’m sure he will bring a distinct style to it.
Fogs, lets touch on what you said about homages. There is a criticism that Tarantino goes a little too far with his homages. And Alyson, in your Inglourious Basterds review you talked a lot about how ts a love letter to film history. Does this bother you guys, or do you find it enhances his pictures?
Fogs: I think it’s great, I think it’s because he’s so good at it. Even though I feel the familiarity and the similarities, it never gets me feeling like a straight up rip off, like, say… “Super 8” had me feeling.
Not to off track us on that flick.
PG Cooper: It’s never bothered me. Mainly because he’s always paying homage to multiple genres at the same time instead of just one. The really impressive thing is the way he’s always able to blend these genres together and make it feel naturally. I’m sure it also helps that he often is referencing more obscure films like Lady Snowblood or something. When JJ Abrams borrowed from Spielberg in Super 8, it was obvious because everyone’s seen, or at least knows of, a few Spielberg films. How many people have actually seen Lady Snowblood?
Fogs: Point, Cooper!
Alyson: Agreed, very good point Cooper.
The way Tarantino borrows from other movies and uses motifs from other genres is now something I look forward to in his films. The problem with Super8 was that it was constantly Spielbergish through the whole film. With QT his big references only last a short while, then it’s back to his unique style. John Travolta dancing in Pulp Fiction always reminds me of Saturday Night Fever, but it’s a whole different feeling in that scene. And I just love the homage he pays to Vanishing Point in Death Proof. These two are more main stream than Lady Snowblood, but not so much that every casual movie goer will recognize them.
Cooper: Interesting bit of trivia, Tarantino insists that the dance scene was written before Travolta was cast in Pulp Fiction. Either way, you’re right Alyson, it’s impossible to watch that scene and not be reminded of Saturday Night Fever.
Ian: Another thing Tarantino is known for is his use of music in films. What do you guys think? Does he use music well, or is it too much?
One thing I can tell you is I can’t listen to Stuck in the Middle without thinking of Reservoir Dogs anymore.
Fogs: ABSOLUTELY. I have that razor blade dance locked into my memory banks now. LOL
He’s an awesome movie dj… I have the soundtracks for Pulp Fiction Jackie Brown and Kill Bill. He just has a way of finding the coolest choice for the moment. Nice point. It’s definitely a feather in his cap.
Alyson: I always love Tarantino’s music choices. When Putting Out Fire played in Inglourious Basterds, I remember thinking, “This is so not true to the time period, but I do NOT care.” Usually, David Bowie in the 1940s would irk me, but it was perfect at setting the tone. His music is usually a little off the beaten path, and I like the new songs I find in his films.
He seems confident about what kind of music works for him and his films. Fun fact, that jukebox in Death Proof is really Tarantino’s, containing some music from his previous movies.
Cooper: I love his music choices. “Misirlou” in Pulp Fiction, “Little Green Bag” in Reservoir Dogs, and of course the infamous “Stuck in the Middle With You”. How can you not love his music? I also particularly like his use of “Dies Irae” and “Seven Notes in Black” from Kill Bill. The first is played when Bud talks about how “That woman deserves her revenge…” and the second when the Bride attacks Buck.
Ian: I have to admit that sometimes I find his music choices pretentious. The David Bowie song in Inglourious Basterds is a good example of that. But he seems to go out of his way to find the most obscure stuff he can to show that he’s “in the know”. I mean, he does that with film references to, but that doesn’t bother me as much.
Alright, lets move on to our top 3. Now, Tarantino doesn’t have a very deep filmography, being one of those directors who takes long hiatuses, so there will probably be some overlap.
My list would probably look like this:
1. Pulp Fiction
2. Inglourious Basterds
3. Kill Bill Vol. 2
I always help Kill Bill 1 higher than the second, until I just watched them both again after buying the blu-rays. My opinion has changed, and I know believe that Vol. 2 is the stronger film.
Cooper: I prefer Volume Two as well, yet neither make my top three.
Alyson: Ditto on Kill Bill 2, much better than 1, but also not in my top 3.
1. Pulp Fiction
2. Inglourious Basterds
3. Reservoir Dogs
Ian: Wow Cooper, I can honestly say I didn’t expect to see Jackie Brown in anyone’s top 3.
Cooper: I wasn’t crazy about it on my first viewing, but every time I watch it it gets better and better.
Fogs: 1. Pulp Fiction
2. Resevoir Dogs
3. Kill Bill vol 1
Cooper: Death Proof sits at the bottom of Tarantino’s filmography, no question. I don’t hate it, but it’s his only film I wouldn’t call great.
Fogs: I’d agree there, but I would say that car chase scene is pretty awesome.
Alyson: Oh, I know it’s not great. But I have a real soft spot for fast cars, girls who kick ass and Kurt Russell being a creepy, murderous stalker. Jackie Brown is better done, but personally, I get so much more enjoyment out of Death
Proof. It’s like Tarantino knows how keep winning his audience over, even when he’s not at his best.
Ian: lol So if Kurt Russell was peeking into your window with a pair of binoculars at night, you’d be perfectly okay with it?
Alyson: Only if he winks at the camera and I get to kick his face in at the end.
Ian: I’m surprised Basterds is only on mine and Alyson’s lists. Whats up guys? Hans Landa not good enough for you two?
Fogs: No, well… you’re talking about one of my favorite directors. He’s made so many movies I love. Pulp Fiction and Resevoir Dogs and Kill Bill are all VERY high on my list of favorites, with Pulp Fiction cracking my personal, all time top five. LOVE that movie.
Inglorious Basterds was very very good. I enjoy it, I like it a lot. But I see the flaws in that one a lot more than I do on his other films. The Bowie anachronism, the slow stretches, the focuse being on Soshanna, who is pretty much the least colorful lead character in Tarantino’s entire filmography. My big issue with it is it almost straddles the fence between being a standard dramatic movie and being a Tarantino Movie. There’s too many of his flourishes to let you forget that it’s Tarantino, but not enough of them to compare to his other films.
Does that make sense? Not that you have to agree, LOL. My position here isnt as heavily fortified as with Blade Runner or Fight Club, Ian. :D
Cooper: I love Inglorious Basterds, but I also love everything (except Death Proof) that Tarantino has done, so it’s tough compiling a list.
Ian: Now, this question I expect we will probably have more of a consensus on. Which movie do you think is Tarantino’s signature film? And for Alyson, signature films are the films we associate with a director most strongly. Its the one they are most recognized for and also which really stands for what they are all about.
Fogs: (Fogs answers by loudly playing Misirlou)
Alyson: A round of applause for Fogs! Can we interpret that as a vote for Pulp Fiction? Cause I’d have to say that is Tarantino’s signature film. No doubt in my mind.
Cooper: Pulp Fiction. Easy.
Ian: Yeah, that one is pretty straight-forward. Pulp Fiction really put him on the map and, to sound as cliche as I can, “defined a generation of film.”
For myself, I love the dialogue most. As a result, I love almost any Jules and Vincent scene, the Superman scene in Kill Bill 2, and both the nazi bar and French farmhouse scenes from Inglourious Basterds.
Alyson: I’m also a big fan of the dialogue. The farmhouse scene in Basterds had me on the edge of my seat and immediately sold me on Christoph Watlz’s Oscar nomination.
But it’s what this dialogue often leads up to that I love the most: intense Mexican standoffs, many of which end with explosive violence. So many times, Tarantino stretches the tension perfectly, but with each new film, I don’t know if he’s going to let that tension hang for a while (Reservoir Dogs), cut it fairly quick (bar scene in IG) or just let it dissolve (cafe hold up in Pulp Fiction).
Cooper: The dialogue is definitely a great thing. I could listen to his characters talk for hours. It’s also the characters he creates. I could list my favourites now, but really, I love all of them. If I had to pick a favourite character though, it probably would be Jules. Especially since the role made Sam Jackson’s career. I love the music choices he makes (forget to mention “Across 110th Street” from Jackie Brown earlier), I love the references and tributes to other films, I pretty much love everything about Quentin Tarantino films. He’s one of my favourite filmmakers.
Fogs: Nice, Alyson. I’m big on the dialogue, but I do have to admit there are times when it stands out just a bit TOO much. You know? It doesnt happen often, and certainly not in his best moments, but there are times when it’s trying too hard.
I like the homages to film, I like the fact he’s not afraid to interject a flourish here or there. And of course, who doesn’t love a good Mexican Standoff? :D
Fogs: Ohhhh Favorite character? Thats a good one, that could go on for awhile.
Jules wins hands down, going away. But the discussion for second place is kind of interesting. I like Aldo Raines, Butch, Vincent Vega, The Bride, god… so many good ones.
Alyson: Favorite character now? Oh goodness, that is hard to decide…let’s call it a tie between Jules and Hans Landa. I can’t get enough of either of them. Of course, some other favorites are Vic Vega, Aldo, Mia Wallace and Butch Coolidge. Even Stuntman Mike… ;)
Fogs: I need to shout out the Gecko brothers from “From Dusk til Dawn”, too, that movie is freaking awesome.
Cooper: From Dusk Til Dawn has one of the best lines in any of his films.
“Where we going?”
“What’s in Mexico?”
Ian: Jules is my favourite as well. Beyond bad ass.
Well, that wraps up another Director Talk. We’d like to thank Alyson from Best Picture Project for joining us and throwing in her insight. And we’d like to thank you; our readers. And now we ask you your thoughts on Tarantino and his work. See you in the comments section!