The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Quentin Tarantino
I'm old enough to remember Quentin Tarantino's time riding the pop culture zeitgeist following PULP FICTION. An endlessly creative director and scribe, Tarantino's amazing knowledge of film history has led to him churning out of a series of amazing films, each more ambitious than the last. They are all tied together by a tremendous appreciation of film history, and not only a love of the classics but also critically-overlooked genre pieces, specifically from the sixties and seventies, which defines his work.
After the one-two punch of RESERVOIR DOGS and PULP FICTION, Tarantino's imprint on the pop culture was so massive that in the years immediately following PULP American indie cinema was overrun by inferior Tarantino clones (TOUCH, THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU'RE DEAD, KEYS TO TULSA, TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES N.M, etc). QT himself took his time before launching into his follow-up, JACKIE BROWN, and then was absent for a full six years while preparing what – at the time – was his most ambitious film to date, KILL BILL.
This week sees the release of THE HATEFUL EIGHT, and incredible, visceral Western that plays out like a tremendously dark take on Agatha Christie mixed-in with Sergio Leone and filtered through QT's own lens. It's one of the best films of the year and another example of a director who consistently churns out movies that feel truly unique. While he's something of a lightning rod for controversy, Tarantino's films have always connected with their audience – in a big way. Hopefully THE HATEFUL EIGHT will be no different.
Being such a huge fan of Tarantino's, choosing my favorite film of his is a difficult proposition. While I appreciate the scale of his more recent films, I can't help but return over-and-over to PULP FICTION. Much of it may have to do with the age I was when it come out (thirteen) and the fact that I practically watched it on a loop that year. It really brought actors like John Travolta (who was then considered a major has-been), Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman to that next level of stardom, while it also provided Bruce Willis – who at the time was considered just an “action guy” - a new level of respectability. There are so many incredible moments in this, from the dance at Jack Rabbit Slim's to the heroine overdose, to “Zed's dead” and more. It's a true pulp masterpiece and while it's been endlessly cloned it'll never be equaled.
This is an all but impossible category for me. I really like all of Tarantino's films, even the much-maligned DEATH PROOF. I guess if I had to call any of his films slightly overrated, maybe it would be KILL BILL VOL.2, only on the merit that I feel by splitting the films in two, Tarantino lost the incredible momentum he built with VOL.1, making 2 a tougher film to get into. However, I've also heard that all cut together in THE WHOLE BLOODY AFFAIR (still MIA on disc) the film plays out as a virtual masterpiece, so take this with a grain of salt. It that version gets released I may wind up writing an addendum to this saying KILL BILL and not PULP FICTION is his best all-around work.
I remember when JACKIE BROWN came out, critics and fans were rather cool on it. People were expecting a PULP FICTION 2, but instead got a thoughtful adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel Rum Punch, which was turned into an amazing starring vehicle for Tarantino favorites Pam Grier and Robert Forster. It's a very atypical, somewhat sensitive work for QT and one that I notice more and more of his fans are opening up to as the years go on. As always, the musical selections are spot on as well, with the opening shot of Grier set to Bobby Womack's 'Across 110th Street' being one of the finest film/music moments of his career.
Well this one is a no-brainer. QT's signature scene will likely always remain Ezekiel 25:17, with Samuel L. Jackson having the star-making moment of his career as he explains his (faux) biblical take on vengeance, a passage that's in a way defined QT's favorite theme, which has formed the backbone of everything he's done since.
Given how elaborate and carefully assembled his films are, Tarantino takes roughly four years or so between projects, and with him consistently saying that he's going to quit after ten films, it could be the interval between projects gets longer. We'll see – but at any rate I'm sure whatever he's got up his sleeves it'll be well worth the wait, however long that is.
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