Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Spotlight: The Movies of Quentin Tarantino

When Reservoir Dogs premiered at Sundance the world was introduced to a new and visionary director.  Quentin Tarantino shocked audiences with violent images, vulgar dialogue, and non-linear storytelling. 

I love the quote from him about making movies.  When asked if he went to film school his reply is no he went to films.  Which is all you need to know about his directing style.  As a video store clerk he had the opportunity to watch lots of movies from lots of genres.  Taking something from each movie he liked he is able to craft something that feels different.  His movies borrow themes from past movies and it is not unusual to see various types of genres in one movie. 

After writing and  directing Reservoir Dogs he wrote screenplays for a couple of movies he did not direct including True Romance and Natural Born Killers  both which contained his violent and vulgar writing style. Although Natural Born Killers was rewritten and Tarantino only got story credit and not screenplay credit.  It wasn’t until Pulp Fiction in 1994 that he really broke out as a director.  Pulp Fiction was unlike any movie that had come before it.  While at its core it has similar elements to Reservoir Dogs it raises it to a whole new bar.  I remember sitting in the theatre watching it and just being blown away.  A lot of people got turned off by the non-linear storytelling and graphic violence but I fell in love with it.  The dialogue was funny and the violence was over the top.  It really led to a new way of storytelling that has influenced directors of today.  Tarantino has a way of casting people that seems to fit perfectly in the world he creates.  Every actor in Pulp Fiction seemed tailored made for the part.  I am sure anyone that saw the movie has a scene that sticks out in their mind which says a lot about how many great scenes are in the movie. 

After the success of Pulp Fiction Tarantino went on to work with fellow director Robert Rodriguez for a couple of movies.  Including Four Rooms where they each wrote and directed a segment and From Dusk till Dawn which Tarantino wrote and starred in and Rodriguez directed.  Tarantino then wrote and directed his next feature film Jackie Brown a homage to the 70’s Blaxploitation films.  Again showcasing his love of movies from the past and bringing them into the present.  While it did not have the critical praise as his previous movies it showed how talented he really was. 

His next project was the ambitious Kill Bill.  A story that he talked about with Uma Thurman while they were making Pulp Fiction.  The movie ended up being a long and violent revenge movie.  The movie ran so long that he decided to release it in two parts  Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2.  A gamble even for a veteran director no one was sure how it would be received.  The first one opened to great critical praise.  But by the time the second one opened the praise was not as big.  But the movies have gone on to gain cult status. 

Tarantino then went on to team with Robert Rodriguez again this time to make a grindhouse double feature like the ones they grew up watching in the 70’s.  Each director made one half of the double feature.  Tarantino’s movie was Death Proof about a murderous stunt car driver.  This ambitious venture ultimately flopped in theatres.  I was lucky enough to get to see a sneak preview of the movie and thought it was a lot of fun (although I enjoyed Rodriguez’s Planet Terror a bit more).  The original release featured fake trailers before and between the movies.  These fake trailers were some of the funniest parts and went on to spawn their own movies. 

After the disappointment of Grindhouse Tarantino made a huge splash with his next movie Inglourious Bastards.  A WWII movie about Nazi killers was a more linear storytelling but still had the violence and dialogue that Tarantino is known for.  Released to critical praise it was his first movie to get nominated for an Academy Awards since Pulp Fiction.  The movie got nominated for 8 Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay and won Best Supporting Actor for Christoph Waltz. 

This brings us to Tarantino’s newest movie.  An homage to Westerns Django Unchained.  With an all-star cast including previous Oscar nominees  Leonardo DiCaprio (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator, Blood Diamond), Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction) and 2 previous winners Jamie Foxx (Ray) and Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Bastards).  The movie is already getting critical praise and looks like it will land Tarantino another Best Picture nomination and right now appears possibly another nomination for DiCaprio.  

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