I’ve sat and waited for a film in this man’s canon that I wasn’t hell-bent on watching again. It didn’t come. And most of the time, I got the notion that these films needed to be watched again merely halfway through a viewing.
Unless you count his lost film My Best Friend’s Birthday–which remains only as the basis for Tony Scott’s True Romance, which I haven’t seen either–I have now seen every film directed by Tarantino. Yes, even Four Rooms, which was a total screwup on his part.
I’ve also seen every additional piece he’s written for the screen. I may do a post on the two Tarantino universes (the “heightened reality” universe and the “movie-movie” universe), which both include the three films for which he is written (and not directed) input. But for now, I’m just commenting on the films he has directed.
QT is easy proof that as long as he or she knows what he or she is doing, the greatest of filmmakers are, first and foremost, avid film watchers.
So here’s my personal best-to-worst list of Tarantino’s consistently outstanding oeuvre. Please let me know your list in the comments, even if you’ve only seen a partial quantity of his films.
If you haven’t seen any, get on it. Now.
Well, after perusing the list, and reading the Leonard Maltin-esque reviews I’ve included to go along with each one:
Released in the US on October 14, 1994. Starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Maria de Medeiros, Ving Rhames, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette, Christopher Walken, and Bruce Willis. Runs 2 hours, 34 minutes. Won an Academy Award – Best Original Screenplay (by Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary). Nominated for six others – Best Picture (produced by Lawrence Bender), Best Director (Quentin Tarantino), Best Actor (John Travolta), Best Supporting Actress (Uma Thurman), Best Supporting Actor (Samuel L. Jackson), and Best Film Editing (by Sally Menke).
One of the most quotable movies ever made, with some of the most brilliant writing the crime genre has ever warranted. QT is in love with dialogue here, and he’s constantly breaking new ground: the opening sequences featuring the unplanned robbery of a restaurant; the credits that suddenly switch background music from Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” to Kool & the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” with a transitional record scratch; the small talk Vincent (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) have over cheeseburgers and foot massages. Mind you, that’s barely the first twenty minutes.
Released in the US on August 21, 2009. Starring Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Daniel Brühl, Til Schweiger, and Mélanie Laurent. Runs 2 hours, 33 minutes. Won an Academy Award – Best Supporting Actor (Christoph Waltz). Nominated for seven others – Best Picture (produced by Lawrence Bender), Best Director (Quentin Tarantino), Best Original Screenplay (by Quentin Tarantino), Best Cinematography (by Robert Richardson), Best Film Editing (by Sally Menke), Best Sound Editing (by Wylie Stateman), and Best Sound (by Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti, and Mark Ulano).
If only World War II was actually like this. This is a revisionist flick in which movies control everything; the title itself is an homage to a Dirty Dozen-like Italian war movie, The Inglorious Bastards. The tale concerns two coexisting attempts to destroy Nazi Germany’s reign: one with a group of Jewish Americans relying on traditional guerrilla warfare; the other with a Jewish movie theater owner who will burn down the movie theater her aunt passed down to her, if it means taking Nazi power out of her French residence.
Released in the US on December 25, 2012. Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Dennis Christopher, James Remar, Michael Parks, and Don Johnson. Runs 2 hours, 45 minutes. Won two Academy Awards – Best Original Screenplay (by Quentin Tarantino) and Best Supporting Actor (Christoph Waltz). Nominated for three others – Best Cinematography (by Robert Richardson), Best Picture (produced by Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin, and Pilar Savone), and Best Sound Editing (by Wylie Stateman).
The entire cast is brilliant, the script is that of an auteur, and it’s worth every minute. ‘Nuff said.
Vol. 1 released in the US on October 10, 2003. Vol. 2 released in the US on April 16, 2004. Collectively starring Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, Gordon Liu, and Julie Dreyfus. Runs a total of 4 hours, 7 minutes (Vol. 1 – 1 hour, 51 minutes; Vol. 2 – 2 hours, 16 minutes).
This is the role Uma Thurman was born to take on. The Bride, a character she co-created with Tarantino, is an ex-member of the “Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.” After being left for dead at the scene of her own wedding, she swears revenge on Bill (David Carradine), her ex-boss. But first, she must take out four others on her hit list, as well as a barrage of elite Japanese killers known as “the Crazy 88’s.” The film is often wild, particularly during the more exhilarating first “volume,” but it’s QT’s lack of self-restraint that makes it immensely watchable, as both a double feature and as two completely separate films.
Released in the US on December 25, 1997. Starring Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Robert de Niro, and Chris Tucker. Runs 2 hours, 34 minutes. Nominated for an Academy Award – Best Supporting Actor (Robert Forster).
Elmore Leonard’s 1992 novel Rum Punch is adapted for the screen as a star vehicle for actress Pam Grier. The film pays homage to the popular “blaxploitation” genre of the 1970s, to which Grier herself was a figure, and is just as much cheesy fun (though the cheese is, of course, intended). Robert Forster’s Oscar nomination marked his supporting role accurately, but the Oscar-snubbed Samuel L. Jackson is the real star of the show. Tarantino’s screenplay doesn’t quite have a grasp on his characteristic lack of self-restraint when working off source material that isn’t his, but when he starts having fun with dialogue in this talkative flick, the movie goes to town.
Released in the US on April 6, 2007. Starring Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Zoë Bell. Runs 1 hour, 27 minutes, plus an additional 7 minutes of faux trailers. Extended and unrated edition runs 1 hour, 54 minutes.
Or, you might say, The Adventures of Dr. Misogynous and His Death-Proof Vehicle. This 2006 film works well as a followup to Tarantino’s Kill Bill. The plot is nothing more than women with a burning desire for revenge on a senselessly misogynous man; it’s fitted to work as the second half of Grindhouse, QT’s “double feature” with Robert Rodriguez. But on the other hand, this is twice as stylish as Kill Bill (if that’s possible), and barely any of the style rings the nostalgia of “grindhouse movies,” as much as it rings QT’s self-referential filmmaking. Any way you slice it, though, it flies by with QT’s love for dialogue and action.
Released in the US on October 23, 1992. Starring Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Lawrence Tierney, and Michael Madsen. Runs 1 hour, 39 minutes.
Tarantino’s feature debut concerns parallel stories of a jewelry heist. The nonlinear structure may not make as much sense as it should, and the pinpointed heist isn’t truly mentioned until nearly eighty percent of the movie has gone by, but you can see streaks of genius here already. While one or two scenes of violence remain the only truly mindless ones in QT’s canon (those who don’t appreciate the black humor may beg to differ), this curtain-opener also features one of the most tasteful employments of violence since The Godfather. “Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.”
My review of Grindhouse (the double feature with Tarantino’s Death Proof operating as the latter segment) is scheduled for tomorrow…