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“This is the script for my next movie. But something doesn’t look right..
First let me shuffle up the goddamn script pages.
Ah, now fucking perfect. Let the narration begin!”
This to me is the probable process for directing a movie by Quentin Tarantino – this crazy filmmaker I wholeheartedly admire. Why? Because he can hook you into his narrative that may be just depicting a bunch of random souls striking a conversation about the most random things, irrespective of it being relatable to you.
Besides the non – linear narration and crazy conversations, those long tracking shots, feet shots, ‘opening the trunk’ shots, iconic dance sequences, a befitting soundtrack, an impeccable cast mostly feat. Samuel L. Jackson and/or Christoph Waltz, the steady shift of cinematic mood from comedy to tension, an extended climax, and his own cameo (sometimes playing various characters in a single movie) – these all are celebrated feats. of a Tarantino movie. Including his latest ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’, I recently revisited his filmography in a short span, and now ranking his movies from least good to best :
Why should only the dudes have all the fun? So, Tarantino here welcomes us to a world feat. the girls drinking, smoking, and chattering about the quintessential Tarantino topics: music and the physique of the opposite sex. Oddly for a Tarantino movie, the conversations here are pointless and never-ending. Say for the first 20 minutes of the movie, it becomes hard to sit through this slow burner focusing on mere ‘blah blah’ chit chats.
Hey, wait! The movie isn’t entirely about them. A stuntman Mike sets off in his ‘death proof’ cars to execute his murderous plans against ladies, but who will escape the game of death eventually? This is the prime and thin plot of this movie. The turning of tables in the climax seems obvious throughout, actually too obvious to convince when it finally happens. I absolutely love those stunning car chases visuals and the signature Tarantino foot shots (injected heavily in this one). The character development for the females is checked. But the story proceeding too slowly to end with abrupt switching of genres? A strict no-no. As per the director himself :
“Death Proof has got to be the worst movie I ever make.
And for a left-handed movie, that wasn’t so bad, all right? – so if that’s the worst I ever get, I’m good.”
Couldn’t get enough of the attractive Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction? Atleast Tarantino couldn’t. So, this time, he chose to make a 4 – hour long revenge saga featuring Uma Thurman at her best. Packed with all the real and loud action sequences one could fathom, the movie tells a tale of a bride revenging on everyone who once wronged her, finally taking on the evil Bill himself. Taking the Asian way this time, Tarantino lets the action of revenge be the Samurai style, mashing up the martial arts and swordplay.
Though this style of breathless action and drama is popularly perceived as this movie’s greatest strength, it is a huge put off for me. There is enough oscillation managed between the character development and the celebrated action, paving way for some emotions alongside well-choreographed action sequences where the bride literally slices her enemies to fulfill her motive. But bearing that sound of sword, tackle and defense moves for hours? Lower the noise please.
Based on the novel ‘Rum Punch’, the movie emerges as too larger than life while telling the tale of Jackie Brown (Pam Grier), an airline attendant who smuggles money from Mexico to the US for a black market gun dealer namely Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson). When caught, she has to pick her side between the cops and the dealer.
This one is probably the least violent a Tarantino movie can ever be. The cinematographer Guillermo Navarro has captured the exotic Los Angeles in all its glory. The movie has the performances to escalate to overall appeal, but becomes a let down when it tends to feel too long a story in its runtime of 150 minutes. After Tarantino’s last as Pulp Fiction, the expectations from this are bound to be sky high and the movie fumbles to meet them, though holding its own as a nice standalone film in Tarantino’s filmography.
“A bunch of travelers inhibited by a blizzard, seek refuge at a lone cabin – ‘Minnie’s Haberdashery’.
Little did they know how everyone there has a motive to fulfill.”
The synopsis of this movie on paper does come across as a cinematic adaptation of any classic Agatha Christie novel, and is indeed intended to execute by Tarantino the way one would expect him to. It is a follow up of ‘Django Unchained’, set few years after the Civil War. The spoilsport is the editing, that perpetually gets the narrative freezing like the temperature outside the cabin, wasting a lot of time and the acting capabilities of its charismatic cast.
Relying heavily on a one man show by Tarantino’s favorite Samuel L. Jackson, who delivers his best act post Pulp Fiction, this ‘Who did it?’ thriller spends little time in developing the characters to get me guessing the wrongdoer. It rather gets repetitive and too indulgent perpetually to serve no purpose. The redeemer is its third act, delivering the signature neat Tarantino violence, but waiting a long 150 minutes for it to happen becomes boring, especially while revisiting the movie. It sometimes gets me wondering that the movie and its action could have ended straight, if the initial conversion were :
Major Marquis Warren – “Got room for one more?”
John Ruth – “No.”
5. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)
Tarantino’s ninth film reveals his huge love for the Hollywood of 60s, and is heavily loaded with pop culture references of that era, has clever callback moments to his own movies, and several Easter eggs including signature Tarantino shots and brief cameos by legends. One may or may not get these references all the time, but realizing them does make the viewing experience richer, as Tarantino decides to randomly be nice or mean to several reel and real life souls, while neatly altering the history – he himself has never cared about it, so shouldn’t you. The Fuhrer of Nazis was killed in a French theater owned by a Jew, remember? So, if something unexpected happens with Bruce Lee or Sharon Tate in this Hollywood world, don’t worry about it.
The authenticity has been taken care of – the streets, the magazines, the pop style and the background score – these all make the movie constantly emanate the vibe of a grand movie set in L.A. The narration though slow-paced, is compelling for the most part. It demands a lot of time to engage one, getting even stagnant at times. What works during these sequences are the amusing dialogues, Robert Richardson’s lively cinematography, and the apt acting by the entire cast – something not to worry about in a Tarantino movie. This cinematic slow-burner demands your attention. Expect less action and violence, except for the obvious climax.
“I don’t know what to tell you, Marvin.”
The above line from this movie is Tarantino’s first directorial in a nutshell. If nothingness was entertaining, it would exactly look like this movie. A jewelry heist goes all wrong to get the mutually unknown gang members suspecting if one of them is an undercover cop. If you want to watch out for the heist sequence to use your grey cells and find the undercover, you would lose it all. Because no one cares. This is all about those dogs, and Tarantino ensures that watching them go witty and nutty for 100 minutes is all worthy an experience.
Straight from the first scene of his first film, his love for detailing in characters and nonsense conversations is out there. Being an alien to the style of Tarantino’s storytelling, one would take his time to sink in, but you get little of it to absorb the insanity. The movie does barely proceed and changes gears from the laughs to the bloodshed, and the big picture is told in all flashbacks. If you have an eye for watching someone literally removing other’s ear, this one’s surely for you. Who wouldn’t love to dance along with Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) to “Stuck in the Middle”!
This one has Tarantino at his most melodramatic and linear narration, with the N – word being uttered atleast 100 times in its runtime of 165 minutes, precisely 110 times. Set in 1858, during the times of American slave trade, the story takes us through the horrors of the same. A black slave is freed by a mysterious bounty hunter who then help each other fulfill their personal motives. As it is a Tarantino movie, the achievement of a motive isn’t easy for anyone. Plans are bound to go wrong.
Despite the layered performances by Jamie Foxx and the prodigy Christoph Waltz, the show-stealer for me is Leonardo DiCaprio playing his evilest character, the Mississippi plantation owner with an ironic name – ‘Calvin Candie’. The iconic dining table scene of him breaking the glass while confronting Django and Dr. Schultz is my clear favourite – that explanation of phrenology, and breaking of wine glass act! There is an air of romance midway and some comic relief too, with the climax being the obvious violent: gunshots everywhere and ‘Unchained’ by James Brown playing in the background. Not everytime can Samuel L. Jackson be the male lead for a black guy in a Tarantino movie, though he too plays his significant part being his usual audacious. Having watched this movie, ‘Inglourious Basterds’ for me still remains the best period drama by Tarantino.
This is not your history class, just an alternative history storytelling attempt by Tarantino, and how excellently executed! A vindictive theater owner in Nazi-occupied France and a bunch of Jewish American soldiers called ‘Inglourious Basterds’, separately plan to destroy the ‘Third Reich’ on a movie screening night at that theater. Executing the death of them all at one place hosting the Fuhrer too, isn’t much plainly easy as the previous line reads.
The movie has all my favorites from Tarantino’s filmography – the long opening scene feat. the Oscar-winning act by the master Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa, justifying his title of ‘The Jew Hunter’. That opening scene is my favorite Tarantino scene, Christoph Waltz’s act here makes him my all-time favorite actor from a Tarantino movie, and Col. Hans Landa being my forever favorite Tarantino character. Another unforgettable sequence features him against the Basterds (Brad Pitt, Eli Roth, Enzo Castellari) faking as Italians – that conversation is impeccable. The movie throughout has the mingling of the languages of several countries of West and Central Europe, primarily pampering the Francophile in me with its setting in France : that charm of old France, with those cobbled streets and lovely cafes. Despite getting it all right, the movie isn’t topping this list, because I prefer Big Kahuna Burgers to Strudel!
Not the movie you will digest in its first viewing. You blink, and you will surely miss it. Extremely high on memorable moments and repeat value, this movie follows a circular narrative by Tarantino, who seamlessly blends three narratives and viewpoints in one, roughly changing gears of timeline midway your ride high on an adrenaline rush. The characters are walking in long tracking shots, talking crazy, dancing like mads to randomly end up in blood. One has to buy it all, for the conviction with which it all is depicted by Tarantino.
Attaining the iconic status are also the objects here: the ‘Bad Motherfucker’ Wallet, the $5 Milkshake, Big Kahuna Burgers, Royale with Cheese, the Watch, the shining mysterious Briefcase – you too remember them all. The soundtrack is hard to get out of my mind, the dance sequence of Vincent and Mia is always fun, the Tarantino’s cameo is his best one. Those charming eyes of Uma Thurman, the dialogues and wrongly told Ezekiel quote, the act by the primes John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis which still is their best one. These all strands make this movie a celebrated masterpiece, and it will continue to be. But what was in the briefcase? Forget it. What was the story? Don’t even try deciphering it.
P.S : To the ones who slam his movies for depiction of gore, abuse, and violence randomly in the name of fun, I would love to quote here Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction:
“I don’t remember asking you a goddamn thing.”
You just read the above line in Samuel L. Jackson’s voice, didn’t you!?
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