Some directors illicit an extreme response from their audience. Most people will take one side or another after seeing one of the director’s representative works. Rarely will anyone sit in the middle-ground. Quentin Tarantino is certainly the epitome of these types of directors. The basis of Tarantino’s style lies in three points:
1. Graphic Violence – the visceral blood and guts is pretty much the one defining factor of a Tarantino film (Kill Bill).
2. Dialogue – while there is usually a lot of obscenity, if you can back away from the swearing, you can see that there are some really interesting and realistic conversations going on (Inglorious Basterds).
3. Pop Culture – what’s somewhat ironic is that through his love of pop culture (and its inclusion in his movies, mostly through their soundtracks), Tarantino’s films have since become pop culture themselves (Pulp Fiction).
Now, most people will be put off by the first two points of Tarantino’s style, but there are some who can look past these things and see a masterful storyteller. This week’s movies are two of Quentin Tarantino’s best.
Length: 153 minutes / 2.55 hours
While I was familiar with many of Tarantino’s works (including Pulp Fiction, below) this was the first of his films that I had seen in theaters. What a first it was. Always the master of dialogue, and an artist of the visual aspect as well, Tarantino directed perhaps his best film to date (which is good, considering the travesty of Death Proof). And while Inglorious Basterds didn’t have quite as much of Tarantino’s trademark visceral violence or obscenity, it made up for it in sheer suspense. This film had probably one of the best antagonists I’ve seen in a long time (Christoph Waltz, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor), and the suspense of his interrogations gripped me. I think that Tarantino saw what this film was and summed up his feelings about it during Brad Pitt’s final line, “I think this might just be my masterpiece.”
In my opinion, I agree with the “masterpiece” status. While Tarantino’s other films focus on the violence or the pop culture, Inglorious Basterds focuses on the dialogue. Even though it may look like a Nazi interrogating a French farmer, or a bunch of Americans trying to keep their cover, the back and forth of the conversation leads the audience on an escalating thrill ride, as the stakes get higher and any misspoken word could mean the difference between life and death. I saw this film in a completely empty theater, which gave it the feeling of a private screening (not bad for $1, either). When it was finished, I had become so immersed that I gave a one-person standing ovation.
Length: 154 minutes / 2.56 hours
Quite possibly Quentin Tarantino’s best film, Pulp Fiction takes multiple stories and intertwines them in a clever and interesting way. The multiple plots include two hitmen (Samuel L. Jackson & John Travolta) taking care of business, a boxer (Bruce Willis) running from a mob boss after he kills the man he was supposed to lose to, and a date between one of the hitmen (John Travolta) and his boss’ wife (Uma Thurman). Each of the storylines share similar characters, but are told in a non-linear fashion so that viewers will need to watch the movie again in order to put everything in order. Pulp Fiction won an Oscar for writing and sits comfortably at the bottom of AFI’s Top 100 list.
While Pulp Fiction does pull from Tarantino’s three strengths, its endearing qualities have made it a pop culture reference that even the casual movie watcher would recognize. The heart of this film asks the question, “What would you do when all hell breaks loose?” Three different plotlines show the audience that even if your day seems to be going pretty well, there’s always something that just comes in and screws it all up. We all have things we’d like to forget, and whether it’s an accident or a completely random series of events, there are some things that others don’t need to know about. The moral of Pulp Fiction seems to be: fix the problem and move on.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 works that you’ll either love or hate.
Bacon #: 2 (Inglorious Basterds / Michael Fassbender -> X-Men: First Class / Kevin Bacon)