Tarantino and a bunch of guns. Again.

 

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Alright, so Tarantino has his own built-in audience, no matter how good, bad, or ugly the new “Quentin Tarantino” films are every 2 or 3 or 4 years. Tarantino’s films shear off a chunk of the year’s film attention. Everyone goes to see it. And it winds up outshining many other better films, for all the wrong reasons. For blood, for big shot movie stars, for formula, for way too much testosterone and red meat, and because of a huge amount of promotion by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, two of the most detested contemporary film producers – and they also happen to be Tarantino’s patrons and practically also his bodyguards.
Yes, the Weinsteins may have been partially responsible for the success of Pulp Fiction and then the rest of Tarantino’s films that followed that, but Bob and his big brother Harvey are more like gangsters than they are like film producers and have left a trail of skulls and mortal enemies in their wake.

But Tarantino is always way too much fun to resist and his films are usually a kind of an effortless and sort of lazy two to three hours in a romper room of guns, mayhem, scatology, and a healthy dose of fucks, shits, and general chaos. Everything is thrown in and and then projected on a screen and we see what sticks, what lines we remember, and whose head gets blown off this time.
It seems like he does whatever he wants and has the luxury of being lazy with his storytelling, if he wants to be, and then he can just explain it all in an interview since everyone wants to interview him and many interviewers are obviously pretty starry-eyed when it comes to a pop culture icon like Tarantino.  (cont…)

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Most people resist criticizing his films because they’re a fun indulgence and people say “Oh come on, it’s a Tarantino film” and being all too forgiving of his weaknesses and his repetition and also because he’s a unique and never-duplicated brand that is much more entertaining than most movies out nowadays. Tarantino rescued the fuck-it creative attitude of the ’70’s and the accompanying lack of pretension of that era, a creative freedom and a lack of formal credentials that made the ’70’s the most truly remarkable, enduring, and influential decade of cinema, without a doubt the perfect confluence of time, artistry, creative freedom, and the x-factors of that decade. The 1970’s are still without parallel. And Tarantino knows that decade very well.

When his first film Reservoir Dogs was released in 1992, it was clearly one of the best films of the year and absolutely the most talked about. It was legendary almost before it was released, the type of liberated filmmaking that hasn’t been seen often since, yes, since that same ’70’s decade. In 1994, I got a job at Miramax and I was there just in time to work on the release of Pulp Fiction. The entire company knew that the film that we had in test screenings was a historic and giant film, a film lover’s utopia, one of the closest things that any of us had seen to a perfect film. And it went way beyond that, becoming what was arguably the seminal and most storied film of the decade – and in many ways it has remained the best film made since its release, as far as cultural impact. It won Tarantino a best script Academy Award and it lost in the Best Picture category to Forrest Gump(!), which in retrospect makes a good argument for reordering best pictures after the fact… what has been more enduring and influential – Forrest Gump… or Pulp Fiction. (Jesus… or The Beatles…?) Ask Quentin… or maybe … Harvey Weinstein?

Quentin has a boner for violence

Bloody Tarantino mess

One thing that is indisputable is that Tarantino did blast the film world with an enthusiasm and love for the medium not seen since a young Martin Scorsese, maybe even more so, particularly with no willing or chatty enough competition for the title in the 1990s. And film critics and moviegoers took to him like catnip and followed his every utterance, on screen and off. Tarantino has proved to be essential and a genre entirely of his own, a synthesis and an apotheosis. Regardless of their shortcomings, each one of his releases remains a kind of a sordid marvel. A comic book and a film and an ongoing new wave, with a little bit of a trailer park thrown in. Somehow his style, although it remains the same, always seems like the latest thing, even with the sometimes glaring and usually overlooked flaws.

Pulp Fiction remains the high water mark. 21 years after his most seminal film, Tarantino continues to make very good, serviceable, and even excellent films, often as his unconscious response to the lack of magic in much of the rest of the film world… and always aided and abetted by the willing and endlessly deep coffers (fortunately for Tarantino and very exclusively in his case) of the Weinstein brothers during the Miramax heyday, and now in their current version of Miramax, The Weinstein Company. Tarantino was, has been, and will be for the foreseeable future their golden goose, the gravy train of the Weinstein brothers, the clarion, and their built-in zeitgeist. And anyone would have strategized their success around Quentin Tarantino as the lead, as the Weinstein brothers have, in order to maintain their industry relevance and success.

The Weinstein brothers are truly not likeable men and they are loathed by many, many people, especially ex-employees – the Weinsteins have lied, they’ve cheated, and they’ve stolen from almost everyone, but they are charming with the right people and tough in ways that impressed Tarantino when he was young and wanted someone strong to go to bat for his career and the unlimited potential he possessed, after Reservoir Dogs blew through Sundance and the rest of the indie film community… and when Bob & Harvey Weinstein offered Quentin the world, plus whatever else they could squeeze in, it became the beginning of a now longstanding two-decade marriage. The Weinsteins knew what they had and this was during the peak of the success of Miramax… and the Weinstein brothers, if anything, at the very least have good taste in film. And Tarantino wanted a permanent production home. And then consistently delivered entertaining films, largely with his particular brand and the looping & loping dialogue.

Tarantino has repeated his themes throughout his body of work, rearranging the pieces in various ways, cannibalizing his own films the way he has always cannibalized other films and directors, never one to hide that he did that, and also gracefully citing his influences and his inspirations always working to keep the best of his favorite films from the past alive and well, resurrecting, reinventing, and rejuvenating actors, auteurs, styles, and all in a way that has always felt brand-new and ahead of the other directors and films. Tarantino always does give credit where the credit is due (almost always) and has been a tireless promoter of new directors and also some forgotten directors, actors, musicians, etc. And although his films are often very intentional sausage fests with largely male casts, Tarantino has also always made it clear that he has a love for strong female presences… Pam Grier in Jackie Brown, Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, Diane Kruger and Melanie Laurent in Inglourious Basterds, and the heroines of Death Proof, who explicitly get their revenge on their male antagonist very conclusively.

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Tim Roth PFic

Revenge fantasies are probably one of the most common themes in Quentin Tarantino’s films as if he knows that the rules of reality don’t apply in films and in his films Tarantino has already killed Hitler, rewritten the horror and sadness of the era of antebellum slavery and turned it into an action film, done away with all manner of patriarchal oppressors who hunt us in most ways still, escaped hillbilly rapists who resemble Deliverance trash, his films usually traffic in a non-stop and brutal and comical pursuit of cathartic fantasy justice in a world in which everyone has a weird fucked-up personality or is a certain kind of “cool” that is mostly based on the screen idols Tarantino grew up worshipping and wanting to be and that another hero of his, French New Wave legend Jean-Luc Godard, deconstructed in his own work.
But Tarantino’s stories seem to be reflections of how ambiguous justice and the world around us really is. Like Tarantino’s life, escape and success are serendipitous.

But a lot of what Tarantino has done is to reflect the madness and chaos of men with guns, the noir crime world of his heroes… Elmore Leonard, the only writer literally and directly responsible for a Tarantino film, that we know of (Jackie Brown), which is based on one of Leonard’s novels… and there’s Don Siegel, Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah, the Hong Kong panoply, Scorsese, Godard, Lee Marvin in Point Blank… endless emulation.

There was also Tarantino’s main legacy, of course, outside of the indie sparks of Soderbergh and Linklater. Tarantino lit up Hollywood and changed the rules more than any other director and he did this with essentially no formal training at all, strictly his love of watching films, all spun together with his home grown passion and intensity, his living and enjoying life in Los Angeles, and taking the acting classes somewhat seriously. And also at a crash course at the Sundance directors boot camp. Again – outside of the inherent talent, it’s a lot of serendipity and luck.

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But for all the adoration and the criticism of Tarantino, can anyone really expect the evolution and growth of someone like Tarantino to be perfect and smooth… or for any director, writer, artist? There are potholes and crashes along the way for almost everyone. When you consider other directors under as intense a spotlight as Tarantino has been and consider he’s made scarcely any real major missteps cinematically and artistically. Most directors have at least two or three duds or more and absolutely none of Tarantino’s films has been a disaster or a dud, whatever your taste is and whatever your personal opinion is. All of his major works have been true to his intentions and also true to his integrity, the films gave people what they wanted and consistently moved the ball down the field in pursuit of Quentin Tarantino’s greater goal of the underlying social commentary and subterfuge of his messages, his particular cinematic codes and his attempts at making intellectual entertainment accessible and an actuality, while also raising the bar a bit. He may use many of the same devices and gimmicks and interactions and characters, but it’s clear that Tarantino is still trying to go one step beyond with each new film, whether or not he does. Sometimes it’s a really obvious gimmick (often posing as a preservationist impulse), as with bringing back the double-feature or the roadshow or (unnecessarily) shooting on 70 millimeter film stock, but he’s always looking for new themes and new scenarios, trying actors who might seem not exactly perfect for a Tarantino film and every actor winds up being absolutely right for the role, somehow. Tarantino does legitimately want the cinema to remain magical and bigger than life, no matter what he has to do to get there. The experiments may be entertaining and sometimes bold – but, despite the charity extended to him by kind film critics, adoring fans, and the boorish Weinstein bullies, the evolution of Quentin Tarantino the filmmaker is held up by something within him… likely his own limitations as an artist.

There is no question that Tarantino has been a huge beacon for intelligent films and one could see his friendship with Richard Linklater and others of similar ilk as a clear sign that Tarantino’s allegiance lies with brains and with high art, rather than strictly with the guns and explosions and testosterone that Hollywood mostly relies on for its obscene revenues, even if Tarantino is sometimes accused of abetting this Hollywood shallowness, But at no point could Tarantino be accused of selling out his vision or compromising his aesthetic.
The mistake that some critics and Tarantino-philes make when enthusing about his latest film and about his body of work is confusing him with an intellectual filmmaker, which happens often. Tarantino is very far from the terrain of Paul Thomas Anderson, Richard Linklater, Spike Jonze, Todd Haynes, Charlie Kaufman, and so on, in terms of prestigious American directors and writers. Tarantino’s films are gut explosions of comic book id, they’re not typically well-thought out, and very often seem like first drafts that were never re-written or tightened up because no one has ever said “no” to Tarantino and Bob and Harvey Weinstein have never allowed anyone to say “no” to Quentin, having become custodians of his career since 1994, which has been very good and very nurturing for Tarantino’s sense of creative freedom.
But the downside of that is that Tarantino’s films themselves have not really evolved that much, nor has he changed that much as a filmmaker, and we have his exhausting three-hour versions of everything he does, rather than a nice tight two-hour film and he also gave us the four-hour Kill Bill, which the Weinstein brothers craftily and skillfully marketed as volume 1 and volume 2 in separate years even though they were filmed at the same time with the intentions of being one film. (Kind of surprising that the Kill Bill films actually have not been released as the same joint DVD release at this point.) Tarantino would have benefitted from getting out of the house, so to speak. Getting out of the Weinstein’s house. But, here’s his latest film now. Yeah.  Just in time for awards season.

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Most filmmakers are constantly challenged financially and creatively and have to always try new things and new methods to get films made, whereas Tarantino has delivered a few different spins on very similar themes and scenarios and now has a kind of Tarantino formula that makes the Weinstein brothers enough money and gives Tarantino enough recognition and keeps everyone more or less happy, including film lovers. And of course there are even Oscar nominations, since Tarantino has been an Oscar darling since Pulp Fiction – which makes the Weinstein brothers happy, since they are notorious award nomination whores, and it also continues to give Tarantino himself the impression that he is a vital intellectual or creative force, even though he is so often repeating himself and resorting to the same gore and sadism and way-too-cool conversations.
But god damn if most of us don’t seem to love sitting through Quentin Tarantino’s bloodied, soiled, sadistic madness and his own particular version of the hero’s journey. All packaged with great music, great editing, great cultural references, all of our favorite faces and a few new ones… sort of the indie film equivalent of Apple’s aesthetic appeal. So great to look at. Nice graphics.

All of this really does make more sense if you compare Tarantino to his contemporaries: Richard Linklater, Paul Thomas Anderson, Spike Jonze, Todd Haynes, David O. Russell, David Fincher, Jim Jarmusch … all accomplished and more refined storytellers than Tarantino, but none with quite the obsession with the gratuitous bloody gore that Tarantino has and that Tarantino uses like a nightly news show to draw us in. There’s the perennial journalism mantra again on what the most crucial (but not most important) story of the night will be… “If it bleeds, it leads.” Tarantino traffics in the sensational, the crude and haunting images of death and dismemberment, except we do also have an intelligent Tarantino who can explain what he means and framework it in metaphors and social relevance… he says it’s all with some higher purpose. Or maybe it’s not. Just don’t question him too confrontationally or the interview is over. Or he could get physical. But would his films sell as well if the blood and gore was subtracted? You’d be left with a Kevin Smith film – cute, chatty, funny, and a shitload of fun to sit through, but more of a niche of some kind. The blood and the gore seems to be a calling card for Tarantino to distance himself from the geek inside. But it often manifests as the common flaw of so many filmmakers who found their way to the director’s chair via watching films incessantly (similar to what film school actually is), and with these film geeks and obsessives and film junkies/film school graduates the thing is that reality starts to feel second-hand, more like comic book fevers, and very far removed from any kind of reality – then the violence, in many cases, starts to feel fake, sensationalized and glamorized, and it becomes a feeding frenzy, rather than a cautionary tale. It becomes a cartoon and the deaths become humorous. The appetite for sadism, in the case of Tarantino’s brand of violence, then loses its original intention. And all we are left with is an exercise in blowing shit up and shooting guns and seeing how much blood there is inside a human body. And then trying to laugh it off as “Oh-come-on-it’s-a-Tarantino-film” excuses or “That’s his style” or “Quentin’s not interested in explaining”.

It is often a lot like a teenager who adores gruesome horror movies. But tell that to QT and he gets blisteringly angry and shuts down the interview. Look it up.

And, of course, there is the part about running out of ideas and referencing his other films but just saying it’s what his intentions are… to point to his other films, that it’s all part of the design. Essentially, he can rearrange and re-film one of his own earlier films and then explain it as a cousin or that it “has the DNA” of his earlier films, when the new films may sometimes be a new version of old hat, such as the comparison of Hateful Eight with Reservoir Dogs.
Is it okay to make a new version of a previous film with a different look, a separate setting, move some of the pieces around? Sure. I suppose. Look at almost every shameful greedy sequel these days. Or look at the latest Star Wars and its remarkable and painfully obvious resemblance to the first two Star Wars films. Done in the name of commerce, but often accepted as a cultural institution, an icon, a nostalgic touchstone…
Marketing and PR will handle the packaging of it all.

And another way of looking at it is that Tarantino uses ultraviolence and that kind of sensationalism to draw you in to listen to an intelligent conversation or to make an intelligent point that you would otherwise not have listened to had it been in another film or story. But there are other ways of doing that, without blood splattering, without circuitous empty dialogue about hamburgers and favorite brands of cigarettes. Is it clever and a reflection of our own quasi-hollow daily lives or is it lazy storytelling on Quentin’s part? And we give him a pass because we got what we expected and what we wanted again – and much of the other film choices in theaters are far less exciting than the visceral indulgences of a Tarantino film.

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A lot of it is that Tarantino has always had so much talent and he’s made some amazing films and he creates the most compelling and warm feeling, like comfort food, you WANT to be there and to listen, like a favorite bar.
And he was without question heralded as a kind of messiah for the independent film community in the ’90’s, and he made good on that, too… ALL of his films are quite excellent, disturbingly and jarringly so, but still unequaled… if there were a film hall of fame, he’d be a shoo-in on the first ballot and be entirely deserving of it…
…but sometimes I see his storytelling and his style of filmmaking and his resorting to violence so easily and so quickly as a kind of unfulfilled potential like if he would just put his mind to it he could make films that were far more profound and would not have to rely on guns and blood to get people’s attention. Many of the other directors of Tarantino’s generation have made films that were masterpieces that did not need to resort to crude tactics and base things so much. I have thought for a long time that Tarantino should challenge himself and try to make his next film with no guns, no blood, none of the trappings of his other films, no Sam Jackson… and I think he’d wind up making a really interesting comedy. Or something different, at any rate.

Waltz the Jew Hunter

war is over

But perhaps Tarantino and his films didn’t really need to evolve because he was fully-formed as a genre filmmaker right out of the gate. Or is he a genre filmmaker because he refuses to take any chances with too many other themes and with fewer deaths. Regardless of that, his formula has not entirely outgrown itself, even though The Hateful Eight has not done as well as was hoped in its first week and looks like it will not bail out the Weinsteins from any of their recent giant financial messes. And although Quentin could easily make a bloodless, gunless, tortureless comedy and still come away with a great film and would still be able to convey a story of some sort without the guns & shit… he just hasn’t bothered to do it yet.

Tarantino, at this late stage in the game, still prefers to show some kind of continued rabid hunger for sadism or remains morbidly nostalgic and is convinced that he can still fuse the present era with the 1970’s and the 1960’s, in that order.

Anyone can be picked apart in an article like this and likewise any director can then use the very same medium to explain away almost any indulgence or sin imaginable or claim that critics are too hard on them, even though that is one of the main elements of criticism. And Tarantino himself is very sensitive and alarmed by any kind of probing criticism from anyone that he doesn’t agree with or that does not become a commercial for his film.
But Tarantino can often hold up very well under scrutiny and under the extremities of our pop culture-obsessed country and the beauty and success is therein, in its own version, sometimes brutal and ugly. When all is written and the era is over, Hollywood and all of its offspring have done a pretty giant job of relaying and producing often great art. Obviously, a lot of what Hollywood has done has been terrible but that’s more the commerce than the art, normally. And then there’s the “bad art”. But Tarantino has been an integral and mercurial part of the ongoing American film legacy for 23 years now, ever since Reservoir Dogs took Hollywood by storm.

Tarantino likes to show his creations and his characters warts and all, likewise it’s important to show anyone that way and especially the actors, directors, and players of Hollywood, the matinee idols and the fabulously rich benefactors of Hollywood’s gold and bullion and all of the infinite pounds of flesh sacrificed.  If the essence of Tarantino’s mission is to show the underbelly and the guts of the world and of the human condition, then it’s also a responsibility of everyone else including magazine interviewers and so on to show the actors and the directors warts and all also.
I think that Tarantino himself has sometimes lost sight of this, most pointedly in an interview with a British TV show in which he melted down and refused to enter into a simple discussion of the purpose of violence in his films saying himself that the artist has no responsibility to address or explain intentions and even said he was shutting the interviewer’s butt down and harshly and petulantly proclaimed “make no mistake about it, this is a commercial for my movie”.
This was addressed in the context of a huge increase in the amount of mass shootings in the United States, DIRECTLY after a kindergarten full of children was shot up in Sandy Hook, CT., and it was during the promotional tour for Django Unchained, another messy tour of gore & sadism by Q-dog. For someone who loves expressing his opinions about everything, including the really big issues, it was ironic that Tarantino felt the need to clam up and not talk about a pretty big deal of a theme, arguably one of the biggest themes in history – violence – and clearly the most significant subject of every single one of his films, without exception. And to clam up in an interview during a valid inquiry into violence right after a gargantuan slaughter in a kindergarten… seems a bit arrogant and dickish.

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As much as Tarantino likes to either embrace or reject Hollywood, depending on the day, he sometimes seems to fall victim to the trappings of celebrity and the moods of a cranky celebrity megastar who feels he has to answer to no one and explain nothing and that people should just go away when he’s not in the mood for them. There is a price to pay for celebrity and flying off the handle and throwing tantrums is a shitty kind of gratitude to show for the spotlight he chose and the cash that moviegoers give him.

On the other hand recently he made a very notable appearance at a Black Lives Matter event in New York City. BUT it was mentioned and discussed whether or not the interesting timing of his appearance was calculated to be somewhat synchronized with the release of his latest film and it was wondered whether or not he would have made the same appearance without a new film being released and why he didn’t make an appearance during the protests last year, when the protests were much bigger. Did he and the Weinsteins factor the publicity in, particularly when his latest film is not among his best? Tarantino has not made any other appearances as of yet in a Black Lives Matter event. He staunchly claims to be a very strong supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and has sent some bloody variation of this message in a couple of his films, despite some of the valid claims his detractors have made, but he probably should have waited until an off year to make the recent appearance seem more sincere, rather than having it tied into the release of his latest film. Timing is everything.

But the question does remain that there are directors like Paul Thomas Anderson and Richard Linklater who have taken many more creative risks than Tarantino with their material and have made films that clearly have far more value and more cultural importance and more virtuosity than any of Tarantino’s blood orgies. So why is Quentin more well known and why is he the interview every film critic wants? Because of his personality, because of self promotion, and because of the Weinstein brothers.

I think it’s up to other writers and interviewers to point things out and to use Tarantino’s high profile to shine equal light on the other great directors out there right now, because all of us are much more likely to pick up a magazine with QT’s face on it than almost anyone else – so, as much time as is devoted to Tarantino here, this will be the initial step toward celebrating all of the other directors more extensively. Tarantino has had way more than his share of moments and not for any really important reasons. Perhaps that’s his style and his inclination, but it doesn’t mean that there doesn’t have to be checks and balances on Tarantino – or that all of this is just “a commercial” for Tarantino’s films, as Tarantino likes to regard the PR tours that he does. That’s just an irresponsible media whoring themselves to artists for fear of never getting another interview opportunity. If Tarantino wants to shred an interviewer for asking tough and challenging questions that he’s not prepared for, then Quentin is really forgetting what authentic and good film criticism is all about.  It’s not just “a commercial”.

So many artists, writers, directors, and particularly Tarantino don’t like being challenged or treated with anything less than deference, as if they are in a rarefied circle and should be treated like royalty. The actors and directors and so on don’t say this, but it is an unspoken part of the dynamic within the film community, the scurrying around taking care of every one of the needs of movie stars and big directors and producers, as if were they to be displeased for any reason, people will lose their jobs. Normally, that’s called tyranny. Or that would be a likely part of some dystopian, dysfunctional kingdom. But this is accepted and encouraged in the film community, at almost every level.

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That was the climate at Miramax in the ’90’s, during its heyday and the golden era of films like Pulp Fiction, Kevin Smith’s Clerks, Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures, and a lot of others. This climate of having to kiss ass and to whore oneself or humiliate oneself shamelessly for fear of retribution by Harvey or Bob Weinstein or one of their top executives has almost always been the climate of the film industry and many other industries. But it is possible for directors and actors and everyone else to interrupt this process. But no one does. And directors like Tarantino seem to like that layer of protection and movie star royalty to set himself apart. It insulates him and it also protects him artistically from any kind of criticism. If Quentin didn’t like a couple of sentences in a magazine by a reviewer, he might keep that person out of future screenings or out of certain industry parties. But someone else will be doing that dirty work for him. He just has to say the word. He, like many, could have done more for people to be treated better in the film community, but… nothing yet. Quentin’s nostalgia for a bygone Hollywood era may also show a desire he’s got to restore what he thinks was lost to the players, the Olympian and godlike stature of actors, directors, and producers. Tarantino seems to also have a nostalgia for the era of the Untouchables, the Hollywood gods leaving people speechless and quaking and in awe. But that’s not this era. And it doesn’t need to brought back for any reason. We’re now in the era of creating a level playing field. Social and economic equality is kind of popular right now.

All of this stuff surrounding the films is as important as the films themselves, because the climate art is produced in matters. And the fact that Tarantino’s films have leveled off and his formula is showing signs of being a bit flaccid or repetitive means that Tarantino might be too protected inside his Weinstein bubble of celebrity and Yes-people. And Tarantino likely knows that two of the giants of modern film history, Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, started as film critics.  He should embrace his films being challenged and their shortcomings being pointed out.  Tarantino’s films certainly have been celebrated and gushed over enough by now.  And there is plenty in them to criticize.

The films, the work of making a film, should hold up under scrutiny, theoretically. So I don’t understand why some artists blanch at being challenged or being under the microscope. It’s not all just “a commercial” for their films. I don’t think it’s in the interest of any interviewer to be too rude or bitchy with a director or an actor and I don’t think it happens that often, but if directors and writers and so on want to debate serious issues in their films, then why not also debate some of those same serious issues in interviews also. Seems to make sense. But we are talking about the film industry, an industry of divas and spoiled superstars, among all of the humble and generous artists.
If Tarantino’s answer to the questions of his excessive and gratuitous use of violence is merely something close to “The world is violent and I don’t have to answer any further questions about it – I’m just reflecting the world”, maybe that’s true, but that’s not really good enough. And Quentin is a big ol’ Chatty Cathy, talking incessantly non-stop and diarrhea of the mouth have always been his stock and trade. So – perfect for discussing a rich and important issue like violence.
And, also, if you want to be the “fucking champ”… there’s a price to pay. And part of that price is answering tough questions with the grace and the aplomb of a “champ”. Tarantino has a fine body of work and a good life. There’s no reason he can’t answer most of the relatively easy questions that have been lobbed his way. No questions about violence allowed anymore…? Ah, it just depends on the ol’ Quentin’s fluctuating moods and if he’s “feeling it”. Or when it ceases to be a “commercial”.

No one should defer to movie stars or to movie directors or, for that matter, anyone for any reason at all.  No one is above anyone else. The world is a level playing field. But it’s been artificially distorted into something other than that by people like the Weinstein brothers and the diva treatment of stars that is encouraged by too many in the film industry and elsewhere, such as Wall St., the corporate world, etc. ad infinitum. Someone might be a great director or a great actor, musician, and so on… but if they require you to plant smooches on their buttocks or to call them “sir” or “mister” or “doctor” or “madam” or to “not look them in the eyes”, steer clear of them. Crazily toxic shit. And this is what has been going on in the film industry for far too long. And all they’re really doing is selling hotcakes. They’re salesmen with “art” and with “commercials” for the art. But we love art, so we can’t resist playing the game that has shitty rules and spoiled adults in charge.

I like money

Tarantino could not have been at Black Lives Matter for too many other reasons other than it was another “commercial” for his latest film. It seemed charming and needed for the movement at the time, so that made it all the more accepted in the moment and in the aftermath. But the timing of his appearance, as mentioned earlier, says exactly what you need to know. It was a carefully plotted spectacle with an expected result. And Quentin doesn’t do too much of anything if there’s not a dollar attached to it, like all the other film industry people in hot pursuit of fame and fortune and adoration, and like the world we all live in day to day. And all anyone has to say to dismiss criticism of any superstar or any millionaire (or even something as unjust as a trust-fund kid) is “You’re just jealous – you’d love to be half that successful/rich/etc.”. Kind of like other dismissive and hollow mantras floating around to help deflect. And that kind of crap winds up protecting the already-wealthy and the jackals and the schoolyard bullies-now-adults, and it gives the perennial aggressors the disguise of being a victim somehow. Crazy shit.
One of the most memorable moments from the days at Miramax was Sean Penn saying, in a candid moment, on the sidewalk outside the old Miramax offices at 375 Greenwich Street in Tribeca, not in a movie, directing his film The Crossing Guard under the Miramax auspices, in civilian attire, and saying what needed to be said about all of the Hollywood and film players on every level, “We’re all whores.”
Of course, on some level Tarantino forgot that. And whores need tricks/johns/new customers to survive.

Go see his films – they’re really good films and they’re a lot goddamn better than the drivel and recycled shit that we often have to wade through. This new one, also. Tarantino has a lot of good ideas and he is truly a talented and unique filmmaker. Just make sure to always put it in context. The guy is not a hero or a messiah or the most talented writer/director ever or even near the top of the most talented directors out there. He is very good at what he likes to do, though.
People in film should remember to never, ever kiss anyone’s ass just because they’ve made some good art or have come upon a lot of money. It’s all a matter of chemistry and the nicer people maintain some level of soul and integrity. The majority of the film world is not glamorous or fun or even a very good job to have, normally – just normal people who are part of the rest of the world of chimps vying for a higher slot on the monkey pole and they need a quick buck as much as we all do in the absurd notion of this forced pseudo-gangster reality of having to pay for shit constantly and everything having a dollar sign on it and having to always keep generating more “money”. And a whole shitload of the best screenplays and equally talented artists and directors will never see the light of day or even their first screening.

It’s talent – but it’s primarily serendipity and luck. The random hand of fate falls randomly on random yokels, random artists. Before Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino was a chatty, annoying yokel, a lot like a thousand other guys with talent and still unproduced and doing anything to get there. Tarantino is probably still as fundamentally insecure and as driven by superficiality as any of us yokel gangsters surviving the vicious violence of the food chain and the alienated, squabbling human species. He just has a bigger bank account now.

There’s a lot of good in his films, also. And there’s the fun of it. The escape. Outside of the financial element, Quentin is not making films for any other reason than to entertain.

Yeah, you’re right. It’s just a Tarantino film.

Big Kahuna burger

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Michael Reiss

Author: Michael Reiss

Film. Politix. Free Leonard Peltier. Free Tibet. Free America. Free food. Free shit. "Free yr mind and yr ass will follow."