Friday, August 6, 2010
Greatest Hollywood Films Of All Time: Part II: The Tarantino Magic
Posted by Lakshya
Part I: Greatest Hollywood Films of All Time
For a long time, whenever an upcoming director would be noticed for his work he would get the label of “the next Scorsese” or “the next Spielberg”. But for more than a decade directors are finding themselves fighting to be called “the next Tarantino”. Quentin Tarantino is one of the most admired screenwriters in Hollywood, and also the most copied. It’s lucky for us viewers that most of these Tarantino-wanna-be-screenplays don’t end up getting produced, and the lack of success of the ones that do get made is obvious - there is only room for one Tarantino, and thankfully he hasn’t disappointed us yet.
He has written 9 original full-length feature screenplays (6 of which he directed himself) and 1 novel adaptation - all of which are great - and 4 of them are on my greatest films of all time list:
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Tarantino’s directorial debut, the favorite of all film festivals in 1992 that raised the bar for all to follow, the cult classic, the first ever Tarantino Mexican-standoff, and still the best heist film that didn’t actually show the heist itself. More on this film’s awesomeness below.
Greatness Elements: characters, dialogue.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
The oscar-winning screenplay. The non-linear story-line has seldom been executed well, and this film holds the top spot in that category. It also restarted John Travolta’s career, and was also the first time the masses saw the character Samuel L. Jackson will always be known for. It was also probably the least violent Tarantino film, proving that he doesn’t need guns and shootouts to create a masterpiece.
Greatness Elements: screenplay, direction, Bruce Willis.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 (2003, 2004)
The most unusual, truly unique and original film in Tarantino’s portfolio. If Pulp Fiction is his greatest accomplishment in terms of quality, this is his greatest accomplishment in terms of creativity. The story was quite simple - a woman, left for dead by her “colleagues” on her wedding day, embarks on a journey to kill her fiance's murderers. A pretty simple revenge story - told visually like a graphic novel, with plenty japanese manga moments. Add in the Tarantino dialogues and characters, and you’ve got a true genre classic. Initially planned as one film, it was split into two due to studio and producer requests. Can’t wait for Vol. 3, set to come out in 2014.
Greatness Elements: fight sequences, The Bride, the hit list, direction.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
My favorite Tarantino film - I was sold at the first chapter in France. The title may have been borrowed - and artfully modified with a genius stroke - but the content is pure gold and has the Tarantino trademark written all over it. His most ambitious and mature work till date. The screenplay deserved an Oscar.
Greatness Elements: the cast, characters, screenplay, music, direction, attention to detail, dialogues, the first chapter, the basement sequence.
In a film class earlier this year I argued that in Tarantino’s scripts the first 99% is the time between when a gun is drawn till when it is shot. It may be a fraction of a second but may also seem likea lifetime - and that the end of the film, i.e., the last 1%, is unimportant; that is, the conclusion to a shoot-out doesn’t interest Tarantino. In other words, Tarantino’s films carry the tension and energy of the last seconds before a mexican stand-off - with the shooting itself just being a necessary task to finish the plot. He is not interested in the life story of his characters, only their last (or near-death) moments. He may rush through their lives, through flashbacks and quick intros or backgrounds, but he never rushes their final moments.
The is evident in his directorial debut, Reservoir Dogs, where Mr. Orange’s (played by Tim Roth) final moments, from the moment after he gets shot till he dies, act as the beginning and end of the film. Here the entire film is on a timer, lasting as long as Mr. Orange does. It seems as though this is a tool used by Tarantino to contain his stories or thought processes, and by placing guns in the hands of his characters he feels more comfortable when preparing and sending them off to their death. Once a character is certain to die, he is no longer interested in them, hence the quick shootouts, seen in almost all of his work, that kill almost everyone in the room (an example would be the basement sequence in Basterds).
It is apparent that Tarantino’s imagination knows no bounds, and the certainty of violence, along with a Mexican stand-off if possible, seem to assure his audience of his ability to tell a story.
Part 3: Greatest Hollywood Films of All Time - Pixar
Part 4: Greatest Hollywood Films of All Time