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Redbeard

No, Lance.

The filmmaking of Woody Allen and QT share a careful attention to dialog. They differ in that QT is focused on criminals and lower class people, and Woody Allen is about intelligentsia and wealthy people. Probably because Quentin is a lower class kid who made it big without going to film school.

Quentin Tarantino may not celebrate women by making them look like china dolls the way Hitchcock did with Kim Novak in Vertigo, and most directors seem to think the only thing to do with a woman is make her look good. Women do things besides just look good in his movies. In Pulp Fiction, at the beginning of the story with Vincent Vega taking out his boss' wife for an evening, every cliche says they end up in bed together. But the story and her character go in a very surprising direction.

I gotta go deal with the toddler, but I'll be back.

To be continued.

Mike Schilling

The Cohn brothers also love movies. Most of their movies are really about other movies.

Karen

I gotta agree with you, Lance. Tarantino doesn't love movies, he loves knowing about movies. He loves certain things about a certain genre of movies, on which he has developed an encyclopedic knowledge, and that is interprested as brilliance, love, scholarship, etc.

I thought the piece you wrote back after "Grindhouse" came out was genius, by the way. It encapsulated why I've never been a QT fan (tho' not why I can't abide to listen to his manic, seemingly meth-fueled conversational style). As to attention to dialogue--give me a Julie Stein or a Hecht&MacArthur screenplay over QT any damn day of the week.

Redbeard

I'm back.

"Tarantino doesn't love movies.

"From what I can tell, Tarantino is obsessed with certain sub-genres of movies, but I don't think he loves those movies. He's intent on re-creating, over and over again, favorite tropes, sequences, and effects."

I surrender, Lance. You win. Tarantino does not love movies.

I'm going to go pop open a beer and watch Army of Darkness for the umpteenth time.

Ken

"Tarantino is careful with his camera only to make sure it's where he needs it to be to capture a stunt or a gag."

That sums up his aesthetic perfectly. I admire his use of people like Michael Parks and Pam Grier, but his vision doesn't seem to have progressed one iota through the years. He seems resolutely wedded to an adolescent concept of drive-in movie reality.

Rob Farley

"It's not movies or books or art or music they're passionate about. They have embraced these particular works or set of works because those works speak directly to that part of their psyche where their personal myths are generated and stored. They allow the fanboys to connect with and make sense of the stuff their nightmares are made of.

The movies Tarantino pays homage to, Spillane's Mike Hammer novels, Frazetta's illustrations, and heavy metal are full of violence, rage, an ambivalence towards female sexuality bordering on disgust, and both an idealization of and a hostility towards women obviously motivated by feelings of insecurity, impotence, and unworthiness."

I don't know, Lance; I think you're 100% off on this one. I suppose it might be defensible to say that Tarantino doesn't love cinema in the same sense that Woody Allen does, although I would hesitate to try to interpret their attitudes through class. I think even that it might be sensible to claim that Tarantino loves (and perhaps loves too much) the experience of cinema, particulary as captured within a 70ish quasi-hipster feel. But I can't at all agree with your last statement; QTs attitudes towards female sexuality are certainly ambivalent, but I would never concede they the border on disgust, insecurity, etc. Really, I think that the only audience to whom that statement would be defensible is an audience that has never seen any films other than those of QTs.

That's not to say that QT isn't a flawed director; he has a series of obsessions that detract from his filmmaking, but even the obsessions are kind of interesting to me.

Lance

Rob,

I was sloppy in those two paragraphs. I wasn't describing the movies Tarantino makes. I was talking about the old movies he seems most enthusiastic about and I just don't understand how anyone could love---as opposed to being thrilled, titillated, enthralled, etc. by---those movies, even when he was 17. And I don't see any signs in his movies that Tarantino does love those movies, only that he is stilled thrilled, titillated, etc. My question in the title of the post is a sincere one. Which, if any, of those movies does he in fact love and where is that love in any of his movies?

As for Tarantino's flaws, there were things about Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown that I didn't like, but on the whole I thought they were both pretty good movies despite the flaws. (Reservoir Dogs was an interesting warm-up piece.) But with the Kill Bills and now the whole Grindhouse project, it's not so much a matter to me that he has flaws, it's that he seems to have gotten stuck. Which brings me to:

Redbeard, I'm not trying to win anything here. Just understand something I've been trying to understand since the first Kill Bill, which is why would someone with the talent and opportunities that Tarantino has have spent the last decade (Jackie Brown came out in 1997)trying to re-create in Ken's apt phrase above, "an adolescent concept of drive-in movie reality"?

You brought up an interesting point there about Allen vs. Tarantino. Woody is another working class/lower middle class kid who didn't go to film school, but except for Take the Money and Run and Radio Days he's never made a movie exploring that side of himself and his past. I don't count the flashbacks in Annie Hall because the family's actual status isn't an issue. What matters more there is that they're Jewish and therefore a very different sort of family than the one Annie grew up in.

I'm don't know if Tarantino's obsession with criminals is necessarily a class thing, though. It strikes me as more of a movie buff thing and a violence thing. I do wonder, though, if his obsession with schlock is a kind of reverse snobbery, a turning up his nose at film school elitism and effetism.

Mikey in Plano

Back in the glory days of the hair-band '80s, I knew a couple of aspiring musicians. Both played guitar and were in bands, trying to make it big. And both, as it turns outs, were really into heavy metal -- speed/death metal for one, acid rock for the other.

So are you telling me that actual fricking musicians don't love music because the kind of music they play does what again? Because the object of love is misogynist and violent and full of self-loathing? What?

You've got to be aware that when the object of love is a person, this proposition is proved false every single day. But when it's art, it's not love?

Frankly, this part of your argument, "Heavy Metal fans don't really love music," borders on self-refuting.

Art, and for matter reality, has proven time and time again that love need not be wise, moral, or psychologically healthy to be true or passionate. And as far as the object of love needing to be worthy of it, I mean, fucking come on.

...

So, compared to perhaps the greatest director of all time, Tarantino comes off the worse.

Wow, no shit.

This part of your argument might be a tad more convincing if it were more along the lines of -- "Michael Bay or Andy Sidaris is a better director than Tarantino because..." [insert miracle here] "... thus proving that Tarantino doesn't really love movies."

But only a tad more convincing. Consider the example of Ed Wood -- the movie, not the actual person, mind you.

This movie proves once and for all (yeah, I'm naive enough to believe that art can convey us Truth, irregardless to its historical or biographical accuracy) that talent in doing and love for a particular art form are completely irrelevant, and that love can be a beautiful thing, even if its results are not at all.

Oh, and when you finished watching Ed Wood (I'm guessing that you have, or will at some point), did you sneer, "Wood sure liked hanging out with Bela Lugosi." If not, which Tarantino's relationships with his actors and actress are fundamentally different, and how. Please site specific examples.

...

I doubt you'll find any of this particularly convincing, since apparently, to "love movies" means something very different to you.

If I were to start out trying to defend the proposition "Quentin Tarantino loves movies," I wouldn't bother trying address any of the issues you've raised. I would write about the actual help and encouragement he's given other film-makers, actors and actresses, his active participation in his local film-making and film-watching community, his adherence to his vision, the fact that he has a vision, his determination to improve his technical skills, and his drive to push the boundaries of his abilities. I'd cite specific examples of these things.

But honestly, it would never occur to me that I'd need to explain how they're actually relevant to whether or not he loves movies.

I guess I can though, if I need to.

Lance

No, Mikey,

I'm saying that being into heavy metal is not proof that the metalhead is into all music or even most kinds of music. It just shows that he's into that music. It may be that he also likes other kinds of stuff. Your old musician friends might also have liked Beethoven and polkas and jazz and opera, but would I have been able to tell that just by listening to them play? Did they let their other, non-metallic influences show through their music? If Tarantino loves any movies besides grindhouse schlock it doesn't show in his movies. At least I don't see where it shows.

Then of course there's the question when you're talking about rock and roll of any kind---how many people love it because it's music or because it's part of the sex, drugs, and rock and roll equation? How many guys over the last 50 years have picked up a guitar not because they wanted to be musicians but because they wanted to be famous...or get laid?

There are actors who hate acting, lawyers who despise the law, doctors who don't want to see any patients, teachers who get sick at the thought of facing a classroom full of students---why can't there be a movie director who doesn't in fact like movies?

As for your last point, that proves that Tarantino likes the business and the busy-ness of making movies, he likes the people he works with, and he's a nice guy who works hard. As far as pushing his vision, though, and improving his technical skills, my point is that I don't see where in the Kill Bills and Grindhouse he does either of those things. But, as I wrote in response to Rob's comment, my question is a sincere one. I want to know. So if you can cite those specific examples, I'd appreciate it and I'd be certainly willing to change my opinion if they're convincing.

PS. Ed Wood is a good counter-example. He clearly did love movies. He just wasn't very good at making them himself. And it's a question: Might an aspiring artist's love for other artists' work actually get in the way of their being any good in their own right? To put it another way, might Tarantino be a better director because he doesn't love movies the way movie buffs like me do?

Mikey in Plano

It may be that he also likes other kinds of stuff. Your old musician friends might also have liked Beethoven and polkas and jazz and opera, but would I have been able to tell that just by listening to them play?

So, I guess that because Faulkner never wrote a sci-fi book it follows that he wasn't really into literature. And that slacker Matisse never wrote a musical, did he?

Genre-crossing is certainly admirable, when it's actually successful, but does it really matter when assessing an artist's love for his art form? Isn't more typically the case that an artist uses certain preferred styles and and sticks to specific genres? In fact, an actual artist is almost always much more limited in their tastes than a general fan. Artistic judgment and that, right?

You seem to be implying that all Tarantino needs to do is direct a romantic comedy with Drew Barrymore and Matthew McConaughey and a heartwarming inspirational sports movie where Matt Damon coaches of group of misfits overcome the odds to win the big game (and Sandra Bullock's heart) to prove that he loves movies.

I submit to you that this is bullshit. And obviously so.

Mikey in Plano

Gah.

"...where Mat Damon coaches a group of misfits to overcome the odds to win the big game (and Sandra Bullock's heart)..."

Mikey in Plano

...might Tarantino be a better director because he doesn't love movies the way movie buffs like me do?

Actually, your last comment clarifies what bugs me about your argument.

You seem to believe, without actually stating that "love of art" = buffism, a general, not too specific love of a particular art.

While I have no problem with buffery, I submit to you that fanaticism, passionate love of a particular style, genre, artist, or work, is equally valid as "love of art", and more typical among those who actually create art. Because let's face it, love of something always implies hatred, or at least supreme indifference for something else.

Frankly, anyone who can't make a passionate argument one way or another about, for example, Burroughs vs. Updike, is shallow at best, gutless at worst.

Lance

No, Mikey, it's not even proof that Faulkner didn't love Sci-fi. It's just not proof of anything. On the other hand, Faulkner wrote a detective story, worked on the screenplay to a mystery, The Big Sleep, and wrote a novel, Sanctuary, that is clearly influenced by detective stories and mystery thrillers, and from all that it's pretty safe to deduce that he liked detective stories.

I'm asking what can be deduced from his movies about what movies Tarantino loves?

Loving movies doesn't mean loving all movies and it certainly doesn't mean slavishly imitating bad movies, which as it happens is what Tarantino has been doing. Tarantino doesn't need to make a sentimental romantic comedy, although after a while most auteurs have found ways to step out of and away from the genres that they made their reps in. (Scorsese, being the prime example.) I would just like to see him make one that wasn't an extended inside joke.

Lance

PS.

Mikey, I didn't equate loving movies with being a buff. I listed some specific qualities about moviemaking that I think would show that a director actually loves movies and that I don't see anywhere in Tarantino's work. Nowhere do I suggest that the only way to love movies is to be a buff. The only thing I said about being a buff is that I am one and I asked if being a buff could get in the way of being a good artist. You sort of answered the question without noticing that I'd asked it with a yes, it does.

Lance

PPS.

Frankly, anyone who can't make a passionate argument one way or another about, for example, Burroughs vs. Updike, is shallow at best, gutless at worst.

Well, I don't much care for either of them for different reasons, so I can't be passionate in either's defense. I could, if I had more time, make a passionate argument for why Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Francois Truffaut, and even Mel Brooks are better directors than Quentin Tarantino. But that's neither here nor there. Everybody can't be nor do they have to be great to be good. My main point still stands, Tarantino's last two (or three, depending on how you count the Kill Bills) don't strike me as worth the time or effort of someone of Tarantino's talent or his supposed love of movies.

Redbeard

Mikey--Faulkner did write a sort of fantasy/alternate history short story. A President in the 1800s finds that Native Americans are crowding the white people out, even in the White House. Been a while since I read it but it was in a Complete Volume of Faulkner short stories. But that's a minor detail.

Lance--"I'm don't know if Tarantino's obsession with criminals is necessarily a class thing, though. It strikes me as more of a movie buff thing and a violence thing. I do wonder, though, if his obsession with schlock is a kind of reverse snobbery, a turning up his nose at film school elitism and effetism."
I didn't know about Woody Allen's humble beginnings, but one story that I had in mind is Woody was filming a scene of rich people in an art museum, and decided that his actors weren't behaving like rich people. I think Quentin Tarantino has a similar sense for lower middle class people and their culture. In my experience, people will sit around an argue about comic books or what's the best Star Trek episode. It's a mundane detail of American life that had rarely (if ever) made it into films until Tarantino brought it into vogue. These sorts of conversations are a lower/middle class thing, because the lower and middle classes are steeped in schlocky pop culture. They are also steeped in the kind of racism that leads white men to throw around the N-word amongst themselves as a way of appearing macho. When Tarantino picks up on this stuff and puts it in his movies, it adds a underrepresented facet of verisimilitude to counterbalance the obviously artifical stuff like the projected background in Esmeralda Villalobos' cab, or the model of Tokyo in Kill Bill. This sort-of lower class (non-high-falutin') sensibility in QT's films differentiates him from other directors.

But, overall, Lance, I don't know what to say in response to your post that he doesn't "love movies." Some people see a movie as a movie and some people see a movie as art. I think director Quentin Tarantino and critic Joe Bob Briggs are in the former category, and director Woody Allen and critic Lance Mannion are in the latter.

Mikey in Plano

I've managed to lose track of both my argument and yours, so please allow me to round up some rabbits, before trying to move forward.

No, Mikey, it's not even proof that Faulkner didn't love Sci-fi. It's just not proof of anything.

And yet, Tarantino's failure to make a movie outside of his preferred sub-genres is proof of... what again?

I just threw out Burroughs vs. Updike as an example, it's fine with me that you dislike them both, as far as this argument goes. I'm sure I should have clarified that loving literature isn't relevant to liking either or both or neither. I probably shouldn't have included it at all, I got carried away with the fanatic/buff divide.

You are correct, I flat-out misread your point about movie buffness. I assumed you were saying the opposite because of your remarks in the original post about fans of Spillane, Frazetta, and heavy metal. Of course, I'm now completely confused about your original point concerning fans of Spillane, Frazetta, and heavy metal.

As for your last point, that proves that Tarantino likes the business and the busy-ness of making movies...

The reason I believe those things are important, and more relevant than those you've so far raised, is because film is a business, and the relative selectiveness that Tarantino has displayed in who he collaborates with and assists implies to me a specific vision of movies, and thus a love for it as an art form.

There's nothing wrong, per se, in making a movie for money, sex, or prestige, and then turning around and making one for art, as is fairly common now, but the fact that Tarantino only makes and supports movies that he cares about tells me something about him. And that something is that he loves movies.

The original exploitation movies were made for money. At least, we can pretend that for argument's sake. Doesn't the fact that Tarantino still makes these kind of movies imply something? You say that he's "slavishly imitating bad movies" which could just as easily, though less pejoratively phrased, "lovingly imitating bad movies." I mean, do I "slavishly" drive my kids to sports? If your belief is that "Tarantino doesn't love movies, he's obsessed with (certain elements of kinds of) them," that implies a level of psychological insight to which I'm not sure any of us are privy.

On the other hand, if you have a handy-dandy calculation for determining obsession vs. love, by all means, lay it on us!

Or am I misreading that point as well?

"As far as pushing his vision, though, and improving his technical skills..."

I haven't seen Death Proof, and I've only watched the first volume of Kill Bill so I'll admit to some guesswork here. Kill Bill was by far the most ambitious movies he's made as far as special effects go. The wire fu, the inclusion of a anime sequence, he'd yet to make anything like that before. Death Point appears to be even more effects heavy (see caveat above).

Now, you may well argue that this pushing of technical skills would be better spent in say, characterization, and I may well agree, but really, WTF do we know? I'm sure if he wanted to make character heavy flick, he would. After all, he's still pretty young, as far as directors go.

Tarantino's last two... don't strike me as worth the time or effort of someone of Tarantino's talent...

The vision thing here. So Tarantino does't make movies for you. Or me, in Death Proof's case. This is, IMHO, a necessary, though not sufficient, characteristic of the truly great artists. They are supposed to be ahead of curve. So Tarantino is behind it. Maybe that makes him a bad artist. But it doesn't mean that he doesn't love movies.

Perhaps he loves them too much. If your point is that he's obsessed, not in love, I supposed I'd have to grant that possibility. Certainly, I think it would take a pretty robust theory on the difference between the two (one that I don't have, and have yet to see one from you), and a more detail knowledge of Tarantino's corpus than I've got.

Redbeard, I must admit I was a bit nervous that some one with more knowledge of Faulkner would rub something like Absalom and the A-Bomb in my face. But unless the Native Americans were allying with the elves, or improving their lot with robots in the story, I don't feel too bad.

Dr Blight

It's probably a mistake to judge Tarantino's love for movies from those he makes, but largely I agree with your appraisal Lance. Quentin's output betrays all the naivety and frustrated simplification of a guns-tits-swearing-obsessed man-boy.

MBunge

"but the fact that Tarantino only makes and supports movies that he cares about tells me something about him. And that something is that he loves movies."

No, Lance is right. That stuff only proves that Tarantino is in love with a particular concept or vision of movies.

To me, when you look at QT you can see a clear arc. Resevoir Dogs setting the stage for the full flower of the Tarantino vision in Pulp Fiction, then QT trying to take a step away from that vision in Jackie Brown, getting a poor response from critics and the audience, churning out something even more overblown and idiosyncratic in Kill Bill and then letting his preoccupations overwhelm him in Death Proof.

Mike

p m

why does everyone talk about kill bill as if part 2 didn't happen? underneath it all, it's a domestic drama. the last act is half an hour of talking, cuddling and crying interrupted only briefly by a 5-point exploding heart technique kill move. probably still not turgid enough for people who like woody allen when he's trying to be bergmann, but i thought the ending, with the bride weeping noiselessly on the bathroom floor while her daughter watches cartoons on the motel TV, was genuine and moving. "the lioness has rejoined her cub", etc.

and how did the phrase "an idealization of and a hostility towards women obviously motivated by feelings of insecurity, impotence, and unworthiness" get applied to tarantino, *as opposed to* hitchcock -- the guy who had janet leigh wear a white bra when she was good and a black bra when she was bad, then put her in the shower and slashed her to pieces using 70 camera angles and 90 quick-cut edits in 45 seconds?

and you say, "People who love movies love stories and characters."

no! -- people *who love stories and characters* love stories and characters, wherever they find them (in movies, books, blogs, etc). movies do all sorts of other things besides present stories and characters, so in a sense, people who mostly love stories and characters probably don't really love movies all that much. they certainly don't like movies much, much more than they like books or other story-and-character sources -- as you can be sure tarantino and his fans do.

are story and character really so important in movies? is "2001: a space odyssey" a good movie? if so, is it because of its story, or its characters? how about godard, he's a pretty good director, right? which do you like better, his stories or his characters?

the most charitable account i can give of what you're trying to say might be: "quentin tarantino likes B movies, and is a B movie director himself. i wish people would stop getting so excited by him and his B movies. they're not serious (or ambitious, or well-made) enough to be important. in my opinion, B movies aren't really movies at all (just like detective novels aren't really literature, and heavy metal isn't really music)."

but that's not an argument, it's an irritable gesture. you're essentially saying "why shouldn't everyone like what i like?". well, because people are different -- see?

M. Duss

As far as pushing his vision, though, and improving his technical skills, my point is that I don't see where in the Kill Bills and Grindhouse he does either of those things.

Pushing his vision, arguable, but there's no denying that Tarantino very impressively developed his technical skills in shooting and editing action for the Kill Bill movies. The trailer fight scence between Uma and Darryl is a tour de force of sustained frenzy, wrapped up with a signature QT gag. With Kill Bill and Grindhouse, I think he was trying to do what Lucas and Spielberg did with Raiders of the Lost Ark: pay tribute to the moves that turned him on as a kid, but bigger, better, more.

If anything, I think Tarantino loves films too much, and approaches them too uncritically, entirely on their own terms. It's clear that the very idea of films delights him, and I don't understand why this is a bad thing. I see him as kind of like the Jack Black character in School of Rock, in love with film in all of it's pompous, overblown glory.

Lance

Matt Duss: I see him as kind of like the Jack Black character in School of Rock, in love with film in all of its pompous, overblown glory.

Ok, put it that way, and I can see it. In fact, I like that!

Although it makes me want to watch School of Rock again, not Death Proof.

burritoboy

"I see him as kind of like the Jack Black character in School of Rock, in love with film in all of it's pompous, overblown glory."

Interesting that you mention a Richard Linklater film in trying to understand Tarantino. First, it's notable that Dewey Finn isn't even an artist of any sort and clearly is a person actually very far away from taking even the first steps to becoming one. Second, Finn begins the film with absolutely no self-knowledge or self-understanding (he firmly believes he will eventually become one of the greatest rock stars ever when this is clearly nonsensical). Third, Finn's knowledge of music actually damages his life (and threatens to destroy it) until he's forced into a political or leadership situation where he is forced to move from becoming a music hobbyist to music actually being something serious (and it is a political need that forces that shift - he needs to lead his students).

All this combines to begin to point to Linklater's opinion about Finn (which we can expand to Tarantino) at the beginning of the film - he's a music fanatic, but the music is actually fairly meaningless or shallow to him. His knowledge of music trivia by itself doesn't make him deeper, or wiser, or more profound. Without a point to that music trivia (which Finn gets over the course of the film through a political conflict), it made him a more trivial or shallow person rather than a better or more profound one.

Victoria

You're onto something for sure...

I was running a one-month college program called CONVERSATIONS WITH FILMMAKERS around the time that Pulp Fiction came out. My male students were wild for Pulp Fiction. Meanwhile, every single visiting filmmaker had little positive to say about the film and, knowing films and film history far better than any of the students, they were merciless in pointing out how derivative that film is. It became a test to the guys who sat in the back of the room- to find one friggin' guest speaker who loved Tarantino as they did. Never happened.

I kept my own opinion to myself until the day the guest screenwriter (an Academy Award winner, and deservedly so) came to talk. I ran my theory by him. My theory goes something like this: "Every writer has a file of bits and pieces - notes on disconnected moments that float into consciousness...in the shower, while walking the dog, whatever. Often such ideas are extreme in nature. You throw them in the file and hope maybe someday you can use them. My sense in watching that film was that two guys emptied out their folders on the floor and started moving those bits around until they found a way to piece a bunch of extreme moments together into a script. Surely that story did not come from a central soul."

The screenwriter literally yelled, "YES! That's exactly it!!"

Which is all a way of explaining that I think movies are a drug to Tarantino. He enjoys a certain kind of high (as described ably by LM) and he gives us the same. Which, I suppose, has some golden rule in it... but I don't think his work holds up over time. It does, however, tell us something about *these* times.

Alex G.

Do you guys use a wine glass when you smell your own farts, or does a simple garden hose suffice?

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