Split Decision: Tarantino's Greatest Hits
Welcome back to Split Decision! Each week, we pose a question to our staff of knowledgable and passionate film geeks and share the responses! We may never know if it is legal to park in the center of Broad Street, but we’ll answer movie questions all day long. Chime in on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments below!
This week’s question:
In honor of Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood, what is your favorite work by Quentin Tarantino?
While I appreciate Reservoir Dogs for having a character sit in a pool of his own blood for 90 minutes, the only Tarantino film I really like--is Jackie Brown. But I don't just like it; I really, really love it. Sure QT rips off--er, pays homage to--genre films, but he gets marvelous performances from Pam Grier and Robert Forster. And it may be because he was working from Elmore Leonard's source novel that he dialed down so many of the elements I don't like about his films. (The forced patter, the over-the-top violence, and the look-how-clever-I-am moments). Jackie Brown is the subtlest of QT movies, more of a character study than an action film. The who's-conning-whom narrative keeps viewers engaged and guessing (like Reservoir Dogs did) and it delivers a satisfying payoff. The film also benefits from a great soundtrack. And did I mention how great Pam Grier and Robert Forster are? Because they are the reason to see Jackie Brown. If I like little else he's done, I will be forever grateful that QT made Jackie Brown.
For a long time it was Pulp Fiction, but after revisiting Jackie Brown last year, I would say that is my clear favorite. A pulpy adaptation of Elmore Leonard (whose thumbprints were all over Tarantino's first two movies), and a showcase for Robert Forster and Pam Grier as two middle aged lovers trying to find their place in the sun before it's too late. The movie is a fascinating road not taken for Tarantino- it's a genre sandbox movie just like his other work, but it's also oozing with feeling and romance- a real movie for adults to enjoy. It inspired me to read Rum Punch, the Leonard novel it was based on, which only made me love it more.
My favorite is Kill Bill. It's just chock full of everything I love, and the final moments get me every time. I took my younger sister to see them in theaters, having just turned 18 myself when Vol 1 came out. I think it was the first time she thought I was actually cool, so I don't know that any Tarantino movie will ever live up to this watershed moment in my life.
This is a quick, indecisive, and complicated answer, but Tarantino is a complicated dude, so here we go. For pure rewatchability it's Kill Bill hands down. It's pure entertainment and I'm never not in the mood to watch it. I have a soft spot for IInglourious Basterds because anything tangentially related to WWII is catnip to me. Plus, it has a great short film (which has been mentioned by others) in it's opening, and who doesn't love a short film within a film? For some reason though, I feel like my favorite is Reservoir Dogs for reasons I can't quite articulate. It doesn't stick with me nearly as much as the other two (three) films, but I love it. Maybe it's Buscemi? It's probably Buscemi. I do love that man.
Fun fact: Ryan and I danced to "You Never Can Tell" at our wedding. Like we did the John Travolta/Uma Thurman dance. Partially because it's great, partially because I was embarrassed to slow dance because of our massive height difference.
Like Garrett, my favorite Tarantino film holds that distinction in part because of how I saw it. Because when I bought a ticket to Inglourious Basterds, I thought I was going to see a straight action movie in the vein of Kill Bill vol. 1. Like most people who saw Basterds in theaters, I didn't know who Christoph Waltz was, and I didn't know the two best scenes in the movie would be twenty-minute-long stretches of tense dialogue. As that first scene at the French cabin kept going and it became increasingly clear Brad Pitt wasn't going to burst in and save everybody with a machine gun in each hand, I got hypnotized. The movie is never going to surprise me the way it did the first time, but Once Upon a Time in Hollywood looks like it go in similarly weird directions, and that's why I'm looking forward to it so much. Whatever happens to Manson and Tate, however prominent Pitt and DiCaprio are, there are a bunch of actors whose roles aren't super clear, and the chance that Timothy Olyphant or somebody turns out to be this movie's Melanie Laurent is thrilling.
I love each of Tarantino’s first six films, each for different reasons. Pulp Fiction will be special not only for the reason Jill mentioned, but also because it turned my like of surf rock into a passion that has continued for my entire adult life. I also love Death Proof, not only for music-related reasons, but also because I loved taking two unsuspecting friends to a near-empty showing of Grindhouse in the theaters in college.
But Inglourious Basterds is hands down one of the best films I’ve ever seen. It’s a rare experience to see a nearly perfect film for the first time in a theater with a packed house. The kind of movie that is so captivating that you can barely remember to breathe let alone fully process what you’re seeing. The opening dairy farm and the later basement sequences are some of the most excellently rendered depictions of tension I’ve seen in any film. Tarantino has never been better.
For me, it has to be Pulp Fiction (with Inglourious Basterds coming in at a close second). It's one of the first movies that I watched as a teenager where I came away with an actual appreciation for filmmaking. I remember taking the time to think about what kind of effort and creativity it must have took to make a movie like this. Just getting me to think a little bit about these elements as a teenager shows the kind of impact it had on me. Tarantino's use of the non-linear story line in combination with his approach to dialogue were just a couple of things that really floored me when I first saw it. Fortunately, it still holds up as one of my favorite films.
Detractors call Tarantino derivative, and while that may be true to an extent, his ability to skillfully draw from such a large pool of inspiration is what makes him a bit of a savant. Perhaps that's why my favorite Tarantino film is his most derivative of all: Death Proof.
Instead of making a shiny grindhouse update like his buddy Robert Rodriguez did with Planet Terror, Tarantino made a film that could have been transplanted directly to the mid 70s and blended in seamlessly. Death Proof is meta in a conceptual sense only. In action it's a lean, mean thrill ride that would feel right at home at the drive-in. It's got badass ladies, an insane prolonged stunt set-piece, and a truly bonkers villain in Stuntman Mike, played to iconic perfection by Kurt Russell.
Tarantino's best is Inglourious Basterds, but my favorite will always be Death Proof.
Django Unchained made me cheer in the theatre. I love a good stylized spaghetti western and it's gross in all the best ways. Jamie Foxx, Christoph Walz, and Leonardo DiCaprio are at the top of their game. It's unapologetic and wild.