I, like most people, am a big Quentin Tarantino fan. His movies are always fun to watch, with amazing dialogue and really cool characters. He hires great actors and gives them amazing scripts to work with, and almost always has some things up his sleeve to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. He likes to take on different genres he is a fan of, and put his own “spin” on them. Westerns? Sure – but let’s make it about a freed slave collecting bounties. Gangsters? OK – but let’s make it a whole different time period and not focus on the boss but the underlings and fringe players. War movie? Yep – but let’s do a World War II movie about Jewish American soldiers getting revenge on Nazis. You get the point – he takes what we expect and turns it on its ear (reference to Reservoir Dogs intended). Why am I writing about Tarantino? Because the trailer for his latest movie, “The Hateful Eight” just dropped and I can’t stop watching it Watch the Hateful Eight Trailer here. It has the great actors (including Samuel L. Jackson who seems to be to Tarantino what DeNiro was to Scorsese), the “Western” genre again, and a very new premise (as usual) – eight shady peeps in the old west, stuck in a bar together during a snow storm. Hilarity ensues (or more likely guns, cussing and lots of blood). The trailer looks GREAT and it got me thinking a good idea for the Friday “fun” blog this week would be to list my Top 5 Favorite Tarantino movies. As with all my lists – these are MY favorites – not based on box office success or critical reception. The only rule is that Quentin Tarantino was involved with it. I will also include with each film the “best scene” of the movie. “That’s a Bingo!” as Hans Landa would say. Let’s do this.
5. Pulp Fiction – I bet a lot of readers are going to think I have lost my mind with this movie being so low on the list of Top 5 Tarantino films. Look – I LOVED this movie, but compared to the others I am going to list it just doesn’t match up. I loved a lot about this movie – but try to take a step back for a minute. Most people love it because when it came out it was so new and different to anything they had seen before. The sequence of time was all over the place, the soundtrack was awesome, Travolta was back (!), The Wolf was cool and this was easily Samuel L. Jackson’s best role ever. Agree with all of that, but on (several) repeat viewings it loses a lot of this “newness” and doesn’t quite do it for me like other Tarantino films do. Look – I think there are absolutely several iconic scenes in this movie and the performances were all really great with some truly awesome dialogue. Travolta and Thurman dancing though? Go back to that whole sequence again and watch it impartially. Yeah – not as cool as you once thought. The movie needed to gives us more Jackson, but instead focused on Travolta and Willis. Jackson steals every scene he is in, and we needed more of him and Marcellus Wallace than we did a strung out hitman and a boxer with a French girlfriend (whose character is unbelievably annoying BTW). I know this sounds like I am taking a big steaming dump on this movie but trust me – I am not. It is number 5 on this list of great movies and an excellent movie in its own right – just not QT’s best – that’s all. Best Scene: The diner scene at the end, when Jackson a) shows he is a “bad motherfucker” with wallet to prove it and b) comes to grips with his fate in life Diner scene from Pulp Fiction
4. Kill Bill Volume 1 – Now we’re talking. This movie is amazing. Not as much of a fan of Volume II (although the whole Bill “Superman” speech at the end of Volume II might be the best movie dialogue ever written). This is a straightforward tale of REVENGE but takes the whole “Kung Fu” movie genre and, in typical QT fashion turns it upside down. No male lead kicking ass, nope – we have a truly bad-ass heroine as the hero taking names on her way to sweet sweet revenge on all who did her wrong – and by wrong I mean kill her (or almost kill her at least). Uma Thurman plays the role of “The Bride” better than anyone else could ever dream of doing. Like in Reservoir Dogs, most characters go by code names but that doesn’t mean we don’t get to know and hate most of them. The premise is simple, but the dialogue and action throughout makes this entertaining beyond belief. Of course, the last 40 minutes of this movie is what most fans will tell you what puts it over the top to “awesome” levels. When “The Bride” goes to Japan to face O-Ren Ishii and the crazy 88s – you have quite simply the most beautiful and yet bloody fight sequence in movie history. Arms, heads and legs fly everywhere, with literal fountains of blood spraying all over the place – and yet it is so masterfully done. The final battle between The Bride and Ishii in the snow covered garden is one of the most graceful fight scenes ever filmed – with little to no trickery involved. Brilliant film-making and a great, great movie. Two swords up! Best scene: The fight scene between The Bride and O’Ren Ishii at the end in the “House of Blue Leaves” The Battle in the “House of Blue Leaves”
3. Django Unchained – I took my wife to see this movie. She had only seen Pulp Fiction and really had no clue about Tarantino movies. I “convinced” her to go by telling her the “critics loved it – Academy Awards nominated!” and two words – “Leonardo DiCaprio”. Little did she know what she was getting into. To her credit – she LOVED this movie and couldn’t stop talking about it afterwards. The story of a slave taken in by a bounty hunter who then becomes his partner in crime collecting bounties, once again is turning the notion of a classic “Western” and turning it on its head. The hero is Django (“The J is silent”), who is not only collecting bounties on white heads, but also looking to rescue from slavery his wife, Broomhilda. Unfortunately, Broomhilda is the property of one major asshole Plantation owner, Calvin Candee (Leonardo DiCaprio against type). Thanks to the training of Dr. King Schultz, Django learns to be an absolute bad-ass bounty hunter and to work the whites to get what he needs. They concoct a plan to rescue Broomhilda and, per any QT film, LOTS of violence and revenge ensues. This movie is well acted and even more beautifully shot – it is nonstop entertainment from start to finish while tackling a very difficult and most non –entertaining subject and time. What a feat to pull off as a director and writer. Bonus points for Tarantino getting blown up by dynamite himself in a very funny yet satisfyingly vengeful scene. Best Scene – Django and his new friend, the bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz – want to see the sheriff. Dr. Schultz and The Sheriff
2. Inglorious Basterds – Such a great movie. I can just picture Tarantino thinking of the premise. Hmmm – we have seen a ton of World War II films and everyone hates the Nazis. What can I do differently? I know – we will have a team of Jewish “super-soldiers” who exact their revenge on Nazis and change the course of history while doing it. Only Tarantino, I imagine, could get a movie like that green-lit for production. And you know what? It is absolutely amazing. I am not much of a Brad Pitt fan, but dammit if he doesn’t give the performance of a lifetime here as Lt. Aldo Raine , leader of the Jewish “Basterds”. This never happened in history – but that doesn’t stop the movie from putting this team of soldiers smack dab in the middle of destroying the Nazis and killing Hitler himself. The story is tense and captures you from the get go. Yes – there are some classic Tarantino scenes of dialogue and violence – but this is more about the characters. You have Raine and his quest for Nazi scalps to collect, but you also have the tragic yet ultimately fantastic tale of revenge by “Shoshana”, a Jewish woman running a movie theater in France. Of course, the real star of this movie and one of my all-time favorite characters EVER is Hans Landa, played brilliantly by Christoph Waltz. One of the screen’s most horrifying villains ever, his performance is both scary and yet charming at the same time. You can actually see why he was so damn good at his job, but root for him to get what’s coming (and he sure does). His opening scene of the movie is one of the scariest and most tense scenes I have ever seen on film. This movie is so good it’s ridiculous. For all you Pulp Fiction fans pissed at that movie being number 5, tell me honestly – is it REALLY better than this? I thought so. Best scene – the one I just wrote about – Hans Landa personifying pure evil. Hans Landa and the dairy farmer
1. True Romance – Yep – my favorite Tarantino film ever wasn’t even directed by him, but he did write it. The story goes that when he got his first studio deal they made him choose – direct Reservoir Dogs or True Romance. He, as they say in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, “chose poorly”. Most people don’t even know that Tarantino wrote this – but he did – and the main character was slightly based on himself – a video store clerk. The story is simple. Video store clerk gets set up by his friends (unbeknownst to him) with a hooker on his birthday. They fall in love. He goes to “free” her from her pimp, gets in a gunfight, kills the pimp and takes his suitcase full of cocaine. They travel the country to California to sell the cocaine, make a ton of money and take off to live their lives together. Of course, things go wrong, the cops and gangsters start chasing them, and they meet an all star cast of hooligans along the way. This movie has so many great scenes and some of the best dialogue ever performed on screen. The movie is a literal “who’s who” of movie stars in the cast: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman and many more. The best scene in this movie, and perhaps one of the best scenes in movie history, is when Dennis Hopper (the hero’s dad) has a one on one with Gang Boss Christopher Walken. Two acting masters in perhaps the best scene of dialogue ever filmed. Best scene – Walken vs. Hopper – enjoy. Walken vs Hopper – Sicilians
What do you think? I know a lot of peeps are going to say “True Romance” over “Pulp Fiction”? and to them I say – yes – a thousand times yes. What are your favorite Tarantino movies? Are you as excited as I am for the Hateful Eight? Happy Friday and until next time – there is no spoon.