Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Top 5 Movie Guide: Quentin Tarantino

For the latest edition of the Top 5 Movie Guide, we turn our attentions to filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, writer & director of this week's "Django Unchained". Quentin Tarantino always had a flare for entertainment, but directing wasn't what he initially wanted to do. While in high school, he was so sure that he wanted to be an actor, that he dropped out at age 16 so he could attend James Best Theatre Company full-time. After two years of acting instruction, however, he grew bored of the medium and dropped out. He then went on to work at a video rental store, where he says he gained his inspiration for becoming a director. While there, he would have in-depth conversations with customers and fellow movie enthusiasts about cinema and video recommendations, always paying close attention to the types of films that people liked. Because of these experiences, Tarantino states "when people ask me if I went to film school, I tell them, 'no, I went to films'".


Starting out with a few short films, finally, in 1992, Tarantino made "Reservoir Dogs". It took him only three weeks to write, and instantly studios were interested in backing him in the creation of the film. The first place it was ever shown was the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the top prize, the Palme D'Or Award. The film - and Tarantino himself - were instant critical successes. Two years later, he wrote and directed "Pulp Fiction", a film which earned two Academy Award nominations, including that for Best Picture (Tarantino won for Best Original Screenplay).

He's directed only a handful of other films since then, insisting on only working on films in which he's written - he was offered to direct both "Men in Black" and "Speed" but turned both of them down. He's written a few screenplays in which he did not direct, including those of "True Romance" (1993) and "From Dusk Till Dawn" (1996).

He appears in most of his films in bit roles, loves citing cult film and television hits in his screenplays, and, in probably his most-known trademark, regularly includes various "empty scenes" in his films - scenes in which extensive dialogue is exchanged between characters, but the content does little to advance the plot (the 'Royale with Cheese' scene in "Pulp Fiction" remains the most famous of such to-date).

There isn't the largest variety of films available for this list, but even still, hit the jump to see which titles made the cut - and, maybe more importantly, what order they ended up in!

Alex Schopp -
I think we were supposed to focus solely on films in which Tarantino directed, but since only the first two films on this list are favorites from that category (since we cannot yet include "Django Unchained"), I'm also going to include a few titles in which he's written. I know they don't hold as much weight, but it was the only way I could fill out this list. Also, I still haven't seen "Jackie Brown". I know I need to rectify that, but I haven't yet found the motivation to do so.

     1. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
I feel like "Pulp Fiction" is meant to be atop this list, but I just had so much fun with this film. I have never been a big Tarantino fan, but this film got me excited about his work for the first time in a long time. So at this moment in my life, this is the film I'm going back to the most. There's a lot to love here.
     2. Pulp Fiction (1994)
This movie's biggest problem is that it's just so overdone. I'd love to see my reaction to this movie coming out today. I can still appreciate and see its greatness, but I'm over it in a lot of ways. It goes in phases though; I might love this more tomorrow.
     3. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
He doesn't direct here, but he wrote the screenplay, acted in the film, and passed the reigns to longtime friend Robert Rodriguez, who was mentored by Tarantino. So this is pretty close. This makes my Top 5 Vampire List, and I just love the grindhouse nature this one has to offer. Plenty of fun to be had here.
     4. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
This movie gets way too talky for me - I know all of Tarantino's films do, but this one stands out as the most excessive. But how many times have people copied (in some form) that slow-motion intro scene since? It's a beautiful shot that works so well.
     5. True Romance (1993)
The first film that Tarantino wrote and directed was a short titled "My Best Friend's Birthday". While the final reel was destroyed long ago, its script actually became the basis for this film, the first in which he wrote but did not direct. As for the film, I'm pretty sure it's made some other Top 5 list before, but I don't remember which one(s). I love the craziness and excessive violence it has to offer; you can see Tarantino's stamp all over it.

Ben Foutch -

     1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

     2. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

     3. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

     4. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

     5. Jackie Brown (1997)



Derek Clem -
This ranking feels so arbitrary.

     1. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Brad Pitt is quite funny and Mélanie Laurent is astonishing.
     2. Jackie Brown (1997)
I like how low key this movie is when compared to other Tarantino movies, and yet it still manages to feel like a Tarantino movie.
     3. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 & 2 (2003 & 2004)
I tried to find a way to separate these two, but just couldn't do it.
     4. Pulp Fiction (1994)
If this movie was playing on a movie channel, you could guarantee my Step Dad was watching it... So I'd watch it with him!
     5. Death Proof (2007)
As to expect in all Tarantino movies, the dialogue runs long, But Snake Plissken... I mean Stuntman Mike makes up for it.

Nathan Hinds -
I really don't like Quentin Tarantino. I think he's one of the most annoying and arrogant directors in Hollywood. The guy thinks he's a god, and it seems like he forces the actors who are in his movies to rave about him. I think he's a really overrated director. That being said, I can't wait to see "Django Unchained".

     1. Sin City (2005)
It's not a coincidence that he only directed like one scene in this film and it's #1 on my list. This movie is awesome; if he had been the official director, I guarantee it wouldn't have been as good.
     2. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Again, it's not a coincidence that his only involvement with this film is a supporting acting role.
     3. Inglorious Bastards (2009)
This was the first Tarantino film that I was really looking forward to, but mainly because of how sweet Brad Pitt's role looked. Brad Pitt was in fact awesome; the rest was just good, not great.
     4. Pulp Fiction (1994)
One of the most overrated movies. Ever. There's only a couple scenes that I enjoy.
     5. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Way too much talking. The cast is good, and I always love Steve Buscemi.

Andy Schopp -
I'm not a huge Quentin Tarantino fan, but I appreciate the work he has done in Hollywood, and I admire his gusto. He sticks to his guns and makes what he means to make without backing down. And even though his style isn't my favorite, his ability to inspire tension through dialogue is unmatched.

     1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

     2. Jackie Brown (1997)

     3. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 & 2 (2003 & 2004)

     4. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

     5. Death Proof (2007)



So there we have it, folks. A few more titles above thanks to a couple of writers venturing out from the standard protocol, but overall, still all films that lend their creation to Quentin Tarantino. For this list, with so few titles to pick from, we knew that the biggest aspect in seeing which films came out on top would be in the order they appeared - everyone was going to have the same handful of titles; where they each landed was the question. Still, only one film appeared on all five lists, and also grabbed two first-place votes. To no surprise, that film was "Pulp Fiction". This was the mainstream breakout title from Tarantino, and one that earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.

Two films appeared on four of the five lists: "Reservoir Dogs" and "Inglourious Basterds". Basterds grabbed two more first-place votes, and ended up with an average ranking of 2.25 compared to Reservoir's 4.0. Basterds actually earned Tarantino his other set of Oscar nominations, again for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture.

"Jackie Brown" and the Kill Bill films appeared on three lists apiece, while "Death Proof" and "From Dusk Till Dawn" made their way onto two each. A good assortment of titles here, but this is where you really start to get into polarizing opinions with his work. Each of these titles were ranked fairly high on the lists they appeared on, but were left off of others entirely. Each of these is definitely worth checking out to judge for yourself, but it's clear that these aren't as powerful of films as some of the other titles listed above.

As always, we hope that each of these selections helps you to expand your knowledge and appreciation of some of the best films that this Quentin Tarantino has provided over the years, and guides you to better and more enjoyable all-around viewing experiences.

Happy watching!