Posted on November 22nd, 2019
My favorite director is Quentin Tarantino.
I love every one of his films, and the fact that he writes his own material is just icing on the cake. His encyclopedic knowledge of cinema gives him the perfect toolbox for creating perfect movies. He knows what works and what doesn't work, and puts only the stuff that works into his art. The only thing I don't like about Quentin Tarantino is his long-standing proclamation that he is stopping after ten films. I hope he ends up ignoring that and only stops when he feels he's done, because I can't believe somebody with his talent and success could ever just... stop.
Which brings us to his 9th film... Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which was just released on digital. As with all of his movies, I absolutely loved it...
Spoiler Alert. There are spoilers below.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the story of Rick Dalton (perfectly captured by Leonardo DiCaprio) a fading star who had a famous TV show in the 50's called Bounty Law... along with his best friend and stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt being as amazing as ever). As his career eventually becomes playing a series of bad guys in movies... and a run of Italian Westerns... he has to grapple with the approaching end of his career and an uncertain future. At the same time, Dalton and Booth have the misfortune of becoming entangled with The Manson Family during the Summer of Love thanks to Dalton's home being next door to Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate.
At this point you need to know that, in real life, Sharon Tate (who was 8 months pregnant) and the friends who were staying with her were murdered by Manson's followers at her home.
But in Tarantino's alternate history accounting of events, the Manson followers recognize Rick Dalton and decide to kill him instead. Unfortunately for them, they proceed to be brutally killed by Cliff Booth and Booth's dog (and Rick Dalton with a flamethrower). It's glorious. Much in the same way I loved to see Hitler and his brigade of upper-echelon Nazi fucks get brutally murdered in Inglourious Basterds, it's pure cinematic joy to see the Manson pieces of shit get the tables turned on them and get killed in the most painful, horrendous ways possible.
They call that cinematic justice. Which is a nice departure from the world we live in.
And that's the movie.
It's not as complex a narrative as the time shifts in Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill, but this allows Quentin to be laser-focused on the characterization, which is pretty close to his best yet. And a film I highly recommend, if you're so inclined.
And because it's bound to be asked by somebody, here is where I rank the nine films of Quentin Tarantino (that he both wrote and directed)...
In reality, they are all #1 films to me. The only reason I can rank the movies at all is because there are specific things that register in my head for many of them. Pulp Fiction was the first Tarantino movie I saw. Kill Bill had some of the most remarkable fight scenes of all time. Inglourious Basterds and its revisionist history blew my mind, Jackie Brown was sublimely character-driven with a fun twist... that kind of thing. And any time I re-watch Jackie Brown it becomes my #1 film for a few weeks just because Pam Grier is flawless.
Rumor has it that Quentin Tarantino is working on a Star Trek film. I have no idea how it will fit in with the various Star Trek properties... perhaps it won't, which would be fantastic because Tarantino could just go nuts and do a true Quentin Tarantino film that heads wherever his imagination takes him. I'm not sure this if this is what I'd want to be his final motion picture... if, indeed, he sticks to his ten-and-done promise, but I'll take what I can get.
Tarantino has yet to go wrong in my book.
Posted on October 12th, 2010
I am starting to really, really despise Amazon.com — not because they suck or anything... for the most part I find their pricing and service to be excellent. No, the reason I hate them is because they make it entirely too easy for me to spend money I don't have. Stupid Amazon and their stupid product suggestions and their stupid One-Click ordering!
Here are three of my latest totally non-essential purchases that I just had to own or else I would die...
THE MAKING OF THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Star Wars is awesomeness defined. So awesome that at the time it was released, it was nearly impossible to process. Most everything about it was so new and revolutionary that the brain had no choice but to explode at the thought of it all. But by the time The Empire Strikes Back came along three years later, we were accustomed to all the amazing special effects and mind-blowing elements that made Star Wars such a phenomena. We wouldn't be surprised again.
Or so we thought. The Empire Strikes Back proved us wrong. Upping the ante in every possible way, the film raised the bar so high that few... very few... films have managed to top it. It remains one of my top-five favorite films of all time, and cemented my love of Star Wars for all eternity (even when the franchise turned to shit with Return of the Jedi and the horrendously craptastic prequels).
So how could I possibly not purchase The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, J.W. Rinzler's stunning follow-up to The Making of Star Wars and The Complete Making of Indiana Jones? This massive 372-page tome has a definitive look at every aspect of the movie's creation taken from countless hours of research and interviews. It includes numerous pieces of production art, behind-the-scenes photos, and other tidbits which gives the reader an insider's look at Empire in a way that will make you not only fall in love with the film all over again... but have an entirely new appreciation for the people behind it...
It's a complete and total steal at $49.72 (list price $85.00!), and I give it my highest possible recommendation for Star Wars fans and anybody who's interested in film production. The Force is indeed strong with this one!
THE SECRET OF KELLS BLU-RAY/DVD COMBO
Where to start with this one. Probably with the fact that I am a total animation whore. I remain hopelessly fascinated with the artform and obsess over its every incarnation. Everything from a simple flip-book to full-blown computer-generated animations captivate me. But hand-drawn animated features are my favorite. Even when Pixar unleashes their latest computer-rendered genius, I still find myself pining for the animated classics I grew up with.
So imagine my surprise when I happened across a production blog back in 2006 for an animated feature called The Secret of Kells. I had visited Dublin and seen the jaw-dropping beauty of The Book of Kells the previous year, and thought it was pure genius to use it as the foundation for a movie. For years I followed the updates, watching with amazement as the film took shape...
With each update at The Blog of Kells, I became more and more excited at the visual feast that was being created. Even at its very earliest stages, you could feel this would be something special. When peeks of the animated sequences were revealed, you knew it was something special. And when it finally opened in limited release in Washington State back in May, I finally got to see it and know that "special" was a drastic understatement. The film was magic. And I don't use that term lightly.
Infused with Celtic mythology, The Secret of Kells tells the story of a young boy named Brendan who sees an unfinished book of secret wisdom and magical powers which holds the hope of banishing darkness and defeating evil. Leaving his world behind, Brendan undertakes an amazing journey through an enchanted forest to help complete The Book of Kells. Along the way he meets mystical creatures and the fairy spirit Aisling to aid him in his quest...
Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. Every frame of this movie is a sublime work of art in its own right. Every frickin' frame! The fact that it's all beautifully animated in old-school stylings is just the icing on the cake. I could use words like "stunning" and "breathtaking" and "Glorious" to describe it, but there is simply nothing I can say which would adequately prepare you for the experience of viewing the film. Though a part of me wonders if the story is a bit too abstract for younger kids, I can't imagine anybody not enjoying The Secret of Kells.
For $25 you get a combo Blu-Ray/DVD pack (alas, no digital version to be found) and it's worth every penny. Again, my highest possible recommendation.
GRINDHOUSE: COLLECTOR'S EDITION BLU-RAY
Finally... finally... Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's wonderful experiment in old-school double-feature cinema has been released on home video as they intended it to be seen... an uninterrupted back-to-back experience complete with all the pseudo-trailers, aged film damage, missing reels, and intermission card goodness!
Grindhouse combines two films of senseless campy violence, horror, and action by two of Hollywood's most genius and unconventional directors... Death Proof by Quentin Tarantino, and Planet Terror by Robert Rodriguez. You also get a bunch of brutally cool "faux trailers" for films like Werewolf Women of the S.S. by Rob Zombie and Don't by Edgar Wright (and, of course, Machete which was later made into an actual film!). It's not going to be for everybody, but any fan of shlock horror films will probably love it...
While both films have their charms, it's Death Proof that I can't get enough of. When it comes to Tarantino movies, it's but a blip on the radar of his impressive oeuvre, but it's still genius when compared to most of the shit that gets released. Kurt Russell(!) plays a psychopathically homicidal stuntman who likes to stalk lady drivers in his "death-proof" stunt car, eventually running them off the road and killing them. It's all fun and games for the maniac... until he terrorizes the wrong women! This twisted tale of suspense and revenge has one of the best car chase sequences ever put to film, and is chock-full of Tarantino's witty (and borderline scandalous) dialogue. As I said, it's not going to be for everybody, but it's dead-on target for its intended audience. If that's you, I give Grindhouse my highest recommendation. Amazon has it for just $23, which is more entertainment per dollar than you can shake a machine gun at!
And there you have it. $100 of my hard-earned money blown with three clicks. I wish I could say this was a rare event but, alas, there are even more unnecessary but essential items waiting for me, I'm sure.
Don't act surprised when I'm selling myself on the street for Amazon gift certificates. It's only a matter of time...
Posted on August 23rd, 2009
It's another edition of Bullet Sunday... this time coming to you from beautiful Denver, Colorado!
• I love Ponyo. Yet another Miyazaki masterpiece. Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea is such joyous, imaginative, feel-good fun that you don't even need kids as an excuse to go see it. Pretty much a retelling of The Little Mermaid, the oft-told tale of the little girl who wants to be human has never been seen in quite this way. Featuring some of the most mesmerizing traditional animated sequences I've ever seen, this is a stunning film which trounces the animated garbage we've been inundated with lately (hey, they're making a sequel to Happy Feet!)...
The main character, Sosuke, is so lovingly crafted that you'd swear he was a real little boy... everything from the way he walks to the way he acts is just captivating to watch. While I prefer to see Miyazaki films in their original Japanese, I have to admit that the vocal talent Disney lined up for the American release is pretty stellar (ZOMG! BETTY WHITE & TINA FEY!) and all the actors seem to ring true to the characters they're dubbing. Well worth seeing in a theater for the sheer spectacle of it all... the pastel-rendered backgrounds are beautiful, and demand to be seen on the big screen.
• Failure to Launch. I got to the Cherry Creek Center Theater for Ponyo a little early so I could eat dinner at the Johnny Rockets there, only to find out that they didn't have any vegetarian Boca Burgers. AGAIN! Why am I not surprised? After all, I've been denied Boca Burgers in San Francisco (twice), Santa Monica, Seattle University Village (twice), Seattle Pike Place Market, Seattle Pacific Place, Miami Aventura Mall, Seattle South Center, and Kent Station... why should Denver be any different? Still finding it positively absurd that a FROZEN item can't be stocked in such depth that it won't run out 50% of the time a customer would like to order it. If you're not going to bother to watch your inventory, don't bother putting it on the menu so that people like me don't waste their valuable time going to a restaurant expecting to get the food we want.
• Denver and Killer Squirrels. After the movie, Howard and Cameron dropped me off downtown so I could take a few photos around the Capitol Building. After goofing around for a bit, I decided to walk back to The 16th Street Mall for dinner and have a look around Union Station. As I was walking through Civic Center Park, I heard something in the tree above me and turned around to look. Much to my surprise it was a very angry squirrel, who glared at me just long enough to let me take a blurry photo of him...
That's when I noticed that squirrels were everywhere, and they had no fear of humans. One little guy was eating a pile of sunflower seeds somebody had left and I was able to sit right next to him. He barely noticed...
Just for fun, I was going to reach over and grab a few seeds, but didn't want to risk getting bitten and end up with rabies or something. That would be just my luck.
• Film by Tarantino. My most consistently favorite director outside of Hayao Miyazaki is Quentin Tarantino. In my capsule review of his latest masterpiece Inglourious Basterds, I said that the word "visionary" was inadequate to describe his cinematic genius. This prompted one reader to ask me how I would rank his films, which would be thusly...
&bull Housekeeping Aggressive. One of the most thankless jobs on the planet has to be that of a housekeeper at a hotel. Forgotten entirely when they do their job well, yet persecuted ruthlessly when they make a mistake, the housekeeper is in the ultimate no-win scenario. Historically, I've always endeavored to be excessively kind and generous with housekeeping staff in order to balance out this wrong, but my attitude has been changing as of late. Because, in addition to being the most thankless job, it can also be the most passive-aggressive career in history. And more and more this is getting to be the case. Housekeepers maintain this front of kindness in service, but all too many of them really don't give a shit and, indeed, are actively hostile in their work.
As an example... in the hotel I'm currently staying (which shall remain nameless, because it really doesn't matter) the housekeeping staff is so horrendously noisy each morning that I have no choice but to view it as intentional. And it begins the minute they exit the elevator... laughing and whistling and yelling and screaming and banging and slamming. Never mind that it's still fairly early and people are trying to sleep, they just don't give a fuck. Across the hall from my room is a laundry chute. What they could do is prop the door open so that the soiled linens will pass silently down to the laundry. But what they actually do is let the door slam shut again and again and again, which is an endless source of banging that is so forceful that my walls shake every time. And heaven forbid that you should want to sleep in, because if you stay later than they like, they will purposely create a huge racket outside your door until you ultimately give up and flee the premises. Every drawer is banged. Every word is yelled. Every cleaning tool is rattled. Every door is slammed. Because the housekeepers just don't seem to give a flying fuck anymore. They're up at the crack of dawn doing a thankless job, and they want you to suffer for it. Over and over and over again. One of these days I'm going to have had enough and scream into the hallway as loud as I can "SHUT THE HELL UP!" knowing full-well that it will only encourage them to be louder. Because that's what happens when you mess with people having the most passive aggressive job on earth.
• Farewell to The City. And that's all she wrote. Tomorrow I'll take a trip to some stores I want to check out which were closed today... and then it's off to the airport and other adventures.