Tony and Daniel: Popping Culture 5 (Quentin Tarantino)

This week, Tony and Daniel look at the efforts of the coolest guy in cinema.

Daniel: Tarantino’s films have covered a ton of genres. What’s one genre that you’d like to see him tackle (can be one that he’s already attempted.)

Tony: One of my favorite things about QT movies is that there are usually genres within genres in them. He likes to slip between them and he does so really smoothly. Like with Kill Bill, one moment we’re in a modern samurai flick (House Of Blue Leaves) the next we’re in De Palmaesque thriller (hospital scene). So I wouldn’t want him to just do a straight up science fiction movie. I would however think it’d be interesting for him to do something with some sort of sci-fi concept like what he did with horror in From Dusk Till Dawn. He doesn’t have to do the exact same, split down the middle, genre mash up, but he could definitely do something that felt like it was a Kubrickian dark Sci Fi flick at one minute and then the next it switched gears and felt like one of his crime flicks. Something like that.

Jackie Brown

First Tarantino flick you saw? How old were you? What did you think?

Daniel: My first QT movie was Jackie Brown. I was way too young to comprehend what I was watching. To an eight-year-old, Jackie Brown is like watching a documentary about all the different ways that two people can sit down. I knew that it had Bruce Wayne wearing a white tee in it, but that’s all I really thought about it. Later, it would become my favorite one.

If you could have one sequel to a Tarantino film, what would it be?

Tony:  I wouldn’t. I don’t even want the Kill Bill sequel he keeps talking about. I like the way he ends most of his movies. He usually ends on a perfect note for the particular story he’s telling. I think any sequel he’d make would just diminish the film it’s made for.

Rank his flicks from best to worst. Feel free to explain your choices or not to, if you wanna be a dick about it.

Daniel: Jackie Brown is damn near perfect. It’s got, in my opinion, the best cast that he’s ever put together. It also has the best Sam Jackson character.
Django Unchained, with the exception of some weak (by Tarantino standards) dialogue, is also nearly perfect.
Both parts of Kill Bill are awesome.
Inglorious Basterds was the first Tarantino film I ever saw while thinking Alright, I’m seeing a Tarantino movie. It’s supposed to be something special. I think the first conversation scene in Basterds should be viewed in every film class for the rest of time as to show how to create a conversation that is both quiet, tense and has enormous consequences. That way, we’ll have less Tarantino imitators who decide to make their characters spout off about coffee or whatever, and more great things.
I can’t really say anything about Pulp Fiction that hasn’t been said before, although Travolta’s toilet death is the second best in history (right behind the one in Jurassic Park)
Death Proof kicks ass for about 2/3s of it. The rest of it is pretty masturbatory, but everything involving Kurt Russell in it is top notch.
I don’t like Reservoir Dogs that much. I know it’s great, but I’m not really into it. It’s a really solid first effort, but Tarantino has improved a lot since then.

Best dressed Tarantino character?

Tony: Shosanna, from Inglorious Basterds, had the best overall collection of outfits. She looks completely stunning and fearsome in her red dress, putting on war makeup to that soundtrack of David Bowie. You know, that song “Cat People” from the movie…. Cat People. But unlike a lot of the other sharply dressed characters from the QT universe she gets to wear more than just one outfit during the course of her film. I like Shosanna’s other looks too. Her boyish, almost newsboy look, with the hat and the baggy pants. Her casual, going to a Nazi ambush desert at a fancy restaurant look. Hell, I even love her spattered in blood dress at the beginning of the flick. She pulls off that whole, running for my life after seeing my family massacred in front me look, effortlessly. And that’s a hard look to pull off.

Shosanna from Inglorious Basterds.

Favorite character in a Tarantino flick?

Daniel: Michael Keaton in Jackie Brown. He’s my favorite actor ever, and he’s so cool and still maintains that anxious quality that makes Michael Keaton Michael Keaton. I wish he would be used again in another QT project. I feel sad that Michael Keaton’s role in Hollywood today seems to be “Oh shit, guys! Michael Keaton exists! I totally forgot!”

Choose one line from any of his films that encapsulates Tarantino’s entire being.

Tony: “Okay, first things fuckin’ last!”
– Eddie, Reservoir Dogs
Right there says it all. You got his non-linear approach to things. The colorful colloquialisms. That simmering anger mixed with humor. And swear words. Mostly swear words.

Favorite musical moment from one of his movies?

Daniel: When Rick Ross kicks in in Django, the whole theatre cheered. It’s not a little known 70’s funk jam and it’s not a Morricone song. It’s from the guy who has a chopper IN HIS CAR. And he’s featured in a Tarantino film. Beautiful. That kind of thing makes me believe in angels.

Tarantino doing a comic book movie. Which comic property do you think would suit him best?
Nick Fury

Tony:  I think it’d be beyond fucking cool to have Tarantino do his version of Jim Steranko’s 1960’s Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Steranko’s version of Fury is very 60’s, very superspy and very psychedelic and badass. Like James Bond on peyote. I know QT considered doing the James Bond movie Casino Royale at one point and I think with Nick Fury he could make something very similar but even more akin to his interests and artistic strengths. I would want him to keep it in the 60’s and just go hard R, fucking nuts with it.

Tarantino is notorious for talking about doing projects, many of them sequels or spin-offs from his previous films, that never happen. Or at least haven’t happened yet. From the projects we’ve heard about do you have any desire for him to make one of these movies a reality?

Daniel:  Tarantino once talked about making a Godzilla film, where Godzilla had proved his dominance by kicking Tokyo’s ass for so long that the people of Japan just started worshiping him as a god. I don’t if you could take this as a legitimate plan to make a movie, but I would love to see Quentin Tarantino’s The Godzilla Salvation.

Hans Landa Vs Doctor King Schultz. Better character? Death match winner?

Tony: Hans Landa is a better character. Schultz is fine but he doesn’t have as many layers and he doesn’t result in as many complicated and conflicted reactions in me as a viewer as The Jew Hunter does. Of course Christoph Waltz’s performance is a big part of the appeal of both of these characters but I’ll wager that the fact that it’s Christoph Waltz playing such a noble character as Schultz is the major factor why Schultz is so memorable. Because after seeing him play such a dark character in Inglorious Basterds his turn as Schultz in Django is informed by our seeing his antipodes apart role as Hans Landa before.

When it comes to a one on one death match I would give the bout to Schultz. Both seem fairly formidable but I just think Schultz would triumph, he lived in the Wild West. Shit was tougher back then.

 Is Tarantino your favorite director? If not who is? Or you answer this by saying, “Tarantino is better than ____ but he is not better than ________.”

Daniel: He isn’t. I love the shit out of Tarantino, but he just doesn’t hit me in that special spot like he does with a lot of other people. I’m not dissing him in any way, but none of his films are in my top favorite movies, despite really liking a lot of them. My favorite director of all time is Chan-wook Park, who did stuff like Oldboy, Thirst and Stoker. That man can do no wrong.
Tarantino is better than Guy Ritchie but he is not better than Takashi Mike. Take that, question formatting.

Best soundtrack of any Tarantino film?

Tony: Gotta be Pulp Fiction. Just song for song, it’s a solid collection. I remember being in middle school and they played “Miserlou” at one of the sad prepubescent dances I attended and we all fucking lost it. I’m pretty sure a girl even grabbed my junk.

What’s one thing you would change in a Tarantino movie? It can be a plot-hole, an ending, a casting choice, anything? Where did Quentin fuck up and how would you make it better?

Daniel: Tarantino’s Australian accent in Django is abysmal. I know that he explodes, and it’s hilarious, but when he’s beside the guy from Wolf Creek, John Jarratt, who has the best Australian accent ever, it becomes almost like a weird art piece, where I’m supposed to find something deeper in the meaning of it all, but nope. Quentin wanted to be in this movie so badly that he obliterates his way into an accent.

Best trend that Tarantino has contributed to starting in film?

Tony: His use of music, especially his habit of exhuming old, mostly forgotten pop hits, and giving them a second life in his films. Much in the same way he’ll take old B movie actors that are washed up and he’ll put them in his movies and remind people why they liked those actors in the first place. Or even better, show them an aspect of those actors the audience may have never fully picked up on. QT does the same thing for these old songs.

Many of these songs, while hits in some way, have never been given much respect critically, QT, like he does with the actors he chooses, as well as the genres he explores, elevates all of these elements into something that transcends their perceived cheap origins. That’s QT’s whole bag, really. He twerks this supposedly trashy, throwaway pop culture stuff just a little bit and shows you that below the surface there’s plenty of great stuff waiting there in bad movies, bad actors and bad music if you just let yourself be open to it.

Hans Landa

Tarantino is a master of writing interesting conversations between his characters. What’s your favorite conversation from one of his movies?

Daniel: Anything with Hans Landa in Basterds. I know it’s not specific, but I can’t remember, in recent years, a villain who was written that well.

On the other hand, what’s the worst trend?

Tony: There are a lot of pretenders to the throne with QT, and they try to emulate a lot of the different things he does. One thing I think he helped make popular that I don’t really like when others attempt it so much is pop culture reference overload. A nice pop culture reference or joke or aside is good and dandy in almost any film every once in a while. But it can get grating when that’s all anyone ever talks about and their observations on the pop culture entity in question aren’t particularly insightful or funny. Whereas QT is really good at this but not a lot of other filmmakers are.

It reminds of Robert Plant in way. Like I love the way Robert Plant sings in Led Zeppelin but most of the singers he’s influenced I dislike and think are way over the top and horrible. Chuck Klosterman summed this up for me perfectly.

“….although the reason I used to think he (Robert Plant) was a genius was because he seemed to be the only guy who could make vocal hysterics seem nonhysterical.”

QT can have Bill talk to me about Superman and it’s actually one of the best parts of Kill Bill. A lot of filmmakers who try to do similar things in their films with references just seem like they’re trying too hard and there just isn’t a lot of soul or thought behind what they’re saying.

 Tarantino’s cinematic world overlaps a lot like Stephen King’s literary world does. Certain characters from different stories know each other, certain places and products are shared. What are two Tarantino characters who have never met that you’d want to see together? What happens in their story?

Daniel:  The year is 2059, and the world has been taken over by the Klaax. They have turned the White House roof into a giant arena, the heads of former combatants speared around the edges. The fire burns bright as the Klaax chant. This is what they’ve been waiting for.

Bloody and beaten, Django steps out from behind the curtain. He limps, a past bout with Luc Deveraux has ensured that he’ll never use his right leg again. But he maintains the posture that he can. The Klaax scream louder. A roar sounds off from behind the opposite curtain. Django steps into the circle and raises his fists. If it’s a fight they want, then it’s a fight they’ll get.

Behind the opposite curtain, the doctor begs for release, the grip around his throat tightening. His eyes bulge, and the hand holding him draws him close to the dead, soulless eyes of the man who he got too close too. The neck snaps, and the doctor is dead.

Django can feel the cut on the inside of his mouth open again as the curtain raises and the Bear Jew, gigantic and misshapen after years of fighting the Klaax’s champions emerges. He grunts and is tossed his signature baseball bat. He is more animal than man now. Django beats back any nervousness that he might have. He is more than ready.

The young boy watches this on his screen and reminds himself to thank his older brother later for the import Japanese video game he is now playing. He presses the right bumper to switch Django’s fighting style to BOXER. “Fucking A,” he whispers to himself.

(Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained and Universal Soldier: Regeneration are all in the same universe now. I am so, so pleased with myself.)

Quentin Tarantino

Tarantino is known for his awesome answers in interviews. What’s his best interview? Best answer to a question? 

Tony:  I’ve listened to and watched a lot of his interviews but I don’t know if I can pick a favorite. I will say that his contributions to the documentary film Not Quite Hollywood (about Australian exploitation movies) were really enjoyable. For his best answer to a question, I really appreciate this one when he was asked about CGI special effects in movies.
“This CGI bullshit is the death knell of cinema. If I’d wanted all that computer game bullshit, I’d have stuck my dick in a Nintendo.”

What’s your favorite spoof, homage or some other form of pop culture nod to Tarantino you’ve seen in a film, TV show, music video, video game, or one man stage play, etc?

Daniel: Takashi Mike’s Sukiyaki Western Django plays a lot like a Tarantino film, even though it’s one of Mike’s lesser efforts. Tarantino even costars in it, as a cowboy who is really fucking into his meals.

For Tony and Daniel discussing John Carpenter, go here.

For Tony and Daniel discussing Mortal Kombat, go here.

For Tony and Daniel discussing Batman, go here. 

For Tony and Daniel discussing 90’s music, go here.

Daniel Dockery is a writer who lives in Asheville, NC. You’re currently reading his blog. He’s also writing a book. Study while you can. He’s all the hope there is.

Tony McMillen is a writer and novelist living in Boston. You can find his pop culture musings, usually full of vitriol and whimsy, at DigBoston.com where he writes the column “Touch The Wonder”. You can also find more of his stuff at sites like ManArchy and Hecklerspray. If you wanna party with Tony, find him on Facebook. If you are David Lee Roth time displaced from 1984, don’t worry, he’ll find you

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2 responses to “Tony and Daniel: Popping Culture 5 (Quentin Tarantino)

  1. Great post. I am bias because Tarantino is hands down my favorite filmmaker. Pulp Fiction is my permanent number one movie of all time, and no matter what comes out, nothing will knock it from the top spot. I too have read a lot of his interviews, but I must have missed that quote about CGI. LOL Epic! Thanks for such an enjoyable conversation guys!!

  2. Thank you PourMeAMilk. My personal list of Tarantino’s best to worst would go something like this:

    Best:

    Pulp Fiction
    Reservoir Dogs
    Kill Bill
    Inglorious Basterds
    Jackie Brown
    Death Proof
    Django Unchained

    Worst

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