Big Kahuna on Set: A Tarantino List for the Purist

PROLOGUE

Like all great Tarantino features this just wouldn’t be complete without a killer soundtrack and what better way to kick things off than with Dick Dale and the Deltones.

CHAPTER 1: THE BIG KAHUNA

Quentin Tarantino is many things. Conventional is not one of them. If you wanna make it big then take a leaf out of his tattered note book, with sidenotes all over the place and indecipherable scribbles filling the margins.

For Tarantino, Pulp Fiction just wasn’t ready for the world, or rather, the world just wasn’t ready for Pulp Fiction. And so we got our first taste of QT from the delectable Reservoir Dogs and the rest is history. But as we all know Tarantino’s career is far from over and soon we will be treated to the eighth film of his illustrious career. The Hateful Eight is released January 8 2016 (UK) and will no doubt be another stunning entry into QT’s canon of trunk shots, Red Apple cigarettes, and revenge.

 But while we wait I figured what better opportunity to present the Big Kahuna, a list for the Tarantino purist, from the not so cool to bloody brilliant.

Afterall, it’s not just a burger, it’s a lifestyle.

Miramax

Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
The conclusion to Tarantino’s sprawling 250 minute revenge epic ranks highly in many Tarantino lover circles and understandably so. But while I can see the attraction I’ve never bought into it. The satisfying conclusion and sense of relief felt for The Bride is great but if I’m ever buried alive I won’t miss it.

This could, in part, be to my growing appreciation of the finer works of Tarantino’s corpus (a backhanded compliment if ever I saw one). But in recent years Kill Bill has fallen off the pussy wagon and I’ve never really looked back.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)
After Eight films and twenty years in the business Tarantino’s debut feature, Reservoir Dogs, has aged appropriately. Making way for epic ambition and the growth of the ‘realer than real’ Tarantino universe Dogs is a benchmark of personality and experimentation.

Like the diamond heist gone wrong Dogs has gradually emerged as a flawed masterpiece in the QT back catalog. But for Hollywood’s newcomer this was just the start and Reservoir Dogs will never escape the burrowing intrigue of a cinephile as long as it stands as QT’s debut feature.

CHAPTER 2: DOWN IN MEXICALI

Deathproof (2007)
Stuntman Mike has got to be the smoothest talking psychopath to get a lapdance off one of his victims before brutally relieving his more manic urges in the history of cinema. Props to QT for filtering out the elaborate criminal ruses and honing his infatuation with B-movie Grindhouse drive-ins into one of his finest pictures.

A far cry from his more recognisable work, heck he’s even criticised it as a mis-fire on his part. But that’s giving way too much credit to the films that have given him the freedom to make whatever he wants. Deathproof was never going to be the cremori segetem we might be forgiven for expecting. It is instead a poetic and saddening film that could repeat itself ad finitum with style and finesse down to the brutal, but deserved, comeuppance.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
Unlike our good friend Monsieur Tarantino I do not share the same infatuation with classic kung fu movies. However, nothing spells Tarantino purism quite like his boundless knowledge of genre movies and Kill Bill is just an extension of his visceral vision for cinema. I may not love it like Jackie Brown but in so far as QT purism goes the Kill Bill saga is up there.

A return to the hectic fantasy world of Beatrix Kiddo has been heavily hinted but I don’t know if it will have the lure to drag me back in.

Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Never before has Tarantino’s gratuitous violence reaped such sadistic smiles from the audience. Never before has the ‘Nazi’ symbolised such caricatured, yet pure evil on screen. We’ve all read the history books, we all know who Hitler and his band of brainwashed goons were but even Oliver Hiershbiegel managed to spin a harrowing humanism when depicting the Nazi Downfall.

Tarantino opts for a more direct approach. In one of the most memorable opening scenes of all time Tarantino sets up one of the greatest revenge stories to grace his canon. Complemented by Brad Pitt’s rambunctious Basterds Mélanie Laurent’s revenge story is of such impeccable taste that Tarantino out does himself with his ironic WW2 vengeful reimagining. Inglourious Basterds indeed.

CHAPTER 3: THE TOP THREE

The Weinstein Company

Django Unchained (2012)
The epic of the bunch rounds out the top three and marks a new direction from Tarantino, soon to be followed by The Hateful Eight. With a blistering soundtrack and stunning performances from Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz Django Unchained breathes a cool breath of fresh air into the starved lungs of the spaghetti western.

A phenomenal revenge adventure that takes the time to nod it’s head to the classics that inspired it. It’s no secret that Tarantino is a fan of the western genre and to the more attuned viewer you might spot the odd reference here and there. Oh what am I saying, this film is full of little nods you might as well start calling it Fritz.

Pulp Fiction (1994)
Huh, huh, haaaaa! Miserlou chimes in as you sit mouth agape. How can Pulp Fiction not be #1 on a purist list? Well I’ll answer your question with another question, what’s in the briefcase?

Frankly dear it’s all a matter of opinion and when it comes to purism Jackie Brown steals the show, oh Pam Grier you fox! Having said that Pulp Fiction is and always will be a Timeless Classic. With LA’s bungling criminal community reeking havoc across the city Tarantino rarely pauses for breath much to our delight. Iconic scenes, iconic soundtrack, iconic characters, iconic picture. Not #1 though.

jackie

Jackie Brown (1997)
That’s right, not Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill and not Pulp Fiction but Miss Jackie Brown sitting at top spot.

In my stand alone review of Jackie Brown I commented that Tarantino threw a curveball at his early 90s hipsters who raved about the pop culture references and eccentric characters of Pulp Fiction and concluded that Jackie Brown is somewhat muted in this sense. However, muted does not necessarily mean absent, merely that these references are far more subtle and unbecoming.

Jackie Brown exudes a confident air of purism from script to soundtrack to scene. Complemented by oustanding performances from the ensemble cast including Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert DeNiro, Chris Tucker, Robert Forster, and Michael Keaton Jackie Brown delivers on all fronts and contains my favourite scene of all time. Full of QT tropes and a few nuanced extras including a love story no less, Jackie Brown is and will always be my #1. Never change Jackie.

EPILOGUE

That does it for the feature films written and directed for the screen by Quentin Tarantino. But what of the screenplays that never saw the master’s touch behind the camera? Well, as a huge fan of True Romance I got to thinking this purist list just wouldn’t be complete without it. In fact, had Tarantino directed True Romance there’s no question it would have made the top 5. It’s that good.

True Romance
When Butch returned to his Beautiful Tulip Fabienne and declared “Zed’s dead” we knew Tarantino had a unique approach to romance. Considering his more recognised trademarks this has always appealed to me. His written romances are always a little odd ball, never pandering to Hollywood convention and always airing on the surreal.

True Romance couldn’t be more attuned to this trait. When Christian Slater, a lonesome comic book store clerk named Clarence meets hooker Alabama on his birthday tradition the two fall in love instantly. It may sound a little mushy for a QT script but Tony Scott does a sterling job to make this screwball romance as faithful to Tarantino’s vision as he possibly can. The rest of the film is pure magic, eccentric characters, embellished monologues, pop culture references, Gary Oldman as a pimp and Brad Pitt as a stoner, and a mexican standoff to beat all mexican standoffs. Oh Tarantino,

~ That’s a bingo ~

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15 thoughts on “Big Kahuna on Set: A Tarantino List for the Purist

  1. Excellent post James and I loved the way you laid it out. As you know I am a huge Tarantino fan.

    Love that “That’s a Bingo” at the end haha! “you just say bingo…” :)

    Nice shout out to True Romance as well. I’ve read the original screenplay that he wrote and the film really is identical (unlike Natural Born Killers which was changed a lot) except he wrote that Clarence died from the gun shot wound at the end. Tony Scott was argued “we like these kids, we want them to live!” and they changed it.

    My favourite QT movies are Reservoir Dogs, Death Proof and Inglourious Basterds but I love all of them in different ways. My least favourites are probably the Kill Bill movies, awesome soundtracks (right up there with the greats) but the films aren’t my favourite. I concur about falling off the Pussy Wagon. I know a lot of people don’t like Death Proof but I effing love it!!! The script, the girls and the music is incredible. I could watch it any day of the week. I was disappointed when he said it wasn’t that great, I felt he was just agreeing with ‘what everyone else said’. I preferred Planet Terror when I first watched Grindhouse, but I think I even prefer Death Proof now. Rodriguez is another of my favourite directors. Of course!

    He was building up to make a Western ever since Kill Bill Volume 1, so I cannot wait for The Hateful Eight. I have a feeling it’s going to be a scorcher!!!! Better than Django, I predict.

    You know what I love most about him? When he makes his movie, he makes HIS movie. Not like Nolan and Boyle and Fincher ETC ETC who all argue over scripts and what movies they’re going to make. He writes his own scripts, he finds his own music, he casts his own actors, he really makes HIS movie. Apart from indie directors I can’t really think of many other living directors who do that.

    Nothing against the aforementioned btw! I’m a big fan of Danny Boyle :)

    Sorry for mammoth comment, I really should go back and make it shorter…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome Emma, guest commenter and budding screenplay/essay enthusiast haha! I love this sort of comment though so kudos for the effort taken, much appreciated :) I have to say Kill Bill has let me down since repeat viewings and if TR had been directed by QT it would probably break the top 5, maybe even top 3! By far my favourite script of his! I also love his film making, truly adopts a personal touch and you can tell no one would dare mess with his vision
      Not even an optician!

      Like

  2. great job here James!

    I’m also a big QT fan, but I gotta disagree a bit.

    RD might have it’s few flaws, but it’s still a masterpiece and ranks in my top 3 of his directed films (along with PF and now Hateful 8 which was amazing)

    I’ve always loved TR and a few years back saw the QT cut and it just wasn’t as good as the way Tony Scott cut it.

    QT basically changed around the scenes so we only see what happened in Detroit in flashback which somewhat takes away from the impact of those scenes and the budding love of Clarence and Alabama. C dies in the end and after liking him so much I was disappointed that QT killed him off

    I agree that KB isn’t as good upon rewatches and as much as I like JB, I found parts to drag a bit too much.

    Only seen both Deathproof and DU once, so maybe I need to revisit them.

    IB was extremely well done, but I think it gets too over-the-top (even in QT terms) and looses some of its impact due to that.

    TH8 has a great script along with amazing dialogue and the buildup for the real plot takes it’s time, it’s so much fun once it gets there. I actually can’t wait to watch it again (despite its near 3 hr runtime)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll get tot your comments in a moment, but let me get this straight: you’ve seen TH8 and The Revenant already, how?! I can see why JB can drag a little but the characters are just brilliant, KB is fine if you accept the ludicrous nature, IB is great fun and a very original take on WW2, Deathproof and DU are both amazing and only recently did I watch DU again, after almost three years and it was well worth the wait, just an incredible film! As far as RD and PF go, they will always define QT’s legacy and to be fair RD is great but I just don’t enjoy it as much as my top three, certainly flawed but a great debut nonetheless. PF could have taken top spot because it is so unique but JB is the purest of the bunch, great characters, script, even cinematography which is nothing spectacular but really gets into the characters and I love that

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love Jackie Brown! So cool to see it this high on this list. There’s just something about it. As far as Kill Bill, I honestly prefer to look at it as one movie, and that’s how Tarantino views it as well. Even going by how he’s “numbered” his films thus far. With that said though, I agree that the second half of Kill Bill is much weaker than the first. Really awesome post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love this list. Just, everything about it. Do you ever share your work on any film sites? I’m actually the Community Content Manager for Moviepilot.com, and I would be thrilled if you considered cross posting your stuff to our platform.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. As you can probably see I haven’t written anything for a while but I’d be interested in hearing more about moviepilot if you’d like to drop me a message on twitter @j_haseltine

      Like

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