Everyone Still Wants to Copy Quentin Tarantino

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Quentin Tarantino, director of Django Unchained.

If you’re not excited about Django Unchained, then you haven’t heard of Django Unchained yet. It’s what director Quentin Tarantino calls “a Southern” and it deals with slave-turned-bounty hunter, Django, (played by possible Electro, Jamie Foxx) and his quest to save his wife from a sadistic slave owner, (played by Leonardo Dicaprio.) It looks awesome.

I’ve only seen two trailers from it, and the title would be my answer if you asked me what my favorite Tarantino film was. Well, that is, if you asked me to exclude Jackie Brown from the running. Tarantino’s movies, as a general rule, are great, and most people, especially hacky directors have taken notice to this.

Thanks to Tarantino, dozens of new directors feel the need to attempt the dangerous balancing act of infusing a hell of a lot of personal taste into a piece of entertainment, without it seeming misguided or pretentious. Most of the time, this balancing act ends with a drop. Unless you’re Tarantino or very careful, most of the directors who try this often end up with a cluster of scenes of gangsters talking, referencing some bizarre bit of pop culture, while the audience waits for some semblance of a story to occur.

Adding personality can often make a film feel special, and can separate it from the kind of action/crime film that feels churned out. But it can also suffocate a movie. Tarantino’s dialogue is often lauded as one of the most defining and appealing aspects of his films, and thus, describing dialogue as “Tarantino-esque” has become fairly commonplace. It also seems extremely simple to write.

Tarantino’s dialogue between characters becomes an entire conversation, something not usually seen in cinema. Usually, dialogue scenes are a snippet of a longer talk, with a few lines from either side and then a big punchline bit, before they cut away to something else. Its way easier to keep an audience interested this way, since the human brain can only be engaged properly for thirty seconds before the urge to check Instagram prevails again.

However, since Tarantino can captivate viewers with ten minute dialogue sessions, it gives other filmmakers the balls to try out their own long-winded exercises in patience and goodwill, often in the aforementioned “pop culture referencing” style. I’m not saying that it’s a bad style to follow, but, once again, it often comes off as awkward and unnecessary, stifling the flow of a film and making it painfully obvious that someone had a Pulp Fiction poster above their bed in college.

Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction.

I’m not sure if you could ever classify her as a ‘manic pixie dream girl’, but she’s still the best one, regardless.

Another way that Tarantino has influenced this generation of filmmakers is with story structure and his relatively untraditional way of composing a narrative. One pair of filmmakers that sometimes tell powerful tales in a not-so straightforward manner is the Coen Brothers, but their stylistic devices are so easily definable that it has never come off as hacky. However, if the story isn’t precise in its method, then the scenes come off as a jumbled mess.

Tarantino’s makes sure that his compilation of scenes are all as effectively placed as possible, even if they don’t follow the standard build of a story. Hacks will take one look at this, see it as an outlet for whatever bullshit scenes they’ve had in their heads since the first day of Intro To Theatre class, and plug it in, regardless of how much it grinds the movie’s pace to a halt.

Next is the copy of Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s attempts at lovingly paying homage to the Grindhouse genre with Planet Terror and Death Proof. If there’s one type of movie that I can’t stand, it’s this type of film done poorly. Bad directors will look at the way a movie like Death Proof was done, and forget that the meaning of it was not to totally emulate the style, but to, in their own style, write a love letter to it.

Rodriguez and Tarantino took the films that they loved growing up, and used them as an inspiration to craft their own film. They didn’t intend to make awful films because “lol, bad movies got made a long time ago.” They didn’t make awful films at all, because they actually care about their craft.

Thanks to everyone who missed the point, we get movies with the most explicitly stupid titles of all time, filled with actors and a crew who aren’t really trying too hard, because they want to “make a Grindhouse movie.” I’m not one for trying to tell people that one type of film has more meaning than the other, but the most meaningless type of film is the one where it’s obvious that the people who made it didn’t give a lot of shits about it.

Filmmakers need to follow an offshoot of this last point if they plan on using Tarantino as someone they’re “most influenced by.” Creating a Tarantino film, when you’re not Tarantino, will end with a theatre full of dissatisfied ticket stub holders, all watching your poor, masturbatory attempt at holding people’s attention. It’s a delicate process to make movies like Tarantino does, and it’s far better to be inspired by his style than to emulate it.

Fake poster for Kill Bill Volume 3.

One day….

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