An open letter to Quentin Tarantino
It's time to quit screwing around. Frankly.
Sure, I found bits of the "Kill Bill" films amusing — at times near brilliant — and really liked the final car chase in "Death Proof," though the rest of the flick was as bad as anything I'd seen since the latest Uwe Boll opus.
But, c'mon big man from Tennessee, you could do that stuff standing on your head.
At one time I greeted the news of a fresh Tarantino flick with the teeth-grinding excitement a meth head feels as a fresh batch of crystal pops out of the oven. Not anymore.
I'm not one of those annoying fanboy geeks who continues to judge an artist on what he or she has done before. No, sir. I take each film, album or art installation piece as it comes and judge it on its own merits.
Except, of course, when it comes to a Quentin Tarantino film.
And I'm here to say "Kill Bill" and "Death Proof" didn't do it for me, or most folks, I'm afraid.
I can't discuss your work without going back to the time and place in which I was exposed to it.
The time: Sophomore year of high school. The place: My buddy Mike's living room. The situation: Skipping school.
We'd blown off learning for an afternoon in favor of renting "Pulp Fiction" and Kevin Smith's "Clerks."
Both of these little films came with an obscene buzz surrounding them and expectations that couldn't possibly be met.
Having grown up in the vast corn desert of the Midwest, the local theaters did not carry "Pulp Fiction" upon release. I had to settle for "Forrest Gump" and God knows what else deemed Midwest-friendly at the time.
We hammered down "Clerks" and high-fived each other as the esoteric "Star Wars" references rolled out of the characters' motormouths. Here was something that appealed to geekland, the cultural underworld that stretches from sea to sea and has since come to represent the widest marketing target in America.
Then came "Pulp Fiction" and for the most part "Clerks" was forgotten.
"Clerks" was effective in relating to us the coolness of things we already knew. "Pulp Fiction," on the other hand, gave us a mind-blowing lecture on an aspect of culture we had no idea existed.
Seventies grindhouse film. Blaxploitation cinema. Boxer noir. The redneck rape film.
"Pulp Fiction" digested all these into a wholly new kind of narrative and sent us on a scavenger hunt to learn as much as we could about these classic genres.
At the time I listed Schwarzenegger's masterpiece "Predator" as my favorite film. In a span of 21/2; hours, "Pulp Fiction" made my '80s blow-'em-up fetish obsolete.
We retreated and discovered "Reservoir Dogs" and "True Romance." Two more kicks to the skull, two more world-shaping films exacting their bloody influence on my teenage mind.
"Jackie Brown" came five years later. I was older and firmly rooted in college. "Jackie Brown" resonated with me because I was facing the specter of growing up.
The interplay between an aging Pam Grier and Robert Forster, worn down by life and hoping for one last chance to find something worthwhile to hold onto before the inevitable, was beautiful. It showed your maturation as a writer. I still believe "Jackie" is among the best films ever made about life's diminishing expectations.
"Kill Bill" was fun to watch, but where was the gravitas?
The problem with constantly making movies about movies is you start referencing and competing with your own after a while. You can't escape it.
I dig the revenge film, but unlike "Pulp" and "Dogs" in regard to their influences, "Kill Bill" regurgitated the genre's tenets without adding a new dimension or at least complicating the narrative.
So today we face "Inglourious Basterds" — your take on the World War II men-on-a-mission film.
Again, we have the acknowledgment of a well-worn genre and the film actually is named after a World War II bloodfest starring Fred Williamson.
Another movie about movies, it seems.
Fine. I've come to accept the totality of your oeuvre.
I have heard good things about this one. I read the script online and liked it quite a bit, but scripts and the finished product can be miles apart in quality.
At one time I thought you were going to be remembered as the best of your generation. Now that mantle has fallen to directors such as Paul Thomas Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, Michel Gondry or Spike Jonze.
However, now's the time to start doing what you do: Make films about something beyond genre tropes.
After I saw "Pulp Fiction" I knew there would not be a better movie made in the '90s. I wanted to know how you came to know us so well in that time, in that place.
So far this year we've seen "The Hurt Locker" redefine the Iraq war movie and "District 9" turn the summer action blockbuster on its head.
Time to step in, Quentin, and remind them how it's done.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail email@example.com.