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2007.04.13

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logboy

whoa!!! not sure my brain can digest this article and the following comments.
it's saturday evening and i'm at the end of another week where i've been thinking
a lot about the relationship between the online fans of film and the film (grindhouse)
made to appeal to those beyond this little world we inhabit... tarantino's clever, i think,
and he gets a hard time for wearing his references on his sleeve and talking loudly (and
often) about his use of them, his previous uses of them, his potential uses of them.

there was a clip online of an old interview where tarantino described what he does as
an equivalent of hip-hop in film form - sample, slice, remix, make something new with
something old - and i think he has shown himself to be smarter and far dumber than that
too, it's both potentially lazy and incredibly revolutionary at the same time...

and i also think tarantinos 'dragon dynasty' label shows how it's easy to lock into
a way of thinking towards the lower ranks of films, he's a bit oldschool and i feel
from my own formative years having a different perspective which taints my
ways of treating films (where, for me, good transfers on DVD give less of a sense
of grind, more of a sense of revelation at the heavy connections between
so-called trash and so-called classics).

for him, 'grindhouse' theatres personify and embody his initial early,
formative experiences of what are broadly covered by several or so
possible ways; films viewed out of time-and-place, films suffering from a lack of context
as a result, films suffering from publicity and finance which distort in one
persons eye when they remain an honest and worthwhile approach elsewhere.

still, there's plenty to be said about having achieved something relatively unsual, as 'grindhouse'
is is some ways, as tarantinos work is in some ways - because it's relative to its origins, and for
the most part these origins run a million miles from literal use of the elements he has in his films,
and instead you have the ironic $60m movie that could be out-charmed by a misunderstood
and more capable filmmaker like takashi miike half-a-dozen times a year, potentially.

Jimmy

My cousin Clara told me that one of her closest friends from childhood is dying of some terrible and rare blood disease. Jolene has moved back in with her conservative, redneck parents in a small Texas town. She's slowly wasting away, in great pain, coughing up blood, not eating at all--it's awful. Clara told me recently that at least Jolene had her pole installed in her room in her parents' house so that she could keep up her dancing during her last days. "Huh?" I had to have that repeated. Jolene is an "exotic" pole dancer, and as she's dying a horrible death and passing her last days in her parents' home--she continues her pole dancing.

Clara is thirty-one, and Jolene is about the same age. As you know, FB, I am forty. I don't know if that qualifies as a different generation, but I think it's illustrative of something I just don't get about younger people. In a perverse, Paglia-esque reversal of feminism, young women in 2007 revel in sexual behavior that demeans them. I think that's true of young men too, to a lesser extent. Perhaps it's just something about this generation I don't get. There's an echo of it in Houellebecq's latest, in which his forty-seven-year-old protagonist dates a twenty-five-year-old for a while. He doesn't entirely get her, and she is very alien to his mature sensibilities.

But then, I think this is just a reflection of straight men's need for sexual conquest and their attraction to children--something I have never entirely grasped. Tarantino merely has the children in his movies deliver clever lines while scantily clad. I haven't seen it in years, but I recall something similar of River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves in Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho: sexy rent boys delivering lines from Shakespeare. I haven't seen too many of his films, but my favorite of Tarantino's women was Daryl Hannah in Kill Bill. Madison from Splash has not aged all that gracefully. The actress was almost unrecognizable to me, and it was her obvious mileage and middle-aged cynicism that made her compelling and tremendously attractive to me.

Frankly, I think you have not gone far enough. I think Tarantino is a complete douchebag, utterly full of himself. As Cinephiliac wrote, he thinks his shit don't stink. He proved that by freely using the n-word in basically his own voice in Pulp Fiction. He thinks the rules don't apply to him. He doesn't think he's a film god. He thinks he is God. Sure, he's made a few good movies, but he's nothing more than a lecherous old prick who hasn't suffered enough to develop any measure of humility. To paraphrase Mickey Rourke as Charles Bukowski in Barfly, "He doesn't need love. He needs a taste of death."

Jimmy

Oh, and while we're on the topic of great ones gone and one-ho shows, I'll share this. I just wish I could have worked "nappy-headed" in there.

mike

Barry was also the captain of the plane in the original Airport giving level headed advice to Dino.

As to his role as Ullman in the Shining, the role, as originally written, was very much like the book. In King's word's Ullman was an "officious prick" and not very likeable. Nelson played him likeable and heightened the foreshadowing in the movie.

Don Ho, we will miss you as well.

Peter Nellhaus

I would call Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry a quasi AIP film. It was produced by former AIP co-founder James Nicholson for his production company which had a distribution deal with Fox. Also, two of the stars, Peter Fonda and Adam Roarke, were AIP veterans.

Sorry to read that you got mugged on 42nd Street. I guess I left NYC in time. Actually, my favorite theater to see AIP and New World films was the Academy of Music theater on 14th Street with that huge screen.

Baby Acapulco

Mr (Mrs?) so-called-filmbrain: I'm the person that emailed you on Friday, a good friend of Quentin's living in Austin. That's in Texas.

If I seemed a bit harsh in the email it's simply because Q is my nigga, and I got his back. Still, I told him about your post and he was pi$$ed off. Loser bloggers telling a famous man he needs him a woman? Where do you get off? I don't know if he'll bother to reply, but if he does you should watch out. You're name will be mud in the morbidly huge film bloggers circle jerk.

Filmbrain

instead you have the ironic $60m movie that could be out-charmed by a misunderstood
and more capable filmmaker like takashi miike half-a-dozen times a year, potentially

Excellent observation logboy...I couldn't agree more.

Jimmy - I was honestly left speechless about the dying pole dancer story. Hey -- perhaps Quentin can co-opt that into his next screenplay?

Peter - That mugging was a right of passage (of sorts).
When did the Academy of Music theater close? Was that the one on 14th and Irving Place? I don't think I ever went there.

Filmbrain

Baby Acapulco --

Ummm....let me guess. Harry Knowles? Sandra Bullock? Jungle Julia?

Oh well, back to the circle jerk...

Jimmy

I wonder if Mr./Mrs. Baby Acapulco is truly the FOQ he/she claims to be. It would be interesting if "Quentin" commented on your post. (I always find it awkward when you film-types refer to public figures by their first names. It reminds me of President Bush calling Lord Robertson, the former head of NATO, "George." But I guess all the kids are doing it.) It's kind of a no-win situation for Tarantino, though, at least if he owns up to his toady's remarks, which address not the merits of your arguments but the fact that you've impugned the machismo of a "famous man." This reminds me of the Family Guy episode where Meg publishes an unflattering article in her school newspaper about Luke Perry, who discovers it accidentally because he reads through every high-school paper in America. Should Mr. T write you directly, I sincerely hope you'll post the entire thing here for our circle-jerking pleasure.

Jimmy

PS - That's not to say that Like Anna Karina's Sweater is on the level of a high-school paper. You're at least as high up the food chain as Reader's Digest.

Donna Fadoushbag

"You're at least as high up the food chain as Reader's Digest."

Jimmy's a dick...and his snarky jabs illustrate why I've come to hate blogs.

Filmbrain

Donna --

While I share you distaste for blog-snark, Jimmy's an old friend, and I can assure you there wasn't a hint of snark in that comment, just some good ole' fashioned ribbing.

Donna Fadoushbag

May I retract my "dick" accusation then? My apologies, Jimmy.

Jimmy

Yep, it was just ribbing. But I'm still a dick. Hopefully that doesn't reflect on Filmbrain.

While Tarantino strikes me as a real tool, some of my favorite artists are assholes. I'm quite fond of the work of Japanese psych lord Asahito Nanjo. The man is a genius and a fantastic musician. But he's dishonest and untrustworthy. Ask any musician he's ever worked or played with. Human decency has little to do with artistic merit. It's not quite the same thing, but I recently watched The Third Man, in which Orson Welles said, "In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love. They had five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

Some of my previous remarks were offered in defense of Tarantino's work, in fact. For example, I think his portrayal of young women may be more realistic than Filmbrain gives him credit for. But I find his public persona, at least, insufferable, and I stand by my insults. Anyway, who cares what an insignificant jerkoff like me thinks? Hopefully Mr. T has sufficiently thick skin to withstand a few jabs from a nobody in a casual blog comment. And while my humor is often dry enough to sail right past many readers, rest assured the following remark is offered entirely in earnest: Whatever anyone may have to say about Quentin Tarantino, you can easily find ten worse things to say about me.

Jimmy

No apology necessary, Donna. I invited it, and anyway, you were right, just for the wrong reasons.

John Figler

Talk about inquiries into arcane aspects of "Death Proof". I got a good'n for you. Not to flog my post about the film or anything, but I left the following comment for myself, about a subject that, as a graphic designer, I found eye-catching and subtly witty:

"In the Kurt Russell close-up photo (bottom-most),

(SEE: http://figskin.blogspot.com/2007/04/does-grindhouse-cheat-you-fair.html )

he is standing in front of a vending machine picturing a cola brand I don't recognize. This may be another instance of the filmmakers' conscious avoidance of product placement in some, though not all, cases. For instance, I noticed one character pulling a smoke from a phony pack of cigarettes."

Did anyone else pick up on this? If so, is this something Tarantino has done before?

Filmbrain

The fake brand Red Apple cigarettes have appeared in almost all of QT's films. Not sure about the soda though...

Peter Nellhaus

The Academy of Music theater closed sometime around 1976 if I remember correctly. It became the Palladium where they had live concerts. For a truer grindhouse experience, there was also the Variety Photoplays theater on 12th or 13th Street and 2nd Ave, or close to that intersection. You had to actually go to the theater to see what was playing because the person who answered the phone was going to tell you. Most of the time they showed junk like film by Ted V. Mikels. I usually walked by just to look at the posters. The one time I recall seeing anything there, they showed Henry King's "Carousel" (the only R and H musical I like), with my personal cult film, Noel Black's "Cover Me Babe".

Steve from Controlled Burning

The cigarettes and cola are just like Big Kahuna Burgers...fun, trivial stuff that gets cycled through many of his films.

My initial thought was that Grindhouse was a really fun experience overall, but if you take all the elements (films and trailers) on their own, the degree of enjoyment and quality varies. After all, it was meant to be a full-blown experience rather than a singular, "good" movie, right?

What I think is most telling about Death Proof is that it has long, boring stretches of dialogue that don't seem on a par with previous QT films, and acting that seems amateur at best in many cases. But when I think back on films I've seen from the era being homage'd, they were rife with boring, badly acted scenes that buffered the action. So in a way, QT has created such a loving tribute to those films that he knows he's making a less than stellar one himself. Which seems great if film is all you care about; not so great if you want vast ticket sales (as one would expect the W's do).

The other thing that stood out after the fact was that much of the hardcore violence was difficult to watch. The tire-over-the-face moment especially rough, I would say. But, during that era, when CG had not yet become the tool of the day, violent effects were sometimes quite horrific, if only because you knew that they somehow made it look like a knife went through a person's head, or something along those lines. With CG effects, you can marvel at how realistic it looks, but you also know it's just a computer graphic and therefore the fright is reduced.

I'm still trying to fathom what the hell was happening in some of the Eli Roth Thanksgiving scenes.

ColinS

"I'm also not entirely comfortable with Tarantino's handling of Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the John Hughes-loving actress in the cheerleader outfit (labeled Vipers, natch) who is left behind by her friends as rape bait for hillbilly Jasper (Jonathan Loughran, who played the would-be rapist of comatose Uma Thurman in Kill Bill.) It's a bit of nastiness that, while closer in spirit to a genuine grindhouse film, doesn't quite work with everything leading up to it. It's inconsistent, which ultimately is my biggest complaint with the film." filmbrain.

No inconsistence at all.

Oh, for sure what the women did by leaving Lee on her own, and Abernathy saying Lee is making a porn movie are quite stupid and irresponsible. However, you have made a cardinal error of hillbilly prejudice.

Show this back water guy some love. He obviously was quite meticulous in taking care of that car. He advertised it's sale in the newspaper, and he trusted the women to take it out and return it. Now why would he go out and wreck his chance for what could be a sweet financial windfall for a prized collector's car, by raping Lee?

Granted, he might take too much of a "forward" approach to chatting with Lee, he assuming "porn chicks" are easy, but I believe Lee would be able to sweetly, she having established her charming sweetness, let him know the girls did not tell the truth. With that revelation, he may be a bit upset and quite worried that his car comes back in one piece, but to automatically decide to rape Lee?

That's is some serious prejudice against "hillbillies" there. Not all hillbilly men are inbred rapists.

I left in your Jasper reference from "Kill Bill..." for the simply reason that you made a false assumption that an actor who plays a character type in one movie is automatically playing that same character's action in another movie. You fell into the Tarantino's trick of f'ing with audience expectations. If you think I am off base, listen/read a lot of the disappointment of many "fans" who expected Stuntman Mike to be Snake Plisskin (badass of "Escape from New York"). Tarantino's oeuvre IS about f'ing with audience expectations of genre conventions all the time.

Now, if he was just doing these injokes without any forms of transcendence I would not apprecitate him as artist in the least. I find it shocking that a critical analysis of this film is a bit clouded by prejudice of Quentin Tarantino personality (good or bad) to miss a true masterpiece of cinema poetry in the first half of the "Death Proof." It is a cinematic lyrical treatise on fatalism from the opening shot to the horrorible murders. And this is what makes Tarantino so great; he by his directions and attention to details elevates certain archetype elements of "trash" genre films to make movie art.

"Is Tarantino passing moral judgment with this obvious good girl/bad girl dichotomy?"

No.

After all, practically all of Tarantino's characters so far, do stupid things and/or are criminals. But I felt for the loss of those women as I was dazzled and repulsed by the gore of the death carnage. Theirs were indeed lives taken away in an instant without warning or impending signals to themselves. Arlene might have had a bit of premonition but she was lullabied (quite directly by Julia on the back porch) back to the easy going of a girls' night out not looking for any trouble. For sure, this is quite familiar in the slasher genre convention, but the elements (shots, ordinary dialog (extraordinary in itself for me, no overreaching cleverness), music, etc.) Tarantino uses make the loss of these women cinema mood poetry. It really shows his love for women, and whether we agree that violent revenge is the best way to replace loss in life, at least in the movies were can be rejuvinated by a kick ass carthartic conclusion of a revenge flick conventions. So he gives the women their inspiring moment of glory to overcome victimization. And true to form as a movie making artist Tarantino showcased his virtuosity in the second half as well. "Death Proof" is a cinematic masterpiece of a very high caliber.

I must admit, I approached seeing this film with very low expectations, but to my surprise what a gem I discovered.

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