Wednesday, August 26, 2009

20 Favorite Films (since 1992): Part 1b

I almost forgot: I also thought I'd throw in a ranking of Quentin's movies, since it only seems logical.

1. Pulp Fiction (1994)/Jackie Brown (1997)
[ 2-Disc DVD| 2-Disc DVD]
I go back and forth on which one of these two films is better, but either way, Jackie Brown is criminally underrated. It's Tarantino's most mature work, and it expertly blends both his trademark style and a set of more genuine characters. Unlike Marsellus Wallace or Bill, I believe that there are Ordell Robbies in the world. As Max Cherry, Robert Forster gives a great understated performance that is both believable and pure Tarantino. Also, even though their parts are limited, it represents some of the last respectable work Robert De Niro and Michael Keaton have done (and, curiously, some of the last work Bridget Fonda has done at all -- where have you gone, Bridget?).

As for Pulp Fiction, it's easy to forget the movie's brilliance, given how well-known and ingrained in the culture it has become. Yet, the opening diner conversation, the needle bit (starting when the phone rings in Eric Stoltz's house), Butch returning to his apartment, Phil LaMarr's short screen time and the character of Winston Wolf all remain some of the finest work Tarantino has ever done, directed, written, edited and performed to perfection.

2. Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof (2007) [Extended and Unrated]
[ 2-Disc DVD| Blu-Ray]
Like Jackie Brown, Death Proof remains criminally underrated by those with no patience. Maybe people just find the characters unlikable, but I happen to enjoy listening to them talk, because it's all clever, sharply-observed exposition or tension-building chatter, and like he does with most of his actors, he draws out one of Kurt Russell's best performances. Unlike Jackie Brown, though, I have little hope that I can convert people. Oh well. When Quentin is dead and people are studying his movies in 40 years, I think this is a wrong that will be at least modestly righted.

3. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Just as good at the tension-building and exposition, but the dialogue rarely has the full flair of Tarantino's usual lines, Eli Roth is terrible, and the film overall does feel a tad sparse. The third act is gangbusters though. I say as much, using a whole bunch of bonus words, in my full review.

4. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)/Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
[ DVD 1and 2| Blu-Ray 1and 2]
I like Kill Bill Vol. 1. One of the things holding me back from loving it might be that I'm not the biggest Uma Thurman fan. I'm not saying she's bad in the film; just that, as an actress, she's never really blown me away. Aside from her, the movie is a visually stunning, lightning-fast ride all the way through (at the very least, this is one of Quentin's most dazzling-looking movies).

I also like Kill Bill Vol. 2, but not as much as Vol. 1. Not because of the slower pace, mind you (I did just rank Inglourious Basterds, Death Proof and Jackie Brown above it, didn't I?), but because the Budd material isn't that interesting to me (although the grave punishment and his scene with Elle are good). I could also do without Michael Parks as Esteban, an extended speed bump on the home stretch of The Bride's revenge. These two things have gotta be at least 45 or more minutes of the movie. If the movie was just Pai Mei, Elle vs. The Bride, and David Carradine talking for two hours, it might have been my favorite of his films.

5. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
[ 2-Disc DVD| Blu-Ray]
Finally, I've never been that impressed by Tarantino's debut feature. I like it, but I've always felt like it was only running on 6 cylinders instead of 8. Frankly, if Tim Roth and Harvey Keitel weren't in it -- sorry, Steve -- I don't know if I'd have liked it at all.

Tarantino's Four Rooms segment is pretty good, although I'd consider it fairly non-essential, especially given that you would presumably have to sit through the first two segments of the movie to get to it and Rodriguez's. I also really enjoy both True Romance and From Dusk Till Dawn (which we need on Blu-Ray, stat).

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