Quentin Tarantino is one of the most overrated directors of modern times. Hold on, I think I should do this Tarantino style… a bit too long, full of expletives, out of sequence, and put pointlessly into chapters.
Chapter One: Django Was Not Off The Chain
Django Unchained was for some reason universally praised by critics and consumers alike. With all the hype surrounding this film, I was expecting some kind of Magnum Opus from Tarantino but in the end Django was just a 160 minute movie which made Sslavery seem trivial. The tone of the script and indeed the entire film was more Blazing Saddles than Roots, with its inept Ku Klux Klan members and unrealistic violence. In addition to this mediocrity, Django Unchained seemed yet another one of Tarantino’s “acceptable racism” vehicles; whereby the prejudice was cleverly disguised behind post-modernist references.
The racism of the screenplay went far beyond the façade of the film, which purported to be some kind of Django (1966) and Mandingo (1975) amalgamation. Regardless of its “borrowing” from Spaghetti Western and Blaxploitation films, it was all the other elements of the film which made it a pro-Caucasian anti-minority movie.
Firstly, Jamie Foxx as Django was a side character to Christoph Waltz, who played the superior Dr. King Schultz. The lead character’s name screamed superiority with “Doctor” reinforcing the idea of education, skill, and knowledge, “King” adding a touch of elitism and further ascendancy, and finally “Schultz” meaning headman or person in charge. Christoph’s character also exuded manners, and he tutted when Django placed his hat on the saloon table. Etiquette, education, and culture were attributes which only the white, righteous lead possessed.
The slaves on the other hand were anything but clever or educated. You could argue that this was an accurate portrayal of the time; but in a Western where rap music is playing in the background, we are hardly dealing with historical accuracy. The character Hildi (Django’s wife), full name “Broomhilda Von Shaft” (instead of the correct Schaft) seemed to see-saw between dull contemporary speech and caricatured “slave-speak”. Despite her character having learned German, she spoke without even a hint of elocution. Even the subtitles denoted her unschooled speech; as she spoke in German the subtitles read “I don’t got any friends”. I guess she was taught broken-german-english by her Mistress.
The strange mixture of contemporary and caricatured history was one of the elements which added to the trivialisation of this period in history. The black actors for instance, who played the slaves in this film, seemed to be either talentless or were simply following Tarantino’s direction by walking around with a 21st century swagger. This minute, yet integral part to the overall film, just added to the unrealistic portrayal of slavery. Instead of being downtrodden, mentally and physically abused victims, these slaves walked about like the shackle and chain they wore was some kind of fashion accessory; strutting around with a corny noughties Hip-Hop walk that could have only come from the Rick Ross-infused present day. A whole generation of minority actors who cannot imagine or portray anger, plight, and hardship that their own ancestors felt, is a sorry state of affairs. It’s even worse if the actors’ emotion was stifled by a director trying to create an impassive, cartoonish depiction of the past. With the King-Schultz character referring to these atrocities as just “slavery malarkey”, this just added to the down-played, historically-blind, offensiveness on show.
Additionally, with sadism and cruelty being an integral aspect of the plot, the inclusion of two Caucasian “heartthrobs” playing the two slave-owners in the film, did away with any emotive affectiveness the audience may have had. The two plantation owners were played by nineties and noughties’ hunk Leonardo DiCaprio and eighties’ hunk Don Johnson. The choice of casting these two actors essentially soothed their evil-doing, and as the audience glazed over the foulness of these characters (with their attraction for the actors) the barbarity became completely masked by the performer’s outward appearance.
Although Django Unchained was not Tarantino’s greatest script, when there was a clever quip or a blip of witty dialogue, this was more often than not given to the white actors. With every encounter Christoph Waltz had, he seemed to retort with charming and amusing repartee. The one and only funny line in the entire film (the “two weeks in Boston” punchline) was spoken by Leonardo Dicaprio. Jamie Foxx on the other hand, just seemed to mope about without anything memorable to say. The other black actors like Samuel L. Jackson just skirted around the fringes of the film, content in playing second-fiddle to a bunch of witty Caucasians. The irony that all the minorities played less important roles in a film about slavery, was the biggest comment about racism the film could have made; had it not been completely unintentional.
In the end, even though Django Unchained was financially one of Tarantino’s most successful films, in reality it was one of his worst. With the film, the characters, the dialogue, and even the plot largely coming off as fake and exaggerated, this was a missed opportunity of epic proportions. With a juxtaposed soundtrack (which was done more successfully in Young Guns II: Blaze Of Glory), and an empty-looking setting (strangely resembling the Back To the Future Part III set), the finished work seemed to reference all the wrong films in all the wrong ways. With no tension, no atmosphere, no feeling, and no realism, Django seemed like it was cobbled together by stitching together several small isolated scenes by a slowly diminishing talent. Django Unchained was a complete disappointment.
Chapter Two: Unglorious Bas-Turds
Inglorious Basterds was also a complete shambles. If Quentin felt the need to rewrite history, he should have done it like Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. Instead, Mr. Tarantino (once again) created a cartoon-like movie which seem to pointlessly caricature the past without any reasoning.
Inglorious was no Schindler’s List. There were no real horrors shown and no depictions of the Holocaust. The end result was about as believable as Brad Pitt playing a Jew, and even though it may have been intended as a revenge movie (even though making a shite film is hardly revenge for what the Nazis did) it came off as a crappy teleplay.
The fact that most of the characters were exaggerated (even when they were depicting real-life people) just made the entire movie and the topic it was trying to tackle, an outright farce. With Mike Myers doing his best “British stereotype courtesy of Hollywood” routine, and Michael Fassbender doing an over-the-top contrived British accent and saying “Jerry” as much as possible, the mood was again turned into a wannabe comedy (even though nothing was funnier than seeing Quentin’s fat chubby hands around Dianne Kruger’s neck).
When real-life characters like Churchill and Hitler were shown, they were so unlike their real-selves, that the unbelievably became extreme. In Pulp Fiction (where the casting didn’t really matter) the Marilyn Monroe lookalike actually looked like her real-self, but in Inglorious Basterds (where the casting actually mattered), the roles were given to rubber-faced buffoons.
Then there was all the pointless Tarantinoisms which seem to have been added to ward off the boredom. The pointless cut mid-scene to Joseph Goebbels fucking his French Translator was unneeded, and the inclusion of schizophrenic subtitles which translated “Oui” to “Oui” even though everything else was written in English, was nonsensical. There was the inclusion of David Bowie in the soundtrack, and there was the addition of Samuel L. Jackson as narrator; all elements which made a shitty film even shittier.
When the score gives more atmosphere and tension than the direction, you know a director has lost it. When the Entity-esque track played as Hans Landa (Christph Waltz) entered the restaurant, the music created more feeling and mood in a few seconds than Mr. Tarantino managed to create in over two hours.
This being one of Tarantino’s worst films, the last narcissistic line before the end credits “I think this may be my masterpiece” was so ironic, it was almost laughable (had the audience not been snoring by that point).
Chapter Three: Pulpy Reservoir Romance
Watching Django and Inglorious made me realise how much Quentin Tarantino’s talent has waned since he first hit the scene. Movies like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction were both refreshing and entertaining, and even though they both referenced other’s work, they were still worthy of praise due to the intelligent and witty lines. Reservoir Dogs may have had entire scenes ripped from Hong Kong drama City On Fire, and the lead characters in Pulp Fiction seemed slightly The Executioner-ish, however with their great dialogue and chaptered segments, they were something unique and different back in the early-to-mid-nineties. Back then we all hoped Tarantino would keep it up.
Watching these movies today, you wonder what happened to the guy who used to write dialogue which could make an audience laugh at the same time as keeping them gripped to their seat. These days, the only thing left from Quentin’s heyday is the racism.
In Pulp Fiction in particular, there was a swath of racist epithets. The film opened with Tim Roth saying all Liqueur Store owners in America are foreign (the irony of a British person sat in an American diner moaning about foreigners was lost on even British viewers back in 1994). With the Ringo/Pumpkin character constantly using words like “Gooks” and describing the busboy as a “Wetback”, we could see racism forming a trend in Tarantino’s work.
Most people (including Quentin himself) usually excuse this racism as “accurate portrayal of a character”, with Mr. Tarantino saying “that’s how people talk” or “people in Inglewood speak like that” to paraphrase a quote. It is surprising then, given that only certain people talk like this, that everybody in a Quentin Tarantino film (regardless of time or place) speak in a prejudicial way:
- In Pulp Fiction, the S&M store-owner (not the Policeman “Zed”) called Ving Rhames’ character a “nigger”, not exactly a character that needed to say this word.
- There was the Captain Koons character played by Christopher Walken calling Asians “Gooks” and “Greasy Slopes”. In this flashback scene, we even see Butch watching a racist cartoon “Clutch Cargo” where an Eskimo talks in broken English (“He Tink Todem Po’ Alive!”). I guess everybody and everything in the fifties was racist.
- There was also Quentin Tarantino playing “Jimmie Dimmick”, a poncey L.A.-type who saw fit to spurt the “dead nigger storage” line. This was a stretch, I mean which pompous white guy would talk like this to a black hitman? I guess this is reality in Quentin’s world; in the real world, there aren’t many pairs of black and white, suited hitmen with afros and ponytails. This “realism” excuse is only brought up to defend the racism, not the plot or characters.
From the “Dead Nigger Storage” line in Pulp Fiction to the “Sicicilian Origin” scene in True Romance, you can almost imagine this whiteboy pounding words like “gook” and “nigger” into his fucking typewriter with great zeal. With his constant brown-nosing, Kangol-companion Samuel L. Jackson leaping to his defence every five minutes, it’s no wonder Quentin Tarantino wrote a “house-nigger” character for him in Django Unchained. People like Jackson, Luke from 2 Live Crew and directors like Antoine Fuqua seem to love sticking up for this imbecilic idiot, and it further bolsters Tarantino’s ego and increases the chance of another N-word-a-thon.
Forgetting the racism however, I have to admit that Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction were pretty good films. Witty conversation like the Reservoir Dogs “Tipping” scene and quirky things like the unknown contents of the briefcase in Pulp Fiction is what made these films special. It seemed back in the early nineties, that Quentin Tarantino would continue with his low budget, clever dialogue movies. Once the sun set on that decade however, all Tarantino films became full of big set-pieces and elaborate locations. Even though they might not be $200,000,000 budget films, the scope of them seem more important than the content these days. After Pulp Fiction, not a single film of Tarantino’s has been witty or clever…
Chapter Four Part 1: Jackie Was Brown
…Three years after Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Quentin’s “I’ve made a movie for black people” bullshit ended up being a flick which was contrived and disappointing…
Chapter Four Part 2: The Pointless Volumes Of Kill Bill
…And then came the tediously horrid Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2.
Kill Bill Volume 1 was one of the worst movies of the noughties. A wannabe Blaxploitation, Kung-Fu, Revenge, Action-Thriller, Kill Bill was a giant mess of a film. The end result was a poor movie with fight-scenes resembling a cheap Matrix Revolutions clone.
Volume 2 was one of the weirdest and most disjointed sequels in the history of film with a completely different look and even a different typeface for the opening credits. It seemed Tarantino threw every trick at these movies (including Noir and Anime) in order to claw back any credence he may once have had. But throwing crap into a pot already brimming with shit, makes for an overblown pile of dull nonsense.
If it were not for Michael Parks playing the pimp character Esteban Vinaio in Kill Bill Volume 2, the whole débâcle would have been better left in Quentin and Uma’s mind…
Chapter Four Part 3: Grinding With Rodriguez
…Then came Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino’s homage to Grindhouse cinema. With Robert Rodriguez by his side, Tarantino created yet another post-modernist “bad on purpose” movie, and surprise surprise, he once again crowbarred some racism into the film. The black DJ character called “Jungle Julia” felt contrived and prejudice even for a B-movie pastiche, and considering Rodriguez’ film (Planet Terror) with all its corniness was the better film of the two, Death Proof didn’t do much for Quentin’s credibility as a writer or director. I mean, when the spiritless Robert Rodriguez makes a better movie in your back-to-back festival of kitsch, you know you’re losing it. Sure, there were a few elements which worked; the colouring did at least look like the seventies, and the last twenty minutes or so was entertaining, but overall Death Proof was a far cry from the films that made Quentin Tarantino popular in the nineties.
Chapter Five: The Origins Of Quentin
The late nineties was a wash with crime movies with wannabe clever dialogue and non-linear storytelling. It seems that a man who made his life’s work from copying others, would ironically be copied by others. A career made from stealing, oh sorry, referencing other’s work, seems to have made Quentin one of the most successful directors of modern times. Once you become the Weinstein’s bitch, I guess you start winning awards for some of the worst films ever made.
If you took away all the corrupt media praise, you would see that Quentin Tarantino movies are always devoid of emotion. He is credited for being “the greatest filmmaker of his generation”, but in reality his films are usually made from the same ingredients… ratchet-up the violence, increase the racism and the coarse language, copy other people’s work, then point and shoot. His films are essentially a series of sketches compartmentalised into chapters, pretending to be high-brow. They are films which a pre-pubescent teenager thinks are violent and whose parents think are intelligent. His films in reality, are neither. These days they are just racist trash.
Mr. ‘Tino who is of Irish-Italian descent, could say “wop” or “mick” if he so pleases. Being the same race as your racial slurs entitles you to say them as much as your merry little heart wants. But just because QT’s mother dated Wilt Chamberlain, it doesn’t give him the right to say “nigger”, even once. And God only knows how he thinks he has the right to say “wetback” or “gook”, he’s hardly a melting pot of races.
Without anything new to offer, and without any more clever scripts, Quentin Tarantino is now just a racist director who looks like Richard Kiel’s twin with some form of mild ADHD and Autism. Tarantino himself once said “Directors don’t get better as they get older” in a Playboy interview a while back. This was I guess, a kind of prophetic irony. Surely even Quentin acknowledges that his films are getting worse?
Mr. Tarantino has also said that he will retire from film at age 60. After being subjected to the last decade or so of his work, I hope that he keeps his word. Only a decade to go…