Posts Tagged ‘Quentin Tarantino’
It is fair to say that Quentin Tarantino’s films are usually a calculated mix of Old and New. From infusing the heist genre with the Greek tragedy in Reservoir Dogs, to reintroducing America’s hegemony to pulp-level neo-exploitation with Pulp Fiction, to re-contextualizing the Japanese revenge tale with Kill Bill, to creating new history with Inglourious Basterds, the eccentric director is perhaps the best at paying homage to films of yesteryear while simultaneously producing creatively original yarns that intriguingly reflect their modern contexts. With Django Unchained, Tarantino continues this pattern. But saying that is a lot easier than proving it, so let’s go ahead and take a closer look.
The movie’s combination of the classic Western with the classic medieval romance is how it incorporates this New/Old complementation. And before you begin to wonder how Westerns can be considered new (besides in comparison to the medieval era), think of how modernized the genre has become in recent years. For instance, The Dark Knight is a Western dressed in super hero ornamentation, and Machete is a Western that simply uses a Latino protagonist and an exploitation-style aesthetic.
The genre has lived on by continually finding new masks to wear while riding the same wave of traditional masculine values it helped to establish. I say “help” because just as certain American values have subsisted since the heyday of Westerns, there are also values which still carry a European residue from long before then. Such values spring from as far back as medieval poetry, which celebrated the “ideal” man as a rescuer of the “ideal” woman and vanquisher of evil, often doing so singlehandedly and to the additional benefit of his people. Indeed, it is by looking closely at the main protagonist, Django, that we can decipher exactly how these two genres are mixed together, as well as how they reflect the context of today.
Every few months or so, I get into this strange mood where I think the film industry has become all hype and no substance and I feel nostalgic for the movies I used to love. Typically during these periods, every film I see only seems to confirm that sense and I grow increasingly disappointed until something finally snaps me out of it.
This time last year, I found myself in the midst of one of my film industry doldrums and I walked into Greg Mottola’s coming-of-age film Adventureland expecting yet another gross-out teen comedy like his previous film Superbad. However, what I encountered was a film that restored my faith in the medium.
I remember the moment exactly. Kristen Stewart’s character Em and Jesse Eisenberg’s character James are simply driving in a car as the Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” plays on the radio. They have just left a bar after Em’s secret lover and his wife walk in and the couples share an awkward and loaded exchange. Em is clearly thrown by the encounter and the scene that follows basically shows her reaction to it. As she drives, Em’s face goes from sad to angry to disappointed to confused in a matter of seconds, displaying all of the complicated emotions she feels. And it was during that scene that I remembered how much I love film and how powerful film could be. It wasn’t just Stewart’s incredible performance or the music choice or the way Mottola filmed it, it was the combination of all those things. It was the realization that I was seeing a truly extraordinary moment of creation happening on the screen and I had suddenly regained that passion for movies I had experienced as a child.
I’ve recently felt myself moving toward another bout of movie despondency so I popped in my Adventureland DVD and prepared to have my faith restored. On a whim, I watched the previews before the film and one of them happened to be a roundup of Miramax films, the same company that distributed Adventureland.
As the preview rolled, I realized how many Miramax films I’ve enjoyed throughout the years. I mean, this is the production/distribution company that first sparked my love for movies all the way back in 1996 with the release of Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient. I may not have fully understood all the film’s themes at eight years old, but I certainly appreciated the beauty. The passionate yet tragic love story of the central characters and the gorgeous cinematography are the reasons the film remains one of my favorites even today. Miramax was the company that sparked my love of musicals too. Sitting in a half-empty theater in the middle of the day watching Chicago was a positively transformative experience. The sex appeal and the combination of stage performance and cinema that only film could supply was positively incredible. Miramax was even the company that taught me about post-modernist referencing: I delighted in the way Wes Craven’s Scream deconstructed the horror genre and was positively astounded by the endless layers of pop culture reference Quentin Tarantino used in the Kill Bill films. So I began to wonder, what happened to Miramax?
Miramax began some thirty years ago in New York as an independent production and distribution company founded by Bob and Harvey Weinstein. The goal of the company—named for the Weinsteins’ parents Miriam and Max—was to produce and distribute independent films which were often more notable for their artistic value than their potential box office earnings. Between their opening in 1979 and 1993, Miramax distributed such films as Sex, Lies and Videotape and Reservoir Dogs. However, it really began to flourish after the Walt Disney Company bought it in 1993. After the sale, with more financial backing at their disposal, the Weinsteins were able to run the company fairly independently of the rest of the Disney family.
The Weinsteins had always been fairly aggressive in their business practices, from acquiring films to acquiring promising filmmaking talent, and that same style carried over in their Disney period. Nowhere was this aggressive business style more apparent than the company’s Oscar campaigns. Perhaps the best example of a successful Miramax campaign came in 1998 when Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan for a Best Picture Oscar. According to a New York Magazine article from 1995, Miramax spent an estimated $5 million campaigning for the film and its arguable whether it would have been so fortunate without such significant backing. Miramax carried on in this manner with one successful Oscar-winning film after another. And then 2005 rolled around.
The Weinsteins had a tenuous relationship with former Disney CEO Michael Eisner over issues like financing and creative matters and when it came time to renew the brothers’ contracts in 2005, the negotiations went so poorly they ultimately decided to leave to create The Weinstein Company. Miramax continued relatively unchanged under the direction of Daniel Battsek until this past January when Disney closed the its New York and Los Angeles offices and made it a part of the larger Disney infrastructure, thereby reducing the production output to only a handful of films per year. Though companies like Summit Entertainment and even The Weinstein Company have showed interest in purchasing Miramax from Disney, it’s likely the $700 million asking price, as reported by The Deal Magazine, will mean the company will stay in Disney’s possession for years to come. However, the real question in all this madness is what company can audiences expect to take up the creative slack?
Miramax’s most obvious heir is The Weinstein Company. In it’s few short years, it has already made some impressive films like quite a few of this year’s Oscar nominees including Inglourious Basterds, Nine and A Single Man. And it has quite a few promising films in the pipeline including two Sundance Favorites, The Company Men starring Ben Affleck and Chris Cooper and Blue Valentine starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. However, another independent company that might give the Weinsteins a run for their money is Summit Entertainment. Former Paramount Vice Chairman Robert G. Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger established Summit in April 2007, but it’s already shown some promise. It produced and distributed this year’s Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker and with the cash cow that is The Twilight Saga as one of its properties, Summit shows no signs of disappearing anytime soon.
Regardless of what the future may hold, I’m sure there will always be films to help remind me why I fell in love with the medium in the firs place. And if not, I can always pick something from the Miramax library for a little reminder.
Continuing our breakdown of the major categories for this year’s 82nd annual Academy Awards, here is our analysis of the nominees eligible to receive the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
Best Original Screenplay
The Golden Globes are often a useful bellwether, but since the Hollywood Foreign Press doesn’t separate Original and Adapted Screenplays, Up in the Air’s win there only suggests the outcome of the Adapted Screenplay category at the Oscars. Quentin Tarantino won the Critic’s Choice for his Inglourious Basterds screenplay so he has a good chance of winning. However, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, who have two previous screenplay Oscars for No Country for Old Men and Fargo, have just as strong a chance for A Serious Man. Moreover, they won with the National Board of Review and the National Society of Film Critics so they may edge out Tarantino for the win. Mark Boal’s powerful screenplay for The Hurt Locker could pull a surprise win since it beat the Coens at the Writers Guild and the winners there typically win the Oscar as well. Less likely would be a win for Up which, though emotionally touching, may not be able to compete with the more serious fare offered by the other screenplays. The least likely winner would be Oren Moverman and Alessandro Camon’s screenplay for The Messenger, which, though powerful, is the nominee that has received the least nominations from other prestigious bodies.
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Variety.com reports that at the Morelia Intl. Film Festival yesterday director Quentin Tarantino expressed his desire to make another Kill Bill sequel. He said he would want around 10 years of rest for “The Bride” and her daughter Beebe, but whether that means actual years or years in the story is unclear.
Tarantino also claimed that he has plenty of material to make more “Basterds” movies, suggesting that if another installment is made it could go in any direction – prequel or sequel.
In addition, he also said he would like to “re-imagine” several genres, naming westerns and gangster movies as possibilities.