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Posts Tagged ‘Quentin Tarantino’

3 foreign films, 2 black and whites, 1 Best Picture winner, and much more…

Close friend, Max Rock, and I discuss our top 5 favorite movies of all time. This is our first attempt at a podcast so we apologize for the sound quality, our delirium (this was recorded at 1 AM), and any harm this may cause. Enjoy!

00:00 – 01:32 — Introductions

01:32 – 03:26  — Making the lists

03:26 – 06:36 — Max’s #5: The Birdcage

06:36 – 10:57 — Glenn’s #5: The Third Man

10:57 – 18:05 — Max’s #4: From Dusk Till Dawn

18:05 – 23:40 — Glenn’s #4: The Matrix

23:40 – 34:34 — Max’s #3: Fanny and Alexander

34:34 – 42:22 — Glenn’s #3: Pierrot Le Fou

42:22 – 1:01:24 –Max’s #2: There Will Be Blood

1:01:24 – 1:08:17 — Glenn’s #2: The Apartment

1:08:17 – 1:19:30 — Max’s #1: Wild Strawberries

1:19:30 – 1:29:57 — Glenn’s #1: Punch-Drunk Love

1:29:57 – 1:35:52 — Outro/Announcements

Music — “Danger Mountain” by Anamanaguchi

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To help raise money for Haiti, Quentin Tarantino and the Weinstein Company hosted an art exhibit that featured several artists and their Inglourious Basterds inspired works. These pieces are all unique, riveting, and extremely mature; it’s too bad the film’s actual marketing campaign couldn’t go this scenic route.

Click to enlarge.

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The Oscars. The most prestigious show that honors the esteemed works of an intimate community? Or meaningless, arbitrary titles that are granted to the elitists of Hollywood? Either way you look at it, here are my opinions on some of their nominations.

Full List of Nominations

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Coraline
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and The Frog
The Secret of Kells
Up

2009 was an excellent year for animation, and the Academy thankfully decided to recognize that by extending the number of nominations to five. It is, however, pointless because Up is destined to win; its transcendence to Best Picture nominee is enough to seal the victory in its own specific category.

Unashamed to admit this, I think Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox is more deserving of the award . The hands-on approach that went into developing the minutiae of his world is such an astonishing feat in today’s world of cinema, and it shouldn’t be overlooked. His meticulous vision served as both a nostalgic nod to old-school filmmaking and as a reminder which demonstrated what the stop-motion medium can surprisingly achieve.

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ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Mark Boal – The Hurt Locker
Quentin Tarantino – Inglourious Basterds
Oren Moverman – The Messenger
Joel and Ethan Coen – A Serious Man
Pete Docter and Bob Peterson – Up

Seeing Quarantino Tarantino and the Coen Brothers up for a writing award makes sense. The screenplays to Inglourious Basterds and A Serious Man could only spring out of the minds of geniuses who’ve been penning wonderfully creative stories for over a decade. Both of these films were personal and audacious, and they were exactly in touch with what the authors love-Tarantino and his love for film, the Coens and their love for absurdity.

The Coens have won twice for screenplay (Fargo and No Country for Old Men). Tarantino won for Pulp Fiction, and I think he’ll be taking home his second Oscar this year.

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BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell – District 9
Nick Hornby – An Education
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche – In the Loop
Geoffrey Fletcher – Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner – Up in the Air

Of all the great nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay,  District 9s inclusion makes me the most content. It fits more in the realm of original screenplay (it’s an “adaptation” of the short film District 9), but it still surprisingly rests as a science-fiction screenplay among three dramas and a British satire. Cynics who disregard the Academy for its pretension can be appeased by its decision to honor a Summer popcorn flick. How much of a chance does it have? Not too much. Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air should be walking away with the victory.


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ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Penelope Cruz – Nine
Vera Farmiga – Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal – Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick – Up in the Air
Mo’Nique – Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Matt Damon – Invictus
Woody Harrelson – The Messenger
Christopher Plummer – The Last Station
Stanley Tucci – The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz – Inglourious Basterds

Christoph Waltz and Mo’Nique have sauntered through this year’s awards circuit. They’ve nabbed just about every award that precedes an Oscar, and the humility with which they have accepted all of their prestigious and critical praise shows how much all of this means to them. The two gave memorable and terrifying performances, and it will be touching to see them give one more great acceptance speech this Sunday.

Two more nominees that deserve attention are Anna Kendrick for Up in the Air and Woody Harrelson in The Messenger. One, a young budding star; the other, an experienced veteran. Both performances were surprisingly wholesome and unforgettable. However, it’s not their time to win.

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ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Sandra Bullock – The Blind Side
Helen Mirren – The Last Station
Carey Mulligan – An Education
Gabourey Sidibe – Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
Meryl Streep – Julie & Julia

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Jeff Bridges – Crazy Heart
George Clooney – Up in the Air
Colin Firth – A Single Man
Morgan Freeman – Invictus
Jeremy Renner – The Hurt Locker

Having only seen the performances of Carey Mulligan, George Clooney, Gabourey Sidibe, and Jeremy Renner, I can’t really say anything substantial about these two prominent categories. It is apparent, though, that this awards season has been very kind to Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock, and with only a week left until the big show, they seem more like solidified locks than assumed frontrunners.

How does that make me feel? Well, I’d love to see Carey Mulligan take home the statue for her charming performance in An Education. But it’s not her time, and such is life. As for Jeff Bridges…he is a truly amazing actor who’s gone far too long without touching gold.

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DIRECTING
Kathryn Bigelow – The Hurt Locker
James Cameron – Avatar
Lee Daniels – Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
Jason Reitman – Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino – Inglourious Basterds

Kathryn Bigelow is the fourth woman ever to be nominated for Best Director, and she has a damn good chance of actually grasping the title. Seeing her join the pantheon of directors, amongst the ranks of Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee, the Coen Brothers, and Clint Eastwood (all winners in the 2000’s), would be an incredible moment for cinephiles. Here’s hoping she gets it. I’ve extensively professed my affection for The Hurt Locker, and Ms. Bigelow is absolutely deserving of the acclaim.


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BEST PICTURE
Avatar
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
A Serious Man
Up
Up in the Air

This year’s race for Best Picture has truly been exciting. During the Summer, Precious and Up in the Air received unanimous praise from indie festivals while The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds were slowly gaining buzz from their theatrical releases. Then came Winter and James Cameron’s tour de force that swept the entire globe. His revolutionary Avatar became a phenomenon among the common man, and while it was mixed amongst critics, it’s been too large to ignore. Precious and Up in the Air eventually made their ways into theaters, but their status as frontrunners diminished with Cameron’s international campaign. The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds have maintained their energy due to the inherent quality of the two films.

So who will win? My bet is Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker. But the Academy has been known to surprise us.


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It is now 2010, and everything from reviews to teasers is suddenly culminating to this. A reflective and hopefully not so irrelevant list of my favorite movies from 2009. I know that publishing such a compilation seems so out of date when we’re already in the new decade, but I want to contemplate on the past year a tiny bit before plunging into the future.

Before we count down, I’d like to share with you the ineligibles and the honorable mentions. The ineligibles are movies that seemed likely in making the list, but are ones I never got around to seeing. The honorable mentions are films that just barely missed the cut.

Ineligible: In the Loop, Fantastic Mr. Fox, A Single Man, The White Ribbon

Honorable Mentions: Drag Me to Hell, Anvil: The Story of Anvil, Coraline, Moon

And so we begin. It’s time to throw all numerical scores out the window and to simply go with intuition.

10. Where the Wild Things Are

Spike Jonze’s adaptation of beloved children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, is an assortment of innocence, wonderment, and loneliness. The treatment of these consolidated emotions is a bit rushed and unfocused, however, and what remains is a frenetic and rather sloppy movie; but where the film lacks in steadiness is where it succeeds in providing unabashed and sometimes painful emotion. Jonze’s artful construction of a purely fantastical world serves as a harbor of nostalgia for those who were once tormented children. From building forts to feeling ignored, Where the Wild Things Are manages to beautifully exhibit both the wonder and terror of growing up.

9. Humpday


Humpday is a cleverly inquisitve movie. At first, the film asks questions about sexuality and masculinity, but as it meanders to a fitting end, these queries slowly transform into examinations of a concept that is far more frustrating than sex. Growing up. Unbeknownst to our main characters, Andrew and Ben, they do make discoveries about themselves, and their inner demons are quietly exorcised. What makes this overall experience so cathartic is the innate goodness and relatability of the characters we follow. Now being twenty years old, I often bump into the proverbial quarter-life crisis. Thoughts of past accomplishments and future ambitions come up for dissection, and I’m sometimes unsure how to assess myself. Humpday happens to mirror some of my thoughts and apprehensions perfectly.

8. Adventureland


Adventureland isn’t just a movie that’s set in 1987. It’s a recollection of personal memories that vicariously warps us back to our own pasts. While watching this film, it’s natural to recall that sacred instance we first fell in love; it’s reactionary to conjure up memories of simply hanging out with old friends and realizing that life is pretty amazing when shared with the right people. Adventureland’s ability to feel like something in the past tense is a reminder that these years are the best years of our lives. Its depiction of joy, frustration, regret, and inebriation is honest and endearing, making us want to latch onto our own Adventureland, whatever that may be, forever.

7. A Serious Man

The latest Coen Brothers film, A Serious Man, opens with the quote, “Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you.” What follows is an hour and a half of comically tragic torture, all befalling our gentle and very disgruntled subject, Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg). How we respond to his misfortune depends on our own religious beliefs, considering that Joel and Ethan Coen never pamper us with their own direct discernment, other than to antithetically “Accept the mystery.” Many of this film’s oddities and philosophical undertones are stylistically reminiscent of one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, and that is perhaps why I adore it so much. Its wandering nature is not only thought provoking, but also brave, for it ultimately encourages us to find our own meaning to the movie’s unfortunate events ourselves.

6. An Education

Collectively, college students can be as pretentious as they are naive. I am no different. Nor is the main character of An Education, Jenny (Carey Mulligan). Her desire to become an adult far too quickly is triggered by the splendor of pop culture. She eventually finds herself circumscribed by an exquisite, highbrow life for which she is not yet ready, and it all clusters into a horrible yet calculated mess by the end. The illusion with which she is enamored is undeniably charming and elegant, and credit must be given to those across the Atlantic who made this film. Interestingly enough, behind said illusion is a reality we, myself included, should try to accept. We mustn’t be so quick to let our pretension overbear our not so necessarily terrible innocence.

5. The Hurt Locker


The most cataclysmic dangers in Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker are not epic or turbulent. Rather, they are unforeseeable and omnipresent. Trouble could be within a crowd of seemingly innocent civilians, or behind a wall hundreds of feet away, or dangling between loose bomb wires that are within one’s grasp. The notion that these dangers are all “could be’s” and “what if’s” is what makes the experience all the more terrifying. Additionally, the characters we see endure these crises are communally unstable and unpredictable, only heightening the already established tension. The intensity that is embedded within The Hurt Locker damages our characters psychologically, and we are challenged to accept them as imperfect individuals who are merely trying to survive.

4. Star Trek

As made evident by his television series, Lost, JJ Abrams has a penchant for creating thoughtful relationships between strong characters. With Star Trek, he takes familiar faces from a renowned franchise and still manages to create crisp dynamics. It’s an absolute joy to watch the relationship between James Kirk (Chris Pine) and Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto), one that traverses both directions in time, blossom from pure hatred to something a little less vile. Their exchanges, which range from simple bickering to physical engagement, are some of the best parts of the film, and where their individual character arcs conclude makes the journey with them that much more satisfying.

3. Up in the Air

Ryan Bingham’s (George Clooney) forlorn philosophy on relationships is one that I, more often than not, subscribe to. Yet, his gradual but never completed metamorphasis into a more susceptible person is alleviating on multiple levels. I say “never completed” because we don’t really know if he is a changed man by the end. Along the way, Ryan is damaged, betrayed, and abandoned, and we are left without a cathartic, warmhearted climax. Knowing that everything is literally up in the air by the end of this film, we become refugees who are forced to find a home in whatever makes the film seem whole to us. Our interpretations of such a bold ending will be subject to debate, and this is where our human tendencies will be examined. This beautiful experiment that director Jason Reitman conducts is one that I will not forget being a part of.

2. Mary and Max

Australian film, Mary and Max, is a claymation feature that is crude and sophisticated. The tone is childlike in appearance, but its deeply sad themes resonate particularly well with me at this point in my life. Currently attending college, I feel like I’m inside some sort of purgatory or in-between. I’m no longer a kid, but I’m not yet an adult. This place can be, at times, very lonely. The film’s characters are from both ends of the spectrum-Mary is a young, lonely girl, and Max is an old, misunderstood hermit. Where they converge in similarities and differences is exactly where I reside-that bubble of misunderstanding and uncertainty. Complemented by a captivating score, Mary and Max unfolds with the innocence of a children’s book, but its insight is extremely powerful.

1. Inglourious Basterds

I never thought I’d ever be putting a Tarantino film at the top of a favorites list. He’s a filmmaking genius, but the romantic in me doesn’t necessarily anchor to his masculine movies. However, upon further meditation, there’s no doubt in my mind that Inglourious Basterds is my favorite film of 2009. Tarantino’s orchestration of remorseless action serves as a shrewd device for both entertainment and examination, and I love everything that occurs on screen. More impressively, beyond the conscious brutality that Inglourious Basterds sustains is a great deal of lacerating tension that comes from people simply talking. Tarantino’s loud audacity is most prominent in his quietest scenes, creating a wholesome, epic experience-one that I admire from beginning to end.

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inglourious_basterds14

Quentin Tarantino’s filmography is like a shoebox of personal belongings. In it are homages to classics, sequences of unrelenting violence, plentiful conversations poked by sharp wit, colorful characters, and nonlinear storylines. Some might say he is a geeky manchild, hoarding every testosterone driven fantasy there is (samurai, gangsters, Nazi killers) into this little shoebox. Yet, without his passion and audacity, we may never have had the opportunity to peek into his personal and meaningful collection of films.

Tarantino’s most recent work, Inglourious Basterds, is his most subdued film I’ve seen (I haven’t seen Jackie Brown or Death Proof). Of course, it has its share of ultraviolence, but drawn out illustrations of tense dialogue are what comprise most of this smart World War II spaghetti-western.

The film follows three specific arcs over the course of five chapters. We follow the titular Basterds, a group of Jewsih-American soldiers dropped behind enemy lines to kill Nazis. They are led by the cartoonish Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), a vengeful native of Tenessee. With his troops, he strikes fear into the Germans with the cruel disassembly of several Nazi servicemen. We also follow Shoshanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), a Jewish French girl on the run after escaping the massacre of her family. As she recreates her life as the owner of a movie theater, she coincidentally comes closer to the Nazis and is given the opportunity to destroy those in the highest ranks. Finally, we follow Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), the calm and cunning “Jew Hunter” who gets in the way of both the Basterds and Shoshanna.

I wouldn’t be surprised if viewers were bored or irritated with Inglourious Basterds.  The film is very talkative. Some say it’s too talkative. The well known fact that Tarantino loves himself and his dialogue is quite apparent, but I enjoyed every goddamn minute of it. His precise editing and seamless conversations strangle you with utter suspense. Each line, be it in English, German or French, has its own purpose, and as draining as it might feel when reading subtitles for a long time, the pacing is chopped up due to the episodic nature of the film.

Unfortunately, this uneven momentum does makes the film a bit aimless at times. The two plus hour movie is illustrated in vignette form, and while these few individual scenes are brilliant, the overall narrative is not as powerful as any particular sequence. However, this isn’t really a distraction because each scene carries its own weight to add satisfaction to the climax at the very end.

Tarantino manages to sprinkle bits of self indulgence, and they do feel out of place. While these moments are designed to let the viewer breathe and nervously chuckle, they are a bit tawdry; but I guess it wouldn’t be a Tarantino film without the the B movie milieu.

The beauty of Inglourious Basterds lies within the characters. Hans Landa is perhaps Tarantino’s best written character. Perfectly played by Christoph Waltz, Landa’s chameleonic nature makes him the quintessential villain. Underneath his innocent smile lies a black heart, and this makes him the most difficult character to read. With charm and precision, Landa  hangs all of his victims by a thread of suspense, and we are simply at unease.

It is ostensible that Hans Landa is the antagonist, but what’s most surprising is that the rest of the cast is dishonrable as he. Almost every single character in this film is a bastard, and this is a testament to the excellence of Tarantino’s playful construction of “good” vs. “evil”. While we expect to have some catharsis when we see Nazis die, we’re just disturbed. The Basterds’ brutality mirrors that of the Nazis, and we eventually have no one to support. The eventual massacre of Nazis at the end of the film might bring some to delight, but this is the question that Tarantino leaves us with. Is killing always wrong? Or does it warrant cheer when done against evildoers?

The abundance of immorality challenges the viewer in a startling and unique way. There is a reason for this violence, and it tests our beliefs in humanity and the distasteful history we have. Inglourious Basterds is a work of art, and it’s bound to procure a huge following. I walked out of the theater with no immediate qualms, and that hasn’t happened in a while.

9.5 out of 10

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Weekly Poll #9

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List is in no particular order.

Oldboy

This unedited, fluid, somewhat operatic fight is captured in the essence of a 2D side scrolling beat ’em up. Yet, its brutality and hauntingly tragic charge proves that this scene’s realism is part of an art form far beyond the typical mayhem seen in any fighter game. Driven by his thirst for revenge, Oldboy’s protagonist, Oh Dae-Su, carries himself into an outnumbered battle, only to come out alive because of his machinelike fighting style. A tint of noir from the lighting and music resonates a sadness that comes as a side dish to the unscrupulous ultraviolence onscreen, and it is satisfying.


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Ang Lee’s penchant for serenity is best seen here. The bare setting. The sleek choreography. The minimalistic music. Yet, this scene’s intensity is due to all of these perfectly molded elements, amounting to a graceful flow of perfect maneuvers that are all caught in the eye of a patient director. Beauty and danger are not only exemplified by the two wielders, Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) and Jen Yu (Ziyi Zhang), but by the entire atmosphere of the fight, itself.

Kill Bill Vol. 2

Comical bits of tongue in cheek absurdity manage to slip their way into an epic duel between Elle Driver and The Bride in Quentin Tarantino’s second installment of the Kill Bill saga. Elle’s inability to draw her sword is done to a subtly humorous end, and both fighters are forced to engage with what they have in a trailer. The claustrophobic setting makes this scene a tense frenzy, but it manages to be so well done because of its pace and the way it is shot. The climax of this scene is incredibly badass, and the tense buildup preceding it is one of my favorite moments from the entire 2 movies.

The Empire Strikes Back

Neglecting this fight from this list would be kicking my 12 year old self in the balls. Now while my 12 year old self was pretty much just a piece of poo, this fight still stands firm against the unforgiving hand of time. The iconic image of the silhouettes of father and son fighting with beautifully colored lightsabers is unforgettable for a reason. As one of cinema’s greatest secrets is revealed in the climax of an emotionally founded feud, a brilliant shrill of coldness comes to heart that can only be cured by what happens in their second bout in Return of the Jedi.

The Matrix

Arguably the most fun fight on this list, Neo fighting Morpheus enstills not only stunning choreography, but great characterization through their fighting styles and what is said between punches. While I know nothing about martial arts, it’s still noticable that Neo’s diversified, technical aptitude alone cannot beat Morpheus’ liberation of thought whilst in the Matrix. As Morpheus drops knowledge on Neo’s ignorant ass, we begin seeing the maturation and letting go that Neo endures to understand Morpheus’ philosophy.

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