Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Quentin Tarantino's Best (and Worst) of 2011: A Brief Analysis

Last night I had more fun (reading) than I've had in a long time. Not so much from reading Quentin Tarantino's varying list of highlights from 2011 published by The Tarantino Archives, but from reading the comments at the bottom of the various posts (see them also at Slashfilm and Ropeofsilicon). It probably has something to do with the anonymity that goes along with it, but those comments never cease to amaze me. People were saying everything from how Sucker Punch was the best film of 2011 to how Tarantino is clearly out of touch with reality. Most prevalent though were the barrage of comments surrounding the fact that Drive was not in his Top 11 of 2011, but instead found itself in a rather ominous "Nice Try" category. Hit the jump for his lists, and for some attempted explanation and analysis thereof by a true Tarantino fan.

Before we get to the lists, I would like to make one or two points that could either provide context or be total bullshit, depending on how you see it...
  • Tarantino's lists have always been a little weird and controversial. His 2009 Top 8 included Observe and Report, in 2010 he included Knight and Day and Jackass 3D, and his list of best ever movies includes Unbreakable. He clearly doesn't give a damn what people think, and picks movies based on what he saw in them, not what others may think. Good for him, if you enjoyed a movie, make it known.
  • He obviously likes dirty comedy. Past picks include Team America: World Police, Observe and Report, Get Him To The Greek and Jackass 3D, and he has now included The Sitter and The Hangover Part II.
  • On a related note, he is seemingly a huge fan of Seth Rogen. At least 4 of his movies have been mentioned: Funny People, Observe and Report, The Green Hornet and 50/50
  • He is even more of a Jonah Hill fan though, who has 6 movies listed: Cyrus, Moneyball, The Sitter, Funny People, Get Him To The Greek and How To Train Your Dragon. In fact, Jonah Hill was meant to be in Tarantino's next film (Django Unchained), but was replaced by Sacha Baron Cohen due to scheduling conflicts. This pleases me (the fact that he is a Jonah Hill fan, not the thing about the scheduling conflicts).
  •  Actors and directors he has worked with or knows well feature prominently. This in particular is bitched about to high heaven. Cronyism? I don't think so. Take Christoph Waltz for example, who gave Tarantino the most widely praised and memorable character of his career (that being said, Tarantino gave Waltz a career). Two of his movies - The Green Hornet and The Three Muskateers - are featured. Merits of those films aside, surely it must be a huge kick to watch movies starring some of your best friends and colleagues? I know that if I saw a movie with one of my friends in it, I would enjoy it so much more, no matter how bad the movie. He is not saying he likes a movie to throw his friends a bone, he actually likes a movie because his friend is in it. Added praise in those instances is therefore nothing but honest. Remember, Tarantino is not publishing a critics' list - he is simply listing the films he enjoyed most in 2011. An example applicable to me would be the trailer for Safe House. I loved the shit out of it. Why? Not because the film looks so wonderful, but because Cape Town is featured so prominently.
  • The "Nice Try" list is probably not as ominous as it looks. It sounds condescending and even worse than a worst of list, but at the end of the day it's probably made up of films that Tarantino really liked (especially the concept, or what the director was going for), but that fell just short for some reason. I can't really comment on Drive, because even though I really enjoyed it, it is starting to get Titanic-syndrome (or Donnie Darko syndrome). People are raving about it so much that it's beginning to spoil for me - it's becoming too cool for its own good. 
  • Tarantino is a lover of exploitation films, and is probably one of the world's leading experts on the subject. Therefore, for us to dish out snap judgements of his choices is a dangerous endeavour. What he sees and enjoys in a movie may be very different from what we see. It's fine to disagree, but saying shit like "Tarantino is a hack" makes you look like the fool. He has unusual taste in movies, but it clearly helps him make the most awesome movies on the planet. It's a bold statement, but I can (sort-of) prove it (give me a week or two).
Okay damn, enough is enough. Here be the lists (with some of my thoughts in brackets)...

Quentin Tarantino's Top 11 of 2011
  1. Midnight In Paris (great movie, and Tarantino is a Woody Allen fan. Anything Else is in his list of best movies since he started making movies).
  2. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (can't argue here either).
  3. Moneyball (very good movie, which may have been helped by both Jonah Hill (see above) and Brad Pitt aka Aldo Raine).
  4. The Skin I Live In (I am seeing this very soon. Psyched!)
  5. X-Men: First Class (Uh, great movie, Michael Fassbender and a twisted version of history. I can see why he liked it).
  6. Young Adult (looks awesome, and he appears to be a fan of Jason Reitman, since Up in the Air is on his 2010 list).
  7. Attack The Block (it was awesome).
  8. Red State (I'm glad I'm not the only person who really enjoyed this movie. Where did all the hate come from all of a sudden? Added is of course the Kevin Smith / Michael Parks connection which would have made the film even better).
  9. Warrior (great movie, and the second time Joel Edgerton's name came up - the last time was Animal Kingdom. However, assuming Tarantino is an Edgerton fan would be going a little far I think.)
  10. The Artist / Our Idiot Brother (tie) (So many people were like... how can these two be a tie? Because why not? There doesn't have to be a deeper connection. I haven't seen The Artist, but I LOVED Our Idiot Brother. I'm really happy it's included.)
  11. The Three Musketeers (one of the more controversial choices, but I see where he is coming from. You have Christoph Waltz (see above) and Paul WS Anderson, who is as close as you can be to a modern day exploitation / grindhouse filmmaker. He isn't doing tributes to those movies the whole time, he is doing the modern incarnation of them. I mean, the Mortal Kombats, AVP, Event Horizon, the Death Race movies and the Resident Evils are all part of his filmography. This has to appeal to Tarantino on some level.
Others he liked in no particular order

Forgive the over-analysis, but I will try list one (less obvious) reason why Tarantino would like these movies. It's fun. Comments welcome...
  • 50/50 (Seth Rogen (see above) and Joseph Gordon Levitt - who is in Django Unchained).
  • Beginners (Melanie Laurent).
  • Hugo (described as a film "that emanates an unabashed love for the magic of cinema" - 'nuff said).
  • The Iron Lady (I'm stumped).
  • Carnage (Christoph Waltz).
  • Green Hornet (Seth Rogen and Christoph Waltz).
  • Green Lantern (I actually enjoyed this movie, and it has been subjected to far too much hate. Other than that, no reason).
  • Captain America (apart from a little Samuel L Jackson, nothing much else. Not a bad movie though. Oh, wait, another twisted take on history (and WWII in particular)).
  • The Descendants (probably because it's damn good).
  • My Week With Marilyn (the golden age of cinema, and I'm starting to think QT is a lover of all things British (which may explain The Iron Lady a little. No, Monroe ain't British, but the movie is set there apparently).
  • Fast Five (QT loves carsploitation).
  • The Tree Of Life (Brad Pitt, and I'm sure a large dose of respect for the ambition of this film)
  • The Hangover Part II (as I said above, he loves a crude comedy).
  • Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (QT is a fan of Simon Pegg, and has stated before that he wants to work with him).
  • The Beaver (I don't know. Haven't seen it. You tell me).
  • Contagion (QT may be mates with Steven Soderbergh - I'm not sure, but they are both heroes from the early days of indie film and the Sundance Film Festival. Let's not forget Kevin Smith. For QT it was Reservoir Dogs, for Soderbergh it was Sex, Lies and Videotape, and for Smith it was Clerks).
  • The Sitter (Jonah Hill)
  • War Horse (Spielberg Porn is exploitation cinema in its own right)
Nice Try Award

This one sparked the most debate, mostly hatred that drive is here, and puzzlement as to the meaning of this category. Each of these films is trying something new, and it could be argued that each falls short in some sense. Maybe that is what he is getting at.
  • Drive
  • Hanna
  • Drive Angry
  • Real Steel
I won't comment on the next three categories, partly because I agree, but mostly because I'm not qualified to comment. I will say one thing though. People have been wondering why The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is nowhere to be seen. A valid point may be that he has not seen it yet. Another could be that Tarantino doesn't like digital, and thinks it's an easy way out. I don't know. He does like Fincher though, so it's probably the former reason.

Best Director

Pedro Almodovar
Bennett Miller
Woody Allen
Jason Reitman
Michel Hazanavicius

Best Original Screenplay

Midnight In Paris
Young Adult
Red State
Attack The Block
Our Idiot Brother

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Skin I live In
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
X-Men: First Class

Worst Films

Haha, I love it. Probably the best thing about this list is the mere fact that Tarantino was willing to put it out there. I haven't seen quite a few of these, but here they are:
  • Sucker Punch (fucking terrible movie).
  • Potiche (Trophy Wife) (haven't seen).
  • Miral (haven't seen, but looks incredibly disappointing).
  • Insidious (thank heavens, another person who hated this shit movie).
  • Rampart (here I am puzzled, really. But I haven't seen it yet).
  • Straw Dogs (probably due to the fact that it is an inferior remake and Kate Bosworth doesn't show her boobs (I think), whereas Susan George did, way back in '71).
  • Paranormal Activity 3 (haven't seen).
  • Meek's Cutoff (I got this on DVD just the other day, so now I am worried).
Finally, for good measure, I thought I would share a few of the funny comments I saw before...

This dude had a point, but then thought about Milla Jovovich and lost his mind:
...Even Later...

And, here are the rest:

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