DJANGO UNCHAINED: New Quentin Tarantino Movies Don’t Come Around Every Day!

January 11, 2013 at 10:08 am

DJANGO UNCHAINED: New Quentin Tarantino Movies Don't Come Around Every Day!

D.J.A.N.G.O…  THE D IS SILENT

There isn’t a movie directed by Quentin Tarantino out there that I don’t love unconditionally.  The man has simultaneously entertained and inspired me for decades.  Beyond his films, the man himself is an encyclopedia of film knowledge and a testament to the passion you need to create something wonderful.  He could create a TV show where he just sat there talking about and reviewing movies and it would dominate prime time ratings…  (In my house at least.)

The man simply knows how to create solid movies with incredible characters.  He knows how to inject his films with a style that makes him one of the coolest directors of all time.

When a new Quentin Tarantino movie is released, it’s like Christmas for me.  (When it’s released on Christmas my brain explodes) Since it’s release on December 25th, I’ve been strategically searching show times every single day without success.  Until now…  It took a few weeks but I finally got to see the newest movie by Quentin Tarantino: Django Unchained.

The second I saw the font and musical choices he made in the film’s opening I smiled ear to ear.

“It doesn’t happen often but right now I’m watching a brand new Tarantino movie!”

Eventually, new movies must be able shine on their own.  You don’t automatically ‘love’ a movie just because of the director.  It may get you in the door but ultimately it’s up to the story to hold your interest.  (I thought M. Night Shyamalan would never miss back in the day.  I’m not comparing the two directors, I’m just saying sometimes you can be disappointed.)

Thankfully, Django Unchained is a brilliant movie and another spectacular notch in Mr. Tarantino’s legendary career.  The film is packed with amazing characters that will definitely take their place along side Quentin’s most famous creations.  Honestly, I thought Leonardo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie should have appeared sooner. He shows up sooner and we get a longer visit with Samuel Jackson’s brilliantly evil Stephen.  I’m also a big fan of the sequence involving Jonah Hill.  There are so many characters and moments worth mentioning.  Everything I expected from Quentin and more.

Side Comment: I’m a big fan of James Remar.  Butch Pooch and Ace Speck are wonderful characters but is there a story behind the actor appearing twice in the film?  I found a few theories online that Quentin wanted to reuse actors to make it feel like an old school movie when actors and budgets were at a minimum.  Interesting to say the least.

Django Unchained is one of those rare films that starts out GREAT and just keeps getting better.  It is a lengthy movie with a couple slower sequences but these are minor complaints.  Overall, I think Django Unchained is one of the best movies of 2012 and I can’t wait to see what Quentin Tarantino comes up with next.  Until then, if you’re in the UK, you can access a huge catalogue of Quentin Tarantino movies at www.lovefilm.com.  In addition to the films he produced and/or directed you’ll also find movies he’s featured in.

I recommend watching his movies in the following order:

QUENTIN TARANTINO MOVIE RANKINGS

8. Death Proof

7. Jackie Brown

6. Kill Bill vol. 1

5. Django Unchained

4. Kill Bill vol. 2

3. Inglourious Basterds

2. Resevoir Dogs

1. Pulp Fiction

What’s your favorite Tarantino movie?

Click here for more reviews.

 

The Post: Interviews with 11 Famous Directors

December 3, 2012 at 9:54 am

The Post: Interviews with 11 Famous Directors

Have you watched a short film today?

OSCAR ROUNDTABLE

Quentin Tarantino, Ben Affleck, Ang Lee, Tom Hooper, David O. Russell, and Gus Van Sant.  Just hit play.

.

MARTIN SCORSESE

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STEVEN SPIELBERG

PETER JACKSON

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QUENTIN TARANTINO

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GEORGE LUCAS

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J.J ABRAMS

A great speech about the merits of creating mysteries.

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Top 10 Pulp Fiction Movie Moments

October 14, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Top 10 Pulp Fiction Movie Moments | All Time Best Countdown

QUESNTIN TARANTINO’S PULP FICTION

It’s hard to believe Pulp Fiction is nearly 20 years old.  It seems like it was only yesterday when the movie was released and changed the way people thought about movies.  It inspired a generation of storytellers and freed many who were bound to traditional narrative structures.

Pulp Fiction didn’t just change the rules, it rewrote the book.  For me at least…

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Pulp Fiction redefined cool movies for me.  Beyond it’s unique storytelling techniques, it’s full of incredible characters, scenes, dialogue and moments.

HERE ARE 10 OF MY FAVORITE PULP FICTION MOMENTS

10. Zed’s Dead

Top 10 Pulp Fiction Movie Moments | All Time Best Countdown

9. Dancing at Jackrabbit Slim’s

8. Captain Koons

Top 10 Pulp Fiction Moments | All Time Best Countdown

7. Foot Massages

6. All right everybody be cool this is a robbery!

Top 10 Pulp Fiction Moments | All Time Best Countdown

5. In the fifth your ass goes down

Top 10 Pulp Fiction Movie Moments | All Time Best Countdown

4. Winston Wolfe’s Solution to the Bonnie Situation

3. Royale with Cheese

2. The Needle

The Madman strikes again!

1. Say What Again & Ezekiel 25:17

“What does Marsellus Wallace look like?”

Top 10 Pulp Fiction Movie Moments | All Time Best Countdown

What’s your favorite PULP FICTION moment?

XTRA | Inside The Edit: Kill Bill Volume 1

The First 10 Pages Of Your Screenplay Rock! Now What?

September 21, 2011 at 8:02 am

Your First 10 Pages Rock!  Now What? | Screenwriting Blog

A while back, I wrote about how much I loved the first 10 pages of my new feature length screenplay.  That’s a pretty normal statement for a screenwriter to make but I also discussed taking those first 10 pages even further.  Sometimes, there are so many things left to discover as you rewrite and revise your pages.

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So I went back and rewrote the opening 3 scenes and they were even better but I was immediately left with a new challenge.

I haven’t written that many action movies in my life and starting my new action heavy script was intimidating.  It was a relief to write those first intense moments and be happy with my movie’s opening.  Most of the time, an action movie begins with a big ‘attention grabbing’ set piece before moving on to the all import first act.

Essentially, a screenwriter is tasked with keeping the momentum going without action.  How do you establish your main characters and the overall style of the story in a unique way without losing your audience?  This was a challenge I failed immediately.  I followed up my action packed opening 10 pages with a scene involving two characters sitting at a table talking about the plot…  Boring…  The second I finished the scene I knew it was going to get tossed.  There had to be a better way to keep things interesting.

I’m a massive fan of big action movies and even I would have fallen a sleep during that scene.  It simply wasn’t good enough.  Basically, in a few pages I have to establish my main characters mission and set him off on his journey.  It’s challenging in any film script but achieving that goal in an action movie that takes place in an alternate world is tough.  I’m definitely in uncharted waters on this screenplay.

But that’s what I loved the most about this story.  I knew before I started that there would be some pretty huge hurdles to leap in order for the story to work.  Having two characters sitting at a table talking ‘can’ work but the dialogue has to be incredible. (See Chapter 1 of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds for an amazing example of this.)  My scene had no suspense.  It was packed with exposition and nothing else.  In the end, I was left with two choices:

1. Leave the scene as is but really put some thought into the dialogue and characters.

2. Completely rethink how the scene is staged…  And then complete #1 regardless.

I’m not sure where I’ll take the scene yet but I know it will be better than it is now.  At this point, I’ve written about half of the script and I’m thrilled with it but more than that, I’m thrilled that these issues are jumping out at me.  If you read your screenplay and something is boring to you it’s DEFINITELY boring to the audience.  I’m sure every screenwriter would agree that eliminating boring scenes is key.

Back to work.

Inside The Edit: Kill Bill Volume 1

May 30, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Inside The Edit: Kill Bill Volume 1 | Editing Blog

DIRECTED BY: QUENTIN TARANTINO
EDITED BY: SALLY MENKE

Sally Menke has been Quentin Tarantino’s go-to editor since the beginning.  Resevoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds and, of course, Kill Bill Vol 1&2.  On a personal note, she also edited one of my favorite movies of all time: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Sadly, this brilliant editor passed away suddenly while hiking in September of 2010.  The subject of many ‘Hi Sally’ montages on Tarantino’s DVDs has definitely left her mark on the film world as the editor of some of the most influential films we’ve ever seen.  She was 56 years old.

I decided to kick off this new feature, Inside The Edit, with a look at the ins and outs of the Kill Bill: Volume 1.  The idea came to me at work while I was editing a highlight package for a Blue Jays game to be aired on our nightly news shows.  Why not create an “editing highlight pack” and really go in depth with the movies I love?

Kill Bill Volume 1 will be the first.

PLAY

Inside The Edit: Kill Bill Volume 1 | Editing Blog | Sally Menke

[Spoilers Ahead]

The thing I love the most about Kill Bill is the varying styles in each chapter. Some sequences are black & white, some are animated while others scenes utilize split screens.  The film is also full of varying editing styles and techniques.  Yet the entire story is set up with a single and incredible shot.  The Bride’s battered and furious face.  It’s amazing how one shot can tell you so much about the story.  (Love the black & white.)  I wonder if they always meant to cut on the gun shot so quickly.  It’s an entirely different effect if Bill shoots her and the shot lingers even an extra second.  (Even a half second) It’s obviously better the way they did it but it’s a good example of how a few frames here and there can change a scene dramatically.

-Everything Tarantino does is cool.  Even the opening credits in his films are overflowing with style.

-Before The Bride fights Vernita Green there is a great moment where Vernita’s reaction is frozen for (guessing) 10-15 frames.  It’s subtle but it’s a nice touch to get across how shocked she is to see The Bride.  That’s your first hint that these two hate each other.  The second is a great montage that’s superimposed over a single shot of The Bride’s fuming eyes.  After a total of 5 or 6 seconds you are completely up to date on their relationship.  The magic of editing. Just in case you didn’t catch on, you get a vicious punch in the face and the fight begins.

Inside The Edit: Kill Bill Volume 1 | Editing Blog | Sally Menke

-What I loved about the beginning of this fight is the jump cuts.  Especially when The Bride gets ol’ Copperhead in a head lock.  You get a various shots of the characters but also close ups of their struggle and The Bride’s arm tightening around Vernita’s neck.  I’m a big fan of the jump cut style of editing.

Split screens. Getting them to work takes a lot of planning and execution but what can be difficult is establishing them.  It sounds easy but making the transition from full screen to split screen is an art form in itself.  Here, the shot of Elle Driver animates in from the right.  This is yet another amazing example of getting a lot of information across in a short amount of time.  On the left, you establish The Bride in a coma and on the right you meet another assassin in a unique way.

-Menke and Tarantino use another freeze frame and add a font to officially introduce the character played by Darryl Hannah.

-Knowing how violent The Bride can be makes it all the more suspenseful as the camera pans away before she bites the bottom lip off the perverted Trucker.  I think a lot of people would get the impression as the camera pans away that you won’t get to see what happens.  It makes the shot of the lip being stretched so much more effective.

-Poor Buck…  Such a heavy door.  Sally cuts to a different shot on every impact.  Invisible edits as we still feel the full force of the blows every time she slams the door on his head.

-Music on — cut to a shot inside the vehicle — music off…  Nice.

-The showdown between The Bride and her big toe is great.  Bride…  Toe…  Closer Bride…  Closer toe…  The shots get slightly longer…  Bride…  Toe…

-It’s hard enough to make the transition to split screens but achieving that transition while incorporating animated elements effectively is pure genius.  I love how they used both real and illustrated still images together to accomplish the jump into the animated sequence.  Another brilliant character introduction.

Inside The Edit: Kill Bill Volume 1 | Editing Blog | Sally Menke

-The meeting between The Bride & Hattori Hanzo must have been a blast to cut.  It’s essentially a straight forward scene involving 3 people.  The script was written by Quentin Tarantino so you know the dialogue will be interesting but these types of scenes always fascinate me.  There are millions of choices an editor can make depending on how much coverage was shot on the set.  A couple shot changes here and there could have drastically changed the pacing of this scene.  When faced with so many choices, instincts take over and this fantastic scene shows off Menke’s considerable talent and eye for editing.

-When we return to O-Ren Ishii, we are introduced to 3 more characters.  Normally this is difficult so late in a movie but Tarantino does a fantastic job of using freeze frames and mini flashbacks to establish Sofie Fatale, Go-Go and Johnny Mo.

-One edit that stood out in this scene happens just after Boss Tanaka insults O-Ren’s American heritage.  Before his statement, she is sitting.  As soon as the words come out of his mouth Sally cuts to a shot of O-Ren’s feet running across the table towards him.  There are many instances in my experience when I felt compelled to show everything.  Where is the shot of her jumping up on the table.  This is a perfect example of what you can get away with with clever editing.  You don’t have to show every single action.  Sometimes short cuts are more interesting.

-After O-Ren’s big ‘taboo’ speech, the meeting ends and there is a sweet transition shot that’s no more than 8-10 frames.  Essentially, it’s a swish pan (or a pan that is sped up).  These types of transitions are extremely useful but are always in danger of being overused.  In this case, it’s a perfect way to transition to The Bride purchasing her plane ticket instead of merely cutting.  I wonder how many other places they tried using this type of transition.

-There’s a great sequence where they inter cut between The Bride on a plane and O-Ren traveling to The House of Blue Leaves. This sequence must have been a blast to edit too.  It’s cut to music and again you have unlimited choices to set up the film’s grand finale.  It’s the calm before the storm you don’t even know is coming.

-The showdown between The Bride and Sofie is awesome.  The Bride pulls up next to Sophie’s car and stares at her as she talks on her phone.  The important element here is the phone and the disrespect Sofie showed the Bride years earlier.  We are shown this moment in a flashback but what I loved was how the editing process was used to establish the phone.  3 shots cut quickly together.  A medium shot of Sofie on the phone, then a close-up and finally and extreme close-up of her lips.  Boom, boom, boom.  Nice.  Subtle.  But nice.

Inside The Edit: Kill Bill Volume 1 | Editing Blog | Sally Menke

The Kill Bill theme by Wu Tang Clan is a great first and foremost.  An editor’s dream to cut to.  As O-Ren and her crew walk down a hallway towards the camera, we hear the most recognizable part of the song. (20 second mark)  Three STRONG beats.  At first glance, it would have been easy to cut to a closer shot on every beat but she chose only the first and third.  I thought that was really interesting.  As the song progresses, she cuts on all the main drum hits and it works perfectly.  Another great sequence.

-Love the long shot of The Bride as she walks through the house of Blue Leaves.  They must have gone crazy on set when they got a perfect take.

-There is another quick but impressive split screen that occurs just as the Bride challenges O-Ren to show herself.  On one side, you get O-Ren’s reaction and on the other you get The Bride’s lips.  It’s extremely effective even though it’s basically a second long.

-I’m a big fan of how the epic battle between The Bride and The Crazy 88 progresses.  First she fights one, then 3, then 2 and then Go-Go.  Each fight has a different pace and style.  Some are edited using quick cuts while others, like Go-Go, are paced a lot slower.

-There is a brilliant moment between The Bride and O-Ren before the rest of the Crazy 88 show up.  “Silly rabbit…” Inter cutting between the two and finishing on O-Ren’s lips was pretty sweet as they both speak the same line.  It was a nice touch.

-Switching to black and white as The Bride plucks out one of their eyes was cool.  Plain and simple.  Cool.

-Transitioning in and out of slow motion was equally cool.

Inside The Edit: Kill Bill Volume 1 | Editing Blog | Sally Menke

-I can’t even imagine what it must have felt like the morning they started editing this fight scene.  Was it a daunting task?  How did they attack it?  I like to think they edited the enormous fight in chunks.  If you really pay attention there are some pretty clear divisions as the fight continues.  Sequences like The Bride making her way up to the second level or taking several limbs as she roll on the ground.  Did they edit each of the main moments and then build around it?  Regardless of how they approached it, it came together beautifully with tons of incredible shots that make me smile every time I see them. (The guy who gets sliced right across his mouth stands out for me.)

-I thought fading down the music so we can hear the moans and cries of all of The Bride’s victims was a particularly nice touch.

-Another color change.  Blue this time and another editing style as well.  Mostly wide shots.

-The final opponent The Bride faces before reaching O-Ren is Johnny Mo.  What I loved about that fight was his reaction after she slices off one of his legs.  We aren’t shown one shot of his reaction and the pain he feels.  It’s a mix of 3 separate angles.  Sweet.

-The final battle arrives.  The editing style changes again.  This isn’t a fast paced and fierce battle.  It’s an intense and emotional confrontation.  Slow things down.  I think that’s why the wide shot showing the beautiful snow and that water contraption (Not sure what it’s called.) works so well.

Inside The Edit: Kill Bill Volume 1 | Editing Blog | Sally Menke

-Right before the battle ends we are shown another sequence where they cut between close-ups of the two combatants.  Only this time, it’s in slow motion.  These are all decisions that have to be made.  There aren’t many slow motion shots in this movie but the ones they did include HAD to be there.  This sequence is no exception.  It’s the final showdown.

-The movie ends with another brilliant sequence that cuts between The Bride on a plane, Hanzo in Japan, Sofie and Bill at a hospital, Sofie in the trunk as The Bride threatens her, Budd (a character we’ve never heard from), Elle Driver and a quiet meeting between Bill & The Bride at Two Pines.  It’s not easy juggling so many different people and locations.  Especially when you are mixing dialogue and voice over.  That final sequence simultaneously sums up the first volume while setting up the second.  It’s an unreal and amazing way to edit the final minutes of this amazing movie.

EDITORS NEVER STOP LEARNING

What I love about editing, is that you never stop learning.  Every time you watch television show or a new movie, you see a new technique or a well cut sequence that inspires.  Like millions around the world, I’ve always been a fan of Quentin Tarantino’s films but this was the first time I ever sat down and truly appreciated Sally Menke’s editing skills. She was an incredibly gifted editor.

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