Monday, August 24, 2015

A Few Highlights From Quentin Tarantino's Vulture Interview on Film Culture and the Oscars

Quentin Tarantino
By now, you likely have an opinion on Quentin Tarantino. Love him or hate him, he is one of the most recognizable directors working in cinema. After making a splash in 1994 with Pulp Fiction, he came out with a string of increasingly stylized films that made him one of the most authentic and successful genre directors of contemporary times. His love of film also seems to be a point of acclaim every time he has an interview. With a very strange taste in pop culture, his recommendations are always worth a head scratch. With his latest interview for Vulture, he doesn't disappoint as he provides his thoughts on TV, movies, and his own career. Check out his thoughts after the jump.

While the general behaviors going around about this interview is to focus on the major quotes involving his disapproval of True Detective or how TV critics are useless, I feel that it is more of my duty to recognize the quotes he made more specifically about his career as it relates to the Oscars. While there are some here that are only vaguely tangential, I am hoping to do my best to highlight the moments from throughout the interview that best reflect his opinions on prestige culture. I highly recommend going through and reading the rest at your leisure.

1. On the impact of westerns:
"One thing that’s always been true is that there’s no real film genre that better reflects the values and the problems of a given decade than the Westerns made during that specific decade. The Westerns of the ’50s reflected Eisenhower America better than any other films of the day. The Westerns of the ’30s reflected the ’30s ideal. And actually, the Westerns of the ’40s did, too, because there was a whole strain of almost noirish Westerns that, all of a sudden, had dark themes. The ’70s Westerns were pretty much anti-myth Westerns — Watergate Westerns. Everything was about the anti-heroes, everything had a hippie mentality or a nihilistic mentality. Movies came out about Jesse James and the Minnesota raid, where Jesse James is a homicidal maniac. In Dirty Little Billy, Billy the Kid is portrayed as a cute little punk killer. Wyatt Earp is shown for who he is in the movie Doc, by Frank Perry. In the ’70s, it was about ripping the scabs off and showing who these people really were. Consequently, the big Western that came out in the ’80s was Silverado, which was trying to be rah-rah again — that was very much a Reagan Western."

2. And on if The Hateful Eight will be reflective of this era's racial conversation:
"It was already in the script. It was already in the footage we shot. It just happens to be timely right now. We’re not trying to make it timely. It is timely. I love the fact that people are talking and dealing with the institutional racism that has existed in this country and been ignored. I feel like it’s another ’60s moment, where the people themselves had to expose how ugly they were before things could change. I’m hopeful that that’s happening now."

3. On the subject of "Oscar Bait" movies and their longevity:
"The movies that used to be treated as independent movies, like the Sundance movies of the ’90s — those are the movies that are up for Oscars now. Stuff like The Kids Are All Right and The Fighter. They’re the mid-budget movies now, they just have bigger stars and bigger budgets. They’re good, but I don’t know if they have the staying power that some of the movies of the ’90s and the ’70s did. I don’t know if we’re going to be talking about The Town or The Kids Are All Right or An Education 20 or 30 years from now. Notes on a Scandal is another one. Philomena. Half of these Cate Blanchett movies — they’re all just like these arty things. I’m not saying they’re bad movies, but I don’t think most of them have a shelf life. But The Fighter or American Hustle — those will be watched in 30 years."

4. On why he loves David O. Russell movies: 
"Part of that is the explosion of David O. Russell’s talent, which had always been there but really coalesced in that movie [The Fighter]. I think he’s the best actor’s director, along with myself, working in movies today. And The Fighter had impeccable casting. As an example, I really liked The Town, which also came out in 2010. It was a good crime film. However, next to The Fighter, it just couldn’t hold up, because everybody in The Town is beyond gorgeous. Ben Affleck is the one who gets away with it, because his Boston accent is so good. But the crook is absolutely gorgeous. The bank teller is absolutely gorgeous. The FBI guy is absolutely gorgeous. The town whore, Blake Lively, is absolutely gorgeous. Jeremy Renner is the least gorgeous guy, and he’s pretty fucking good-looking. Then, if you look at The Fighter, and you look at those sisters, they’re just so magnificent. When you see David O. Russell cast those sisters, and you see Ben Affleck cast Blake Lively, you can’t compare the two movies. One just shows how phony the other is."

5. On if he'd work with Meryl Streep:
"I don’t really know if I’m writing the kind of roles that Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore would play. Jessica Lange on American Horror Story is a little bit more my cup of tea."

6. On The Hateful Eight actress Jennifer Jason Leigh:
"I’m a very big fan of hers. I think she could end up being another little Bette Davis if she keeps on going the way she’s going. I think her work with David O. Russell is very reminiscent of William Wyler and Bette Davis’s."

7. On his favorite young filmmakers:
 "Noah Baumbach. There’s a Paul Mazursky quality to his films."

8. On winning two Oscars:
 "I would have liked to have won Best Director for Inglourious Basterds, but I’ve got time. And I’m very, very happy with my writing Oscars. I will brag about this: I’m one of five people who have won two Original Screenplay Oscars. The other four are Woody Allen, Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, and Paddy Chayefsky. I actually didn’t know that until somebody wrote it on a website. I went, 'Holy shit!' Those are the greatest writers in the history of Hollywood. Now, Woody Allen has us all beat. He’s won three, so if I win three, I’ll tie with Woody."

9. On his legacy:
"I’m a legit filmmaker of my generation who’s leading the pack. Hitchcock saw his techniques done by other people, and that was all great. Spielberg saw his techniques copied — that just means you’re having an impact. Before I ever made a movie, my mission statement was that I wanted to make movies that, if young people saw them, it would make them want to make movies. That is one thing I can definitely say I’ve done."

Hopefully those quotes will hold you over. It's a fascinating look into his personal tastes. There's plenty of commentary regarding his career. The most noteworthy is his experience making Grindhouse, which was a creative endeavor that has become his least successful film to date. He also has an interesting taste in TV and what the best films of 2015 are (he goes into the indie horror film It Follows). So check it out if his opinions interest you and prepare for a fun Oscar season ahead, where we're likely to hear more from him about The Hateful Eight and his career in general.


  1. Tarantino totally should've won Best Director for Basterds.

  2. It's a tough year, especially since James Cameron (Avatar) felt like the logical runner-up because of that film's immediate impact (also, recent years have shown Best Director winners to be doing films with technical prowess). I don't intend to take anything away from it, but I do think that Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) won solely to "fix history." Considering how long it has taken to get non-white male NOMINEES, her win felt more like an opportunity to cover their bases in case it would be another decade before another woman even qualified in their books (see: Ava Duvernay with Selma)- though I do think that Bigelow should've been nominated for Zero Dark Thirty.

    With all of this said, time has shown for me that Inglourious Basterds is my favorite Tarantino movie period, and likely my favorite from those five nominees. I definitely think he should have won, though considering all of the accusations that he is "style over substance," I think he was likely nominated because his film was such a love letter to film. It just happened to be the coolest love letter ever. I don't know that he'll ever win outside of acting and writing fields because that's what he's best known for. However, Inglourious Basterds has held up better than the other five nominees (The Hurt Locker, Precious, Up in the Air, Avatar) if you asked me.