Quentin Tarantino has written a book called Cinema Speculation, where he writes about everything from his earliest film influences, to how his perspective on certain films has changed over time, to which film critics he loved and loves and tons more. To promote the book, Tarantino invited the LA Times into his LA home (he also has a home in Israel) to chat about films, filmmaking and this book. The LA Times piece is a great read – even if you’re not particularly a fan of Tarantino, I don’t think anyone can deny his encyclopedic knowledge and love of film, and his fascinating critical eye. You might not agree with his perspective, but he has one and he can back it up enthusiastically. Tarantino is not fully highbrow or lowbrow – he’s not “only” into art films, nor does he refuse to acknowledge the fun and joy of popcorn entertainment. This comes up in the interview, especially when the topic of superhero films comes up. Some highlights:
Traumatized by ‘Bambi’: “I think ‘Bambi’ is well known for traumatizing children. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. The only other movie I couldn’t handle and had to leave was at a drive-in in Tennessee. I was there alone, sitting on the gravel by a speaker, watching Wes Craven‘s ‘Last House on the Left.’ So for me, ‘Last House on the Left’ and ‘Bambi’ are sitting on the f— shelf right next to each other. Both take place in the woods. and both had me saying, ‘I gotta get out of here!’”
Respect for real film criticism: “Doing this made me respect the professionals of film criticism even more for the simple fact that I realized I couldn’t do what they do. If my job was to go and watch the new movies every week and then write what I thought, I can’t imagine I would have anything to say about everything, other than offer a plot summary and a ‘good,’ ‘bad,’ ‘indifferent’ verdict. With the book, I wanted to find something quirky that’s interesting and worth talking about.”
He wrote a lot about screenwriter/filmmaker Paul Schrader: Schrader is known for films centered on tormented men and their righteous fury. “I don’t want to be the one to break down his theme in a sentence, but inarticulately, lonely men with nothing but a profession existing in four walls. And sometimes those four walls are their apartment, sometimes they’re a city, sometimes they’re the f— planet Earth. Sometimes it’s just other human beings and how they bump up against the four walls until, usually, there’s blood all over them.”
QT has some snarky moments in the book: Tarantino calls them “snarky little asides out of the corner of my mouth,” and they usually arrive in a parenthetical, such as when he muses that, just as ’60s anti-establishment auteurs rejoiced when studio musical adaptations fell out of favor, today’s filmmakers “can’t wait for the day they can say that about superhero movies.”… “The analogy works because it’s a similar chokehold,” Tarantino says.
When will the tide turn on superhero films? “The writing’s not quite on the wall yet. The way it was in 1969 when it was, ‘Oh, my God, we just put a bunch of money into things that nobody gives a damn about anymore.’”
Why he’s never done a comic book movie: “You have to be a hired hand to do those things. I’m not a hired hand. I’m not looking for a job.”
Star Wars versus Jaws: Jaws “might not have been the best film ever made. But it was easily the best movie ever made…Of course, I liked ‘Star Wars.’ What’s not to like? But I remember — and this is not a ‘but’ in a negative way, but in a good way. The movie completely carried me along and I was just rocking and rolling with these characters…. When the lights came on, I felt like a million dollars. And I looked around and had this moment of recognition, thinking, ‘Wow! What a time at the movies!’ Now, that’s not necessarily my favorite exact type of film. At the end of the day, I’m more of a ‘Close Encounters [of the Third Kind]’ guy, just the bigger idea and Spielberg setting out to make an epic for regular people, not just cinephiles. Few films had the kind of climax that ‘Close Encounters’ had. It blew audiences away.”
One of the things I appreciate about Tarantino is that he really and truly appreciates “the critic.” He might not agree with many critics, but he reads what they have to say and he values film criticism more than nearly every other director. As for what he says about comic book films… I’ve had that feeling too, that at some point, the bottom is going to drop out of the whole business model. But he’s right, it hasn’t happened yet and it probably won’t happen for years. But there is this pervasive sense within Hollywood of “when is this sh-t going to end” and “can we do something to disrupt this business model.”
Photos courtesy of Alessandro Serrano’ / AGF Foto / Avalon.
I am right there with them. It’s the same, bloated story over and over again.
I think that since Disney put their greedy claws in Marvel and Star Wars, the demise of the cartoon superhero movies will end soon. They are burning through franchises out faster than a child eating their Halloween candy. Disney prefers to exploit for the almighty dollar than savoring it like a good meal.
This may be the only thing on which he and I agree.
Haha! Came on here to say the same thing.
Don’t watch them there I solved the problem there are tons of movies being made that are streaming on various streaming services.
I enjoy Marvel movies and look forward to them. I’m just ticked that our local movie theater doesn’t book enough variety.
I’m still annoyed that Netflix didn’t put Glass Onion out in wider release. I really wanted to see that in the theater.
I don’t like, Marvel or DC movies I think out of all of them I’ve seen 3 movies. I’m just over people bitching about them like find the type of movies you love else where streaming services give you a bigger variety of movies you will never see in the theater past and now.
These directors are just butt hurt that they are no longer the chosen one and people will prefer to watch there type of movies at home.
I mean, I get that a lot of people are frustrated with the pervasiveness of superhero movies, but maybe we need to ask *why* they’re so popular. I’m not a huge fan (although I’ve watched most of the Marvel films), but life has been particularly sh!tty these past 6 or 7 years and there’s something comforting about watching a film where you know that it’s going to end on a positive note and the “good guys” are going to win. I can only speak for myself, but if life was more comfortable and safe, then maybe I’d be willing to explore darker themes in my downtime. For now, though, give me predictability and happily ever afters.
Think back, in the Depression years there were all sorts of musicals, Fred and Ginger, Shirley Temple and so forth – because that’s what people wanted. The same thing applies now. I’m shocked that Tarantino hasn’t recognized that. Perhaps he should watch Sullivan’s Travels.
The films clearly filled a societal need for heroes and escapism. Now, the desire to pay $20tickets to see them may go away, especially as our energy and grocery bills rise, but I don’t know that our need to escape will go away soon.
I can’t wait for QT to fall out of favor.
There have been so many stories about him disrespecting women working for him, and of (verbal) abuse, so I really have no idea who is protecting him from the fallout of Me Too.
Absolutely. The only reason he became famous is that he tied himself to a well-known abuser, when many others walked away, unwilling to work with someone so horrific.
But he moaned about Marvel movies, so all is good, I suppose. /s
That’s going to be the next controversy bullet shield MO for mids, creeps and abusers.
I think people are already seeing fatigue from it, but I don’t like the audience blaming here. People see what they want to see. They don’t want to see another racist 3 hour Tarantino film. Sorry.
Say it louder for the ‘critics’ in the back! Marvel movies suck. So does this pos
Yes, we get it. Directors haaaattteee superhero movies. Hollywood creatives think cape movies are too commercial and made by committee and crowd smaller films out of theaters and are ruining the film industry, etc, etc, etc.
In other news, water is wet, the rent is too damn high, Disneyland is too expensive and minimum wage is too low.
This isnt really a hot take anymore. Marvel films are becoming the new Nickelback. Can’t people just enjoy the movies they like and let others do the same?
Not when the “auteurs” are pressed that their prestige is fading, no.
Gonna chime in here that the MCU isn’t only producing some of the most fun movies but also some of the most powerful TV out there. Falcon & Winter Soldier, Wandavision, and Ms. Marvel are taking some strong stances on necessary social topics that manage to appeal to the mainstream as well — they really have translated the purpose and the power of comics well. Anyone who conflates them with the boring rote of other superhero movies (ahem, DC. WHY can’t you make a good movie???!!) either isn’t watching or isn’t paying attention.
And, of course, Black Panther. I’ve said on here before Marvel does a great job elevating and appreciating minorities and their struggles, so I’ll say it again. Fucking fabulous. *wipes tear*
For the record, I love QT’s movies, too. He IS problematic, but my god he makes good movies. And I understand where he’s coming from.
I’m tired of this. Just make good movies and people will go and watch them.
Perfect sensible idea.
His problem is that is exactly what is happening.
Movies can do be more the escapism and feel good at the expense of the Other.
Just one example, Chadwick Boseman was Black Panter, Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall.
He elevated the director’s work in James Brown.
Ryan Coogler’s work is superb, I know, I’ve seen everything he has directed, even he is sometimes a hired hand.
I love Sam Jackson, but he could not entice me to see anything Tarinto made.
Just not interested…
Thankfully the are lots of other movies to watch, but art- house is my favourite .
I like you both. Have an awesome day.
Quentin Tarantino says filmmakers can’t wait for superhero movies to fall out of favor. So says the man whose movies largely feature crime, horrible deaths, mutilation, and racial slurs. Speaking as someone who has only seen one superhero movie (Batman with Jack Nicholson), and who actually likes to watch westerns, crime movies, mysteries, etc., I’m frankly sick and tired of hearing from directors like Tarantino, and Martin Scorsese (whose work I love) complaining about superhero movies. If you don’t like such movies, then make your kind of movies and try to get audiences to go see them, instead of complaining about the work of others.
I also think it’s a bit hypocritical of directors who specialize in crime or syndicate movies to complain about the lack of artistry in superhero movies. Decades ago, crime and syndicate movies were also not considered high art and were excluded from Oscar consideration. That’s very good actors like James Cagney were not recognized for the work which got audiences to know and love them. Let’s face it, times change and Scorsese who is well known as a film history buff should know better.
Here, here! We need a ‘Like’ button.
Casablanca wasn’t considered high art when it was made, it was just some studio film.
Hitchcock (who is a piece of shit but I’m mentioning him to prove my point), was looked down on as a genre director and only later was his work value as ‘art.’
This shit is still going on today. I’m a fan of fantasy and it has always been looked down on as ‘genre’ fiction, to the point where fantasy authors would deny their work was fantasy, because their work was ‘real literature’, even if it had dragons in it.
And yes, we really need a like button.
I think he’s being pretty fair here. He’s not even saying super hero/comic movies aren’t good, just that they’re dominating the industry right now, which is true.
And the comparison to the late studio era is apt. I’d be interested in how he thinks the industry will respond to the end of the Paramount Consent Decrees & the possibility of a return to vertical integration. I see people suggesting that Disney, in particular, could exploit that.
Yeah, I agree. I think he’s just emphasizing that when there are fewer superhero movies coming out each year, that will open up space for other types of films.
If you want a blockbuster, you need people. People have been through hell. And we haven’t escaped it yet. Trust me, on average, people want ESCAPE. Yes there are nerds like us who dive into indies and docs and a good character-driven film any genre, but hey…we simply want entertaining. Is your movie entertaining?
Quentin Tranatino believes he has the authority to place a value judgement on art. He has no authority. From a technical aspect you can judge, but you can’t judge people for what they value in art.
He also fails to analyse the fact that just as superhero movies are a product of a capitalist system, so are his movies. He was able to be packaged as the auteur, and this was used as a marketing point in order to make money. His commodification of other people’s films in his ‘references,’ cannot be ignored either.
He says the age of the movie star is dead? Movie stars were a product of a capitalist system, created by studios in order to market movies. And who was usually chose to be these stars? White people. There used to be a lot of women in the ‘heyday’ of cinema who were movie stars, but these days, look at the lists of top earning actors/actresses, and it’s usually dominated by men.
He’s a white man in a white man’s world, and he doesn’t give a shit about people who aren’t just like him and can’t fathom viewing the world from another perspective. He got to the top by tying himself to an abuser who commodified his art in order to make money, and in turn, Quentin commodified other people’s art in order to make money.
You could argue that he brought attention to lesser known artists not so well-known in the west, but how much? Apart from making himself look learned by referencing obscure (to a western audience) films, what did he actually do to champion these films and filmmakers? Did he bring these filmmakers to Hollywood and use his connections to get them film deals? I don’t know if he did, and I don’t know if that would be even possible. But somehow, I think if there was a film deal going around, he’d take it for himself.
And for god’s sake, the oldest recorded stories in human history are those of gods and monsters, and heroes with supernatural gifts. HEROES with SUPER-natural gifts. You mean, superheroes, right? Modern superhero movies are just the updated version of the OLDEST STORIES IN HUMAN HISTORY.
I’m not saying there is no value in his art, I’m not saying that hasn’t helped others get recognition. It’s just this guy is really starting to piss me off.
And also, fuck him for almost killing Uma Thurman.
I think his comments about superhero movies are perfectly fair and not as demeaning as some other directors have been toward the genre.
The thing is, there has always been something akin to the superhero movie in the film circuit — something considered low-brow but hugely popular, like romcoms or slashers. When superhero movies fall out of favor (and I do think fatigue is setting in), something else will take its place.
I know it’s harder to get the mid-budget comedy/drama made because of blockbusters like that being so pervasive (I’ve also heard this blamed on streaming taking over for video/DVD sales), and that is upsetting. But I think with the pandemic, the reality is most people won’t go to the theater unless it’s for an “event” type of film anyway. Every other type of film is just fine to rent or stream, and I say that as someone who was a huge moviegoer.
I used to love going to the movies, but this is was when TV was bad for the most part. And now days, movies just don’t draw me in like they used to. The limited timespan makes for some bad plots, unfulfilling endings, paper thin characters, etc. It’s very rare to find a movie that I feel compelled to watch. I think the entertainment form has shifted completely toward episodic formats or limited edition series. Like back in the day, a show like Hacks (HBO) would have been a comedy film, Mare of Easttown would have been a cop movie, and Bridgerton a one-off movie adaptation, and instead they’re tv shows or a limited edition tv series. I honestly could really not tell you what is even out there in terms of current film releases.
One day superhero film fatigue may happen. But that doesn’t automatically mean ppl will go and see more drama films at the cinema. It’s not like “once they’re gone, our films will be much more welcomed on the big screens”. Increasing ticket prices, and cost of living, streaming, and the decline in absolute dedication to see any type of movie at the cinema are other decisive factors in the equation.
And I have to admit that with age, it sometimes feels like many drama movies cannot offer me a storytelling I haven’t seen before. There aren’t a lot of films that really grip and move me the way films did when I was 20 or 30. I enjoy today’s TV series much more b/c they can take a deeper dive into the story and different types of people and thereby can offer a profound understanding of perspective, motivation, and character.
And Tarantino values critics? Not from what I remember reading about his insulting/attacking others who don’t agree with him…
It’ll be interesting to see if superhero movies and/or the MCU can evolve to maintain traction and interest.
Wow, thank you for this comment. I’ve been wondering lately if I’m depressed because I can’t get into anything (and I probably am), but a lot of that is being 39. Like watching Shawshank or good will hunting or gladiator when you’re 16-20 or so is really wonderful. My brain was still developing and learning new things. Used those examples as they are my favorites. But now I can be watching a new movie and I’m like “eh, I’ve seen better. Also need to finish the laundry.”