Baz Luhrmann

1992
Strictly Ballroom 87
[ Whoa! I figured that, this being the first part of Baz’ Red Curtain Trilogy, it had to be another tragic love story, but it’s actually a comedy. The pop-up visuals, over the top performances and colorful production design associated with the Red Curtain style are all there, but this is a lighter, sillier piece. That doesn’t stop it from being a whole lotta fun, though! It’s like “Saturday Night Fever” meets Christopher Guest meets the Looney Tunes… And it IS wildly romantic, too, and it reinforces the impression that Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time is one of the best songs ever written, and the dancing! My, the dancing! ]

1996
William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet 89
[ review ]

2001
Moulin Rouge! 98
[ review ]

2008
Australia 94
[ review ]

2013
The Great Gatsby 85
[ review ]

Quentin Tarantino

1987
My Best Friend’s Birthday (unfinished)
[ Back when he was working at Video Archives, QT and his buddies tried to make this little 16mm B&W flick on off days. It’s rough around the edges, the acting is poor and yes, it’s unfinished. Yet you can still clearly see the makings of Tarantino’s style. Quentin playing a K-Billy radio jock named Clarence who overdoses on the air, goes to a bar to hire a call girl to entertain his best friend on his birthday, but her black pimp shows up, there’s a silly little kung fu fight and then… Well, that’s about as far as they got. The 40 minutes that survived are almost non-stop pop culture-laced dialogue, with references to Eddie Cochran, the Partridge Family, animal crackers (“Don’t eat the gorillas.”), Nancy Allen in Dressed to Kill… Plus the whole “I’d fuck Elvis” opening speech from True Romance. Oh, and Quentin admits on camera that he has a foot fetish! ]

1992
Reservoir Dogs 93
[ review ]

1994
Pulp Fiction 100
[ review ]

1995
The Man From Hollywood
(from Four Rooms)
[ Quentin plays an obnoxious Hollywood star who’s partying in his suite with his drunken friends (including an uncredited – and wasted – Bruce Willis). Bellhop Ted is called to help them to put together a replay of an old Alfred Hitchcock TV episode in which a man bets he can light a Zippo lighter ten times in a row. If he wins, he gets Tarantino’s car. If he loses, his pinky finger gets chopped off. This is pure Tarantino: cool visual style, dialogue about little things, pop culture references… The problem is… Well, Tarantino is not a great actor. He’s kinda funny, but the lines he writes are funnier when they’re said by someone like Sam Jackson. Still, this is entertaining enough, but it’s not in the same ballpark as Tarantino’s feature films. ]

1997
Jackie Brown 94
[ review ]

2003
Kill Bill Vol. 1 93
[ review ]

2004
Vol. 2 95
[ review ]

[ review 2.0 ]

2005
Grave Danger
[ I’m not a CSI fan. Anytime I stumble upon it, it always feels like the same episode over and over. As a diehard Tarantino fanboy, I had to watch the Season Five finale, which he directed, but it’s still pretty generic. Half the show feels like second unit stuff, there are all these flashes and inserts and ridiculous CGI extra close-ups. Still, there are some neat touches: twin blondes shot in the head with a single bullet, cops playing the Dukes of Hazzard board game, cameos by Tony Curtis and the recently deceased Frank Gorshin as themselves, a grotesquely gory B&W hallucination sequence, great music cues (especially Warren Zevon’s Outside Chance)… QT didn’t actually write the teleplay, but he did come up with the story, which has one of the CSI get kidnapped and buried alive. Yes, like the Bride in “Vol. 2”, except that the guy is put into a clear glass coffin with a webcam so his partners can see him suffer, and he’s given glow sticks, a gun and a taped message telling him he’s better off shooting himself before dying of lack of oxygen. That’s pretty cool/creepy, and there are a few other good twists. Hardly classic Tarantino, but an involving enough couple of hours. ]

2007
Death Proof 93
[ review ]

2009
Inglourious Basterds 95
[ review ]

2012
Django Unchained 71 86
[ review ]

2015
The Hateful Eight 93
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]

***

ME AND TARANTINO: A FILM GEEK IS BORN

Like many film geeks of my generation, my passion for cinema can all be attributed to one film, a total game-changer that made me go from casual moviegoer to the kind of guy who would spend five years working in a video store, almost more for the fun of spending all day talking about movies than for the pay, and who’d eventually become a professional film critic. That film, you must have guessed, was “Pulp Fiction”. Before then, I loved movies, but I pretty much only watched action flicks and broad comedies. But once I went to see “Pulp Fiction” with my buddies in the spring of 1995, the week after it won the Best Screenplay Oscar and was at last programmed at the dinky little movie theater of the suburban town that was then my home, this all changed. Before that, I watched a movie, enjoyed it or not, then didn’t think about it too much. But “Pulp Fiction” was so different than anything I’d ever seen before that I was compelled to read whatever magazine article about it I could get my hands on. And as you probably remember, much of the coverage of the film was about how it was an homage to all kinds of genre filmmakers, cult movies, foreign films… Which led me to discovering everything from the French New Wave to Spaghetti Westerns, Blaxploitation, Film Noir and Hong Kong gangster movies, not to mention the works of Scorsese, De Palma and the Coen brothers.

Of course, this also instantly turned me into a diehard Quentin Tarantino fan! I bought and repeatedly watched a VHS tape of “Reservoir Dogs”, went to see “Desperado” in large part because I knew he had a cameo in it, saw “Four Rooms” because he directed one of the segments… In 1996, when the Tarantino-written (and starring) “From Dusk Till Dawn” came out and was rated 18+ in Canada, my friends and I, who were 16 at the time, convinced our dads to drive us to the US to see it, where the R rating meant that we could see it if we were accompanied by adults. In 1997, I managed to get a pair of tickets to a sneak preview of “Jackie Brown”, brought along the hottest girl of my college as my date… And I was so into the movie that I didn’t even pay attention to her! Six years later came “Kill Bill Vol. 1”, which I saw at midnight opening day, and then for “Vol. 2” and “Grindhouse”, I was a bona fide film critic by then, so I got to see them early at press screenings. And most recently, there was the Eli Roth-hosted (hostelled?) Montreal premiere of “Inglourious Basterds”, which was brilliantly picked by the Fantasia festival crew to be the closing film to the 2009 edition.