- Born: 1963
- Rank: 17
- Score: 726.50
- Awards: NYFC / LAFC / NSFC / BSFC / CFC / NBR
- Nominations: Oscar / DGA / BAFTA / Golden Globe
- Feature Films: 7
- Best: Pulp Fiction
- Worst: Death Proof
Films (in rank order – haven’t seen Inglourious Basterds):
- Pulp Fiction – 1994
- Jackie Brown – 1997
- Kill Bill: Volume 2 – 2004
- Reservoir Dogs - 1992
- Kill Bill: Volume 1 – 2003
- Death Proof – 2006
Top 10 Best Director Finishes (Nighthawk Awards):
- 1992 – 7th – Reservoir Dogs
- 1994 – 2nd – Pulp Fiction
- 1997 – 5th – Jackie Brown
- 2003 – 6th – Kill Bill: Volume 1
- 2004 – 5th – Kill Bill: Volume 2
For the purposes of this rank it doesn’t matter that I haven’t seen Basterds yet because at a certain point I locked everyone in; if I saw a film that knocked a person lower than a rank that I had already done it would have screwed everything up. So sometime next year I’ll update rankings, but for now, Tarantino stays where he is (and who knows how Basterds will affect his ranking anyway).
People have always been divided on Tarantino. On the one hand he makes extremely violent films, he doesn’t care who he pisses off, his later films have relied much more on a sense of style than storytelling (even though they still have great dialogue) and like Spike Lee, he should never be allowed to act in his films and there are those who are sick of hearing about how influential Pulp Fiction was. On the other hand, Pulp easily ranks as one of the most influential films in history, he is a master stylist, he writes some of the best dialogue ever put on film and he is a natural behind the camera. His love for film is the most evident of any director since Truffaut and even though the kind of films he so obviously loves are not the kind of films I like, it is good to see someone who makes such good use of what has come before him. I was bothered that I had so little interest in seeing Basterds given how great his first five films were (and I hope Kill Bill someday gets put together as one film like it should be on DVD), but that might have had a lot to do with Brad Pitt and the reviews have been so good that my hopes have gone up. And from what I’ve read, he might not slip at all, so we’ll see where he is with the first update of the list sometime next year.
Jackie Brown – #5 film of 1997
It was only natural that somehow Tarantino would find Elmore Leonard. The mark of Leonard’s eight zillion novels is interesting dialogue, the kind of lines that leap off the page. And Tarantino would naturally gravitate towards such a writer (indeed, he read the novel in galleys and bought it immediately). It didn’t hurt that it also revolved around a group of criminals, much like Tarantino’s first two films. Tarantino made it his third film and there are ways in which it remains his most polished, his most complete film. It doesn’t have as many directorial flourishes as his other films, but it has a more complete story and more defined characters. Part of that is thanks to Leonard and the rest is the way Tarantino decided to make use of the story.
Tarantino made an interesting casting decision with the film. He got several big names (Jackson, De Niro, Keaton, Fonda) and got them to take smaller salaries to make the film, but the two meaty roles, the most defined characters went to two actors who had mostly disappeared since the seventies: Pamela Grier and Robert Forster. The amazing thing is that was the two more forgotten ones that really held the movie together; not only did they have the best characters, but they gave the best performances, blowing away the bigger names. True, Jackson got the best lines in the film (“AK-47. When you absolutely positively have to kill every motherfucker in the room. Accept no substitutes.” “I didn’t know you liked the Del-fonics.” “An employee of mine I had to let go.”) and Fonda and De Niro got a hilarious great sex scene, but the glue that holds it all together is the magnificent performance by Pamela Grier as the frightened flight attendant trying to hold everyone at bay and Robert Forster (in a role that earned him a much deserved Oscar nomination) as the decent guy bail bondsman trying to figure everything out while trying not to fall in love with Grier’s Jackie Brown (the novel had been called Rum Punch, but Tarantino changed it to Jackie Brown to make the play off Grier’s old role Foxy Brown).
What do people think of this film today? Do they think of it? Pulp Fiction remains one of the most talked about films of our time because of its style and flashiness, not to mention the dialogue (is there anyone now who doesn’t know that a Quarter Pounder is called a Royale in Europe?). Kill Bill is still played on television and it works because it’s more about the style than the language. Reservoir Dogs is still revered as one of the great debuts in film. But Jackie Brown is a much slower film, a more thoughtful film, a less flashy film. But it holds up, perhaps in some ways more than any of the others. And if you haven’t seen it, you owe it to yourself to see it. Because this is Tarantino at his most mature, something we haven’t seen since. Although we can hope. He’s still fairly young. He’s got time.