Earlier this month, Sight and Sound magazine asked many of the well-known filmmakers today to list their favorite films, you can see the list here.
For this article, I would like to just focus on Quentin Tarantino‘s favorite films. If you read most of my articles on this site (i.e. ranking favorite Tarantino’s films) then you know that I’m a big fan of QT. Sure I thought Django Unchained was quite disappointing but it’s still better than most films I saw in 2012. If not for Tarantino, I may not have seen some of the classics from the 60s and 70s. Because of his recommendation, I discovered the films of the great late director Sam Peckinpah and some of the lesser known spaghetti western and action films from said decades.
If I remember correctly, Tarantino tends to put out his best of list yearly but I think this list is his top favorite films of all time. I was surprised to see a couple of films on his favorite list, but before we get on that, here are twelve of his picks:
Apocalypse Now (1976) – Francis Ford Coppola
The Bad News Bears (1976) – Michael Ritchie
Carrie (1976) – Brian De Palma
Dazed and Confused (1993) – Richard Linklater
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) – Sergio Leone
The Great Escape (1963) – John Sturges
His Girl Friday (1939) – Howard Hawks
Jaws (1975) – Steven Spielberg
Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971) – Roger Vadium
Rolling Thunder (1977) – John Flynn
Sorcerer (1977) – William Friedkin
Taxi Driver (1976) – Martin Scorsese
Out of the 12 films on the list there, the one I’ve never seen or heard of before is His Girl Friday. Otherwise I’ve seen all of them and four are on my all favorite list films: Apocalypse Now, Rolling Thunder, Sorcerer and Taxi Driver.
A couple of films that surprised me to see on his list are The Bad News Bears and Dazed and Confused; for the kind of films that he tends to make, I wouldn’t think he’d include a comedies on his list. Over all it’s a good mix of genre and it’s great seeing what kind of films he truly enjoy.
As mentioned earlier, the four films on his list that are also on my list, two of them are well known and highly regarded as some of greatest films ever made, Apocalypse Now and Taxi Driver. No doubt those two were excellent films and deserves all the praises from critics and fans alike. Now other two films were not as well known, Rolling Thunder and Sorcerer, both also came out in the late 70s but they didn’t garner any critical or box office success. I think these two films deserve to be seen by more people and if you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend you seek them out. Particularly Sorcerer which was a remake of a French film from 1953, Wages of Fear. To be honest with you, I prefer Sorcerer over Wages of Fear. It was well directed by the then hot director William Friedkin, who’d just made two very successful films, The Exorcist and The French Connection. I think the film failed because I believe audiences were expecting to see some sort of supernatural thriller not an action thriller about men versus nature.
Rolling Thunder on the other hand, was a gritty shoot’em up revenge action thriller, a genre that was quite popular at the time. For anyone who’ve never seen either of these films, the good news is that both are coming out on Blu-ray real soon. Friedkin has tweeted that he has raised enough money to do a digital restoration on Sorcerer so it can be release on Bluray.
Re: SORCERER. The original negative is in good condition. And it’s now being budgeted to make a new digital master. I’ll keep you updated.
Thanks to Ted for these reviews as I was on vacation when the screenings took place.
Tom Cruise continues his “comeback” on the big screen with another action thriller after the success of last year’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, this time he’s playing another super-spy type in Jack Reacher. It’s based on one of Lee Child’s popular series of novels, One Shot. The film starts out with a mysterious person who randomly shot and killed five people in a public place with a sniper rifle. With the recent tragedies in real life, this opening sequence was a bit eerie, so just a warning if you’re still too upset about what happened in Connecticut, I don’t recommend you go see this movie. Now the scene was well shot and staged and to me it didn’t glamorize the violence but I can definitely understand if someone can get upset when they see it. Later an ex-marine sniper named Barr (Joseph Sikora) was arrested for the crime and during an interrogation he asked the detective on the case Emerson (David Oyelowo) and district attorney Rodin (Richard Jenkins) to get him Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise).
Emerson and Rodin decided to look up Reacher but couldn’t find anything on him. A few moments later Reacher showed up at their office and asked to see Barr. But Barr is in a coma because he got beat up badly by some other inmates while in custody. So Reacher met with Barr’s lawyer Helen (the gorgeous ex-Bond girl Rosamund Pike). Reacher told her that he’s there just to make sure Barr is behind bars because he believed Barr did the shooting, he and Barr had a history together back when they were in the army. But Helen convinced Reacher to help her investigate what really happened and as both of them dig deeper into the case, they got in trouble with some local thugs, Charlie (Jai Courtney aka John McClane Jr.) and his mysterious boss known as The Zec (the great director Werner Herzog).
Performance wise, I thought everyone did a good job. Especially Cruise who was in the command of the role. I’ve never read any of the books but I know some fans weren’t too thrilled that he was cast as Reacher. But I think many of them will find out that Cruise did well here.
The film is a straightforward procedural thriller; there aren’t any major surprises that will wow you. The humors are well-placed and they didn’t feel forced into each scene. The action sequences were pretty great, I’m so glad that the filmmakers decided to shoot action scenes where we can actually see them. Some directors tends to forget that when we go see action films, we want to SEE the action, not trying to figure what’s going on during a scene or get dizzy from it. Christopher McQuarrie who wrote and directed this film, did a tremendous job with his sharp dialogues and action sequences.
The climatic shoot out was probably one of the most meticulous action scenes I’ve ever seen. The way he laid out each sequence and edited were quite astonishing to me. Then the mano-a-mano showdown between Reacher and Charlie was well staged and looked like a “real” fight between two grown men. Of course this being an action film, it needs a car chase scene and it was well done too. It reminded me of the chase scene from Bullit but I kind of wish it ended similar to that film, if you saw the trailer then you know how the chase ended. I thought it’s too cheesy and didn’t really make sense.
In the end I thought it was a well made action thriller that didn’t take itself too seriously and I like the fact it has that old school 70s thriller feel to it. I would definitely love to see more of Jack Reacher films in the future.
4 out of 5 reels
Having read the script last year and loved it, I was very excited to see this film. (Read my script review here.) Surprisingly the film is very close to the script, only a few scenes didn’t make it to the screen. Quentin Tarantino is obsessed with spaghetti westerns and he tends to pay homage to that genre in some of his films, particularly Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds. Well now he’s finally made a film that truly pays homage the genre but he also mix in another genre, blax-ploitation, mostly the slave related subject that were popular back in the 70s, the most popular film from the genre was called Mandingo. Anyone who likes 70s films as much as I do will probably have seen some of these films; even though they were considered “trashy” by most critics, I somehow enjoyed them. It also burrowed a lot of elements from Sergio Corbucci’s films, especially Django and The Great Silence; if you’ve seen either of those films, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
The film opens with a “dentist” named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) looking for a slave who can identify three fugitives for him. We then meet Django (Jamie Foxx) who said he knows these three fugitives, so Schultz decided to buy Django from his owners but they refused. Well, Schultz being an educated man tried to reason with these clowns but they still won’t budge. So he used his skills with a pistol to convince them. Django is freed and both of them set out to find the three fugitives. After they hunt down the fugitives, Schultz was quite impressed with Django skills so he asked if Django would like to be a bounty hunter like him and join him in the hunt. In return Shultz will help Django with anything he wants. Django agreed and said he wants to find his wife who’s been taken away from him. The first half of the films was about Schultz teaching Django how to become a good bounty hunter and sharp with a pistol.
A few months later, Schultz found out where Django’s wife is being kept. She’s at a plantation known as Candieland which owns by Calvin Candie (Leo DiCaprio). So in order to rescue her, Schultz came up with a plan by pretending to be a rich German who’s interested in purchasing a Mandingo fighter and Django is his Mandingo expert. The rest of film took place at Calvin’s Candieland plantation.
I thought the performances by the lead actors were great, especially Waltz and DiCaprio. Jamie Foxx surprised me, I was skeptical when he was cast in the title role but he did a good job. Apparently QT wrote the part specially for Will Smith but Smith turned him down, I was hoping QT would cast someone like Anthony Mackie or Idris Elba. Also, the cinematography by Robert Richardson was excellent, from the snowy landscape of Montana to the muddy streets of Mississippi, every shots looked spectacular. The action sequences were great, there’s a shootout scene that’s similar to the carnage scene in Kill Bill Vol. 1 where the Bride took down the Crazy 88s.
Now I’m going to talk about why I was very disappointed with this film. As mentioned earlier, I read the script (which I reviewed here) and loved it, but somehow the actual film just didn’t deliver in my opinion. It’s clear that QT really needed his long time editor the late Sally Menke to work on this film with him. I thought the first half of the film was sloppily-edited and just wasn’t coherent. The music selection was kind of odd too. I always love the music QT used in his films but when you hear a Tupac song during a shootout scene in this one, it sort of take you out of the film. Now I understand why QT cast a not so well known actress in the role of Broomhilda, Django’s wife, she hardly spoke in the film. She either screams, cries or look scare in each scene she appeared in.
This was one of the films I most looking forward to see this year and unfortunately it was a major disappointment to me. Now I plan to see it again soon since I saw it almost a month ago, so I might change my mind when I see it again. I’m not saying it’s a bad film, it just didn’t lived up to my expectations. I know that I might be in the minority since after the private screening, many people in the theater thought it was great. If you’re a huge QT fan, you might enjoy it. Just a warning though, the film is violent and very bloody. The N-word were uttered constantly by pretty much everyone in the film, so if you’re easily offended, I don’t recommend you go see this film.
In an interview, QT mentioned that he might release a longer extended cut of the film down the road. At one point his producer Harvey Weinstein tried to convince him to split the film into two parts like they did with Kill Bill but QT vetoed that idea. I assume he shot many scenes that were in the script but decided cut them out. I don’t know if a longer version will improve the movie, I mean most of the scenes left in the cutting room floor were probably just violent and rape scenes. I’m assuming here of course because those sequences were in the script.