Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tarantino v. Smith


This is, more than anything, a footnote to Dialogue, in which I quickly, as a shorthand, noted both Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino as dialogue driven screenwriters/moviemakers, which was certainly true when they both rose up as the first real Sundance generation.

The significant difference for me is that Tarantino seems to have done considerably more to make his movies more cinematic all around. While Reservoir Dogs feels very nearly like a play, and very much like a relic of its time to me, Inglourious Basterds feels like a masterwork of the cinema artform.

And while I hold out some hope that Red State will be a step forward, the big announced plan of Smith and company Four-walling it feels to me like unconditional surrender to his permanent nature as a niche moviemaker with a very specific and rabid audience that will pay premium prices for his movies, but that he's unable to reach beyond that. That seems like a very bad sign for a movie that looks to have been made as an effort to be more than that.

But we'll see.


4 comments:

Kimberlicious said...

I have never thought to compare the two. To me they are in different categories. It would be like comparing Apples and Steak. Not that im saying either one is an apple or a steak! I just mean I would never group them together in order for a v.s. kinda deal. I do hold out alota hope for "Red State" though..Hopefully not as much as i did for Clerks 2 and then was let down because i built it way too high in my mind.

Neil Sarver said...

Yeah, they both came to the attention of the world as a whole in '94 out of that same big "indie" boom. And more to the point, both have been criticized for their over-reliance on dialogue to tell their stories.

As it goes, I think Tarantino has gotten past that feel. I remember there was some feeling in critical circles that Kill Bill was a step down, but I really feel like it was his way of stepping up to the plate and delivering something that was very clearly cinema and not something that could be as easily served as another medium.

Kevin Smith, on the other hand, has clearly struggled to get past that feeling and make movies that could only be movies and not plays or maybe television, but has never been able to make that leap forward.

I'd love for Red State to turn out to be all it has the potential to be. We'll see. I'm not sure I have quite enough excitement to pay more than normal ticket prices for it.

Jamie Yates said...

My initial thoughts are along the same lines as Kimberlicious: a comparison between the two seems like a stretch, but I mean that in a good way; sometimes, you can get good thematic/theoretical mileage out of seemingly odd pairings.

I don't think I'd immediately criticize either filmmaker for an over-reliance on dialogue. Both have had their hits and misses. Not to name-drop, but I interviewed Kevin Smith about seven years ago when I was in college, and found him to be extremely personable and enjoyable. However, his rants against critiques of (of all movies) Cop Out was a major stain. As Neil said, he'll always have his niche audience, but I still feel like he's young enough to make some strides in his films. I'll never tag him as a great director, but his ear for dialogue could still hold some future surprises, or at the very least, enjoyable moments.

Apologies, this comment tended to ramble more than I expected.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, I wonder if there's an age thing in there or if this is merely a peculiarity of my experience that both slip off the tongue for me as the examples of this kind of post-Mamet indie movie cycle.

Perhaps it's related to the fact that so many of the things that came in their wake are lost to most people's reasonably distant memories and only these two stand out as having come through the rise and fall of that cycle and others, like Troy Duffy, are merely the butt of cruel - and Overnight considered, in Duffy's case, not a bit undeserved - jokes.

In the case of Kevin Smith, he feels very much, to me, like he's been treading water for a while. I think both Dogma and Jersey Girl had been serious attempts to jump forward out of his ghetto into something more mainstream, or at least more relevant, than he has been, and neither of them succeeded at that.

In its way, and I have yet to bother seeing it, I think Cop Out was attempt to break free, too, handle someone else's script with major draw people as stars. I see how it seems to have been the final straw, in his own mind, in his struggle to be something else.

It's weird to me, because since Smith first started hinted at Red State, a long time ago, and it seemed an obvious choice, on a number of levels, to play to an audience outside of his sycophantic existing audience.

So it feels like an awkward choice to me. It's with this that he acknowledges his audiences as the Juggalos of movies? The attempt was made to play it off as an act of confidence, but I'm straining to see it as a kind of confession that Red State simply isn't up to the task of playing outside his audience, so he might as well pump them for everything they're worth.

Perhaps I'm being too cynical. I hope I am. As I've expressed in previous posts, I have a real fondness for him as a person and still like to imagine the person I'm fond of is real and not just a persona for a calculating, egotistical douchebag... but I'm quickly losing confidence that my imagining is anything but a fantasy that he's played off and may be losing the ability to play off without a level of cynicism that makes it harder to believe.

--
Neil (from work)
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p.s. My word verification is "jubgone", which I can't help reading as "jew be gone". I have no point with this.

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