06th Sep2009

gotchoo SUMTHIN CUTE!?

by jerad.formby

on tarantino and pop culture dialog

There’s a new movie out called Inglorious Bastards. The movie is written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. He is the maker of the movies Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. A few years ago, he burst back onto the entertainment scene with a film called Kill Bill. He also is credited as the writer for a movie called True Romance (which stars Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette).

ahem true romance is a hey star trek favorite movie

All of the movies I’ve mentioned from Tarantino’s past are very sexy movies and are also very well made movies.

We at Hey Star Trek! won’t be seeing Inglorious Bastards, however.

Because we’ve been over Tarantino for awhile. Hey Star Trek! do you have any idea why a film lover like myself might be in such a hurry to ignore such a “big time” film event like Quentin Tarantino’s fifth or possibly sixth or is it his seventh film?

hey star trek with no star trek weekends only
A long time ago, the most famous and most acclaimed “independent” movie was called Sex, Lies, and Videotape. The movie was directed by Steven Soderbergh and the that film came with an enigmatic allure. It was the sort of movie that suggested something provocative and awesome.

It was a “must-see” and that movie quickly became what independent cinema was and would be for the decade to come –the decade of the 1990s. Another strong indie film was Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, which served to temper that filmmaker’s already bold voice. Independent cinema had arrived in 1989, but it hadn’t been defined.

1989 movie year in pics and mild sarcasm

The real definition would come later from Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.

Of course, I’m speaking only from experience. I had no way of knowing that independent movies had been made before, were still being made, and would continue to be made on and on all-through the future.

I had just never heard of the others. A lot of people haven’t heard of the others to this day.

movies you've never heard of but are made through tears and little money

The independent movie makers of old are still around and many now work with studios to produce their work. This doesn’t mean that independent movies still aren’t made –in fact with the accessibility of the video format, many are made all the time.

yeah mainstream and independent used to have strong definitions apart but these days

When one talks to folks who are locked in a blockbuster movie mentality, it is usually cited that independent cinema is made up of movies created by Quentin Tarantino or Kevin Smith. Those two, in the minds of many, represent what it means to be an independent movie maker.

Hey Star Trek! doesn’t resent this about those two names. We just see it as the inevitable, unhappy side effect that surrounds the successes of both these gentlemen. Just as George Lucas unwittingly defined the blockbuster (after Jaws invented it) and had dramatic influence on how movies would be made, Tarantino and Smith both invented their own language and clichés that influenced independent movies afterward.

It’s not their fault that their approach to dialog and making how people talk “hip” influenced a whole new generation of filmmakers. It’s just unfortunate that the unhappy truth is that their dialog sounds so easy that most aspiring filmmakers think they can do their dialog as these two greats and their scripts will be automatically as interesting.

There’s no reason they shouldn’t believe that. Their own observations on Coca Puffs and pop culture can come across just as well. Obviously, these filmmakers that behave as mentors for this new generation simply stumbled onto a new way to write dialog that “pops” and is much more interesting because it’s more in tune with the way people really talk.

It seems to be really charming to pack dialogue with references to other things you know about from television, movies, or other forms of pop culture.

keep buying your dvd sets of family guy to watch by yourself later

It’s a difficult tight rope to walk, however. What many don’t get about dialog and writing good dialog is that presenting people talking isn’t enough. It doesn’t matter how wry or unique or strange a given character’s observations are, because if what they are saying doesn’t move a story forward, we as viewers get bored and stop caring.

I’m sure a Kevin Smith fan would take issue with my critique of the scene in Clerks where Dante and Randal discuss the construction of the Death Star for two minutes. This is an example of overly cute dialog about something that really doesn’t matter and is a waste of everyone’s time –viewers and characters included!

it seems some filmmakers just think there's nothing to it

But Hey Star Trek! they might say, that’s the point of the scene! The characters are so bored and they have to pass the time in whatever way they can. These are “slacker” characters and Smith is making a comment on how light and superfluous their lives actually are.

We suppose that there might be something to that to be sure, but doesn’t the choice of discussing the Death Star do more for Star Wars nostalgia than it does for Dante and Randal? You can almost see Smith chortling at his word processor as he finally finds a vehicle for this sarcastic observation about Star Wars.

The point of the scene, we suggest, isn’t that Dante and Randal are bored. The point of the scene is that Kevin Smith loves Star Wars and ‘hey, don’t you?’

pop culture dialog that just might survive 100 years

Juxtapose this scene with Tarantino’s scene in Pulp Fiction where Vince and Jules discuss how things are different abroad. The scene has dialog made up of how labels for fast food are different in Paris than they are in America. The dialog is cute, but the scene is actually giving us necessary information.

Vince is back from being abroad. He has seen things Jules has never seen. The beat does much to take the mystique off of being gangsters and announces to the viewer that these guys are accessible, funny, and normal.

As in Smith’s scene, Jules and Vince are passing time together, but their dialog serves to establish the status between them. The dialog isn’t intimate. We don’t gather that the two know each other at all and most likely only see each other because of their job. Outside of doing work for their gangster boss, it’s actually very likely the two don’t see each other at all.

surely not all that tarantino dialog is golden

In that film, the character Mr. Brown has a 50 second monologue about the Madonna song “Like a Virgin.” This bit could easily be confused with Smith’s Death Star contractor scene, but there is one noticeable difference.

Mr. Brown goes into the speech to impress himself onto his cohorts. He is at a table of total strangers and as strangers at breakfast, they are not permitted to talk about themselves. They are only allowed to discuss surface details of pop culture and the like as they are not allowed to know each other.

This is a difficult scene as a writer to create. Generally in movies, scenes are about getting necessary exposition out about characters and plot. Tarantino starts this movie with characters who are not allowed to talk about themselves, so they are left to discussing music and the like.

But because they are killers, each has to suppose to the others that they are the best killer in the room. So it’s not about Tarantino’s wry observation on Madonna’s song, it’s actually about Mr. Brown daring the table to disagree with him.

This movement in dialog and the especially hip dialog was something we used to adore in movies and even we at Hey Star Trek! have been guilty of writing dialog into characters that seemed to say more about the relationship between Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood than it did about our own given characters.

But we’ve outgrown its allure. Tarantino’s newer movies seem to feel too nineties. Tarantino’s 4th film Kill Bill ends with a gigantic discussion on Superman and Clark Kent.

the final scene of kill bill is a big ole yawn

It feels more like an observation than a true character beat. It even comes married to the rather awkward seqway, “you know I like comic books, right?” Although the points Bill makes about Superman are interesting and the final conclusion is something I had never considered, I just wanted The Bride to kill the son of a gun.

This was Tarantino’s announcement that he believes he can do no wrong and all manner of dialog he writes is golden and amazing. I feel like he’s degenerated into Clerks, he is now more interested in trapping his bad ass characters behind a counter and letting them shoot the breeze about some aspect of pop culture.

After Kill Bill, his movie Death Proof was filled to the brim with characters who seemed to have nothing to say, but were really pleased with how they expressed that.

The saving grace of that movie was, or is, the fact that Tarantino actually is a pretty good action director and his high speed sequences are highly re-watchable –we just require a working DVD remote controller to get to the goods.

as seen in death proof

Speaking of DVD, that will be Hey Star Trek!’s chosen format for watching Inglorious Bastards as the Tarantino style has found itself playing with a level that borders self-parody and we feel like we’ve already seen the movie.

Let us guess. Violent. Interesting, long observations about different aspects of life. It’s not that we didn’t once enjoy the formula, but now Tarantino’s iconoclastic approach is more icon and less clastic.

your constant twisting is such an expectation now too bad

go away pop culture dialog


the new end credits twitter button

youre-almost-finished-with-my-self-promotion1

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The new Doctor Who . . . or lack thereof!
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Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse
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you know you wanna see the pimp new tumblr page

  • Reno

    Christina Slater? 😉

    I think I’ll check out the new movie. It looks less… terrible… than kill bill or deathproof.

  • http://twitter.com/super_spock jerad.formby

    Christina Slater. Hmmm. Maybe. Or would that play a little Tilly and Gershon? Wow, what a typo. Fixed through the power of editing to make you look foolish! Muhahahahaha!

  • VegasAndorian

    Kill Bill? You say that about Kill Bill?? J-rad, you are dead to me.

    Oh and, Basterds actually doesn’t have a whole lot of dated pop culture ruminations (set in WWII and all that). The tavern scene is worth the price of admission alone.

    Grat-zee!

  • http://twitter.com/super_spock jerad.formby

    I didn’t assume it would have pop culture dialog (but I just realized that might have been brilliant to date that script with dated references we wouldn’t get).

    The bar scene? You’re suggesting I go for a scene? I’m not disputing his ability to make scenes. You’re not the first to mention the bar scene.

    When are people gonna leave and say, ‘see the movie!’ Ain’t happened since Kill Bill Part 1 — and wouldn’t have happened if it had been two parts together!

  • http://dkleparek.blogspot.com David Kleparek

    I’m not a Tarantino fan, per se. I haven’t even seen Pulp Fiction. I saw this film for the historic commentary and the interesting trailers. I was shocked about how drawn out and stylized this director is. I was bored intermingled with intriguing. I wouldn’t see more of this type of film unless someone editted out all the boring stuff for me. Not my can of beans, if you know what I mean.

  • http://www.dvdgeeks.tv DVD Geeks

    I won’t tell you to go see Inglorious Basterds _because_ of one scene (even though VegasAndorian is right that the tavern scene is worth the price of admission), but I will say this movie is made up of a whole lot of great scenes. Some are better than others, and ultimately the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is the most polished of Tarantino’s films (I liked it much better than Death Proof or the Kill Bill films), and it easily blends his dark sense of humor with the fantasy, snappy dialogue (not “cute” in this case, really) and cinema reference that are his trademarks. Beyond just the scenes, there are some incredible performances in this movie – Christolph Waltz will surely get an Oscar nomination, and he deserves it.