Sunday, May 22, 2011

Quentin Tarantino, Community, and the Art of the Homage

Crossposted on and commissioned by

Being a fan of Quentin Tarantino can be a perilous place. For people like me, his work is gold; I’ve been obsessed with most — or liked a lot, at least — everything he’s ever touched. He speaks my language. He shares my taste. He does with film what I think film was meant to do. But this isn’t necessarily the popular opinion.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been around Tarantino haters. My parents and friends were never fans of his initially, so growing up, neither was I. I had never seen a Tarantino movie, but assumed he was everything I had heard about within my limited scope: unoriginal, kitschy, overly violent, and the list goes on. It wasn’t until I was assigned a paper on him at age 17, while attending NYU, and watched Pulp Fiction that things started to change.

Now, at age 25, I adore the man, both as a visionary behind the camera and the insane ball of frenetic energy he is in person. And as much as I’ve heard people complain about his endless homaging, diluting what originality may exist in his material, I couldn’t even begin to agree. In fact, I believe the opposite. I believe that borrowing from that many genres and that many specific movies, and blending them together, creates something new and unique every time. While his films may make us think of Westerns or war movies or Kung Fu pictures or grindhouse shlock, they still always feel distinctly Tarantino.

Late last month, Tarantino’s next film Django Unchained, was announced and it reportedly “…pays homage to both the Sergio Corbucci original Django, not to mention Takashi Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django….[and] Elmore Leonard’s 40 Lashes Less One.” A summary making the Internet rounds is as follows:
Django is a freed slave, who, under the tutelage of a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) becomes a bad-ass bounty hunter himself, and after assisting Waltz in taking down some bad guys for profit, is helped by Waltz in tracking down his slave wife and liberating her from an evil plantation owner.
When this news broke, there was a wave of excitement from film fans, especially those familiar with the iconic character Django and the influence of the original film. And you know why? Because it’s Tarantino choosing to homage, however subtle or not, one of the greatest spaghetti Westerns of all time. We are excited for his take on this, whatever that may be. If anyone else announced a film by this title? I guarantee the reaction would not have been as positive. We would wonder, is this a remake? A reboot? A parody? There would be no sense of faith that something incredible was about to be shot. We trust Tarantino with our homages like we can trust few others.

And who are those few others? Strangely enough, my biggest argument in support of homaging when it works (other than from the master himself,) is the television show Community. While it’s been funny from the start, it wasn’t until homages, references, and deconstruction became a fabric of the show that it truly found both its voice and originality. So much so that I’m almost disappointed when an episode doesn’t contain some sort of gesture to pop culture from the past. The show does homages extremely well and shows off both a strong love for and understanding of everything it nods to — exactly the case with Tarantino and another great example of this, the UK television program that any proper Edgar Wright fan adores, Spaced.

But homaging doesn’t always work. In general, it fails more often than it succeeds. References can sometimes seem inauthentic or pandering when not handled correctly. For example, I have not seen Paul yet, but one of the reasons I stayed away from it in theaters was because I heard the fan service was so on the nose, so cutesy, so not backed up in quality by the movie, that it became almost cringe-worthy to watch. When I opened up this question to Twitter, and asked when references or homages seemed hokey, forced, or not genuine, I got answers like “every line of every Dreamworks animated movie in the ever?,” Family Guy, The Big Bang Theory, Scream 4, the time The Simpsons crossed over with The Critic, Dawson’s Creek, later episodes of Veronica Mars, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, even fan favorite Chuck. Because there is a fundamental difference between most of these properties and properties like Spaced, Community, and especially anything Tarantino makes — the latter group features a pure, unbridled, loving, intense addiction to film and genre at large that is funneled through the mind of pure, unbridled, intense talent.

What we sometimes seem to forget is that properly homaging something is a feat that requires such a deep knowledge and respect for the subject at hand, that it is something to be admired, not railed against.

I think Quint, in reference to the Django announcement, said it best:
Looks legit and if Django is the jumping off point for a Tarantino Western (wholly spaghetti or not) that’s only good news for cinephiles all over the world… Especially with [Franco] Nero and Christoph Waltz involved.
So if you think Tarantino should stop homaging, I urge you to take another look at his work and maybe even the films that inspired him, and reconsider. If you don’t care to do this, then hey, just see his next flick. There’s magic to his mash-ups that I’m sure Django Unchained will be further proof of. I’m salivating already. See full post

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Goodbye until June 3rd!

 Going out of the country until June 3rd - blogging to start up again when I get back, readers! See full post

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pitch Meeting: Something Borrowed

Crossposted on and Commissioned by

Late 2009. Three fancy executive types sit in a fancy executive type office, trying to come up with the Next Great Movie Idea.

EXEC 1: You know what there aren't enough of?

EXEC 2: Where - wait - in what - what context - what are we talking about? Like, endangered species, or -

EXEC 3: Bagel chips. In Chex Mix. Proven. I have the AP Statistics end of year project from 1989 to prove it.

EXEC 1: Romantic Comedies

EXEC 2: Oh! Movies. That makes sense. Just sometimes it helps to begin a discussion with the discussion topic, but that could also be just a personal preference

EXEC 3: But also bagel chips in Chex Mix. But also, go on, you're right, I'm intrigued, I like where this is going, continue

EXEC 1: When was the last romantic comedy?!

EXEC 2: Just this year? He's Just Not That Into You, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, The Proposal, The Ugly Truth -

EXEC 3: Can't think of a single one. Ugh. What is the state of cinema.

EXEC 2: I actually just named -

EXEC 1: So I'm thinking, let's break out of the box. Let's make a romantic comedy. And get this - based on a BOOK. How many light, frothy, fun, romantic movies are based on books?!


EXEC 2: Well, Bridget Jones' Dairy and its sequel, The Devil Wears Prada, The Nanny Diaries, again with the Confessions of a Shopaholic -

EXEC 3: It's simply not done!

EXEC 2: So, are we not listening to me? Is that what's happening?

EXEC 1: And then, here's the real kicker, I thought to myself - who hasn't done enough light, fun movies? Who needs to shift their image a little, say to the world, I can do a dramatic movie AND a comedic one?! Wait for it. Wait for it.


EXEC 2: Just please don't say -

EXEC 1: Kate Hudson AND Ginnifer Goodwin

EXEC 2: Took the words right out of my mouth. Can I go?

EXEC 3: What an amazing step for both of their careers.

EXEC 2: Considering they are both pretty much associated cinematically PURELY with romantic comedies, I'm not sure this actually does much of anything for either of their careers. Are we caring about my opinion yet? Or....

EXEC 1: So glad you guys like it. Because this book, Something Borrowed -

EXEC 2: Such an original name...


EXEC 2: .........

EXEC 1: - it treads new territory. Girl likes boy. Boy likes girl. Boy and girl don't know the other is interested, so boy dates someone else. But soon their feelings come out and boy and girl get together!!!

EXEC 2: So we are just pretending every other romantic comedy that's ever existed hasn't used that plot? I just want to make sure we're on the same page here.

EXEC 3: Cinema will never be the same. I'm witnessing history in the making.

EXEC 1: So what do you think guys? Should we greenlight this baby?

EXEC 2: No


EXEC 1: And did I mention we're looking at John Krazinski AND a guy from the Melrose Place reboot for the male leads?

EXEC 2: Oh. Well, in that case.


EXEC 2: I was being facetious. And can someone stop giving Wilson espresso shots or lines or red bull injections or whatever the hell he's been putting in his system right before our meetings, it's distracting


EXEC 2: No you don't. No one does. Stop it.

EXEC 1: So....that's a greenlight then?

EXEC 2: You know what, sure, consider it greenlit, I don't care, I have to leave this room, I can feel my brain melting.

And thus, Something Borrowed was born! See full post

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hell-Walk 2011: Holy Crap

 The final lap count!

A little while back, I interviewed this awesome dude, Josh Tate, who is an employee of the greatest company EVAR, Bad Robot, and was prepping for his charity event, Hell-Walk, where he would walk in a 100 ft circle on a sound stage for 24 hours straight, in an effort to raise 25,000 for Children's Hope Chest.

A little while after that, I went to his pre-event fundraiser, held at Sonny McLean's in Santa Monica, where the fantastic Broken Numbers Band played, amazing prizes were being raffled off (I was hoping for the complete series of Lost, the limited edition Serenity statue or the framed Star Trek poster signed by JJ. Alas. But to no avail.), mini desserts by Jose Andres and a really great group of supportive people, including, much to my surprise, JJ Abrams himself, who it turns out might in fact be the coolest boss in the history of time. Details of the big day itself after the jump!

See full post

Game Of Thrones Preview: Episode 4

Here are a couple of clips from Sunday's episode, Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things,

Ned looks to a book for clues to the death of his predecessor, and uncovers one of King Robert’s (Mark Addy) bastards.  Robert and his guests witness a tournament honoring Ned. Jon takes measures to protect Samwell (John Bradley) from further abuse at Castle Black; a frustrated Viserys clashes with Daenerys in Vaes Dothrak; Sansa (Sophie Turner) imagines her future as a queen, while Arya envisions a far different future.  Catelyn rallies her husband’s allies to make a point, while Tyrion finds himself caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I'm so addicted to this show. I've already decided to name some of my future kids/pets Daenerys or Catelyn and I've started reading the book right after what happens airs, so I'm experiencing things for the first time in the show, but then supplementing it and expanding my knowledge with the book. I'm already sad that there are only ten episodes this season. See full post