July 22nd, 2012

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Tarantino/Rodriguez: Jackie Brown

So this is actually the last one we're gonna see from Quentin Tarantino for a little while. I actually tried getting it in on Fri, but TDKR took a lot outta me both because staying up for the midnight had me running on little sleep and the emotional toll from the related events. Anyways, Jackie Brown.

This is prolly my least favorite Tarantino movie. But given how much I adore his movies, that's kinda like saying this is my least favorite kind of chocolate. There are no bad chocolates. But that wasn't always the case. The movie had to grow on me a bit.

When I was first discovering Quentin Tarantino, I could not get enough of his movies. Well, technically, I still can't get enough. But I was determined to see them all. So that year, I put Jackie Brown on my Christmas wish list, and watched in on my once traditional Christmas day new movie marathon. The problem was, my understanding of Tarantino back then wasn't entirely accurate. Since Kill Bill was my first introduction, I was hung up on the stylized violence. I hadn't yet learned to appreciate the quick dialogue or the gritty storylines. I basically ended up watching just waiting for action that never really came, and I walked away disappointed. Fast foward a few years and some DIY movie education, and I thoroughly enjoy this one now. I still rank it below his others, but it's good.

A few things make Jackie Brown stand out from the rest of the Tarantino ouvre. For one, all his previous movies are pretty guy-centric. Except for Mia Wallace and Honey Bunny, you really haven't seen many girls in his movies (at least the written AND directed ones). This is the first time our "hero" is a chick. And Pam Grier's Jackie is just as cunning and bad ass as any of the boys.

This film also feels more realistic than his previously penned pictures. Personally, I prefer the more over the top, faster and smoother talking than anyone in real life, blood and guns waving all over the place. I do like that this one feels gritty and dirty. The stakes may in fact be higher in his other films, but they feel more intense here. Just watching the big con at the end, even though I know how it plays out, I still feel my heart racing.

Speaking of that big set up, I \m/ love how it plays out. I'm not talking about the specifics (though those are well done), but the way that you see the events play out several times from different perspectives. You see Jackie do her thing up close, then Melanie watching Jackie, etc. That's one of my favorite film techniques.
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Tarantino/Rodriguez: The Faculty

The Faculty is one of Hollywood's most tragically misunderstood and overlooked movies. It was released in '98, right as the slasher movie hype of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer and the myriad of other similar films was dying down. The horror element of this movie lumped it into that category, but I dont actually think it was meant to be taken seriously as a scifi or a horror. If you watch it in the right mindset, you'll realize, this movie is pure fun, very much a signature of Robert Rodriguez (even if the screenplay was by Kevin Williamson, with RR directing). He's not trying to scare you. He's taking a cool idea that we've all daydreamed about (what if my teachers actually are aliens) and running with it. It just missed being included in my favorites list, but I'm pretty confident it will find its way onto the list when I finally get around to my long overdue revision.

I've said for a while that dialogue is what can make or break a movie for me, but in recent weeks I've been noticing that doesn't necessarily make it the most important element for me. What really draws me in and makes a movie stay with me is strong characters. This movie has both: characters that I still adore to this day, and soundbites that tend to get often quoted by me in conversation ("I dont believe a person should run unless they're being chased" tops the frequency list).

I honestly can't pick a favorite character from this misfit Breakfast Club. Casey, Stokely, Zeke, Delilah, Stan. This was when Elijah Wood and those gorgeous baby blues first caught my eye. It was years until I learned Clea Duvall's actual name and stopped calling her Stokely after her outcast goth character I totally vibed with. Josh Hartnett is at his yummiest, also around when his career peaked. Jordana Brewster adds a rare toughness to the head cheerleader. I can't watch Sean Hatosy and not picture his conflicted quarterback.

Sure this movie is absurd. Aliens take over a smalltown high school. The kids force each other to take homemade drugs to prove they're still human. Things get blown up for no apparent reason. Gratuitous profanity (sidebar: as a result of watching this edited on network tv, there was a point in time when I started "swearing" using the word "spit", like Zeke's "caffeine and other household "spit"). But it's a fun ride. You'll notice this especially with Rodriguez' kid films that we'll get into soon, but the man really does just love to have a good time with his movies. There's no implied deep intellectual meaning, no philosphy on life, the universe, and everything. Just pure entertainment at its best, and that's what I \m/ love about him and this movie.

As always, Rodriguez finds a small spot for his muse, Salma Hayek. This time, as the school nurse. This is also the start of an unlikely but reoccurring collaboration with Elijah Wood. Not the first name you'd think to associate with Rodriguez, but the pair do share multiple credits.

My one gripe, the single absurdity that I can't overlook is how the coupling off at the end of the movie. I just dont buy it. However, it gains back bonus points for the soundtrack.