film

What if Quentin Tarantino’s “last film” was a Musical?

He’s made two Westerns, a World War Two film, a two-parter Samurai inspired Revenge epic, a love letter to grindhouse cinema, and two crime dramas in “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction”. Not to mention his most recent project in “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” and “Jackie Brown”. Clearly, Tarantino is in love with cinema and it’s past. His work, while uniquely his own style, reflects periods of film history that ran roughshod over the Box Office for decades upon decades.. but there’s a fairly large part of American film history that he’s not touched upon, yet. Personally, I think making his final film a Musical would not only be a fascinating creative challenge for the auteur Director, but it would fill in the gap of referential Hollywood inspiration. Now, that’s not to say that I think the director would choose to make something along the lines of “Singin in the Rain” or “West Side Story” necessarily, but I believe he has the potential to make a statement and a hell of an exit from Hollywood if he truly does stick to his mantra of only making an even Ten movies. I’m not quite sure what the subject matter would or should be, but I have an idea of at least four major themes or ideas that would be intregral for a Tarantino Musical.

Revenge

Revenge has been a major player in the back half of Tarantino’s filmography. Depicted most acutely in the “Kill Bill” movies, “Django Unchained”, “Inglorious Basterds”, and “Jackie Brown”, Tarantino is perhaps the filmmaker who has contributed most to this sub-genre of film in the last couple of decades. I’m not the most literate in the motivations of characters in Musicals over the decades but I don’t think there were many that focused on revenge as a major factor for a character’s plot progression. If so, then Tarantino would be breaking ground in the genre, and even if it has been done before, I doubt anyone could do it quite like Tarantino would. Guns, swords, knives, and Samuel L. Jackson (in some capacity), sounds like a recipe for one hell of a musical to me!

Nostalgia

Tarantino himself has said that he spends the majority of his free time watching and analyzing old movies ad nausem, so perhaps there are certain films, actors, or styles of musicals that he’d like to homage. Much like how “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” recontextualizes the transition period of the late 1960’s that forced the old Hollywood studio system to fall from grace as audiences wanted grittier and more complex stories- perhaps there is a time period that Tarantino could use to his storytelling advantage? Who says the film has to be set in the modern era? Orson Welles, for example, used several of Shakespeare’s plays to differentiate the passing of one time period to the next and his associations with the past and the future in “Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight)” (https://spacecortezwrites.com/2020/11/26/old-school-review-orson-welles-falstaff-chimes-at-midnight-1966/). Tarantino could similarly paint his own rose-colored glasses onto whatever time period he saw fit to best represent his well recorded disdain for modern filmmaking compared to the rest of film history.

Melancholy

To be honest with you, I wouldn’t have even considered anything Tarantino does to be associated with the idea of Melancholy before “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”. That film, however, is doused in waves of a melancholic nostalgia that is present throughout the film’s runtime. This idea does pair with the previous notion listed above, but I believe there is enough of a difference for it to be it’s own category. For while Nostalgia is a longing for a time that’s past, one could fondly remember those times, whereas Melancholy is a more pensive sadness that can infect a person’s entire perspective of life. What better medium to express an inherent sadness at the idea of time and society’s evolution, than music and singing? Tarantino’s movies have always been powerful, funny, shockingly violent and occasionally crass- but he’s hardly ever touched upon sadness with the same commitment. Though, there are shades of it in “Inglorious Basterds” and “Kill Bill”- it’s a different kind of grief and despair in those films. Those were more “present” reflections and reactions due to personal and intimate actions taken against the main characters rather than a macro scale despondency at the state of things and people on the whole. “La La Land” would be the best most recent film that I can point to that expertly executes those emotions, though in a bittersweet heartwarming fashion. Tarantino probably wouldn’t go that route exactly, but if he could effectively pull on people’s heart strings like that movie did, maybe he’d ride out into the sunset with another slew of Oscars.

Punk Attitude

There’s an inherent rebellious punk attitude in much of Tarantino’s work, and while he has changed, matured, and evolved since his days of “Reservoir Dogs”, even “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” has that fiery spirit at its core. I believe that however he chose to approach the genre of Musicals, it would have that insurgent undercurrent throughout it. For someone that utilizes music and the scores of each film very specifically, I think he’s got what it takes to forge a unique take on the form. So, instead of that “Star Trek” adaption, why not make a completely unexpected move for his last hurrah? He could make an ode to cinema and further wedge himself into the annals of film history than he already has. Though, to be honest, I’ll watch whatever his last film is, he’s fucking Quentin Tarantino, man!

For fun, here’s a link to a Youtube video essay on the History of Musicals:

film

Passion. Drive. Grit.

I’m gonna take a moment here to say something to all you would be filmmakers out there (fyi I count myself among that crowd).

Don’t. Give. Up.

If storytelling is in your blood, if its the thing that captures your attention from the moment you wake til the second your head hits that pillow, if its what inspires awe, laughter, even sadness, or simple reflection, then embrace it! Embrace that undying need to create, to inspire in others what moves you most!

I am fully aware of all the things that stop somebody from going out there and shooting a movie. Making a movie is a huge ambiguous, gelatinous, shapeless thing, it is different every time someone puts pen to paper, or powers on a camera, or buckles that last belt on their costume. It cannot be done alone, nor should it be. There are many, many, many, many, many, many variables to consider, and problems to overcome. Chief among them being the simple task of having enough money to even be able to start. That’s where I’m at. I get it. I have no gear, a handful of friends spread across several states that have interests in film, but reality steps in and takes precedence.

For Now…

My point is, do what you can, when you can. Have an idea? Write it down! I am no stranger to starting a billion ideas before finishing one. Clarity and focus is key. Knowledge is also important! Read up on it all! Do your homework. Get acquainted with the lingo, at least the basics. A particularly influential Art teacher I had in High School taught me that you have to learn the rules first, so you know what to break later. Here’s my current film related reading list, some I have completed, others I have yet to start, but they cover almost every aspect an indie filmmaker might want to know:

1 “The Filmmaker’s Handbook: A comprehensive guide for the digital age by Steven Ascher & Edward Pincus. My Thoughts: Its a bit of a behemoth, but packed with facts, details, and techniques. It solidly explains everything from how a camera works on its most primitive level, all the way to the heat of production and post. This might be the most info you get for your money out of all the books on this list.

2  “Making Movies” by Sidney Lumet. My Thoughts: I hadn’t heard of director Sidney Lumet before this (I know, shame on me), but I immediately respected him for his process of filmmaking. He was very detail oriented and planned things out way ahead of time, his style of controlling the creation of his films was a unique and fascinating one. If you haven’t seen any of his movies, check out “Serpico”, “Network”, and “Dog Day Afternoon”. Personally I loved all three and they made me realize Al Pacino was capable of more than a well placed “Ooo Aaahh”.

3 “Filmmaking: The Hard Way” by Josh Folan. My Thoughts: This book is a case study of indie director Josh Folan’s first feature length flick. If you’re wondering how other people in your shoes did it, check this out! He details the entire process from pre-production all the way to distribution. Plus the guy’s a very active and responsive social media personality, nice guy, and he’s totally willing to help with any questions that you might have (at least it seemed so from my short exchange with him).

“On Film-making: An Introduction to the craft of the Director” by Alexander Mackendrick. My Thoughts: Just because the framework of the story is “old school” in its time and references doesn’t mean the core ideas are “Out of Touch”. Plus if “The Third Man” comes up and you still haven’t seen that, you really need to stop what you’re doing and go watch that, a classic, and great, noir film starring Orson Welles (of “War of the Worlds” [not that one you mook] and “Citizen Kane” fame).

“Tough Shit” by Kevin Smith. My Thoughts: Even if you don’t necessarily care for Smith, this book still has valuable information in it. It details how he took his film “Red State” across continental America and self distributed it proving some twenty years after “Clerks” that he still is the indie kid that could, and did.

“Writing the Character Centered Screenplay” by Andrew Horton. My Thoughts: I’ve personally always had a bit of trouble adhering to the script format, and this helped break down the essentials for me, and helped me to appreciate a different, more character oriented take on the form. Very Useful.

7 “Film Directing Shot by Shot: Visualizing from concept to screen” by Steven D. Katz. My Thoughts: As an extremely visual person this one is VERY helpful to me as sometimes I just need to see it to better understand it, helpful for story-boarding and the multitude of different shots out there.

“Rebels on The Backlot: Six Maverick directors and how they conquered the Hollywood studio system” by Sharon Waxman. My Thoughts: Reads like a bit of an expose on the six most famous indie directors of the nineties at times, but I found it mesmerizing to learn how all of them worked so differently from each other, and how each arrived at success in wildly different ways. Directors include: Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, David Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson, David O. Russell, and Spike Jonze.

“True and False: Heresy and Common sense for the actor” by David Mamet. My Thoughts: Haven’t even opened this one yet, but from my time working at a theatre during college, I know David Mamet knows his stuff when it comes to acting, or so I’m told. Most likely worthwhile.

10 “Making a Good Script Great” A guide for writing and rewriting by Hollywood script consultant Linda Seger. My Thoughts: This one is just a great layer of extra fluff knowledge backing up your primary writing knowledge, it does focus on a good rewrite, which is an immensely important aspect.

If you’re not much of a bookworm then I have one last suggestion for you.“The Story of Film: An Odyssey” is a 15 episode series, one hour each, that features an in depth look into the entire history of filmmaking. I’ve found it to be an inherently fascinating watch. The series is chock full of knowledge on essentially every aspect of how filmmaking has evolved over time and I strongly suggest anyone that has a loose or even decent grasp on the history of filmmaking to check it out, it’s on Netflix, and surely available elsewhere as well.

Well there you go folks! I hope you find something useful in all that, I sure did! Remember, just be as productive as possible in your current situation! Never give up, and keep dreaming!

film

Heroes: Edgar Wright

Within this subsect of my (possibly everchanging) blog, I intend to put a spotlight on the people that make me want to pursue my dreams more so than anyone else in the movie-making business. For my first entry I chose a director that has been in the spotlight in the last year regarding his once future film “AntMan”. First off, I admired Wright’s work before this whole “AntMan” hubbub. “Shaun of the Dead” is easily my favorite zombie movie and “The World’s End” might be in my top ten favorite films. It’s that good, really it is. I adore his work so much because it reflects the reality of what I want to do, that its possible to succeed if you work very hard and pour your soul into it. Yes, sometimes a quip with a zombie, or an invading alien robot deserves a little bit of heart. Taking a step back to our pint sized superhero flick though, Wright clearly isn’t just making movies just to get a foot in the door with the larger world of newly accepted geekdom. He had a vision with that character and Marvel wanted to do it in a specific way, and I respect the man for stepping back when he knew he was no longer making his “AntMan” film.

Such is what happens when big money and properties come into play. But I also understand Marvel’s point of view as well, at this point they have a formula, one that they intend to keep cashing in on. As they should, but not all director’s fit into a formula. Wright leaving Marvel to pursue other creative opportunities keeps me in mind of the ever present battle of creative control in the studio versus the indie filmmaker. This is important. It comes down to how you want to define yourself as an artist when writing or directing your films, and somewhere along the line you have to decide how much control you’re willing to give up for a multitude of reasons. Better pay, being part of a larger integrated system, bigger toys, bigger sandbox etc. This isn’t to say I’m against studios or studio made films, but this argument does matter though when considering creative freedom.

At the very least I’m glad what we got out of all of that was a fairly good superhero flick to add to Marvel’s vault of success. Wright’s presence can be felt throughout the flick and who knows, maybe that’s why it felt more personal and (pun intended) smaller than its big blockbuster brother that preceded it this summer. In fact between the Avengers sequel and “Antman” I personally got more out of the latter than the former. Expectation may be the culprit to blame most here though. With “Antman”, I was just hoping for it to be fun and a bit self referential in its wildly apparent silliness, which I got in spades. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was entertaining enough, but ultimately didn’t reach the height of the first movie, and really, who could blame them? The first “Avengers” was a milestone in the genre.

I think I’d have to side with Wright if I had been in his position though, if only because I long to be the kind of involved director that writes his own material and is very much “down in the trenches” of film-making. Maybe it’s just because I’m young, have hardly any film-making experience, and haven’t grown into the culture as of yet, but I’d like to believe in the power and integrity of the indie filmmaker. Until then I’ll be heavily anticipating Edgar Wright’s next piece, because if his cornetto trilogy is any indication, Wright is the fine wine of indie genre film-making and he’s only going to get better!