Tag Archives: Quentin Tarantino

The Oscar goes to…Oh Yeah, That Guy Again

 

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

 

Last month’s 85th annual Academy Awards really have me thinking. First, I’ve been thinking about all of the hilarious reaction to Seth Macfarlane being Seth Macfarlane, and doing a song about actresses going topless in various films. Come on folks, Macfarlane does gross out, irreverent humor in various media for millions of dollars. His work is now so prevalent and commonplace that he lacks the ability to surprise us by offending our delicate sensibilities. The hat is old, and I think we should move on.

While I enjoyed Macfarlane, the second thing the Oscars brought to mind was the current group of directors in Hollywood. I know that for years we have all griped about the hashing and rehashing of the same tired plots starring the same actors. We complain of over grown budgets and undergrown stories. When the best director award passed over Steven Spielberg in favor of Ang Lee much in the same fashion as it did in 2006, I could not help but wonder “are there only 6 directors in Hollywood?”

What seems more likely is of the highest profile directors there are only 6 types:

Disclaimer  The people on this list would probably fall into many of the other categories, and I am certain I skipped a great many in each group. If I snubbed your favorite, I apologize.

The Old Guard:

Once upon a time, each of these now-famous film makers were outsiders; now each is a  tried and true trophy winner. Directors who can take any chunk of coal and produce a diamond simply by attaching their weighty name. Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola etc.  These are the guys on the wishlist of every writer, and many actors. It seems that every year one of the numerous people on this list are either nominated for best director or receiving some type of lifetime achievement award.

I was an okay actor, but am a much better director:Ron Howard

Meathead, Laverne, and Opie are among the greatest directors of a generation. Ron Howard is probably the most successful of this group, and his position is aided by the fact that he was a child actor who worked very little as an adult. Rob Reiner, Penny Marshal, and recent addition Ben Affleck are great examples of people who did less than meaningful work as actors but have turned in stellar work from behind the camera.

Freaks and Geeks:

Movie and comic book geeks seem to make the best directors to head up recent film adaptations of some of our beloved childhood properties. Because of their special connection to the material and their dedication to making movies they as fans would want to see these directors deliver time and again to some of the most difficult fan bases: Sam Raimi,  Brian Singer, Joss Whedon, J.J. Abrams. Just hearing their names attached to a project can bring a sigh of relief to most hardcore  fans.

The Epics:

Sometimes these are at odds with the group immediately above. Directors in this group sometimes forgo the subtleties and nuances of  the source material to produce a script with a, how should I put this? A bit more BOOOOOOOM: Joel Schumacher, the man who almost killed Batman; Ridley Scott, whose work runs the gamut between indecipherable and gut checking action; and James Cameron. They are the successors to famous Hollywood archetypes like Cecil B. Demille. The king of them all is Michael Bay, who has managed on more than one occasion to combine his love of  ‘splosions and his dedication to making a film fans can enjoy.

The Writer Directors:

Quentin Tarantino, M. Night Shyamalan, Steven Soderbergh, Ang Lee, Woody Allen. Most directors have tried their hand at writing, and a lot of writers would rather direct their own work. While many of those listed above and many others that fit this category have directed works written by others, the majority of their success comes from directing their own scripts. Much like singer-songwriters, this is often the perfect marriage of concept and director.

The Trilogy Makers:

Peter Jackson, Christopher Nolan, George Lucas. Ever try to tell a story? Ever have to stop one-third of the way through due to time constraints, then pick it back up later? This is how I imagine the mind of the Trilogy Makers. Whenever a story is too big to tell in one film these are the guys to call. Often it means slow playing the first film, overdoing the action in the second, and cramming a resolution into the third.

 

Sure, some of these directors fall into more than one category, but the point is pretty solid. Hollywood is in desperate need of new blood. Not just for directors, but in many other aspects of the group mosaic that is a well-made film. The only answer is to stop going to see tired plots and worn out concepts from the  same directors and actors. Right? I mean if we do not respect the position we hold as consumers how can we expect the film makers to do so?  And furthermore… Sorry, I lost track of time…I will finish this later. I am catching a matinee of the new Die Hard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Box Office, TV, Direct to DVD: Some Works of Elmore Leonard

photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Elmore Leonard is the author of some 80 books. The majority of his early works were in the western genre. With titles like 3:10 to Yuma, Last Stand at Saber River, Valdez Is Coming, and more, Leonard is second only to Louis L’amour in western output and rivals the old master in quality.

Leonard’s fame, however, comes from his crime fiction works. Leonard’s ability to write dialogue in a realistic manner and use that dialogue to advance the story, makes his work particularly easy to adapt for the screen.. Sometimes. His characters are often quirky, relatable, and deep. Leonard has set the bar for plot twists and double crosses in a thriller.

image property of MGMThough his first television adaptation came in 1956, Leonard ruled the made for TV movie market in the 1980s. Eleven of his stories were adapted for the small screen in that decade, none of which were notable, most of which starred no one of weight, and are virtually unwatchable.

It wasn’t until the 1995 film adaptation of Get Shorty that the run of box office hits began. The film was a humorous look at the similarities between the work of a Shylock (loan shark) and a movie producer.

The biggest smash based on a Leonard work was the Jennifer Lopez vehicle Out of Sight which also starred George Clooney. It also spawned the failed TV series  Karen Sisco which lasted about 10 episodes.

The current success of the FX drama Justified, now in its third season, has made Leonard relevant again. Justified began life as a short story entitled Fire in The Hole. It is the story of Deputy United States Marshal Raylan Givens.  After baiting a criminal in Miami into pulling his weapon so he would be “Justified” in shooting him (get it?) Givens is sent back to his home state of Kentucky. The past that Raylan has been running from is now his present as he deals with old friends from his coal mining days, his criminal father, and the girl that got away…even if she is a federal witness.

The Raylan of Justified is more an amalgamation of several Leonard characters. He is the quintessential lawman. He shoots now and shoots later, then asks questions. Raylan is quick talking and full of wit. His interactions with his ex-wife (who works in the same building ) are dripping with the type of cynicism and brilliance for which Leonard is famous.      

Quentin Tarantino chose Leonard’s Rum Punch as the basis for his third film titled Jackie Brown. Tarantino held the option on two additional Leonard titles but ceded them in 2002 after failing to bring them to the screen. Killshot starred Joseph Gordon- Levitt and Mickey Rourke as a two-man hit team looking to extort money from a real estate agent. After spending two years in development hell and another two in editing hell, this movies was released direct to DVD and was awful.

The fate of the second, Freaky Deaky, remains to be seen.  Since filming began nearly 18 months ago, most of the more prominent cast members have dropped out. The theatrical release has been pushed back twice, It seems to be destined to receive a direct to DVD release. I try not to let that bother me as two lesser Elmore Leonard titles have been optioned for theatrical release next year, though they have yet to been cast. freaky-deaky-poster01

 

It takes a certain caliber of director and production company to do Elmore Leonard’s work justice. We have seen what happens when his work is carefully adapted and shepherded through the film making process. It does not work often as a TV one-shot or a straight to DVD feature. Still, given his vast body of work we have only scratched the surface, there is still plenty of content to adapt. Also, it is important to note that “Dutch,” as the 88-year-old Leonard prefers to be called, still cranks out a book or two each year, giving Hollywood plenty more chances to get it wrong and a few more to get it right.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,