Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino – 1997) A-

I went back and re-watched this one. I had not seen it since it came out probably. Everyone and their mother are making lists of and ordering QT movies from most to least favorite. It’s like the ultimate compliment to anyone’s work, you compare them to themselves. All his films range from good to excellent so the rankings are really a compliment…but if you had to order them. Many critics seem to think this one is both underrated and possibly Tarantino’s best movie. Huh? well I agree with the first sentiment. It is an excellent underrated movie, but not his best IMHO. It is a tight thriller, expertly made with multiple points of view for various sequences and it involves -from beginning to end- a smart heist of sorts. It’s almost like a French heist movie mixed with a Marlow noir flick. On top of all that we get very good performances from Pam Grier, Sam Jackson and a very cool Robert Forster.

So, what would my Quentin Tarantino ranking look like? Well, here goes (for today at least)

  1. Inglourious Basterds
  2. Pulp Fiction
  3. Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood
  4. The Hateful Eight
  5. Kill Bill
  6. Jackie Brown
  7. Reservoir Dogs
  8. Django: Unchained
  9. Death Proof
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Won’t You be My Neighbor? (Morgan Neville – 2018) B+

I did not grow up with Mr. Rogers on my TV, yet I’m glad that he was part of this world and a part of millions of childhoods. He was a legitimately sweet and decent human being who made this world a better place. This documentary illustrates that very well. A story with no major drama, no weird scandals or long battles with addiction. Yet, still very interesting.

The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodovar – 2011) A-

It’s been a while since I’ve seen an Almodovar movie. Glad I caught this one recently. It straddles the line between horror, beauty, comedy and sexuality. It’s constructed like a mystery as we meet the seemingly captive Vera (Elena Anaya) in the big mansion owned by the brilliant doctor Ledgard (Antonio Banderas). She is very pretty, wears a full body suit for some reason and as far as we can tell she cannot leave her room. He is a genius who apparently can apparently transplant skin that he invented. We get some distractions with the science of it for a bit but that does not matter. The movie moves back and forth in time as we learn how we got to this point. It is a fascinating and shocking story marked by Almodovar’s eccentricities and excess.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Edgar wright – 2010) B

Heard a lot about this one and finally caught up with it. Probably one the best video game movies (maybe the only good video game movie?) that is not based on a video game, but rather on a graphic novel. Scott Pilgrim has to defeat all of his girlfriend’s ex boyfriends in a series of creative explosive and fantastical battles. A lot of fun this one.

Don’t look Now (Nicolas Roeg – 1973) B+

It’s a jarring movie. A mix of horror, surreal drama, a meditation on grief and a whole lot of dread running through it all. Edited in a very interesting way with sharp cuts and turns. I cannot say I loved this movie but it does work for me. I like this type of horror that keeps the tension high and you never quiet can tell what it going on. The setting in Venice in the 70s is quiet interesting too and can be a character onto itself. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie (the Baxters) both deliver excellent performances as the couple who are grieving the loss of their daughter. In Venice, he is an architect working on restoring an old historic church. They seem to be doing ok, very much in love and trying to recover. Then she meets two British ladies one of whom is blind and claims that she can commune with the dead daughter. He naturally scoffs at this and she wants to try and connect with her daughter, at the same time there are a series of murders in the city. A strange person appears to be wearing the same clothes as the dead daughter seems to come and go in front of the Baxters. An old photo from the inside of the church also has the same person wearing a red coat, that blood red coat. All of that adds up to a very tight and gripping thriller.

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino – 2019) A

I saw it once and really enjoyed it. It’s a layered film and stayed with me as I thought about those amazing characters of Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the world of 1968/69 Los Angeles that the film is set in. Tarantino’s latest is even more than any of his other movies a film about films, about actors, his unabashed love for cinema but it is about more than that. At its heart is a very sweet friendship story between the actor Rick and his long time stunt double Cliff. These two guys are probably QT’s most well developed, multi dimensional and interesting male characters. Good thing too since the vast majority of this deliberate and quiet picture is us hanging out with them. Maybe a third of the running time is with Rick doing his work. Did I say this was a quiet and “slow” movie? Well, it is, somehow in a departure for QT. It’s possibly the least violent too. Really until the final 10 minutes or so this is a meticulous and character-driven drama. Then I went back and saw it again. Yes, this is a great picture, a mature and confident one.

The film is set in 1968 mostly…and some in 1969. Rick lives right next door to Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and her husband the director Roman Polanski right up on that very infamous Cielo Dr. Rick is a one time famous TV show star and still gets the occasional role but somehow he missed the movie stardom boat. We hang out with Tate too while Rick is busy on a TV pilot set and Cliff is running errands, fixing Rick’s aerial and giving rides to cute hippies to their weird ranch…She goes to see a movie, buys a book and seems like a really sweet person. The main reason most of us have heard of Sharon Tate is because of those grizzly Hollywood Hills murders but here she is allowed to be more than that. A fun loving person who is happy to be alive. Robbie, Pitt and DiCaprio all deliver excellent performances here.

There really is so much to unpack and talk about, so much that I loved, but I’ll stick to one more piece of praise. Damn does this film look great and sound great. The LA of the late sixties is meticulously recreated and so real. For the entire run we are living there with nothing out of place. The cars are right, the buildings and billboards and streets. They all feel lived in and tangible. Not sure how much CGI went into crafting this world but I really do not think much. Tarantino pays so much attention to the details and everything is lovingly created.

Once Upon a Time…might be set in the real world but the line of where fact ends and fiction begins is at times difficult to tell. I did not expect Tarantino to make a biopic, I did not want him to and he did not. This is a fairy tale.

Tampopo (Jûzô Itami – 1985) A

Of course I had heard a lot about Tampopo for years before I had the chance to see it. It’s often referred to with a lot of reverence among the great “food” movies like Big Night. I knew it was about Ramen. That’s basically it. So, I was thrilled to see it available on The Criterion Channel’s lineup. Initially I was a bit thrown off by the slapstick comedy of it, the over the top interactions…I did not expect a comedy. Then, it really took over and I just could not wait what the next frame will bring. The cooking is delightful and seemingly done in real time in some cases. The main characters are endearing and grew on me very fast. The side-story vignettes; confusing at first; became like refreshing one bite morsels that cut through the main story as they balanced sensuality, comedy and the joy of cooking and eating. Really this whole thing is a wonderful feast (I just could not help but say that…)