Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Greatest Film Critic

No one ever erected a statue to a critic.

That's because if the critic is good enough, no one realizes they are critics.

Quentin Tarantino has a new movie coming out, DJANGO UNCHAINED. The Drudge Report is shocked, shocked I say, that it has the n-word. Others are shocked that Tarantino shows that slavery was a bad thing.

This post on critics is not about the critics of Tarantino, but Tarantino himself who is the greatest film critic ever.

How can someone be a film critic who never says anything bad about other people's films? By being really good at it.

Tarantino has one great strength. He can tear a film apart and see what works and what doesn't.

RESERVOIR DOGS was the film that first brought the worlds attention to Tarantino, for all the wrong reasons. The violence in the film was pretty mild compared to the Hong Kong movies that inspired it. The difference between those films and RESERVOIR DOGS was Tarantino put in real characters. In Hong Kong everything is about the action and if time permits the plot can make an appearance. Any dimension in the characters past their job description (cop, triade member, ect.) is usually accidental.

Tarantino turned that around, most of the film is spent building the characters. The violence for what the film is known for is very brief compared to the Hong Kong films, but because it has real characters it seems much more intense.

It's the same in all his films, he looks for the entire genre's weakness and highlights that. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. But when you watch his films you can see where he breaks conventions and judge for yourself if it works or not.

I've seen the spaghetti westerns that Tarantino based DJANGO UNCHAINED on. Because they were made for an American audience, they shied away from showing the brutality that real slaves lived under. By not showing that you didn't get a real feeling for the stakes that the escaped slave was dealing with.

Tarantino is the greatest film critic, not by trashing other people's work, but because he looks at them and sees what the core elements are (what worked) keeping those, then looking at what is bad about a film and how it can be fixed. The results are new takes on old genres.

I'm not Tarantino, but I do like to try that myself.

I'm not a huge action novel fan. So I wrote an action novel, SHOWGIRLS AND ALIENS. After writing it, I do what I always do and research how to do what I just did. According to writers that I respect, I did it all wrong.

The action scenes are a quick sequence of events, the characters have to react, not think.

Oops. The only way my characters could win was by overcoming their inner conflicts so they could defeat their external enemies. I went put the character building in to the action.

In the mist of the action dialog should be limited.

Oops. I gave myself some leeway here by making it a comedy, but one thing I love about good Hollywood action films and comic books, is how the hero has just the right quip to go along with each punch.

I could go on about all the action “rules” I broke, nearly all of them. But I think I followed Quentin Tarantino's way of being a critic to a whole genre. Look to see what works, and redo all the things that don't.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

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