Monday, July 7, 2014

Awesome Writing in Media, Part 2 : Quentin Tarantino

Back in Part 1 of this series on awesome writing in media, I discussed my love for Joss Whedon.

But this time around, I wanted to talk about someone a little more polarizing...Quentin Tarantino.  The more I talk to people about him and his movies (which include Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, Inglourious Basterds, among others), the more I'm convinced that you either love him or hate him.

Most of the movies Tarantino has made he's both written and directed, and has taken home and/or been nominated for quite a few awards for his work.  Like him or not, he's a talented guy.  And I happen to enjoy his movies.

Why?  Because they're different.  There's this odd mix of extreme, bloody violence, unique plots, and interesting dialogue--complete with gratuitous swearing.  Tarantino makes movies that aren't formulaic; he makes the movie he wants to make, and because he has his hands in so many aspects of the movie-pies, he has a lot of creative control to do just that.

So, what about these movies do I enjoy so much, exactly?  As with Whedon, Tarantino has a knack for dialogue, but not in the same way.  While Whedon's is quick-witted and sharp, Tarantino's dialogue is real.  His characters have long, odd conversations, and they do it in way that makes you think you're eavesdropping on real people.

Here are two examples that always stick out in my head when I talk about his dialogue writing style (which, oddly, happens more than you'd think).  The first one is from Pulp Fiction, and is a conversation mostly between John Travolta's Vincent Vega and Uma Thurman's Mia Wallace.  Vincent has been charged by Mia's husband, Marsellus Wallace, to take Mia out for the evening to make sure she has fun while Marsellus is away.  They go to a restaurant called Jack Rabbit Slim's, where she orders the famous Five Dollar Milkshake and later enter a dance contest.  Their conversation in this scene isn't really related to the rest of the movie, but somehow fits anyway.  Check it out below... (language is NSFW)

The other scene that stands out in my head is from Reservoir Dogs during which the characters discuss tipping.  The cast is quite big in this movie, but for the clip below to make sense, the only thing you need to know is that the group of men here are a bunch of criminals--which makes the scene even better.  Again, like the milkshake scene above, their conversation has no real relevance to the rest of the movie, though it gives the viewer a sideways look at their characters and their personalities.  A perfect example of what I try to drive home to the lovely authors I work with: show, don't tell.  As with the other video, the one below has plenty of NSFW language...

There's something about a scene where a group of criminals argue over tipping, including defending the hard-working waitress.

Along with Tarantino's unusual style of dialogue go his unique stories and plots.

Want to hear a story about a female assassin who wakes from a long coma, only to discover that the child she'd been carrying has been taken from her womb and that she needs to exact vengeance upon the ones who wronged her?  Yup, got you covered.

Want to watch a WWII movie about Jewish U.S. soldiers who conspire to assassinate Nazi officials, including Hitler?  Check!

How about a story about a freed slave who, with the help of a German bounty hunter, is on a mission to rescue his wife from a plantation owner?  Sign me up!

He weaves tales about characters from all walks of life, even rewriting history in Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained.  Some even theorize that all of his movies take place within the same insane universe.  Personally, I think that's very plausible.

And it would take a good storyteller to be able to weave that kind of thing together over so many years.  For reals.

I also give Tarantino a lot of credit for his story and directorial quirks...  Things like his distaste for brand names, so he makes up his own products (Red Apple cigarettes and Big Kahuna burger are just two) and uses those instead of product placement.  That allows the viewer to concentrate more on the story than on the overly-commercialized movie they're watching.  Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but everyone can think of at least one movie or television show where you begin to roll your eyes at all the product placement.

Most of the points in this post are just my opinions; plenty of people can't stand Tarantino's movies for the exact reasons I've listed that I enjoy them.  They're too out there; too violent; too meandering in their conversations.  And that's okay.  They're not for everyone.

How about you?  Are you a Tarantino fan or not?  Do you only like some of his movies?  Do you have a favorite or one you particularly can't stand?

xoxo Sarah


  1. I have only seen 2 QT movies but I did enjoy them and think I should check out the others after reading this post. I am not big on violence but I do like they way he tells a story and the "sideways look" at characters. I think I will now like it even more after reading this ;-). Great post!

    1. I hope you get a chance to see more soon! They're definitely worth a look. Which have you seen already? :-)

    2. Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds. FYI for some reason it is super hard for me to post here. Both times I had to write the post in my mail and copy it over....

    3. Huh. Blogger does have quite a few hiccups. Maybe it's having a tough day. :-/