Bring a winter coat for this one. Trust me.
It’s an important milestone in any movie fan’s life when he or she comes to the realization that the people voting for the Oscars are little more than old white men jerking off other old white men. That doesn’t mean he or she can’t enjoy the ceremonies, and the nominated movies, but, you know, let’s maybe not take the opinion of a group composed mostly of out-of-touch all that seriously.
With that said, I still enjoy bitching and moaning about the movies, because literally nothing gives me more joy than bitching and moaning about trivial shit.
And yes, like last year, I will watch and review all of the Best Picture nominees this year. I’ve already reviewed The Martian, Mad Max: Fury Road and Spotlight, and I need to get to watching The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, The Revenant (Which I should see this weekend, with any luck) and Room.
With that out of the way, it’s time to make some observations about the nominations for the 88th Academy Awards.
So it’s come to this. One week after I posted my mildly in-depth analysis of the contestants, it’s time to quit discussing angrily amongst yourselves and learn which Tarantinoverse villain is the deadliest of them all. If you don’t know what the Tarantinoverse is, go read my last article. If you haven’t seen any of these movies yet…..Go watch them!?!?! Also, that’s your spoiler alert. I personally think that movies that’ve been available to watch for as long as these ones don’t merit a spoiler warning, but I dunno, I feel like a nice guy today.
Anyways, before we get started, I should point out that, while each character is allowed a signature weapon (For example, Mr. Blonde gets his razor blade and his pistol) they don’t get any objects that aren’t weapons (Stuntman Mike doesn’t get his car). Also, the fight takes place on what I deem to be neutral ground (In this case, a warehouse reminiscent of the one in Reservoir Dogs, except loaded with stacked crates of cocaine, because cover and, also, Tarantino.
Right, now that that’s out of the way…
In an unnamed warehouse somewhere in Los Angeles County, all is silent. Until out of nowhere, nine notorious people from different points in the history of the world materialize: Notorious thief and murderer Vic Vega, noted drug dealer Drexl Spivey, bloodthirsty assassin O-Ren Ishii, older bloodthirsty assassin Bill, sadistic serial killer Stuntman Mike, SS turncoat Hans Landa and vicious slave owner Calvin Candie.
Oh, and some Mexican lady is dressed in lingerie, and some guy dressed in bondage gear. That’s…. Really fucking weird. Who brought them here?
The gathered villains glare warily at each other, silently, as you would do if a bunch of these freaks suddenly materialized around you in a location that you found yourself in for no goddamned reason at all.
After a good five minutes of staring, the gimp shrieks loudly, for no particular reason. Mr. Blonde gets a wild look in his eye and shoots wildly in the gimp’s general direction. Everyone else escapes to cover, but the gimp, sadly, takes a ton of lead straight to the torso and falls, having shrieked his last shriek.
The scantily clad Mexican, while still behind cover, seems oddly fascinated with the bleeding gimp.
Raise your hand if you ever thought you would read that sentence in your life.
Stuntman Mike, hungering for a Big Fat Kill, runs through No Man’s Land, somehow not managing to be nailed by any of the bullets that Mr. Blonde sprays at him before he runs out of bullets, and sidles up to the morbid Mexican lady. Trying to take advantage of the situation, Drexl Spivey makes a break for the warehouse doors. However, he doesn’t count on Hans Landa squaring him up in the sights of his outdated German pistol and blowing three holes in his torso. Which he does.
A scream is heard from behind the cover that Stuntman Mike has disappeared behind. Everybody assumes that Stuntman Mike has satisfied his need for murdering women. These sad, sad fools have no idea what’s coming next.
Calvin Candie, being batshit insane, takes the opportunity to pounce on Landa, beating him with a brick of cocaine that he had pulled out from a crate. Landa manages to pop off a shot, but it merely grazes Candie’s arm, causing only a slow trickle of blood.
Meanwhile, Vic Vega has decided to make a break for it, but runs into the legendary Cottonmouth, O-Ren Ishii. Itching for a kill himself, Mr. Blonde smirks and takes out his straight razor, starting to advance towards O-Ren.
O-Ren, on the other hand, does some smirking of her own and pulls out her katana.
Mr. Blonde stops smirking.
As Cottonmouth slices Vega into bits of man-sushi, Candie is about to deliver the finishing blow to Landa when he hears a bloodcurdling shriek. He turns to see the head of Stuntman Mike being hurled away by what looks like Nosferatu with a skin condition. In a bikini.
Before Candie has a chance to react, the vampiress(?) pounces on him and tears the innards out of his throat. Landa takes the golden opportunity to limp off to find cover while the vampire enjoys her meal of delicious, delicious slave driver.
Bill, inactive until this moment, leaps into action, slicing furiously at the blood sucker with his katana. The vampire, distracted by her meal, doesn’t notice the pristine Japanese steel impaling her black heart until it’s too late.
As Bill examines his deceased paranormal victim, Landa emerges from behind his cover and dispatches Bill, execution style.
However, as has been the case throughout this whole Deathmatch, Landa’s downfall is his lack of foresight when things aren’t going according to plan, and as he leisurely begins the reload of his pistol, he turns to see the poised Asian woman in an aggressive stance, a katana pointed precariously at his forehead. He tries to get a word out to convince her to let him be, but can’t before O-Ren Ishii drives her katana straight through his forehead.
THE WINNER: O-REN ISHII
In the end, I decided to go with Kill Bill‘s Cottonmouth, because not only is she one of the foremost assassins in this twisted universe that Tarantino has created, she also has the least amount of flaws. Sure, she gets cocky in her fight against the Bride, which leads to her death in that movie, but she only really does that when she thinks she’s got no shot of losing. In this fight, she sees that Landa is dangerous, so she wouldn’t waste any time in wasting him when the opportunity presents itself. Hell, watch that scene in Kill Bill when she decapitates the Yakuza boss who insults her. Maybe she isn’t in any direct physical danger from this dickhead, but she realizes the threat of having her lofty position undermined, so she doesn’t waste any time chopping his noggin off.
Hans Landa, Bill, Santanico Pandemonium and Calvin Candie were all fairly strong candidates, but they each have their fatal flaws. Candie may be batshit insane. but he isn’t all that smart (He isn’t even really the main villain for the last bit of the movie. That would be Stephen). Santanico Pandemonium is vicious, but she’s also very killable (Vampires in From Dusk Till’ Dawn tended to do their best work in group or surprise attacks anyway). Bill is sixty goddamn years old, and Hans Landa leans on his intelligence, not so much his strength, or combat proficiency. When I think back to Inglorious Basterds, I’m pretty sure the only person he actually murdered himself was Diane Kruger.
Well, that was the first episode of Deathmatch and, while there’s still some tune-ups to be done, I had a lot of fun with it. So, until next time, I leave you all with three pressing questions:
1. Did I get it right? Who do you think would’ve come out on top?
2. What Deathmatch would you like to see next?
3. What did you think of the Terminator: Genisys trailer? Personally, I still can’t get over the fact that they can’t spell fucking “genesis” right.
Wow, maybe I should finish up that Star Wars series I started forever ago. Now would be the ideal time, anyways. I’ve had more views in the past six hours than in the entire past week. Quentin Tarantino is not on anybodies’ must-see list right now. It’s all Star Wars.
But hey, this wouldn’t be Please Kill the Messenger if it wasn’t hopelessly irrelevant. So with that said, it’s time to get the first episode of Deathmatch underway!
As I mentioned in the introduction to this whole concept last week, this first part of the episode is more of an introduction to the participants, their strengths, their weaknesses and so on. It’s a doozy as well, with a whopping nine fighters representing their respective movies.
I should note for those not aware that the Tarantinoverse consists of select films written by Quentin Tarantino that all have shared elements, most notably characters (For example, Pulp Fiction’s Vincent Vega is the brother of Mr. Blonde from Reservoir Dogs) and fictional brands (Big Kahuna Burger and Red Apple Cigarettes) that seem to suggest that all these films take place in the same ultra-violent shared universe that split apart from our own after Adolf Hitler was assassinated by American forces in Inglourious Basterds.
That said, not every Tarantino movie is part of this universe. Movies like Natural Born Killers and Crimson Tide don’t have enough evidence to link them conclusively to the other movies, and Jackie Brown, being based on a novel, is part of a whole different shared universe. So, the movies that will contribute a fighter will be Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, True Romance, Death Proof, From Dusk till Dawn, the two Kill Bill movies, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained.
So, without further ado, let’s get right into it!
(Also, consider this a spoiler alert for the previously mentioned movies. You’ve been warned)
Vic Vega (Mr. Blonde)
Appearance: Reservoir Dogs
Portrayed by: Michael Madsen
Best quote: “Listen kid, I’m not gonna bullshit you, all right? I don’t give a good fuck what you know, or don’t know, but I’m gonna torture you anyway, regardless. Not to get information. It’s amusing, to me, to torture a cop. You can say anything you want cause I’ve heard it all before. All you can do is pray for a quick death, which you ain’t gonna get.”
[He removes his razor]
“You ever listen to K-Billy’s “Super Sounds of the Seventies” weekend? It’s my personal favorite.”
It only seems logical to start with the movie that propelled Tarantino to cult stardom, 1992’s Reservoir Dogs. While this masterpiece is chock-full of memorable characters like Mr. Orange, Mr. White, Nice Guy Eddie, etc., the most memorable character, in my correct opinion, is Vic Vega. While on the surface, Vega (Who goes by the alias of “Mr. Blonde” throughout the movie) appears to be your typical strong, silent type, good friends with Nice Guy Eddie and, like the others, a professional criminal. However, not only is it revealed that Vega is not exactly the most respectable criminal, murdering several civilians in a panicked rush to escape the bank he robbed with the others and showing no real remorse for the deed, which is pretty heinous in the first place.
As if that wasn’t enough, after he is left alone with a police officer, he starts taunting, then torturing him, even going so far as cutting his right ear off with a straight razor and dousing him in gasoline, fully intending to burn him alive. In fact, the only reason he doesn’t do just that is because Tim Roth shoots him to death before he can do so.
Right away, we have a very, very interesting candidate for this battle royale. I mean, forget sadistic, this guy’s a fucking full-blown psychopath. He kills without any real remorse, tortures for shits and giggles…. I mean, when it comes to kill instinct, this guy is off the chain. This guy’s antics disgusted even some of the most dedicated filmgoers around back in the day. Add in the fact that he’s handy with a razor blades and hand guns, and he looks like a strong candidate.
What’s the catch? Mr. Blonde is not particularly great under pressure, being cursed out by Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi for his violent outburst in the bank robbery. True, in a fight to the death that can be a plus, but not always. Also, it doesn’t help that he was taking so much pleasure in watching the cop suffer that he doesn’t notice that a bloodied and battered Tim Roth has woken up, pulled out his pistol, and aims to kill him before he can kill the cop.
Also, for a psychopath, he doesn’t seem particularly smart or cunning. Sure, he talks a good game when confronting Harvey Keitel, but, again, when you have a chance to save your ass by looking slightly to your left, and you don’t take it, you don’t come out looking so rosy in the “brains” department.
Also “pistol and razor blade” isn’t the most intimidating arsenal to take into a fight.
Appearance: True Romance
Portrayed by: Gary Oldman (Obviously)
Best quote: “He must have thought it was white boy day.”
As the quote may have suggested, Drexl Spivey suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. Alabama Worley mentions at one point that he tries very hard to be a black guy. What this is saying about black people is a little bit sketchy, but I so do not want to get into the topic of racism in Tarantino movies right now.
Anyhoo, Drexl is a Detroit pimp and a drug dealer who is Alabama’s pimp at the beginning of True Romance. When Clarence comes to intimidate him into letting her go free, he responds by taunting him and beating him up.
Then, Clarence shoots him in the face.
Going with the most memorable villain of the movie doesn’t always leave me with the strongest candidate, apparently.
I mean, Drexl isn’t a pushover, he’s smarter than one would guess, and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty (He does have the balls to kill Samuel L. Jackson at the beginning of the movie), but he doesn’t have a weapon (He holds a shotgun for a bit, but he doesn’t use it as much as, say, Mr. Blonde uses his signature razor blade) and he’s not that smart. I mean, he let Christian Slater kill him, for Chrissakes. Weak candidate. Let’s move on.
Appearance: Pulp Fiction
Portrayed by: Stephen Hibbert
Best quote: *Unintelligible shrieking*
Once again, the “most memorable character” rule bites me in the ass. No way this guy’s not getting offed in the first round.
Appearance: From Dusk till Dawn
Portrayed by: Salma Hayek
Best quote: “I’m not gonna drain you completely. You’re gonna turn for me. You’ll be my slave. You’ll live for me. You’ll eat bugs because I order it. Why? Because I don’t think you’re worthy of human blood. You’ll feed on the blood of stray dogs. You’ll be my foot stool. And at my command, you’ll lick the dog shit from my boot heel. Since you’ll be my dog, your new name will be “Spot”. Welcome to slavery.”
From Dusk till Dawn is probably the strangest Tarantino-written movie, and holy shit, is that ever saying something. While it starts off in what seems like typical Tarantino fashion (George Clooney and Q.T. himself kidnap Harvey Keitel’s family and try to sneak over the border into Mexico, the second half spirals out of control when the motley crew get themselves trapped in a seedy Mexican strip club where, thanks to the well-known magic properties that come with a strip club being built on Aztec ruins, the strippers are actually vampires. It’s a twist that comes out of nowhere, it’s silly, and it’s really jarring.
The head stripper/vampire goes by the name of Santanico Pandemonium (A homage to the 1975 nunsploitation film, Satánico Pandemonium. Also, yes, nunsploitation is a thing that exists, and yes, it’s just as disturbing as you’re imagining right now ), and, until she transforms, she pretty much looks like, well, scantily clad Salma Hayek. Nothing that really stands out.
But then, once she catches sight of some stray drops of blood from an open wound, she turns into a ravenous, bloodthirsty monster whose only real purpose is to consume the life essence of every human in her line of sight.
So, she’s got that going for her. The other candidates in this Deathmatch may have seen some freaky shit, but chances are, they haven’t seen a goddamn vampire before. And this is a bona fide vampire, by the way. None of that Twilight dreck here, she’s purely out to kill, kill, kill. Being a vampire, she has enhanced strength, speed, and and her bite spells doom (Albeit, not instant doom)for anybody unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of it. Unlike the other fighters, she has no need for weapons to gain an edge. She is a weapon.
Problem is, while her offense is impressive, her defense leaves a lot to be desired. It is revealed during the movie that these vampires have extra-thin skin, making them especially vulnerable to bludgeoning and stabbing attacks. Being a group of villains that is not exactly short on bludgeoning and stabbing weapons, this could prove to be her downfall. It’s not like she’s gonna be a pushover, and again, none of these guys have seen a vampire before, but she has some pretty glaring weaknesses to be considered before crowning her the champion yet.
O-Ren Ishii (Cottonmouth)
Appearance: Kill Bill: Volume 1
Portrayed by: Lucy Liu
Best quote: “As your leader, I encourage you from time to time, and always in a respectful manner, to question my logic. If you’re unconvinced that a particular plan of action I’ve decided is the wisest, tell me so, but allow me to convince you and I promise you right here and now, no subject will ever be taboo. Except, of course, the subject that was just under discussion. The price you pay for bringing up either my Chinese or American heritage as a negative is… I collect your fucking head. Just like this fucker here. Now, if any of you sons of bitches got anything else to say, now’s the fucking time!”
“I didn’t think so”
O-Ren Ishii is so friggin cool.
A half- Japanese, half-Chinese-American living in Japan, O-Ren’s parents were brutally murdered by the Yakuza when she was little. Growing vengeful to an unhealthy extreme, O-Ren tracked the Yakuza boss down and brutally murdered him. After that, she trained as a hired gun, and by age 19, she was the top assassin in the world, eventually joining the Deadly Viper Assassination squad with the codename of “Cottonmouth.” After taking part in the assassination attempt on Beatrix Kiddo, she leaves the D.V.A.S. to pursue a prosperous career in the Tokyo underworld, during which she rises to be the Kingpin of Crime in Tokyo….Because when her parents were murdered by the Yakuza, she obviously decided that becoming the head of the Yakuza was the correct way to go about it.
That makes sense.
Anyways, O-Ren is probably the strongest candidate so far, if only because she has a katana as a weapon, and, as Tarantino has taught us, katanas (Along with Samuel L. Jackson) were created specifically for the purpose of smiting the weak and cowardly off of the face of this planet.
In addition to her cool weapon, and her extreme proficiency with it, she is also a top-notch martial artist and an expert marksman (Although she won’t have a sniper rifle with her in the Deathmatch) and has no problem with killing other people. I wouldn’t say she slays people whenever she feels like it, because that’s not the truth, but she will execute if her life is in danger, and she is really damn good at it.
What’s her fatal flaw? Well, first of all, we see that she does use her Crazy 88 gang to tire out the Bride, but it’s not like she overly relies on them, she still does a lot of dirty work. Nah, her biggest flaw is the fact that she gets too cocky when confronting her enemies. In her final fight against Beatrix, she has her on the ropes, but takes too much time taunting the Bride instead of moving in for the kill. I mean, you can talk a good game if you know, 100% that there’s no possible way it could come back to bite you in the ass. Otherwise, you risk ending up like…Uh, that one part in the fourth season of Game of Thrones. Yeah, if you watch the show, you know what I’m talking about.
Bill (Snake Charmer)
Appearances: Kill Bill (Both volumes)
Portrayed by: David Carradine
Best quote: “As you know, I’m quite keen on comic books. Especially the ones about superheroes. I find the whole mythology surrounding superheroes fascinating. Take my favorite superhero, Superman. Not a great comic book. Not particularly well-drawn. But the mythology… The mythology is not only great, it’s unique […] Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there’s the superhero and there’s the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S”, that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent. He’s weak… he’s unsure of himself… he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race.
The titular character of the Kill Bill movies, Bill, also known as “Snake Charmer”, is the leader of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, and Beatrix Kiddo’s mentor and “special friend”, until she runs away. Jealous, Bill and the rest of the D.V.A.S. track her down and try to murder her, putting her in a coma in the process. This, upon Beatrix’s awakening years later, sparks the events of the two movies.
A lot of the praise that deserves to go to Bill also applies to O-Ren Ishii. Good with a sword, crafty, intelligent, yadda yadda yadda. Also, he’s less chatty than O-Ren, so that’s a point in his favour.
Problem is, he’s also in his sixties in terms of age. It’s very safe to assume that he’s lost a step or two. Also, he seems to rely more on his craftiness than sheer fighting technique (See the truth serum gun, or whatever), which can help him out, no doubt, but maybe not enough to get him that far into the Deathmatch.
Appearance: Death Proof
Portrayed by: Kurt Russell
Best quote: Right, like anything was memorable about Death Proof.
Death Proof is easily the worst Tarantino film, in my opinion. It may just be that I have a built-in hatred for slasher and horror films, but aside from the performances and some of the writing, there really isn’t anything special about it. I mean, I guess the villain isn’t bad, and Kurt Russell’s good and… Eh, whatever, let’s get to Stuntman Mike.
Mike is a stuntman with a customised car designed to offer the best possible protection for the driver, but for anybody in another seat, it’s a death trap. Not the best thing to combine with Stuntman Mike, a sociopathic serial killer whose M.O. involves murdering young women with his car, whether it be through getting them in the car and driving recklessly enough to kill them, or straight-up ramming them with his car.
If Stuntman Mike were to have his car in the Deathmatch, this would be a whole different story, but he doesn’t as no matter what the NRA keeps saying, cars aren’t actually weapons. This means that he’s just a 50-something year old man with sociopathic tendencies. He’s screwed. Let’s move on.
Colonel Hans Landa
Appearance: Inglourious Basterds
Portrayed by: Christoph Waltz
Best quote: “Now if one were to determine what attribute the German people share with a beast, it would be the cunning and the predatory instinct of a hawk. But if one were to determine what attributes the Jews share with a beast, it would be that of the rat. If a rat were to walk in here right now as I’m talking, would you treat it to a saucer of your delicious milk? […] I didn’t think so. You don’t like them. You don’t really know why you don’t like them. All you know is you find them repulsive. Consequently, a German soldier conducts a search of a house suspected of hiding Jews. Where does the hawk look? He looks in the barn, he looks in the attic, he looks in the cellar, he looks everywhere *he* would hide, but there’s so many places it would never occur to a hawk to hide. However, the reason the Führer’s brought me off my Alps in Austria and placed me in French cow country today is because it does occur to me. Because I’m aware what tremendous feats human beings are capable of once they abandon dignity.”
Quentin Tarantino has always written great, great villains. However, I think I’m not alone in saying that the character of Col. Hans Landa is not only the best character Tarantino’s ever written, but one of the best villains ever, period. Is he likely to go deep into this Deathmatch, though? I dunno, let’s see.
An Austrian SS officer, Col. Hans Landa is notorious throughout Nazi Europe for his ability to round up and execute Jewish runaways, earning himself the nickname of “Jew Hunter”. However, Landa himself does not hold any animosity towards Jewish people, nor does he feel much love for the Nazi party. He just chooses to find and murder Jews because it is what he does best, and because he finds a sick sense of delight in it. An epitome of opportunistic evil, Landa would let Germany fall as long as he stands to gain something from it, whether it be money or amusement.
What does he have going for him? Well, he’s probably the smartest guy out of any of the candidates. He may lack the brute strength of, say, a vampire, but he could probably convince somebody to off themselves if he had enough time.
What’s the downside? Well, one minor detraction would be his use of an outdated German handgun, but I doubt that’ll affect him pretty much. A shot to the face is still a shot to the face.
The only weakness of Landa’s that I can think of off the top of my head is his lack of real physical skill (Strength, speed, etc.), but something tells me that he could find a way to make it to the later rounds. Call him a Dark Horse, if you like, but I think he’s got a real shot.
Appearance: Django Unchained
Portrayed by: Leonardo DiCaprio
Best quote: “And if y’all wanna leave Candyland with Broomhilda, the price… is $12,000 […] You see, under the laws of Chickasaw County, Broomhilda, here, is my property… and I can choose to do with MY PROPERTY… WHATEVER I SO DESIRE!
[Candie rubs his injured hand and smears the blood all over Broomhilda’s face; she shrieks and moans in disgust and fear]
And if y’all think my price for this nigger here is too steep, what I’m gonna desire to do is…
[Candie causally sets his cigarette down; he suddenly but quickly picks up his hammer and violently grabs hold of Broomhilda’s hair, slamming her face on the dinner table and raising the hammer above her head. Schultz jumps while Django rises up out of his seat]
TAKE THIS GODDAMNED HAMMER HERE, AND BEAT HER ASS TO DEATH WITH IT! RIGHT IN FRONT OF BOTH YA’LL! THEN WE CAN EXAMINE THE THREE DIMPLES INSIDE BROOMHILDA’S SKULL! NOW… WHAT’S IT GONNA BE DOC? HUH? WHAT’S IT GOING TO BE?”
Long quote, I know, but I needed to get a quote that really highlighted Calvin Candie’s insanity. Yeah, Candie is probably the craziest of all the candidates. Well, I guess the Gimp might be crazier, but who knows, he could actually be a calm rational person behind that extravagant get-up.
Anyways, Calvin Candie is batshit insane, even setting aside his racism. He’s a Southern Francophile plantation owner who enjoys watching slaves fight each other to the death in brutal “Mandingo” fights. Jeeesus.
Does craziness translate well to a Deathmatch such as this one? Well, in a fight where most of these people are armed with handguns and aren’t exactly bad shots….Probably not. He’s a great villain, don’t get me wrong, but in this context, he isn’t much more than a crazy racist dude. Nothing that isn’t too hard to dispatch.
Welp, that’s it for the preview. The actual Deathmatch should be out sometime next weekend. After I finish recovering the hours of sleep that this post cost me. It’s really fucking long, you guys.
But! Before I sign off, I’ve decided that I’d like a little more audience input, as the only comments I get are mostly spam. So, I leave you fine people with two questions:
1) What Deathmatch should I do next?
2) What is your favourite and least favourite Quentin Tarantino movie?
Until next time.
Pop quiz: What do the following movies have in common?
- The Iron Lady
- The Wolfman (The 2010 remake)
- Alice in Wonderland (The 2010 Johnny Depp version)
- Elizabeth: The Golden Age
- The Golden Compass
If you guessed either of the following, then congratulations, you win!
- They were critically disliked, posting a score of under 60 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
- They have all won at least one Academy Award.
Yes, it seems that during the vast majority of Oscar ceremonies (Or, at least, every Oscar ceremony that I researched until I got bored), there always seems to be one movie among the winners that should just count itself extremely lucky to be enshrined alongside true legends of cinema like No Country for Old Men, Argo and Gravity. Very rarely, however, do these movies take home a major award though (Although Meryl Streep did win Best Actress for The Iron Lady). More often than not, they win things like Best Makeup or Best Visual Effects. You know, semi-important awards, but not important enough to prevent movies like Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa from being nominated.
Which reminds me, I need to watch Bad Grandpa.
Anyway, in the last Academy Awards, the movie that joined this mediocre group of unlikely legends ended up winning two Oscars for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design, despite receiving paltry critical reviews. Did the critics blow it in their evaluation of this film, maligning it because of a brutish lack of understanding of Baz Luhrmann’s vision? I’ll let you decide, dear readers…
… But the answer is no.
The Great Gatsby
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
Produced by: Douglas Wick, Lucy Fisher, Catherine Martin, Catherine Knapman, Baz Luhrmann, Anton Monsted
Written by: Craig Pearce, Baz Luhrmann
Based on: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Amitabh Bachchan
Oscar nominations (Wins in bold): Best Production Design, Best Costume Design
Plot: The movie is told through flashback by Nick Carraway (Maguire), a Yale University alumni and World War I veteran who has admitted himself to rehab in order to deal with his alcoholism. At the suggestion of his doctor, he starts chronicling his experiences in New York, where he lived when he was pursuing a career as a stockbroker in 1922.
We are then taken back to the Roaring Twenties, when jazz was all the rage, Wall Street was booming, and toothbrush mustaches weren’t automatically associated with Adolf Hitler.
Nick moves into the fictional Long Island village of West Egg, across the bay from his cousin, Daisy (Mulligan) and her disgustingly rich, cheating white supremacist husband, Tom (Edgerton), who Nick knows from their college days. While dining with his cousin and her husband, he also meets a friend of their’s, cynical young professional golfer Jordan Baker (Debicki), whom Daisy is trying to set up with Nick.
Nick also runs into some drama when he is invited to one of the many overly extravagant parties that are thrown by his next-door neighbour, a filthy rich business man by the name of Jay Gatsby, a man rumoured to be, among other things,an assasin, a bootleggr and a German spy. Nick befriends Gatsby, who, as it turns out, knows Nick from the war and takes an interest in him, as he is madly in love with Nick’s cousin Daisy, whom he courted before the war until they fell out of touch.
To date, I have seen two Baz Luhrmann movies, and I’ve gotta hand it to the man, he’s pretty damn unique with his filmmaking technique. There doesn’t seem to be another director alive who takes quite as much joy in trying to dazzle the audience not with special effects, but in using his eye for great cinematography, music and vibrant imagery to try to make his films look as much like an Italian-style opera as possible. There are times when it works out quite well, as in the case of critically acclaimed movies like Moulin Rouge! and Strictly Ballroom (Neither of which I have seen, admittedly) and other times when it feels… Out of place, to say the least, like in Romeo & Juliet, which I did see.
Unfortunately, The Great Gatsby falls into the latter category.
The Great Gatsby is one of the few classic novels that I’ve actually read for pleasure, and, while I did enjoy it, not once did I think that I wanted to see a film adaptation that featured as much flashing, overwhelming lights, contemporary hip-hop and R&B soundtrack, and Tobey Maguire as this one did. The Great Gatsby was written by Fitzgerald as a period piece about the extravagance and excess of the Roaring Twenties as well as a character study about Jay Gatsby and his relationships with Nick, Daisy and the other people surrounding him. Sure, a good deal of the book was centered on his flashy parties, but the glitz and glamour wasn’t at the forefront of it all, which, unfortunately, isn’t how Baz likes to do things. Throughout the first and second acts of the movie, the audience is simply bombarded with colours, flashing lights, and misplaced music, all of which don’t really serve any purpose other than to exhaust the audience.
As for the soundtrack, I kind of hated it. For all the hoopla about Jay-Z being an executive producer and working on the soundtrack, I only heard one or two songs by the man formerly known as Shawn Carter, and I wasn’t all that impressed. This is by no means a diss, because I love me some good rap music, but wouldn’t it have been better to use soundtrack of mostly jazz music or something? You know, because it’s set in the Twenties, which were jazz’s Golden Age?
Honestly, I do get what Baz is trying to do here: create a spectacle that can dazzle the audience with it’s beautiful cinematography. I’ll be the first to admit that that kind of thing has its time and place. Hell, there’s even a few moments in this movie where Baz’s vision pays off, especially some of the gorgeous shots of the bright lights and bustling streets of New York City. Unfortunately, it gets excessive and overwhelming, and misses much more than it hits. I feel like this movie would’ve been done better in the hands of somebody like Martin Scorsese. I would’ve much rather seen a movie centered around Gatsby (Instead of shoehorning him in at the 30-minute mark) and shot in the style of Scorsese’s masterful 2003 film, The Aviator.
Speaking of Scorsese, his frequent collaborator (And my favourite actor), Leonardo DiCaprio, is the star of this film and, fortunately, does a great job as the eccentric millionaire Jay Gatsby. My favourite scenes in the movie don’t involve the ridiculous party scenes, but rather the dialogue between Gatsby and Nick and/or Daisy. The characters in this movie aren’t very well defined, but Leo takes what he’s got and manipulates the audience into feeling for Jay Gatsby, even if the rest of the movie kinda blows.
As for the rest of the actors, well, I guess they get a A for effort. Tobey Maguire (My childhood hero) isn’t bad, per se, as Nick Carraway, but he’s pretty nondescript, as his character pretty much just serves as an object that Leo can spout expository dialogue to. Carey Mulligan is fine, albeit somewhat dissapointing as Daisy Buchanan, who is apparently the 20’s equivalent of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Joel Edgerton is also okay as Tom Buchanan, but he doesn’t do much more than some scenery chewing as the mustache twirling villain.
Australian newcomer Elizabeth Debicki makes her debut in this movie as Jordan Baker, and she’s, well, okay I guess, but come to think of it, her character was kind of unnecessary. I guess she did tell Nick about Tom’s affair, but we learned that later on anyways. Leo really does carry this cast, and this movie, in fact, from badness to mere mediocrity.
What nominations/wins did it deserve?:
- Best Production design: Okay, I can see the nomination, but choosing this movie over 12 Years a Slave or Gravity is a crock.
- Best Costume design: Again, I get the nomination, but I still think 12 Years a Slave deserved to win.
Conclusion: It may boast some intriguing sceness and yet another great performance from Leonardo DiCaprio, but overall, The Great Gatsby is mostly style, little actual substance.
Overall Rating: 6/10
Now that I’m done writing about baseball for a while, I’m jumping back on the (Long departed) Oscar review train and reviewing a movie that I saw before the actual ceremony, but that I put off reviewing (Along with Her and Philomena) for some inexplicable reason until now, which is odd, because I happen to have some pretty strong opinions on it. I also have, like six more Oscar reviews coming after this one (Namely the two aforementioned movies, Frozen, The Great Gatsby, Blue Jasmine, and The Great Beauty) and a couple of Razzie reviews.
Actually, now that I think about it, forget the Razzie reviews. Life’s just too short to waste an afternoon devoting myself to an analysis of A Madea Christmas and Temptations of a Marriage Counselor.
Besides, I’ve gotta free up some time to go to a couple of other movies I really wanna review, namely The Grand Budapest Hotel, because it has seriously piqued my interest, and Noah, because ditto and I’m a sucker for religious debate, and, just from looking at the movie’s ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, I can tell that this is a movie that will be argued about for a long time.
Anyways, let’s just get to this insane freaking movie, shall we? It’s got Leonardo DiCaprio in it, so it must be great, right?
The Wolf of Wall Street
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Produced by: Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Riza Aziz, Joey McFarland, Emma Tillinger Koskoff
Written by: Terence Winter
Based on: The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort
Genres: Black Comedy, Crime Drama
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin
Oscar nominations: Best Adapted Screenplay (Winter), Best Supporting Actor (Hill), Best Actor (DiCaprio), Best Director (Scorsese), Best Picture
Plot: The film opens to stockbroker Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) showing his exploits off to the audience, namely his opulent salary, highly entertaining workplace, unreal home on the Gold Coast of Long Island, and his beautiful ex-supermodel trophy wife, the beautiful Naomi Lapaglia (Robbie). Oh, and his ability to consume insane amounts of prescription and not-so-much-prescription drugs. How did he get to where he is in life? Well, let him tell you through narcissistic narration!
The setting flashes back to 1987, when Jordan is just busting into Wall Street as a low-level commissioned stockbroker (Or whatever) at L.F. Rothschild. While working there, his boss (McConaughey) suggests that he adopt a lifestyle based around cocaine, casual sex and masturbation in order to relieve tension and stay on top of his job. This works out well for him and the firm until Black Monday (A global crash of the stock market), after which the firm closes down and Jordan finds himself out of a job.
Jordan ends up taking a job with a Long Island boiler room, where he takes advantage of the lax regulations of penny stocks and earns his fortune. Eventually though, he quits this and starts Stratton Oakmont with his buddy, Donnie Azoff (Hill), a burnout with similar tastes in drugs, and starts aggressively scamming people out of millions of dollars, which ends up attracting the attention of FBI agent Patrick Denham (Chandler).
When outlined neatly, as I like to think I just did, the plot is pretty airtight. Sure, it can be a little bit hard to follow, especially when he explains all the fiscal jargon that goes into stockbroking and running a scam, but as far as I know, there aren’t any holes in the plot. Martin Scorsese directs the movie excellently, like he do, although the editing was kind of haphazard.
Honestly though, the movie is three hours long, and it only really heeded to be two and a half hours long. You could skip, let’s say, from the 30-minute mark until, say, the 90-minute mark, and you will have missed nothing except a lot of sex scenes and other scenes of debauchery that didn’t need to be there.
Now that I’ve mentioned it, I guess I should mention my biggest problem (And, I suppose, one the biggest controversial aspects of the film) with this movie, which are the gratuitous sex and drug use depicted in the first half of the movie. Now, if any of you are thinking of calling me a sheltered, conservative prude, I’d like you to take a moment to remember that I’m a 17-year old straight kid. Do you honestly think I’d have a negative reaction to a nude female body without a good reason? Especially when that nude female body belongs to Margot Robbie? Get real.
No, it’s not that these scenes are evil, or immoral, or whatever. It’s just that we’re given so many of these scenes in such a short period of time (An hour is a shirt period of time in a Scorsese flick) that it just ends up losing any shock value that it might have previously possessed, to the point where I realized that I had just been watching an extremely explicit orgy in an airplane that involved several gorgeous women and Leonardo DiCaprio (Because come on, nobody’s that straight) and felt absolutely nothing emotionally or otherwise. That really sucks, because a) I like seeing hot women in various states of undress (I just realized that this post is starting to make me sound like a huge pervert. Thank God for internet anonymity!) and b) There are so many ways that these scenes could have been used constructively but weren’t.
One example in this movie of a well-placed sex scene is the one near the end of the film where Jordan is banging his wife for the last time before she leaves him. This is a great scene because it exposes Jordan Belfort as the pathetic human being that he has become, begging his wife for sex and whimpering, if I remember correctly (Screw double-checking!). I fail to see how a scene detailing how Jordan and Donnie “double-teamed” some woman in an office is supposed to convey as much importance, though.
With that said, I feel like I should mention that, in all fairness, the movie cuts down on most of the filler after the halfway point, and became miles more engaging. It doesn’t elevate it to legendary heights or anything, but it’s still excellent. It’s just a damn shame that the second quarter of the movie, or so, is so fricking weak.
And as for the complaints about this film being “amoral”, I have these two points to mention to anybody using this weak excuse to discredit a movie.
- What exactly did you expect from the guy who directed Taxi Driver and Goodfellas?
- Get off your fucking soapbox.
Yeah, this movie is amoral. So was Pulp Fiction, and it’s a universally loved movie. If you wanna criticize this movie, try focusing on its’ legitimate flaws and try not to base your argument on a completely subjective feeling like morality.
Acting/Writing: As you will soon be able to tell from the briefness of this section and the interminable nature of the last one, I don’t have nearly as much to say about the actors. They do a great job with what they have (Which is also great). What else do I need to say?
The two Oscar nominees shine, obviously, with DiCaprio giving a great (If not too close to being his greatest) performance, even channeling a little bit of his role in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape at one point, and Jonah Hill further distancing himself from his links to Judd Apatow and turning in a wonderful darkly comic performance. Australian actress Margot Robbie is fantastic too, and kudos to her for managing to hold her own on the screen with Leonardo DiCaprio while being somewhat of a newcomer. Also, she’s the hottest human being on the goddamn planet.
What nominations did it deserve?:
- Best Adapted Screenplay (Winter): Yeah, I can see it being nominated.
- Best Supporting Actor (Hill): Yup.
- Best Actor (DiCaprio): He deserved the nomination, even if he didn’t deserve to beat his co-star, MConaughey.
- Best Director (Scorsese): It’s no Aviator, but sure.
- Best Picture: Actually, no. I think it’s flaws are too numerous to ignore, and I think that it’s kinda sad that it was nominated over, say, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
Well, it’s not like I can do so much freaking Oscar reviews without doing a quick prediction. These predictions will have the same format as my Razzie predictions, with my top three picks for every category, except the ones which I haven’t checked out because they didn’t have any Best Picture Nominees (Categories with an “*” are categories in which I’ve seen less than three of the nominated movies). Also, if any movie that I did not watch wins their respective category, that movie will be added to my seemingly never-ending queue of reviews.
Best Visual Effects:
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
- Star Trek Into Darkness
This one is pretty much a no-brainer. While Benedict Cumber-Dragon was amazing and J.J. Abrams lens-flared Star Trek into beautiful oblivion (I’m hoping that nonsense I just pulled out of my ass makes sense to somebody), Gravity had some of, if not the most the most, beautiful visuals I’ve ever seen in my seventeen years of watching movies.
Best Film Editing:
I’m still not entirely sure how one critiques editing, so admittedly, this category is kind of a crapshoot for me.
Best Costume Design*
- 12 Years a Slave
- American Hustle
American Hustle could beat out 12 Years, because it did have a pretty fantastic costume design team, or whatever (And Amy Adams’ necklines sure help), but I think that the latter’s costumes were just a little bit better.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling*
I’m shocked that American Hustle wasn’t nominated for this category, but honestly Dallas Buyers Club should win this award, based solely on the work they did with Jared Leto.
I’m kinda surprised that Nebraska was nominated for this category, because I really didn’t like the choice of black-and-white colouring, but whatevs. Gravity should and will win, anyways.
Best Production Design
- 12 Years a Slave
- American Hustle
Assuming that “Production Design” means “film sets and such”, I’d give it to 12 Years, mainly for the stunning contrast between the natural beauty of Louisiana and the brutality of the subject matter.
Best Sound Mixing/Editing
- Captain Phillips
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Yes, I know I mixed the categories of Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing, but a) It’s pretty much the same movies, and b) I don’t know what the fuck the difference between sound editing and sound mixing is supposed to be.
That said, Gravity‘s soundtrack was downright gorgeous.
Best Original Song (I Haven’t seen most of these movies, but the songs are on YouTube, so all’s good.)
- “Let it Go” from Frozen
- “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
- “The Moon Song” from Her
Let’s face it, Disney songs are pretty much the bomb. Keep in mind that this is coming from somebody who thinks that any song off London Calling is the pinnacle of Western Civilization.
Best Original Score
Like I said, Gravity‘s score is fantastic. I liked Hers’ soundtrack too, but Philomena‘s just seemed nondescript to me.
Best Animated Short Film, Best Live Action Short Film, Best Documentary-Short Subject, Best Documentary-Feature, Best Documentary Film, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Animated Feature Film
I haven’t seem any of the movies nominated for these, because a) Honestly, these are the least interesting categories to me and b) While I actually love animated movies, there’s no way I’m going to a theater filled with screaming eight-year olds to watch Frozen.
Best Writing-Adapted Screenplay
- 12 Years A Slave
- The Wolf of Wall Street
- Captain Phillips
I didn’t find any of these scripts to be legendary, per se, but they were still pretty damn great. It could really go any way.
Best Writing-Original Screenplay
- American Hustle
- Dallas Buyers Club
I wonder if I could somehow develop David O. Russell’s amazing dialogue-writing ability without also developing his crippling douchiness…
Best Supporting Actress
- Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
- Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
- June Squibb, Nebraska
Holy shit, I son’t think you could have picked three cuter nominees for this category.
Jennifer Lawrence is my favourite actress, and June Squibb was awesome too, but there’s just no way they match up to Mexican-born Kenyan Actress Lupita Nyongo’s film debut.
Best Supporting Actor
- Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
- Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
- Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Fassbender played Edwin “Evil Incarnate” Epps to perfection, and Somali actor Barkhad Abdi was awesoome in his debut, but they just had bad luck this time, going up against Jared Leto as the tragic Rayon.
- Sandra Bullock, Gravity
- Amy Adams, American Hustle
- Judi Dench, Philomena
I think that Cate Blanchett is gonna win, considering the love she got at the Golden Globes, but I loved Sandra Bullock.
- Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
- Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
- Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Man, does Leo ever have bad luck getting easy opponents on Oscar ballots, huh?
I had to pretty much flip a coin to decide who I thought was better between McConaughey and Ejiofor. All I can say is that I hope I don’t have to type either of their names again until next Oscar season, at least.
- Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
- Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
- Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
I’m not that big of a director guy, but you don’t have to be one to know that Cuaron did a fantastic job with Gravity.
- 12 Years a Slave
- Dallas Buyers Club
Just read my review of 12 Years a Slave, it’ll tell you all you need to know.