I listened to part one of the Quentin Tarantino discussion on An Alan Smithee Podcast (episode 3) last week. It amounts to a rather scathing indictment of Tarantino's career. But, I never got a clear picture from the hosts -- Matthew Hurwitz and Andrew Wickliffe -- why they were savaging the filmmaker's body of work. They admit to enjoying his work when it first came out, but they clearly despise those same films and the filmmaker now.
It seems one day film buffs were winking right back at Tarantino because they were in on the fact that the filmmaker was lifting from other films. The next day they were cutting off his ear and pouring gasoline on the wound because of it. Where this sensibility shift took place, and why, would have been a more insightful topic to explore.
I enjoy Tarantino's movies, but I didn't come to his body of work until six years ago when it was getting the special edition treatment on DVD. Because of my enthusiasm for the DVD medium back in the early 2000s, I picked up True Romance, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Jackie Brown when they were released in August and September of 2002. Those first four movies were blind buys -- I had not seen them prior to purchasing them. I bought them on the strength of the reviews I read on DVD forums touting both storytelling and technical quality. All of these movies still entertain me. And so does Kill Bill, Volume 1 and Volume 2, the only Tarantino movies I've seen in the theater.
Tarantino takes a lot of crap for lifting source material and plopping it down in his movies. But by the time I came to Tarantino's work, his borrowing was well-known and self-acknowledged. So I never held it against him. In fact, I'm glad he uncovered for me these other genres and styles I might not have been exposed to otherwise. Hero, a "Quentin Tarantino Presents" movie, is another DVD blind buy. And it's a gorgeous, lush film I never would have known about if I hadn't been in the throes of the DVD culture and enjoying Tarantino's movies so much at the time.
Unaccredited appropriation of another's work is a slippery slope of ethical and legal problems. But it doesn't sound like that's what the Alan Smithee boys are up in arms about. It sounds like they are kids who enjoyed Tarantino's stuff, then grew up to be on-line film critics and are embarrassed about their past taste in movies.
I started to listen to part two of their Tarantino podcast (episode 4) yesterday, but at the 12-minute mark, Hurwitz said that around the time Kill Bill was released Tarantino was "losing the affections of the elite, like us" [my emphasis]. I turned it off right there and switched over to some music. I don't have a problem with changing and evolving tastes. What I don't understand, though, is the scathing rebuke of something one admittedly loved once upon a time seemingly for the sake of waving a self-important critic's flag.
I don't know either of the podcast hosts personally, but I enjoy Andrew's work on his two sites, The Stop Button and Comics Fondle, and have corresponded with him on occasion. I will tune in to An Alan Smithee Podcast again to hear what the hosts have to say, but I'm hoping future episodes are more than soapbox rants.