Django Unchained is a good movie. It is so good, in fact, that it has been nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Its chances, of course are not that good, as between Lincoln, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty the Best Picture is pretty much locked up. But Django is still a great movie, worth every bit of critical recognition and it features some of hte best performances this year, including Christoph Waltz’ Golden Globe winning one. The movie has of course caught the customary flak associated with a Tarantino production including quite a bit of a stir caused over the film’s liberal use of racial slurs. But despite the movie’s perceived weaknesses almost no people have contested it cinematographically. In fact some are hailing it as Tarantino’s best work yet.
This raises an interesting issue. Tarantino has never really been a prolific director. He made his mark with seven films in two decades along a smattering of guest director roles. And yet people keep looking back at ‘the golden age’ of Tarantino at either the early 90s or the early 00s.
To be fair, his first two movies were extremely popular and massive hits with the critics as well. Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction were breaths of fresh air, movies that wore their schlocky, pulpy hearts on their sleeves and that delivered in every respect that a movie is required to from dialogue to cinematography. Today, these classics are still popular; for instance, Pulp Fiction is one of the most watched ‘cult’ movies that Time Warner offers through its on-line streaming services and Reservoir Dogs is taught in cinematography classes everywhere. While Jackie Brown wasn’t as popular, perhaps because it lacked the ‘cool’ factor it still was an extremely enjoyable movie.
The second ‘Golden Age’ of Tarantino is claimed to be in the first half of the last decade when the two Kill Bill movies came out. Tarantino’s own favourites, the two movies blended Spaghetti Western and Kung-Fu in a twisted weird conception of what an action movie should be. The definitive Tarantino films, they too paid homage to their roots while presenting his bold take on the art of cinema.
Cut to today, and his movies from the last few years. Django Unchained is an Oscar Nominee while Inglorious Basterds is perhaps one of the most coherent movies with a disjointed plot ever made. Both were big critical hits and both drew massive crowds in theatres. So why isn’t today the Golden Age of Tarantino? Perhaps more time needs to pass or perhaps Tarantino has to put out a third consecutive good movie (perhaps the long-awaited Kill Bill threequel). Maybe we just have to accept that there is no Golden Age of Tarantino: all his movies are good and the director holds himself to higher cinematographic standards than any fan or critic. Perhaps we just need to wait and see what he comes up with next.