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August 23 2009

"Speed" in Tarantino's Top 20 Movies of Last 17 Years. "There have been few exhilaration movies quite like it." Joss wrote a lot of the script.

Didn't he write every single line of dialogue?

Anyway, that's quite awesome. Tarantino's a crazy guy, and Inglourious Basterds was insane brilliance.
It's nice to see unbreakable on the list. It's definitely M. Knight Shyamalon's(?) second best movie.... it would be his best but it's a little overlong, and could have done with some editing.
Love Battle Royale.
Unbreakable is the only Shyamalan (Google is your friend, all one had to type was "M Night") movie I own on DVD.
I thought Speed was one of the movies Joss disowned for one reason or another, hence why Tarantino stated some other guy's name as the Speed creator.
Even if he was majorly involved, Speed doesn't seem like a major Joss project. It was an extremely visceral action film at a time when Joss didn't seem exceptionally interested in that. I think Joss is completely uncredited on it.

Still, I remember that it was everything about that film including the script that made it work. So that is a big compliment. I think Tarantino and Joss are two completely different beasts, but they are brilliant at what they do. If you get complimented by either one... that's a good thing. Although I know there are a lot of people who hate what Tarantino does.
Saw this a couple of days ago. I made the connection but I didn't think to post it here. Anyway, love that Battle Royale is on his list. That movie is brilliant.
Tarantino made no mention of Speed's creator, just Jan De Bont, the director, naturally. Joss was hired on as a script doctor, right? As I recall his biggest contribution was turning everyone into a character, as opposed to a stereotype. One wonders how boring the movie would have been without that touch. Oops, done wondering!
Joss is actually really proud of Speed, he's said in a couple of interviews that Toy Story and Speed are the two films he's proudest of from his script doctor days.

Also, Azzers, all the stuff he was writing at that period was visceral action stuff. His specs "Afterlife" and "Suspension" were both action scripts, and his other script doctoring was stuff like Twister, Waterworld, and Titan A.E.

Speed is a great movie, and Joss's voice is all over it, if you're looking.

And, in some ways, I would group Joss in with Tarantino and guys like Shane Black, in that they write genre-influenced post modern stuff, and because they can turn on a dime from horror to action to comedy. Joss is more of a humanist than Tarantino though.
bonzob, I guess I sort of see what you mean about Tarantino doing 'genre-influenced post modern stuff'. His movies seem really derivative, though, like he just makes whatever genre a whole lot louder than it was before.
I've watched a number of his movies and have enjoyed them so far as they go but they also bug me somehow. Can't quite put my finger on it...

[ edited by wouldestous on 2009-08-24 04:53 ]
I was saying it didn't "seem" like a Joss project. I wasn't saying he wasn't involved, I'm saying it's not the first thing we'd think of.
Oh, totally, it's not something he created, so it's certainly not as associated with him as a Buffy or what have you. But he was primarily an action writer at the time.
Oooh I loved Speed! It was one of the two movies my grandma had at her house that any of us could stand watching lol. The other was Sister Act. XD
I thought Speed was one of the movies Joss disowned for one reason or another

Actually, Speed disowned Joss; he was arbitrated off the credits by the Writers' Guild (I believe).
I didn't know it at the time because I hadn't heard of Joss Whedon when I saw 'Speed' but the thing that did strike me about it was it had pretty decent dialogue for an action movie, in hindsight (which, admittedly, is 20/20) it sounds a bit like Joss' authorial voice to me.

The film I really can't see his hand in is 'Waterworld', always wondered how much of his stuff is still in there (though that said, the Mariner is actually a fairly dark hero for a summer movie, maybe that was Joss).

And Pegg and the boys will just have shat happy bricks that Tarantino put 'Shaun of the Dead' in his Top 20. Betcha.
titan ae does show form as a kind of rough firefly.
"Inglourious Basterds was insane brilliance"

I agree with this 100%! Fantastic flick.
Graham Yost has always claimed 95% of the dialogue from 'Speed' was Joss's, so I never understood the WGA ruling. But I always loved this particular line, which is Jossian all over-
"In 200 years we've gone from 'I regret I have but one life to give for my country' to f*** you."

[ edited by missb on 2009-08-24 09:04 ]
The WGA have very strict rules in place as to what needs to be done to the initial script to get a co-credit. Basically, there need to be significant changes to plot or character in order for it to happen. In Joss's case, the entire structure was in place, as were the characters, he just re-wrote virtually every line of dialogue. But because he didn't change the story or add any characters, he was denied credit in arbitration.

That's a great line, missb, and there are lots of good Joss-y lines. I also like:

"Poor people are crazy, Jack, I'm eccentric."

"Do not attempt to grow a brain."

"I'm gonna go home, have some sex."
"Harry, you're gonna go home and puke."
"Well that'll be fun too."

"I have to warn you, I've heard relationships based on intense experiences never work."
"OK. We'll have to base it on sex then."
"Whatever you say, ma'am."

Not to mention all the iconic "shoot the hostage," "Pop quiz, hotshot," and "what do you do?" stuff.
The WGA have very strict rules in place as to what needs to be done to the initial script to get a co-credit. Basically, there need to be significant changes to plot or character in order for it to happen. In Joss's case, the entire structure was in place, as were the characters, he just re-wrote virtually every line of dialogue. But because he didn't change the story or add any characters, he was denied credit in arbitration.

Hm, I'm not sure Joss' contributions were so little. Joss came up with the death of Harry for instance, that would seem like a major story-change. Which makes his uncreditification more insane.

Joss talks about his work on "Speed" quite extensively here (Paragraph IV: Loss of Speed).
Think i've read that interview before but cheers for the link wiesengrund, I don't really keep bookmarks anymore so that stuff gets lost.

Whether he significantly changed the plot or not, that seems kind of a weirdly arbitrary rule by the WGA. Surely it's self-evident that dialogue can entirely change the character of a film ?
I loved Speed, one of the most fun movies ever. I saw it when it first came out, long before I'd ever heard of Joss. On re-watching, I can definitely hear his voice in a lot of the dialog.

A couple of Tarantino's favorites would be on my short list, too - Fight Club, The Insider and (always very near the top for me) The Matrix.
I don't get the "sequels spoiled (or lessened the greatness of) the first film" mentality. No matter how you feel about the rest of the trilogy, the first film was pure brilliance.

Interesting pick for an M. Knight Shyamalan flick. He is IMO highly overrated and the only thing he's done that I really liked a lot is Unbreakable. Which was I believe, his only box office flop.
Battle Royale sits nicely in my Top 10, as well, Mr. Tarantino. You sir, have a good taste in comedy.
Oh man. Reading that old interview made me kinda sad, once I got to the section about Wonder Woman. I really wish we could get Joss's take on that.
Speed. Yes. It was one of the first straight-up action movies (after, I think, 'Die Hard') that I really liked a lot. Of course, I was a teenager when it came out, so I was right in the target demographic. I also think it was the first action movie I saw in a movie theater. Anyway: with hindsight, I can see Joss' hand in there. All I knew at the time was that I really loved the movie.

As for Shyamalan: I think he gets an underserved hard time. When 'The Sixth Sense' made it to 'enormous hit' status, all his movies got marketed as "scary thrillers with a twist ending", while none of his other movies conform to that standard. Unbreakable was more a slow drama than a thriller, Signs was a thriller without a real twist, etcetera. Even 'Lady in the Water' got marketed as scary (just look at the trailer), and that was a frikkin' children's story; a fairy tale.

I really do love the guy as a director, though. What he does with camera's and light is amazing, and 'Unbreakable' is filled to bursting with his trademark shots. Lots of people disliked the movie because the "twist" (if one can even call it that to begin with) wasn't up to 'The Sixth Sense' levels. I think the same critique gets lopped at 'Signs' quite often, while that wasn't even a real "twist" at all.

I do think his first three movies are the best: 'The Sixth Sense', 'Unbreakable' and 'Signs' are among my favorite genre movies. 'Signs' is probably my favorite from that pack, because it did better character work and mixed the scary quite seemlessly with the funny. His next two movies are also a long way from bad. 'The Village' got a lot of critique at the time for "not being scary" and/or "having a boring twist" (which just goes to show you), but I loved the slow, subdued atmosphere in the village, loved the intense seriousness of the movie and Bryce Dallas Howard has quite possibly never been better than she was there. 'The Lady in the Water', then, got massacred in the reviews, but, like I said, it was completely misrepresented. It had some problems - more than his previous movies - but if it was a failure, it was a wonderfull one. I can see what Shyamalan was trying to do and he very nearly pulled it off. There's quite enough in that movie to really love.

It's only his latest outing, 'The Happening', that really fell short. He was trying something completely new and I like that he tried, but what he ended up with was a complete and utter mess, with maybe two or three scènes reminiscent of what used to make Shyamalan great (the scènes in the house with the old lady, for instance). What also did not help was that the acting wasn't that great, especially by lead Mark Wahlberg. It's the only Shyamalan that I'd consider a real failure. Here's hoping the next movie he's writer/director on redeems him.

As for Tarantino: his movies are obviously great, but I don't usually care for them that much - which is a rarity among movie lovers, it seems. His movies are all style-over-substance, there's very little going on apart from involved plotting, cool lines meant to be iconic, etcetera. I'm just not a fan. At all. The only two movies of his deserving of his status are 'Pulp Fiction' and 'Reservoir Dogs', which I both enjoyed. The rest... not so much.
One of my favorite Joss-anecdotes is in there too: The Batman-pitch on the day Firefly got canceled. (Well, not "favorite" in a "Yay!"-way, more in a "Sigh..."-way... ;)
GVH - I'm with you on Tarantino and Shyamalan.

Whatever people may think about Shyamalan's stories, he's IMO highly underrated as a director. His movies are always stunningly beautiful and he always manages to get great performances from actors he's often cast against type. It's a real shame that his next project is the white-washed Avatar the Last Airbender.

Tarantino I've never really "got" for exactly the reasons that you mention. To me he's just trying too hard to be cool.
I enjoy Speed and whenever I watch it I hear Joss all over it.

I love Tarantino's work. The thing I like best about his work is his dialog. To me it makes perfect sense to like both Tarantino and Whedon, because they both write entertaining dialog. They also both do character development really well. I was not real happy with Kill Bill 1 (but I was never a big fam of that genre), but part 2 was great IMO. David Carradine was wonderful - I think it was his best role ever.

I never felt Tarantino was trying too hard to be cool, I always felt he had a talent for writing dialog. I can pick out things he most likely wrote when I hear them, just like I can pick out lines Joss most likely wrote. They both have their own unique styles.
Ruuger IMO, Quentin is the embodiment of cool film making.

His dialog is unmatched. I cant imagine what Joss would write if he were allowed to include f-bombs and other assorted r-rated words. QT doesn't use the violence and foul language unless the story (or character) calls for it. Much like drama in the verse; monsters and demons aren't tricks, they're necessary to the story. Its all about the story.
"It's like Speed 2, but with a bus!"

- one of the two funniest Milhouse lines from the Simpsons, ever. (The other was "Alf is back, but in POG form.") Disagree if you must.
I wouldn't say I agree with alexreager that the violence and foul language in Tarantino's work is necessary to the story. To me, it always seems his stories exist to make sure that as much "foul language" and - often over-the-top - violence as possible happens. But this may be a 'chicken and egg' problem.

But I especially disagree with Passion that his character work is good. I've always felt that the typical Tarantino flick is a whole lot of flash and not much substance, especially as far as the characters go. The characters are all Very Cool[tm], but often lack real motivation.

Don't get me wrong: Tarantino is very good at what he does and he deserves the praise he gets for this. His dialogue is very strong and this is what keeps me interested while watching most of his movies. He's also very good at plotting. Look no further than Pulp Fiction to see an expertly told story. But I don't think he's that good at character work, motivations, emotional impact and things like that. None of his characters have ever made me care or feel. They don't develop, they aren't there to reflect on the human condition and what have you. They're just there to push forth the story, look cool, and spout a whole heap of very cool dialogue; or so it seems to me. This, of course, is fine: not every movie has to be about the same things. It's just that this makes me like his movies less, and why his lesser movies (like Jackie Brown or Kill Bill) don't do anything for me.

ET fix one glaringly incorrect sentence ;)

[ edited by GVH on 2009-08-24 18:11 ]
Dammit, I was trying to wait for when "Inglorious Bastards" will came to the theathers here, but this wil only be in October 23!!!

If anyone would be interested, I just saw, this weekend, M Night's "Wide Awake" and it's very good. The guy really should write more comedy.

But I don't think he's that good at character work, motivations, emotional impact and things like that. None of his characters have ever made me care or feel.

Man, every time I see Christopher Walkins lines about the war watch, I almost fell it :(
Since when was Unbreakable a box office flop? It actually did quite well. Not as well as Sixth Sense which made M. Night consider it a failure. It grossed something like $200 Million worldwide versus Sixth Sense's $340 Million. Both of those are off the top of my head, I could be remembering incorrectly. Serenity, on the other hand, was a box office flop...

Personally I agree with GVH on almost everything that he's said here. I liked Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill Vol 1 (I'm crazy, I know), but don't really enjoy any of Tarantino's other movies. Just watched Deathproof and that new trash that just came out and hated both of them with a fiery passion. And it is extremely rare that I dislike a movie so much.
I like some of the things Tarantino wrote, but didn't direct. For example, From Dusk Till Dawn is a fun, absurd drive-in movie. It's basically his and Rodriguez's Grindhouse film before they went and actually did that. The performances from George Clooney and Harvey Keitel are especially strong. The character development/arcs are subtle, but they're there. George's character is forced to become somewhat of a reluctant hero and he learns to care for other people after his brother is killed, namely The Fuller family. Harvey's character, much like Mel Gibson in Signs (way before that film) starts the story as a pushover of a man who has lost his faith and left the clergy after his wife dies in a car accident. Eventually, he regains his purpose as a "Mean, m*****-****** Servant of God" through protecting his children.

Additionally, I think True Romance is actually a rather rich and thoughtful script, but it's hard to tell as it's wrapped up in a gritty, hyper-stylized action film. I also think it's one of the last great directing jobs from Tony Scott, before he got all flashy and incompetent at his job. Christian Slater's character learns to grow up and take responsibility for his actions. He starts out as a punk kid obsessed with comics and kung fu movies. His insecurities are masked by hubris and swagger, but by the end of the film, he is humbled by unconditional love for and from his new bride, who also learns self-respect and self-survival because of that love.

There is also the amazing scene between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper to consider. It's not just about two great actors spouting great dialogue. Walken is a seasoned crime boss who always feels in control of a situation and looks down on his victims. It's Hopper's quick thinking and overpowering love for his son that forces the Sicilian to lose his cool and break his streak.
Dennis Hopper's character, in that one scene manages to redeem himself as a deadbeat dad by protecting his son. A lot of Tarantino's work actually deals with redemption, soul searching and regaining what was thought to be lost before, not to mention a reevaluation of purpose and self-worth. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Shyamalan, however, I feel has been slowly going down hill over the years in terms of writing and plotting. The Village was good right up until the "twist", which then caused everything that came before to feel pointless and absurd to me, ruining the movie. It was like a big, annoying flight of retroactive continuity. Such a mess. Lady In The Water could have been a return to form, but I just found it to be clunky, silly and too obvious. It was initially a bedtime story he told to his children, making it up as he went along. Unfortunately, it shows in the finished product.

I haven't seen The Happening, but I've heard really bad feedback from trusted sources. I loved his first three directorial efforts, including Unbreakable which, yes, is strongly underrated. I particularly feel that had he reinserted one deleted scene, it would have garnered Bruce Willis an Oscar nomination. Oh well. I'm at least looking forward to The Last Airbender, mostly because Shyamalan didn't write it.
"True Romance" also has one amazing gunfight.

Don't forget about "Curdled", kungfubear.

The murderers recreation/dance were great. The only thing to compare is Willem Dafoe's in "The Boondock Saints"
Tarantino had nothing to do with "Curdled" other than slapping his name on it to help with publicity (as he did with Hero, Chungking Express, Switchblade Sisters, and a few others). Good flick, though.
I've enjoyed some of QT's work, but not all of it. He's actually a very good filmmaker, at least technically. But he's hampered by his inner 14-year-ol (how else to explain how he could like a movie like Supercop?) But, then, he is able to look beyond a movie's failings to grab at the one thing he likes, in that case, the stunts. Which really were phenomenal.

That he liked Speed is no real surprise to me. I admit that my most recent viewing of it (had to be at least a few years ago), I couldn't help but hear Joss in the dialogue. It's almost uncanny. The first time I saw it, I didn't know who Joss Whedon was. Now, I'm a bit surprised how well developed his voice is at that point. Brilliant.

I'll also agree with Unbreakable being Shyamalan's best by far. Sure, Sixth Sense was unique, but I can't make myself go back and watch it again. Unbreakable, on the other hand, was quite good. Small and intimate in a way superhero movies never are (unless they're TV shows written by ... Joss Whedon). Unbreakable had an effect on me that lasted much longer than Sixth Sense's (admittedly effective, at least the first time) twist. Bruce Willis is amazing in that role.
Quentin had more than "nothing" to do with Curdled, but I see your point. He didn't direct or write (save for one scene involving Kelly Preston and her reporter character in From Dusk Till Dawn).

I'm also a fan of Quentin's segment in Four Rooms. A great sort of one act play, with a fun, exuberant performance from him at the center.

I could swear the dance scenes had his touch. However, I would say the same about the Courtney Cox / Aidan Quinn dance in "Commandments".
Inglorious was amazing, I decided to go at the last minute (literally when I got to the ticket window with my friend) and I am oh so glad I did. Speed is also a great action flick, I always forget Joss had such a large hand in that but it makes so much sense because the movie is smarter than most action films, well done Joss!
I love M Night and Tarantino. Unbreakable is still my favourite superhero movie, and who could forget Quentin's role as an Elvis impersonator on Golden Girls? (I love Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill...)

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