Quentin Tarantino to Drive: "Nice Try"

Ryan Gosling

Ever fashionable, Quentin Tarantino has just released his list of the top eleven movies of 2011 — just about two full weeks after any respectable editor would have accepted a top anything list. Not that it matters —  the 2010 version was so popular that it broke the servers on his website, and surprised everyone with his pretty reasonable, mainstream taste in movies. This year's is similar (though, of course, it actually has twelve movies). They are ordered, but published without commentary:

1. Midnight In Paris
2. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
3. Moneyball
4. The Skin I Live In
5. X-Men: First Class
6. Young Adult
7. Attack The Block
8. Red State
9. Warrior
10. The Artist / Our Idiot Brother (tie)
11. The Three Musketeers

Interesting, and not without a couple of surprises. Planet was fun and had some cool monkeys in it, but was it really that good? What on earth do the two movies tied for tenth have in common? Also, Midnight in Paris? That must be the only thing my mother and Quentin Tarantino agree on (or at least, that, and the fact that it'd have been better if someone had blown up a theater with all the head Nazis in it.)

Tarantino also published a list of "Nice Try" awards, on the top of which is Drive, which has to be read as a subtle dig, since if there is one (totally made-up) word that describes that movie, it's Tarantinonian ("bloody" and "full of handsomeness" were also top contenders). There is stylized violence, stylized gore, pretty filming, a great soundtrack, and some more stylized violence, and critics all over were quick to point out the similarities. Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but Quentin, it seems, is still pretty sure where his work fits on the list of greatest movies, this year or ever. 

Commentarium (9 Comments)

Jan 15 12 - 3:29pm

Every year it becomes more and more apparent that Quentin Tarantino really is something special. Back in the early 90s people were calling his films stuff like soulless, empty, nihilist, offensive, etc. Now he's kind of a national treasure and you need only look as far as Drive to see what happens when people try to copy his indelible style of filmmaking. Now, to be fair, Refn's film is certainly of a piece with his own previous works (bold colors, violence, male-centric, genre-inspired), but the similarities to Tarantino are pretty obvious and not exactly flattering. Refn's film, despite its occasional grace notes, is exactly what everyone was fretting about in the early 90s with the advent of Tarantino's irony-soaked revisionist genre pictures. It's everything Tarantino's films have been called, but for real this time. And where Tarantino just released his most accomplished and most humane film in Inglorious Basterds, Refn seems to be slipping farther and farther away from the muted compassion of his Pusher films. Luckily he has an eye for style, and that will probably give him a fairly successful and faintly interesting career, but unless he switches up his game (and judging by his next film, a Bangkok-set Western/crime drama mashup starring Ryan Gosling, it doesn't seem he will), he will forever be looming in the shadow of the increasingly masterful Tarantino. Much like Wes Anderson's, Tarantino's films become more and more impressive the more you see how easy it is to take their winning formula and sap it of creativity and humanity (anyone see Catch .44? Exactly). The imitators vindicate the originals. This is nothing new; hell, it's probably happened to every trendsetter in every artistic field. But it seems especially relevant in this hyper-critical age of Internet discussion. Anderson and Tarantino are not perfect, but they're better directors than they're given credit for in this day and age.

Jan 15 12 - 4:31pm

Injest, I appreciate and agree with what you said about Tarantino, but I think Wes Anderson is completely devoid of depth, compassion, heart, and all the things you speak of...he totally represents style over substance to me. His films are purely aesthetic and empty; he takes whimsy, beats it to death a hammer, and calls it art.
Tarantino's films, on the other hand, revitalize me. He's 100% genuine. (although my least favorite film of his is Inglorious Basterds, which everyone made such a fuss about, so maybe I'm missing something)
Having said that, I'm weirded out by this list. And why did "Hanna" get a Nice Try?

Jan 15 12 - 4:38pm

I just vommed down my front

Jan 17 12 - 12:08pm
James T

So Tarantino is allowed to plagiarise, steal, homage and no one else is!!!!

"I steal from every movie" - yeah tarantino but you dont give credits or royalies to those artists...

Tarantino is so so boring and his cocaine laced ego is so big it hurts....

Jan 19 12 - 12:26am

The major differences between Tarantino's movies (great) and Drive (a lukewarm Hot Pocket) is WRITING and CHARCTERS. Drive was beautiful, but it was poorly written, to say the least. The real appeal to Q's work (I call him Q) is the sharp writing beneath the rolling heads and gun blasts. And the characters in Drive are empty. The same can't be said of a Tarantino film. Tarantino was right--nice try.

Feb 11 12 - 3:58am

Awwww, how cute! Tarantino is pretending he's still relevant by picking on the best films of the year! Ooooooh, who's a widdle aging hipster...

Feb 20 12 - 6:20am

X-Men: First Class....Ya a real classy movie. Bunch of kids in spandex with superpowers. Yawn.
The Three Musketeers.... yup, that's original alright. Not like its been remade a 100 times before.

Seems like the days when Tarentino was actually an artist are long behind him. These days he just seems to cater to the industry for personal gain.
Tasteless Quintin , Yuck!

Apr 09 12 - 3:44pm
Dr. Coincidence

Here is what happened:

James Sallis (author of the novel Drive) approached tarantino about making his book into a movie. Somewhere along the line, the two pissed each other off. Tarantino was apparently so pissed with the guy that he decided to make Drive's protagonist the villain in his own "death proof" instead. Sillas went on to see Drive made in the "Tarantinonian" style he'd originally envisioned—adding in a tarantino-esque washed-up-filmmaker-turned-gangster villain to answer Death Proof's demonizing of a similarly washed up stunt driver.

Jul 08 12 - 1:23am

I bet Drive is on the top of Tarantino's own personal non-published list, eh? :)

The Tarantino comparison is just a tad too obvious, I'd say.

According to Refn himself, his main inspiration for Drive came from Grimm's Fairy Tales ("love" segment, then "shit and violence" segment).

My first impression was rather a "Mann"-ish movie with the LA setting and electronic soundtrack. Then, I started to feel Refn's own unique style, reminiscent of Pusher and Bleeder. In a sense, this made Drive a "Pusher and Bleeder goes to Hollywood" experience for me. Then again, not really, as Drive exudes its own totally unique neon noir feel.

I was blown away by Pusher when it came out in Denmark in 1996. In a similar way, the same happened when I saw Drive. I saw something I did not expect. I expected a typical bang for the buck Hollywood movie...that Rehn had gone mainstream (I had not seen any trailers of Drive though, and I managed to distance myself from all the hype until I saw it on Blu).

I was left with an awe-inspiring experience, I've not felt since Black Rain.

Also, I see it as a major achievement that Refn was actually able to make his movie in Hollywood INTO HIS OWN THING!