The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Four Writers in the (Grind) House!

Written by: The CinCitizens

Image As everyone knows (and judging by its fourth place finish this past weekend, it's clear that EVERYONE knows!), Grindhouse is the brainchild of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rogriguez. The idea of two auteurs collaborating on one film gave us here at CC2K an idea. If those two worthless hacks could combine forces on a film, there's no TELLING what brilliance could come from FOUR of us writing the review. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the quadruple feature.

Torturing women can affirm their strength – By Tony Lazlo

The movie Captivity hit billboards around Los Angeles with this charming triplex of images: Elisha Cuthbert in proceeding degrees of dismemberment: captivity, torture, termination. It caused a flap around town, and the movie studio had the audacity to say that they had “accidentally” posted a few score billboards and posters around town. A co-worker bemoaned this campaign, arguing that such a movie advocates misogyny.

I can’t speak for that movie, but I can say that challenging strong women is one of the chief ends of cinema. James Cameron elevated it to a high art form in Aliens and Terminator 2, and Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez put it to great effect in their double-feature, Grindhouse.

Briefly, I enjoyed both movies, though I preferred the leisurely power-woman stuntshow Death Proof, which challenged its central babes with Kurt Russell’s motivation-free misogynist monster. Tarantino’s airy movie stands in marked contrast to Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, a movie that’s terrified of boring anyone. Don’t get me wrong, I love radioactive zombies, but I more enjoyed the time Tarantino took to develop the suspense in Proof – even when his scenes drug on too long.

I want to cede the floor to another of the CC2k staff, but I’ll add this: Zoe Bell’s dazzling stunt performance on the hood of a speeding Dodge Charger dominated Tarantino’s segment. Proof was a tribute to slasher movies, but it worked more as a tribute to great car chases and realistic stunt work of the past. Tarantino obviously cast the athletic, striking kiwi Bell for her derring-do, but he wound up finding the lead for his entire enterprise.

Tarantino and Rodriguez: Just a couple of Family Guys – by Rob van Winkle

Tony makes some good points above: women take a prominent, assertive role in both features of Grindhouse. In fact, the most submissive character in Death Proof, Rose McGowan, doubles as the ass-kicking heroine in Planet Terror. Truly, our two directors, whether intentionally or not, completely modernized and updated the very old and exploitative genre that they were paying homage to.

All that is said and good, but here’s my question: for all the hero worship and accolades that are thrown on to Tarantino (oh…and Rodriguez too, I guess), aren’t they just glorified, more renowned versions of Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy and American Dad?

From where I sit, Macfarlane’s sitcoms, for all their high ratings and popular appeal, are little more than bizarre, unrealistic characters in strange situations. Now, this in itself is not a direct parallel to Tarantino, but this is: throughout every episode of every MacFarlane product, there are seemingly constant loving references to bits of pop culture minutae that he consumed as a child. Seriously, what do you remember about Family Guy after an episode ends: the plot, or the parody of the Kool-Aid Man?

Grindhouse was undeniably fun and entertaining, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling throughout the film that it was nothing more than a 3+ hour testament to shit that Robert and Quentin liked when they were younger. I know that others will disagree with me on this one, but what is the point of making an homage to an entire sub-genre of film that no one in America (except perhaps for the writers/readers of this site) has ever seen? Isn’t that a touch arrogant? And, come to think of it, stupid: if you haven’t seen the kinds of films on which this one was based, then how will you recognize the details that are thrown in to make it an homage, other than just being told by others what they are, and asked to take their word for it?

This, to me, is Tarantino’s career in a nutshell. After earning enough clout and “fuck you” money to do whatever he wants, he has time and time again just made (or, in another way, re-made) films that he saw and loved as a kid.

So in conclusion, if you love Tarantino movies, then you will see Grindhouse, you will love Grindhouse, and you will forgive all of its flaws as examples of Tarantino’s brilliance in re-creating an imperfect genre of film. You will also be horrified by my review. However, if you are merely a filmgoer, and judge movies by its merits rather than the names on the marquee, then there stands a good chance that you will be disappointed, or at least benumbed, by the film. I mean, it’s over three hours of inside jokes and references that you won’t get. At least Seth MacFarlane keeps his down to a few seconds apiece.