More than any other filmmaker past or present, Quentin Tarantino lives and breathes cinema.
There isn’t a film he doesn’t have an opinion on, a director whose filmography he doesn’t know front-to-back or a character actor whose most obscure guest appearance on a TV procedural he can’t quote practically line-for-line.
Listen to any junket interview promoting one of his projects and half of the conversation will be dedicated to what he’s seen lately. What he’s loved. What he’s hated. There’s no way to know what he will respond to. Just look at his annual top 10 list and how often one goes, “Really, Quentin? That movie!?”
That’s why Video Archives has become my favorite podcast.
There’s something so refreshingly humanizing about Tarantino on display here. His guard is down. He has nothing left to prove. His work speaks for itself. There is nothing to promote, besides the copy he reads. Something I’m still trying to wrap my head around. Just him hanging out and chatting with his best friend and former screenwriting partner Roger Avery, with whom he shared the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Pulp Fiction.
He has also made good on his promise to write film essays with the forthcoming release of Cinema Speculation. He’ll be returning to the press rounds next month with speaking engagements. Soon you’ll hear Tarantino again on the touring circuit and a multitude of podcasts.
These chats will lead to the inevitable talking point. The 10th film. His directorial swan song, whereupon he will fully ascend into godhood and never return behind the camera. Or so he says…
Normally, one should never take the promises of “Never again…” to heart. There are countless examples of celebs proclaiming that they were done, only to backpedal several years later, when their bank accounts are in need of a boost.
Sean Connery (in)famously returned to James Bond twice after swearing off the tuxedo. The latter time was appropriately titled Never Say Never Again, as it did, in fact, prove to be his finale.
A couple of weeks ago, Hugh Jackman joined those ranks by reneging on his promises of being done with Logan. Throughout the entire development of that film, he told everyone involved with the production, “Fellas, this has got to be great because I am done after this!” And now he’s coming back as Wolverine one more time in Deadpool 3. After that, however, he’s done. For real. He really means it this time!
So why bring this all up? Why would Tarantino be any different?
Because he’s all about his legacy. His interviews often address the topic of when to step down, and he can pull examples of when some of his favorite directors should have walked off into the sunset earlier than they did, and, most importantly, how he doesn’t want to make the same mistake.
During an appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher to promote his novelization of Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood last year, he gave one such example:
“This is just a random example. This is a random example… But then I, you know, you look at a director like Don Siegel, who actually had one of his best, uh, decades in the ’70s. His collaboration with Eastwood. Oh my god! If he had quit his career in 1979 when he did Escape From Alcatraz. What a final film! What a mic drop! Alright, but then he, like, dribbles away with two other ones. He doesn’t need it!”
I stand apart from my Above the Line colleagues with what I’m about to say. They think I belong in a rubber room. Many of you, good readers, will too. Nothing wrong with that. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. And here’s mine:
Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood should be Quentin Tarantino’s final film. It’s time.
Clearly, the story of Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) left a lasting impact on Tarantino. Intentional or not, he has gone further down this particular rabbit hole than any of his other films, releasing a paperback novelization two years after Hollywood in which he reveals whether or not Cliff actually killed his wife –something he should never have done, mind you — as well as the forthcoming book The Films of Rick Dalton.
Once Upon a Time earned 10 Oscar nominations — more than any other Tarantino film — so why not go out on a high note?
But I’ll go one step further…
Respectfully, no matter what Tarantino concocts as the grand finale to his directing career — yes, his mic-drop — it will never live up to what everyone else thinks it should be. Kill Bill 3, they’ll scream! Star Trek, they’ll whine! But one of the golden rules of showbiz is, ‘Always leave the audience wanting more.’ Lest we forget, the loud cheers heard in cinemas around the world when the Manson family was defeated in gloriously bloody fashion by Rick, Cliff, and Cliff’s dog, Brandy.
I’ll point to an example where both arguments apply. Ironically, they come from the same source: Seinfeld.
Yes, Jerry Seinfeld wrapped up his iconic sitcom on top, ending its run as the #1 show on television. He went out on his own terms and stayed true to his word. He never reneged on his promise. Hence, there has never been an official Seinfeld revival. However, he also burned himself and, to a varying degree, the legacy of the series, with its finale — which was burdened by a level of anticipation it could never hope to live up to.
From the moment he announced he was calling it a day, from Christmas 1997 through May 1998, the hype for that final episode was such that it has rarely been repeated. Nothing that Jerry and co-creator Larry David could have ever produced would have lived up to what everyone wanted from the Seinfeld finale, which left both fans and critics saying “that’s it?!?” As if that underwhelmed response wasn’t all but guaranteed.
Fans, by their very nature, demand to get as much as they can from their favorite creatives. But it’s because I’m a fan of Quentin’s and because he’s so laser-focused on his legacy that I say all this.
The Video Archives podcast, running the New Beverly Cinema, writing film essays — Tarantino is already in the next phase of his career… and it’s awesome. Being an elder statesman to film fits him like a glove.
However, if he does go through with his plan and decides to make that 10th film, I’ll be there on Opening Night. I want to be proven wrong here. But knowing what Tarantino knows about the history of film and the careers of the filmmakers he worships, I suspect that deep down, he knows I’m right.
As it says on the poster for Tarantino’s first movie, “every dog has his day.” For Quentin, that day has arrived.