Reviews for Cinema Speculation

by Quentin Tarantino

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Movies have been Tarantino’s obsession since he was seven and his mother (“A movie’s not going to hurt you.”) started taking him to Los Angeles theaters to see some of the grittiest films of the 1970s. These inordinate immersions instigated his ardent cinematic fascination and led to his becoming “a brash know-it-all film geek” working at a video store on the way to success as an audacious, Academy Award-winning writer-director. In his first nonfiction book, following his first novel, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2021), Tarantino brings the heat and exuberance of his movie expertise, storytelling artistry, and sharp humor to a dynamic mix of eyebrow-raising personal stories, zesty film history, and kickass film criticism. With chapters devoted to 1970s films he has seen many times over, including Bullitt, Dirty Harry, Deliverance, Taxi Driver, and Rolling Thunder, Tarantino offers sizzling behind-the-production tales and exacting, speculative critiques. In some of the most intriguing passages, he remembers the responses of movie-theater audiences when he was young, especially in Black neighborhoods, where he accompanied Floyd Ray Wilson, a thirtysomething cinephile who showed him the screenplays he was writing. As “someone who equates transgression with art,” Tarantino illuminates formative moments during a lifetime of watching, researching, evaluating, and creating in this rollicking cinematic celebration.

Publishers Weekly
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Filmmaker Tarantino (Once upon a Time in Hollywood) serves up a brilliant and passionate take on the 1960s and ’70s films that shaped him. The essays speculate about why Ali MacGraw was miscast in The Getaway (the complex answer has to do with meddling costar Steve McQueen), why the main characters in Deliverance follow Burt Reynolds’s Lewis despite knowing he’s a phony (they want to believe his persona is real), and what Taxi Driver would have looked like if it were directed by Brian De Palma (closer to Paul Schrader’s original script). Tarantino’s joy, generosity, and singular point of view bolster his arguments, and even when he’s taking down his heroes, it’s out of love, as when he offers a blistering critique of the second half of Schrader’s 1979 film Hardcore for succumbing to plot contrivances (“When filmmaker Schrader makes these absurd decisions, you wonder where film critic Schrader went”). Additionally, his contention that John Flynn’s 1977 film Rolling Thunder is, despite its over-the-top plot, more authentic in its portrayal of the Vietnam War’s damaging effects on veterans than Hal Ashby’s “contrite” 1978 Oscar bait Coming Home will convince even fans of the latter. Whip-smart and obsessive, Tarantino is great fun and tough to beat. (Nov.)

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The acclaimed director displays his talents as a film critic. Tarantino’s collection of essays about the important movies of his formative years is packed with everything needed for a powerful review: facts about the work, context about the creative decisions, and whether or not it was successful. The Oscar-winning director of classic films like Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs offers plenty of attitude with his thoughts on movies ranging from Animal House to Bullitt to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to The Big Chill. Whether you agree with his assessments or not, he provides the original reporting and insights only a veteran director would notice, and his engaging style makes it impossible to leave an essay without learning something. The concepts he smashes together in two sentences about Taxi Driver would take a semester of film theory class to unpack. Taxi Driver isn’t a “paraphrased remake” of The Searchers like Bogdanovich’s What’s Up, Doc? is a paraphrased remake of Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby or De Palma’s Dressed To Kill is a paraphrased remake of Hitchcock’s Psycho. But it’s about as close as you can get to a paraphrased remake without actually being one. Robert De Niro’s taxi driving protagonist Travis Bickle is John Wayne’s Ethan Edwards. Like any good critic, Tarantino reveals bits of himself as he discusses the films that are important to him, recalling where he was when he first saw them and what the crowd was like. Perhaps not surprisingly, the author was raised by movie-loving parents who took him along to watch whatever they were watching, even if it included violent or sexual imagery. At the age of 8, he had seen the very adult MASH three times. Suddenly the dark humor of Kill Bill makes much more sense. With this collection, Tarantino offers well-researched love letters to his favorite movies of one of Hollywood’s most ambitious eras. A top-flight nonfiction debut from a unique artist. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.