Joanne’s Picks

This page is just for fun and ever-changing (with the exception of the late Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin who has been archived here). I’m Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse. I like books (and you might like mine), I like music, I like movies, I like TV. So, I’m just sharing some of what I like. Keep checking back as I’m always keeping things fresh.

Do you have a favourite Tarantino? I’ve run hot and cold on him at various points –the excessive violence, excessive use of the N word, … other things not directly related to the content he creates – but there’s no denying that he is not only a lover of movies but one of the definitive auteur directors of the late 20th to early 21st century. So he’s the subject of my latest just for fun ranking.

He’s directed 10 films (9 if you count the Kill Bill volumes as 1); so let’s do them all, favourite to least favourite to never seen.

Inglorious Basterds- That tense opening interrogation, the Brad Pitt renaissance, the World War 2 revenge fantasy of it all (and y’all know WW2 is a point of fascination for me) – spoiler alert, the Nazis do not escape justice. There are so many interesting parts to this film including the character of Shosanna and her Black beau at the movie theatre, and the tense cellar scene with Fassbender among them. This man knows how to hook you with the tension, how to draw fully realized even minor characters, how to tell a good story, and has the balls to rewrite history. This film was one of the ones that drew me back when I happened upon it on late night cable TV or something some time after its initial run.

Inglorious Basterds
Kill Bill Vol. 1 AND Kill Bill Vol. 2 – the introduction of the Bride – the mystery and action, the anchoring of the story by a kick-ass and interesting female protagonist – yes, please , several female badass action heroes of various ethnicities (shout out sister Vivica A. Fox), and for all its over the topness comic book ness, the action was always story driven which is always a plus. The music/soundtrack and staging and cinematography were standouts as well – that fight between the Bride and Lucy Liu’s character in that snowy garden for instance. Beautiful. Pretty sure I rented this one – both of them.

Kill Bill
Pulp Fiction – my first Tarantino and one of only two I’ve seen in the theatre. I was in university when this came out and I remember how people tripped out about it – some wildly embracing, some wildly disgusted, literally no middle ground. I’m not sure I could watch it now (I tend to watch most movies only once anyway) but at the time, I loved it in all its out of sync mad odd rebellious wtf ness anchored by charismatic performances (Uma, John, Ving, Bruce, and, of course, Sam).

Pulp Fiction
Django Unchained – The other one I saw in the theatre (I think). I put it in the lane of Inglorious Basterds when I first saw it – art correcting historical wrongs by imagining a different ending (a Western stylized slavery themed revenge fantasy). But there are things that bothered me more the more I thought about it.  No, not the fights to the death of enslaved men, I mean they happened and that clear eyed view of the history is necessary, not the shootouts though the blood splatter was cartoonish to the point I couldn’t take it seriously, not the performances with the possible exception of Samuel L. Jackson though people always assume that it’s the character I hate and I’m projecting  that on to the performance – no, I can distinguish between the two; what then? I don’t know, something about slavery as a backdrop has not been sitting right in my spirit post 12 Years a Slave. Although to be fair Jamie’s character does have agency and the racists and collaborating Blacks die, and (maybe Broomhilda is underwritten, more symbol than person but) it’s a victory for the Black hero in the end. Still. Somewhere between 12 Years a Slave and Cloud Atlas I learned about myself that I can endure a slave narrative because we must know their stories but not tolerate slavery being used as a backdrop for someone else’s story (it’s all about who’s centered and for who’s gaze). I think what I’m struggling to articulate here is what Spike was trying to say when he said “American slavery was not a Sergio Leone spaghetti western. It was a holocaust”. Doesn’t mean it’s not a good film (it is) but for Black people not (necessarily) an entertaining repeat watch.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Never Seen – But I would and probably will watch it at some point.

Jackie Brown – there were a lot of people I like in this one but ironically this was one that put me off Tarantino for a while – I couldn’t stomach the random gratuitous violence (I know, I know, who did I think I was watching).
Jackie Brown
Reservoir Dogs – Never Seen – I know blasphemy – this was his directorial debut, how can you discuss his oeuvre without seeing it. But I’m not discussing his oeuvre, merely my very subjective likes and dislikes, and when it comes to Reservoir Dogs I’ve seen the clips and …I’m good; it’s not essential viewing for me.

Death Proof – Never Seen – is this the one with the girl with a machine gun leg?