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Who Rates The Raters?

Questions about who's more overrated than whom are hard to answer because it's hard to know how highly-rated someone is. Ross and I agree that Ridley Scott is a better director than Quentin Tarantino, but Ross seems to think Tarantino is more highly rated than Scott, whereas I have the reverse impression.

October 18, 2005 | Permalink


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Tracked on Nov 7, 2005 4:39:01 AM


I don't know how you get a metric on this (maybe comparing IMDB ratings or rottentomato rating?) but my instinct is that QT is probably rated a little higher than Scott, mostly because QT's masterpieces (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and some would say Kill Bill) are more recent than Scott's (Aliens and Blade Runner).

I suppose there might be those out there that consider Gladiator a masterpiece. I, for one, wouldn't listen to them. But they may exist. :D

Posted by: Royko | Oct 18, 2005 3:09:42 PM

This is a good question.

Ridley Scott is definitely more highly regarded than Tarantino. His range is greater and a large number of his early films are regarded to be classics of their genres...Alien, Thelma & Louise, Blade Runner, Gladiator. Also, studios trust him more -- he's more bankable.

The problem, however, is that Ridley Scott has also made more terrible films than Tarantino has. That might be a simple function of the fact that he has made more films total than Tarantino, but Scott has punted more times than I care to count, especially more recently. See Matchstick Men, Black Hawk Down, Hannibal, G.I. Jane, etc.

As I think you mentioned before, Tarantino made one not so great film. So it's easier for me to say that Scott as more overrated than Tarantino, even though I agree that the best of Scott's films are probably stronger than Tarantino's.

Posted by: Sommer | Oct 18, 2005 3:22:09 PM

I'm going to dissent here. I think that QT is generally thought of as the more highly regarded filmmaker. I also think that he is actually the better filmmaker.

Ridley Scott's great films - of which I would categorize Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise and the much-maligned Black Hawk Down - are, in large, fairly typical of the sort of filmmaking of their time. Blade Runner may have better content than Star Trek, but it's not all that different from the standpoint of FORM. Same goes for Thelma and Louise/other road movies.

Whereas, Tarantino married European and Asian cinematic language with American popular culture and brought non-linear narrative into the mainstream of American film. (Recycled some plots a bit, perhaps, but not nearly as much as, say, Shakespeare did.) He deployed irony and dark comedy in ways most people hadn't seen before, including the genius trick of delaying a moment of violence with comic banter - making it funnier and more cinematically thrilling.

People think Tarantino's a great filmmaker because he did things that no one else had done as well, ever. He didn't just make a few great movies (like Ridley Scott), but he influenced the way people think about cinema as a form - AND he made some great films, as well as his influential screenplays for NBK and True Romance.

And, lest you're starting to buy any of this, I'm the guy that thinks Jackie Brown is quite a good - and his most moving - film.

Posted by: MrExcitement | Oct 18, 2005 4:17:21 PM

It's a passive verb construction problem. Which is to say, I know that "overrated" is an adjective, but it's also a verb. So, if you're saying someone is overrated, you have the passive verb construction issue that you don't know by whom he or she is overrated. It might be helpful to clarify. For example, Quentin Tarantino is wildly overrated by my hipster wanna be film geek friends, but wildly underrated by my mother, who hates all violence and vulgarity in film. Apparently, the people you talk to about these things are more like my mother, and the people Ross talks to about these things are more like my hipster wannabe film geek friends, hence you have different perceptions about how Tarantino is rated. (Although the my mom example really doesn't hold here, b/c I doubt she thinks much of Ridley Scott either. Or that she knows who either of these people are. Which is a big assumption).

Posted by: flippantangel | Oct 18, 2005 4:26:47 PM

Tarantino is regarded because he translated aspects of independent cinema and genre films into something commercially appealing. He didn't become a Major Film Director because True Romance had a brilliant script or because Reservoir Dogs was a great film, but because Pulp Fiction made a ton of money.

Any subsequent rating is within this context.

And, again, you're wrong to think Jackie Brown sucks. Both of them have very uneven, even pernicious output, so I don't think either will be seen as great film directors in the future. (By pernicious output, I mean that QT spawned dozens of "young, hip" imitators, who have been responsible for an explosion of glib, stupid, violent films in the last ten years. Scott, on the other hand, perhaps a bit less so than Gibson, has encouraged the rise of expensive, overlong, pointless costume epics)

As to overrated, they're both overrated. But I love Alien and Blade Runner.

Posted by: pete rios | Oct 18, 2005 4:49:12 PM

I think comparing Tarantino and Scott is sort of an apples/oranges comparison.

Tarantino's Oscar is for writing; in his best films he has also been the author. In fact True Romance is a great film that he wrote and neither directed or produced.

Scott on the other hand is primarily a producer/director. He also hasn't made the mistake of fancying himself an actor, as opposed to Tarantino.

Posted by: Zach | Oct 18, 2005 5:21:10 PM

I'd defend Hannibal as a decent movie. No Silence of the Lambs, sure, but not G.I. Jane bad by any means.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias | Oct 18, 2005 5:32:28 PM

Who Rates The Raters? -- I'll take a shot at it (boy wonder edition).

I think Yglesias is more highly rated than Douthat, but that Douthat is nonetheless overrated (and skinnydipping with William Buckley is also overrated). Reihan Salam is also overrated, but he's not highly rated at all. And Ezra Klein is so widely-known as overrated that he might soon become underrated.

Posted by: Ikram | Oct 18, 2005 5:41:21 PM

"Questions about who's more overrated than whom are hard to answer because it's hard to know how highly-rated someone is."

flippantangel's comment is the pertinent one here.

Whose rating are you measuring? Outsiders or insiders? Mass popularity or just the cognoscenti? All the critics or just the smart critics? The audience or Hollywood? The Oscars or Sundance?

Each side of these dichotomies will tend to rate folks differently.


However, in almost all these dichotomies, Tarantino is rated higher than Ridley Scott by both sides. I'm curious what makes Matthew think otherwise.

Posted by: Petey | Oct 18, 2005 6:22:54 PM

In other words ...

"Quién es más macho: Senor Scott o Senor Tarantino?"

Posted by: md 20/400 | Oct 18, 2005 7:12:26 PM

To answer your question, I rate the raters. Ross is higher than you. Sorry, it was a close race.

Posted by: Max Steve | Oct 19, 2005 5:41:05 PM

I think all bais aside (i'm a big Scott fan) that Tarantino is regarded by the public and critics alike as the superior director. Also (all bais aside) I'm not sure that this impression is unwarranted. Tarantino changed cinema and has made landmark films. You only need to watch a few minutes of a Tarantino movie to know that it is a Tarantino movie - he is a true original. Of course, these dosn’t necessarily make you great. However, if you also take into account that he pretty much defined a decade of cinema (and perhaps pop culture more generally) with non linear narrative I think the comparison is a little unfair to Scott.

I mean Scott is an excellent filmmaker, but lets face it, hes really inconsistent and without a strong story and script is pretty much hopeless. Scott, tells his stories almost completely visually which is something that appeals to me and nobody does this better than him. However, Tarantino at the height of his powers combines story, visuals, music and dialogue into a seamless cinematic whole - which I'm sorry I'm not sure Ridley Scott can match.

Posted by: Justin | Oct 20, 2005 11:51:30 AM

Tarantino is a superstar director--films are marketed as a "Quentin Tarantino film."

Not so much with Scott.

The difference in their quality of work is extremely subjective. But Tarantino is definitely a stronger brand name.

Posted by: Geek, Esq. | Oct 20, 2005 3:06:53 PM

Kingdom of Heaven was definately marketed as a "Ridley Scott film." As was, IIRC, Gladiator.

Posted by: Michael | Oct 21, 2005 11:25:09 AM

Here's the difference I see:

Ridley Scott has a settled respect - almost a mini-legend - that's been attached to him. It's old gaurd prestige that admits that his current work may not be up to snuff (though I'd argue that Black Hawk Down and Gladiator were both very good, though not great, films), but that no matter what, his place as an Important Director is cemented.

Tarantino, despite having been on the scene for more than a decade, is still an unknown quanitity. Yes, he'll be in the canon of directors people talk about decades from now, but we're not really sure what's going to stick. Will it be his ability to pull nuance from crime genre thugs? Will it be his total obsession with pulp allusions? Will it be his razor sharp pop cult dialog - or maybe just a dissapation of talent as his work becomes less significant over the years.

Scott's legend, presitge and position are settled: unless he releases some utterly unexpected masterpiece (not likely, if KOH is an indication), we know approximately how history will treat him.

Tarantino is still developing, and it's going to take another decade and a few more films before he really settles in the public mind.

Posted by: Peter | Oct 22, 2005 11:55:13 AM

Gladiator was imperial sentimentalism incarnate and made me angry for days afterwards. A truly vile movie can't be prettified with sunset shots. And the CGI stadium monsters were appallingly designed. An awful, stupid movie.

Posted by: Jackmormon | Oct 23, 2005 4:31:16 PM

I'm going to agree with Matt on this one, that Scott is both a better director and more highly regarded. Also, didn't Scott do that Macintosh ad back in the 80's? Which is really a different medium than film, so that counts for something. One could make the case that Tarantino is more original as far as dialogue and the like are concerned, but therein lies the rub. He's too much of a specialist for me. This can help in marketing to a certain audience, since they know what they'll be getting, but I don't think it speaks to who's the more important film-maker overall.


Posted by: Fred Schoeneman | Oct 23, 2005 9:08:18 PM

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