Bret Easton Ellis interviews Tarantino (unedited)

Tarantino hasn’t been to many new movies in the last year while working on his opus The Hateful Eight, but he offers, along with the wine, snapshot reactions about one or two recent films and a few auteurs. The last current movie he saw was Guy Ritchie’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E: “The first half was really funny and terrific but in the whole second half I’m like ‘Oh wait a minute, we were supposed to care about the bomb? What the fuck is going on here? I was supposed to pay attention to the stupid story?’ Henry Cavill was fantastic but I didn’t like the girl at all.” (He notes fairly that he hasn’t seen Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina where a very different actress is on display.) Pixar’s Inside Out? “Haven’t seen it yet but Toy Story 3 is a masterpiece and was my favorite movie of that year.” David Fincher? “I’m excited to go see every movie David Fincher does. Even when I don’t like them I walk around thinking about them for a week or so.” Wes Anderson? “I loved Bottle Rocket but I never thought Rushmore was as funny as everybody else did because I didn’t like Max. The Grand Budapest Hotel is not really the thing I would think I’d love but I kind of loved it. The fact that I wasn’t a diehard Anderson fan before made me even more happy that I could finally embrace him.” Judd Apatow? “His audience is getting smaller and smaller but I think he’s getting better and better.” On Godard now: “He gave me rock-star excitement and he took me to so many places I needed to go but I feel I’ve outgrown him drastically. I’ve outgrown everything I thought was so sexy about his work.” On Hitchcock: “I’m not the biggest Hitchcock fan and I actually don’t like Vertigo and his 1950s movies—they have the stink of the 50s which is similar to the stink of the 80s. People discover North by Northwest at 22 and think it’s wonderful when actually it’s a very mediocre movie. I’ve always felt that Hitchcock’s acolytes took his cinematic and story ideas further. I love Brian De Palma’s Hitchcock movies. I love Richard Franklin’s and Curtis Hanson’s Hitchcock meditations. I prefer those to actual Hitchcock.” And Tarantino also prefers—passionately defends—Gus Van Sant’s meta art-manque shot-by-shot remake of Psycho over the original Hitchcock film.

The unedited version of Bret Easton Ellis's piece on Quentin Tarantino from the NYTimes Style Magazine a while back is online.

What makes Tarantino such a refreshing figure is his unvarnished honesty in speaking about other movies. Generally it's considered unseemly to criticize the work of your peers, and so you don't hear much of it. Not publicly, at least.

That goes for more than just the arts world. It's understandable, but the conversations behind closed doors, over beers, or off the record is usually more useful. What do people say when you're not in the room? That's the damn truth. People who don't hold that back, like Steve Jobs, can attain some shaman-like power, but it's something more people could exercise if not for the strictures of decorum.

Tarantino genuinely doesn't give a damn, and given he can always find enough collaborators to make his movies, it really doesn't matter too much to his career.

I can't wait to see The Hateful Eight tomorrow, err, today?

Empire and Post-Empire

In 2011, Bret Easton Ellis made waves with an essay about Charlie Sheen in which he coined the terms empire and post-empire.

The people unable to process Sheen’s honesty can’t do this because it’s so unlike the pre-fab way celebrity presented itself within the Empire. Anyone who has put up with the fake rigors of celebrity (or has addiction problems) has got to find a kindred spirit here. The new fact is: if you’re punching a paparazzo, you now look like an old-school loser. If you can’t accept the fact that we’re at the height of an exhibitionistic display culture and that you’re going to be blindsided by TMZ (and humiliated by Harvey Levin, or Chelsea Handler—princess of post-Empire) walking out of a club on Sunset at 2 in the morning trashed, then you’re basically fucked and you should become a travel agent instead of a movie star. Being publicly mocked is part of the game now and you’re a fool if you don’t play along with it and are still enacting the role of humble, grateful celebrity instead of embracing your fucked-up-ness. Gaga’s little monsters, anyone? Not showing up to collect your award at the Razzies for that piece of shit you made? So Empire. This is why Charlie seems saner and funnier than any other celebrity right now. He also makes better jokes about his situation than most worried editorialists or late-night comedians. A lot of it is sheer bad-boy bravado—just saying shit to see how people react, which is very post-Empire—but a lot of it is transparent, and on that level, Sheen is, um, winning. And I’m not sure being fired from Two and a Half Men and having to wear those horrible rockabilly bowling shirts for another two years is, um, losing…

In an interview with Vice earlier this year, Ellis was asked to clarify the distinction between Empire and Post-Empire.

Can you explain this empire and post-empire distinction? Because you refer to it a lot.
Empire is the US from roughly WWII to a little after 9/11. It was at the height of its power, its prestige, and its economic worth. Then it lost a lot of those things. In the face of technology and social media, the mask of pride has been slowly eradicated. That empirical attitude of believing you’re better than everyone—that you’re above everything—and trying to give the impression that you have no problems. Post-empire is just about being yourself. It’s showing the reality rather than obscuring things in reams and reams of meaning.

But can you ever present a "real" version of yourself online?
Well, turning yourself into an avatar, at least, is post-empire. That’s a new kind of mask. It’s more playful than hiding your feelings, presenting your best self, and lying if you have to. Unless, of course, you argue that that’s just a whole new form of empire in itself.

Ellis's podcast is one of the more consistently interesting ones out there (listening to it is what reminded me of his empire and post-empire missive) though it's always funny to hear him tout his sponsors like Dollar Shave Club and try to detect even the slightest undercurrent of irony.