One of the books that inspired me to pursue filmmaking was Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez. It encourages the independent spirit in us all, who want to make our own movies without having to throw ourselves into the Hollywood meat grinder.
Rodriguez funded his first feature film El Mariachi (1992) by being a human guinea pig in lab experiments for drug studies. Being young and with a low budget, most indie filmmakers would make some kind of talky drama or art house film. He went for an action film! I’ve been following his movies ever since. They all kept with that same fun action vibe, for the most part.
Together with Quentin Tarantino, he ushered in the new generation of young filmmakers. Rodriguez & Tarantino were the new Steven Spielberg & George Lucas. El Mariachi came out the same year as Reservoir Dogs. Both those films gave these two directors their start. Rodriguez’s Desperado (1995) may have been the equivalent of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994). They both directed the best two segments of the four-part comedy Four Rooms (1995). They joined together to make the excellent From Dusk Til Dawn (1996). Rodriguez directed. Tarantino wrote and starred opposite George Clooney.
They both had their clunkers. Rodriguez had The Faculty (1998) and Tarantino had Jackie Brown (1997). Sorry, they just don’t do much for me. Not to mention Once Upon a Time in Mexico I thought was an underwhelming conclusion to the Mariachi trilogy. And of course there’s the Spy Kids movies which are more geared towards children. You can take them or leave them.
Rodriguez’s Sin City (2005) may have been the equivalent of Tarantino’s two part Kill Bill epic (2003/2004). Both are ultra violent and stylized with dark humor. I loved these movies. (I eagerly await Sin City: A Dame to Kill For!) Tarantino also guest directed a portion of Sin City.
The two of them joined together again for the Grindhouse double feature (2007). Wow! It was a legitimate 3 1/2 hour double feature. Two movies for the price of one, plus hilarious fake trailers in-between! Planet Terror was a really fun super gory zombie film, and Death Proof was a witty suspenseful slasher film with Kurt Russell giving an amazing performance, and the best car chase EVER! It saddens me how underrated Death Proof is, but I can understand all the talky scenes turning people off, and especially after sitting through Planet Terror and being so entertained, your brains turn to mush. Death Proof kills off it’s main cast halfway through, so the second half, it has to take the time to establish a whole new set of characters, making it a double feature in itself, when ONE double feature was already enough. Also having the film released in the month of April seemed pretty random.
After establishing their styles as being “fun”, both directors started taking serious real life topics and mixing them into their fun. Rodriguez took immigration issues in Machete (2010) and Tarantino exploited terrible events in history like the holocaust in Inglorious Basterds (2009) and slavery in Django Unchained (2012). I think some of these films are great (mainly on the Tarantino side) but I’m not sure why they always have to use such hard hitting topics. I think you should either make something serious like Schindler’s List or make something campy and fun like Independence Day. Mixing them, I’m not sure how I feel about.
I’m not a rabid fan of every single movie they put out, but they are forever on my radar. Whenever they have a new movie out, I can’t miss it. Here’s the trailer for Rodriguez’s upcoming Machete Kills.