The Sundance Institute’s Next Fest kicked off on Thursday evening at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles with the presentation of the vanguard leadership award to lauded filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, along with a 35 mm 25th anniversary screening of his film “Reservoir Dogs.”
Michelle Satter, the founding director of the Sundance feature film program, presented Tarantino with the award, commending him for his continued support of the organization that helped give him his start through the Sundance Institute Directors Lab. In 2015, Tarantino returned as a creative adviser to the lab, and has also contributed to the Sally Menke Memorial Fellowship, which was established after his longtime film editor died in 2010.
Clad in his trademark brown leather jacket, Tarantino accepted the award to a packed house and received a standing ovation as he took the stage. True to his gregarious self, Tarantino treated the crowd to a near-15-minute acceptance speech and brought actors Tim Roth and Michael Madsen, who both starred in “Reservoir Dogs” and “The Hateful Eight,” on stage. He also saluted producers Monte Hellman, Richard Gladstein, and Ronna B. Wallace, who were in the audience, and gave a shout-out to Los Angeles. “I’m an L.A. boy, I mean I was born in Tennessee, but I moved at like two, so give me a f—ing break,” he said. “There are New York crime films, and other crime films, but (‘Reservoir Dogs’) is a Los Angeles crime film.”
Tarantino was so animated that at one point midway through his speech, he accidentally knocked the vanguard award off the podium. Thankfully, he caught it, the audience laughing along with him, and relocated it to his side. Finally, he yelled, “On with the show!” and the screening commenced.
Tarantino has been nominated for five Academy Awards and won two, the first in 1995 for best original screenplay for “Pulp Fiction,” and the same award in 2013 for “Django Unchained.”
Roth, who played Mr. Orange in “Reservoir Dogs” and Oswaldo Mobray in “The Hateful Eight,” said Tarantino’s writing sets him apart from other filmmakers. “My first introduction to Quentin was a script. I hadn’t met the guy,” he said. “And then I went and met the guy — this extraordinary energy, this amazing human — and the two things went together. But when I met him, it was all in the script. I was only 20-odd pages in and I was like ‘I have to do this, this is great.'”
“Justified’s” Walton Goggins, who played Billy Crash in “Django Unchained” and Sheriff Chris Mannix in “The Hateful Eight,” was also on hand to celebrate Tarantino. On what makes Tarantino’s films so appealing to the public, he said, “I think that if you asked a thousand people that question, a thousand people would answer differently. For me, it’s almost like getting on a horse that you can’t ride. You have no idea where they’re going to buck you off and that’s what Quentin does with all of it. Certainly for the last 10 or 15 years, we’re being kind of spoon-fed this experience that is either predictable or it’s gratuitously not predictable, and for Quentin, it’s just organic.”
Madsen added that Tarantino hadn’t changed in the 20 years between “Reservoir Dogs” and “The Hateful Eight.” “He loves making movies, he’s like a kid, he has so much heart and so much reverence for cinema,” he explained. “There’s not any movie that’s ever been made that he doesn’t know about, any actor or any director who’s ever done anything that he doesn’t already know about.”
The screening served as the kick-off event for Sundance Next Fest, which runs until Aug. 13, and features films like “Gook” from Justin Chon and “L.A. Times” from Michele Morgan. Tickets are still available here.