In conversation recently, beloved Soluter Ruck Colchez and I discussed what a good title Arrested Development is. It is, of course, a sitcom about a bunch of people stuck in a particular frame of mind and neither willing nor able to grow, but it’s also kicked off with a developer being arrested. What I especially like is that this kind of multi-level pun is reflective of the kind of humour the show deals in. On top of that, I like that it’s an elegant and memorable phrase. One thing I like about Quentin Tarantino movies is how all his films have names that are punchy without being forgettable and memorable without being silly; I recall reading a book on movies when I was, like, ten years old that made fun of the movie Conflict for having the Platonic ideal of generic, and conversely, how many crappy indie movies have ridiculous overly-long titles like Happy Bowl Fruit Roll-Up Time or something like that?
Tarantino’s titles are almost always just two words rammed together in a way that sounds cool; I’ve heard people rationalise Reservoir Dogs as things like an artful rewrite of ‘damned sons of bitches’, but come on, it’s just two words that sound cool, right? After that, his movie titles are a little more logical – Django Unchained is about its title character being freed from slavery, Death Proof refers to the stuntman’s car, and so on. Kill Bill is one of my all-time favourite titles for its simplicity, memorability, and for how it conveys the exact nature of what we’re going to watch – not just in that Bill is Killed, but in it’s simultaneously very silly and totally committed to that silliness.
I often find people react in shock when a movie fails to live up to its title or premise. The usual reaction is something like ‘how can you fuck up a movie called Aliens Fight Sherlock Holmes (And Then Fuck My Wife)???’. Not to act above it all, but I’m usually less surprised – ideas in general are actually pretty easy to come up with (mashups even moreso), and with those kind of things, it implies they put more work into the sizzle than the steak. So what stories do you think have wonderful titles, and what stories live up to their wonderful titles?