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I saw "Pulp Fiction" when it came out in 1994, and *hated* it - it was my first Quentin Tarantino film, and I was so turned off by all the gratuitous violence that I just couldn't stand the movie. My second stub of a Tarantino film I saw was "Reservoir Dogs" which did nothing to ingratiate him to me. I am simply not impressed by how much violence you can throw up on a screen, unless that violence is there for an artistic purpose. That said, I really enjoyed "Django Unchained," but oh my God it was hard to watch (remember Paul Dano making the slaves clap while he sang?) And, since I liked Christoph Waltz so much in that film, a friend recommended that I watch "Inglorious Basterds." What I'm hoping, is that in the past twenty years, shows like "The Walking Dead" have gotten me so numb to graphic violence that it won't bother me as much, and I'll be able to "look through it," whereas I was unable to in the past - it makes sense, as things have changed a lot in the past two decades - was Quentin Tarantino the Jack Kevorkian of violent directors? (I used to think Kevorkian was a terrible person, opening up this can of worms; now, I've matured, and strongly support physician-assisted suicide, death-with-dignity, etc., and look at Kevorkian as something of a trailblazer that I was simply not personally ready to handle. Maybe it's a stretch - maybe a *big* stretch - to equate Tarantino with Kevorkian, but it's the same general principle ... I think. I'm not 55 minutes into the film, and I see it more as a comic book-like form of escapism, without any deep meaning (unless I'm missing something), and also without such a terrible amount of violence (Samuel L. Jackson's and John Travolta's shocking kill scene notwithstanding). Travolta is currently rushing Uma Thurman to the hospital, pretty much peeing his pants at the thought of what might happen if things go completely wrong. My biggest issue with Tarantino - not so much "Tarantino" as "Tarantino fans" - is that so many of them seem to think he's such an intellect, and all I see is a kid with brass balls, willing to speak his mind and do what he wants to do, exploiting shock value as a substitute for serious artistic merit. He's kind of like David Mamet with gory pictures. There's nothing wrong with that (goodness knows, I have my little cache of entertainment completely devoid of substance (and no, I'm not talking about porn; I'm talking about some of the more vapid TV series I've been power-watching over the past few years), and I make no pretense that they're any kind of high art). After Thurman and Travolta shook hands on keeping Marcellus in the dark about her OD, and Travolta says he's going to go home now and have a heart attack, she said to him, "Vincent!" He turns towards her. She says, "Don't you want to hear my 'Fox Force Five joke?' Okay, now that came so far out of left-field that it made me laugh out loud - it was truly funny because it was just so random. Tarantino gets points for his capacity to come up with a John Cleese-like joke in the damndest of situations. That was wonderfully silly, especially since the joke itself wasn't funny in the least. Okay! Okay! Christopher Walken's "watch delivery" routine was low humor at its absolute apogee - as it kept going, it kept getting more-and-more outrageous, funny, and cringe-worthy, all at the same time. Like the kid is going to know what dysentery is! Oh, this is just too much! I honestly wonder how many takes the scene took before Walken didn't laugh - he was masterful, but there's a zero-percent chance any human being could have done this in one take without laughing, and once you start laughing, it becomes infectious, so maybe it took twenty takes - regardless of how many it took, the end product was worth it. And sure enough, the watch becomes a major MacGuffin going forward - something powerful enough to compel him to (cue George Takei: "Oh, my!") go back to his old apartment. *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** (Don't read this part if you haven't seen the movie yet.) "Pulp Fiction" seems (and I don't remember it well, because I haven't seen it since 1994) like it's about to take a major pivot at the point where Bruce Willis shoots John Travolta. Did anyone notice what book John Travolta was reading in the can? He was reading the pulp-fiction classic, "Modesty Blaise." - pretty good humor, but man, Travolta's visage was grim, grim, grim (I mean, I guess that's understandable when you've just been pumped full of lead, but still - he didn't look dead; he looked depressed). I think if I chose a caption for this screen-shot, it would be, "Oh, fuck." Paired with the James Bond-inspired, "00Fuck" and "What the fuck?" I mean, I guess you sow what you reap, but this is pretty brutal (and I'm calling bullshit on how silent the silencer was; nevertheless, that was an imposing piece of iron). Hmm, I wonder if Butch's (Bruce Willis's) chance encounter on the roadway with Marsellus (Ving Rhames) was a tribute to Janet Leigh experiencing the exact same thing in "Psycho" with her boss, Vaughn Taylor - I can't imagine it wasn't, because it was just too closely parallel - they were walking in the same direction, and everything. Anyway, that immediately popped into my mind. Of course, what happened immediately afterwards in the two movies could not have been more different. You know what? I can already tell that I've been desensitized to ultra-violence over the past twenty years, which is kind of a shame - "The Walking Dead" pretty much completed the process for me. The violence in Pulp Fiction - which is *very* violent - just comes across to me now as cartoonish (which, I gather, it was always supposed to be, but twenty years ago, it really bothered me). Society has gone to hell, and I've gone with it - handbasket and everything. I'm not sure this is such a great thing, but it is unquestionably true. What's next for me - maybe ISIS beheading videos won't bother me any more? Damn it, I don't *want* to be like that. Still, the only way anything can be grosser than "The Walking Dead" is if the violence is portrayed more artistically (cf: "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover." which is a serious piece of art, with violence that's much more disturbing than any of these cartoonish movies and shows). My goodness, speaking of homages - and I don't know how I missed this before - the rape scene *must* be a tribute to "Deliverance": The only thing that's missing is Ned Beatty. I'm every bit as sure of this as I am about "Psycho," and it makes me wonder how many other tributes are in this film that I"m *not* picking up on - I suspect there are several, perhaps even quite a few: The format of the movie lends itself perfectly to random insertion of tributes. (Trivia: Did you know that there was an actual banjo player hidden behind Billy Redden, playing "Dueling Banjos" in "Deliverance?" I've watched that scene a lot of times, and it's amazing how real they make it look.) It's so coincidental - yesterday, I watched "Dog Day Afternoon," and at the end of the film, the FBI agent repeatedly tells John Cazale to point his gun up, in case they "go over a bump in the road." I had a pretty good idea that was a load of BS, but I don't ever remember having heard it before in a film. In "Pulp Fiction," John Travolta turns around and talks with Marvin, who's sitting in the back seat, and guess who accidentally gets a lead facial? All because Travolta wasn't pointing his gun up - and it truly was an accident: I cannot name a third picture where I've seen the subject broached before, and yet, it played a key role in both of these films. Ugh, I just got to the part where Quentin Tarantino tries to act - he can't. I'm not saying he hasn't gotten better in the past 23 years; I'm just saying his acting in this movie was pretty lame. And Samuel L. Jackson is funny as hell. <When they're cleaning out the car from the shooting of Marvin> ... "You the motherfucker should be on brain detail!" The UC Santa Cruz *Banana Slugs*? How can you not be amused by this dialogue? Vincent: Jules, look, what happened this morning, man, I agree it was peculiar. But water into wine, I ..." Jules: "All shapes and sizes, Vincent." Vincent: "Don't fucking talk to me that way, man." Jules: "If my answers frighten you, Vincent, then you should cease asking scary questions." Vincent: "I'm gonna take a shit." Then, it turns out that this is the Epilogue of the Coffee Shop Robbery, the Prologue (which was the exact same moment in time) having been shown during the film's opening, but from a different perspective (the Prologue's perspective of Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) and Pumpkin (Tim Roth); the Epilogue's perspective of Jules and Vincent). Wow. When Pumpkin held Jules at gunpoint, and forced him to open the briefcase, the contents of which remained unknown, but clearly contained a mysterious light, shining from within, there was yet another, absolutely unambiguous reference to another classic film: "Kiss Me Deadly." Confidence level? Pretty close to 100%. Some people might think "Raiders of the Lost Ark," especially because Pumpkin looked inside, and said, "It's beautiful" (remember Belloq, in Raiders, opening the ark, and crying aloud, "It's beautiful!"?) But make no mistake - this homage is to "Kiss Me Deadly," not Raiders - the light, which has absolutely no reason to be there, is the giveaway. It took me 23 years to regress into liking "Pulp Fiction." Or, did it take me 23 years to progress into liking "Pulp Fiction?" I'm vastly - vastly - more educated now than I was 23 years ago, and I'm a completely changed person - a much, much better person, and a much, much kinder and gentler person, than I was 23 years ago. Am I simply able to look past the violence now, and recognize the quality of this film? Or have I become so numb and inured to violence, which was prejudicing me from recognizing this film's qualities before? Is it good that I can now look through violence as if it doesn't matter? Or is it bad? Am I reverting to my childhood, or am I progressing into old age? I honestly don't know, but I do know that I really, really liked "Pulp Fiction" this time, and perhaps more than any other movie, I'm glad I saw this again, with a completely open mind. And when Vincent excuses himself before the robbery, what is he reading in the can? Think for a moment before I answer ... Think. Re-read this post if you have to, but think ... He's reading Modesty Blaise.
The connection between "Carrie" and "The Handmaid's Tale" is stronger than one might initially think - the difference in stifling oppression occurring between that of an insanely religious, psychopathic mother, and a falsely religious, psychopathic, male-dominated society. Both are tales of attempts at absolute female submission - Carrie by one, sick individual (while tormented by a Lord of the Flies-like hell-school); Handmaid by an entire, dystopian society. Sissy Spacek distanced herself from the rest of the cast (hopefully via Director's decision) early on in the film, during her amazingly poignant and sad shower scene (interestingly, Brian De Palma used nearly the exact same, piercing sounds that Alfred Hitchcock used in "Psycho," shortly following the shower scene (if he had used it during, this film would have immediately descended into farce, and would have been ruined)). Has anyone else noticed this? Some of the scenes in this film are so poorly acted that it nearly comes across as farce, despite itself. PS - Remember Nancy Allen, the High School Bitch from Hell, that fellated John Travolta, and was the mastermind of the entire prom plot? Guess who married Brian De Palma three-years after Carrie was released? A classic chicken-and-egg mystery. Sissy Spacek was beautiful in this movie; not so much physically beautiful, as just a beautiful person -her "first kiss" scene at the prom was as touching as it was tragic to the viewers who knew something awful was about to happen. Stephen King is a real prick for the ending, which I had completely forgotten about.
John Travolta first made his name in film in the 1970's, often as the result of dance scenes. During the 1970's Travolta was young lithe, rangy, and an excellent dancer. As he aged, gained weight, and took on dramatically different roles, some of them included memorable dance scenes, not the least of which was the one in the whimsical film "Michael," made in 1996. Travolta played an angel on his last trip to earth and was staying in a motel in Iowa. Three reporters from a Chicago rag and a pet dog are sent to the motel to uncover the Angel and then return on a road trip back to Chicago. While stopping at a roadside tavern for some nourishment the following dance scene ensues: Done to the music Chain of Fools, Travolta, as the pied piper of dance:
I did it. I rented "Saturday Night Fever." I hadn't seen the entire film since I was in high school, in the movie theater, and wanted to see it again - I remember I liked it more than I thought I would, but that was thirty-nine years ago. At the minimum, the film is an icon of the disco era - really, it's *the* icon of the disco era, and that - in-and-of-itself - is historically important enough to give it a second viewing. It goes hand-in-hand with an important, albeit banal, period of our country's history. I never knew (or didn't remember) that the sequel to "Saturday Night Fever" - "Staying Alive" - was written and directed by Sylvester Stallone. Boy, I'll tell you what: Maybe some people can see through this dated, weary film as a "coming-of-age" drama wrapped in disco, but I see it as just plain weary. Yes, it's an icon of an era, but what era? - between "Welcome Back, Kotter," "Saturday Night Fever," "Grease," and "Urban Cowboy," John Travolta was arguably the hottest thing in the late 1970's, but this five-year period - which is when I graduated from high school - is probably *the worst* five-year-period I can think of when it comes to popular film and music. I've always thought that pop culture during my teen years was about as bad as it gets, and re-seeing "Saturday Night Fever" only confirms that. No, it wasn't worse than any other run-of-the-mill rom-com, but run-of-the-mill rom-coms are pretty awful. If *this* film is the cinematic and musical emblem of my high-school years, then that doesn't say much for my high-school years. And to think it took Quentin Tarantino to revive the man.