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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.
Why hadn't I seen "No Country for Old Men" before ?! As entertainment, this was pretty darned intense, and very, very well-done. As art, I need to think about it some more, but I think there's a lot to extract from this film. I don't like the sudden, undramatic loss of the anti-protagonist, but there must be a reason for this.
First, let me say that if you've ever had difficulty understanding the dialog in a film, you'll understand when I advise you to consider using Closed Captions for "Trainspotting" - a film largely spoken in the "language" of Scottish, and if you've ever had a conversation with someone from Scotland, you'll know exactly what I'm saying here. *** WARNING - SPOILERS FOLLOW *** I *love* the stop-motion introductions of the main characters - and here they are: "The Worst Toilet in Scotland" scene was hi-*lar*ious. It was also one of the single-most disgusting things I've ever seen in my life: I thought watching "The Walking Dead" would cure me forever of any revulsion while watching anything going forward: Nope. Thank *God* there was some comic relief with Renton's Thomas Pynchon-inspired swim. The scene, as a whole, is legendary, and will be considered a classic even fifty years from now, and I suspect you'll remember it for as long as you live. I've never seen Trainspotting before - it's a culture (the heroin culture) that I just don't relate to, and in a sense, this movie is a lot like "Go Fish" for me - an arthouse favorite that I've just never bothered watching because it didn't call out to me. (You can also rest assured that I wouldn't have mentioned Go Fish if I didn't have plans, in the back of my mind, of seeing it in the near future). However, I can tell just seventeen minutes into this ninety-five minute film that I'm going to pretty much *love* it - not five seconds have passed that I haven't enjoyed, thoroughly and immensely, and I have a feeling the subject matter may well be the only thing preventing Trainspotting from being considered one of the great comedies of our generation - although, maybe I should wait until the end of the film before making such a prediction. In terms of dialog, character development, and an overall "likability" factor, I think Trainspotting is going to rate pretty highly with me; again, let me not get ahead of myself. If I say this at the end of the movie, then you'll know to make a beeline to watch it on Amazon Prime, where it's *free*! One thing I've always wondered is: What does "trainspotting" even mean? Like "A Clockwork Orange," it's explained in the book, but not in the movie. From Wikipedia: "The cryptic film title is a reference to a scene (not included in the film) in the original book, where Begbie and Renton meet 'an auld drunkard' who turns out to be Begbie's estranged father, in the disused Leith Central railway station, which they are using as a toilet. He asks them if they are "trainspottin'." After that explanation, I *still* don't know what it means, but at least I have a better idea. Oh my *goodness*, the scatological humor in Trainspotting is abundant and dis-gusting! I know it's chocolate, I *read* that it's chocolate, but it's still as cringeworthy as anything I've seen in quite awhile. And even though you know it's chocolate, you still cringe. The Baby Dawn scene was one of the most bitter pills I've swallowed in a long, long time. And the extended scene where Renton's parents lock him in his room to become clean is quite powerful - there are a *lot* of memorable visuals in this film, some of which I'll never forget. You know, I was *just* about to write that the movie hit a slow spot not long after Renton got clean - it could either be that, or the fact that I'm getting sleepy (the same thing happened to me with Divorce American Style after the couple separated). I was just about to write that when Begbie is making out in the car with a prostitute, and all of a sudden, he sits up with a start and says, "Fuck!" It seems he put his hand in a rather private place and felt something down there he wasn't expecting. Ha! Ha! Ha! Surprise! Did I say earlier that this movie was a comedy? Well, it may have started out that way, but it shifted to an intense drama, with a heavy dose of suspense and intrigue. Trainspotting is a very good movie, and unlike anything I've ever seen. Highly recommended if you're of an exploratory nature - you won't be disappointed. It's not perfect, but few things in life are.