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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.
So, a friend of mine told me that if I didn't mind "Django Unchained," I wouldn't mind "Inglourious Basterds." I didn't mind it, and actually somewhat enjoyed it. Christoph Waltz, in both movies, is really good - there's a certain "Intellectual 'It Factor'" to his demeanor that makes him highly likable and highly unlikable at the same time, all the while being believable, even when in unbelievable situations. Didn't I just say something similar about Tom Cruise and "Jack Reacher?" As one example of me (or is it "my") not hating "Inglourious Basterds," I'm just not on the same page as this review: Aug 21, 2009 - "Review: 'Inglourious Basterds'" by Peter Rainer on csmonitor.com (Forget that it's the Christian Science Monitor - that is an intelligent publication that, yes, has it's biases, but is worth more than dumbed-down criticism for the masses. That said, I'm surprised that this review got a "non-rotten tomato" on rottentomatoes.com For those of you who didn't recognize the term "OSS" just before Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) shouted "Bingo!" - I began this thread last year, and this is the first time I've heard the OSS mentioned since that day.. Had this fantasy been reality, there probably would have been no bombings of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, as all necessary personnel could have been diverted to the Pacific Theater.
I've never been a fan of Quentin Tarantino because I'm very much against the use of gratuitous violence in film. That said, I've only seen "Pulp Fiction" and (probably all of) "Reservoir Dogs," which are 12 and 14 years old, respectively: There's something about "Django Unchained" which called out to me, despite me suspecting it would probably be Tarantino-esque; violence was terribly real in the days of slavery, and so here was a film in which I could perhaps justify it - perhaps even enjoy it, in a vengeful sort of way - depending on how it was used, and for what purposes. I also had a rough week at the office, and needed some mindless escapism - Tarantino is about as mindless as it gets: A bloodhound gift-wrapped as an intellect. Maybe Django (played by Jamie Foxx) will get some sort of revenge at the end of all this, and shoot the bastards who deserve it. That's the kind of week it has been for me. *** SPOILER ALERT *** It's a safe bet that I'll be discussing things from this point forward that will ruin the movie for you - as usual, I'm writing while watching, so my comments will arrive in mostly chronological order. As usual, I'm writing this as I go, and so far, Dr. King Schultz (played by Christoph Waltz, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor), worries me. He has been almost superhuman in killing the Speck brothers, and now he has taken on an entire town, killing the sheriff in cold blood, and getting everything he wanted in the process. He's a little too good to be true, I'm afraid, though I admit it was satisfying to see the poor, chained-up slaves have the final say against the remaining Speck brother - I only hope they followed the North Star as recommended by Schultz. The scene where they were arguing about the eye-holes in the KKK masks was the first time I've ever seen comedy surrounding a KKK meeting, and it was brilliantly done, too - acting both as comic relief, a suspense-builder (for what we dread is about to happen), and most importantly, foreshadowing - for what actually happened. This guy Schultz is no dummy. With almost two hours remaining in the film, Schultz and Django have just partnered, and I'm afraid that things are going a little *too* good - there's plenty of time left for lots of terrible things to happen. I sure hope Schultz isn't guilty of a last-minute betrayal; he sure seems like a decent fellow so far. Okay, this Mandingo fighting is making me physically sick to my stomach (some movie fans will remember the 1975 Blaxploitation Film, "Mandingo"). This is the side of Tarantino I don't like - there's nothing left to the imagination, and if he could do it in 3D, he would, if he could do it so that you could smell the blood, he would, if he could do it so that you were there in the room with fighters, he would, if he could do it so that you felt the pain, he would. There's no subtlety with Tarantino - even in this film, over a decade later, he's still doing body horror under the very thin veil of "high art" - he is the most contemptible of directors: the kind that substitutes gross-out shock value for true artistry. When Leonardo DiCaprio perks up upon hearing the outlandish amount that Schultz and Django are willing to pay for a top-level Mandingo fighter, he just goes to show that even the most heinous, sadistic people will gladly sell their principles if the price is right. This is a universal theme. Tarantino could have made the dog-killing scene much worse, but then the film would have carried an NR-17 rating - I honestly wonder if that's the reason he chose to make most of it impressionistic. Assuming there *were* slave owners as sadistic as Calvin Candie (DiCaprio) - and I assume there were - this is just 165 years ago, and we, as a species, haven't evolved all that far from this. In fact, genetically, we've scarcely evolved at all - there are still people, Americans, who would be doing this if given the right. Maybe Tarantino is a better director than I give him credit for, because he's being quite successful at making me hate people. --- Comic Relief: The Candyland plantation is located in Greenville, MS (trivia: there are more towns and cities named "Greenville" in the 50 United States than with any other name - at least, that's what I remember reading about ten years ago). Greenville is near the Mississippi Delta, and not far from both Arkansas and Louisiana. Some real-life people born in Greenville that you may have heard of are Jim Henson, Shelby Foote (these two men alone have provided PBS with a disproportionate share of talent), George Scott, Frank White, and Mary Wilson. These are the ones I know, but there are others whom you may know that I'm not familiar with. Well, I guess this wasn't really "comedy," but at least it wasn't someone getting ripped to shreds by three angry dogs - back to the film. --- The best scene in the movie so far is when they ride into the Candyland estate, and the elderly butler gives Django the biggest eat-shit look I've ever seen. [Edit: Hoo boy was I wrong, and I had *no idea* this was Samuel L. Jackson at first, either.] Vintage Quentin Tarantino: A director with finesse wouldn't have felt any need to see Broomhilda graphically pulled from the hotbox; (s)he would have simply shown Django's facial expressions the entire time, and let viewers use their imagination. Any excuse for gore, violence, and shock value: That's Quentin Tarantino. I know, I know, it'll make Revenge Time all the more sweet to watch, right? That said, the scene at the dinner table with the wise old butler is suspense at its finest, and I mean it is *masterful*. The entire course of events, from the hotbox up until the handshake was masterful - a flash of brilliance from a sadistic provocateur. Oh, look! A bloodbath juxtaposed with rap - how intellectual. And ... I just stopped watching the film before the potential castration scene - I have no need for this in my life, and shame on Hollywood for a Best Picture nomination for this piece of sadistic garbage. Since I try to always finish what I start, I may or may not finish the film later, but I will most certainly read the synopsis of the plot before I do, because at this point, I no longer care what happens: they can castrate Django ... or not. They can kill Django ... or not. They can kill Broomhilda ... or not. The two can magically escape and ride off into the sunset ... or not. I couldn't care less. Franco Nero in a cameo:
I remember seeing "Do The Right Thing" (1989) when it came out in the theaters and really liking it; this, after *detesting* Spike Lee's first major film, "She's Gotta Have It" (1986). The amount of growth demonstrated as an artist in just three years is amazing. Today, I watched the movie for a second time, and I'm becoming more-and-more convinced (as I watch numerous films for the second time that I first saw decades ago) that I had pretty darned good (or, at least "consistent") taste back then, when compared to my taste now. This film is cutting-edge, even today, and it's hard to believe it's over a quarter-century old - it has easily stood the test of time, and is not dated in the slightest. It converted me from being a Spike Lee detractor to being a Spike Lee fan, and if you haven't seen it, I encourage you to do so. Note that this is also the debut film of Martin Lawrence and Rosie Perez. "Do The Right Thing" was completely shut out in the 1990 Academy Awards. This is a better movie than "Dances With Wolves" (which was one of the first Best Picture Winners that made me realize the Academy Awards are a travesty - how could this not have been nominated for *anything*? Why are critics afraid to go against the status quo and use their own minds? What good are they if they don't?