Saturday, April 20, 2013

875. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Running Time: 154 minutes
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Written By: Quentin Tarantino, Roger Avary
Main Cast: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel
Click here to view the trailer


So, here's the deal: "Pulp Fiction" was SUPPOSED to be the film that I ended my entire journey with, the 1001th review that I would have written. The reason it was going to be the final film, is because it has long since been the movie that I cite whenever someone asks me what my favorite movie is and I figured what better way to end, than with my stock answer to the favorite film query. HOWEVER, after watching "Django Unchained" the other night, I had a mean hankering to do some comparing - comparing between the Quentin Tarantino of 1994 and the Quentin Tarantino of 2012. It's an eighteen year difference and somewhere in there, he's gone from being my absolutely favorite director to being someone who always leaves me looking for just a little bit more and unfortunately, disappointing me often. Therefore, this review will be a little bit different than all of my other reviews, as I'll spend time talking about both "Pulp Fiction" and "Django Unchained" and doing some compare & contrast work. Off we go...

First, we get to the movie at hand: "Pulp Fiction". The film is split into a few different stories and it all starts with a couple common crooks (man and wife) sitting in a little diner, planning to rob the place when they're finished with their breakfast. Then we cut to a car and meet Jules (Jackson) and Vincent (Travolta), two hitmen, working for crime lord Marcellus Wallace and out on a job, just before 7:30am. As they get to where they're going, Vincent confides to Jules that, since Marcellus is going to be out of town the following day, he's asked Vincent to take care of his wife - take her out to dinner, show her a nice time, etc. Eventually the guys get to where they're going: an apartment and inside are three (four?) men, one of whom is undercover and working for Marcellus as well. The guys are after a briefcase and after they retrieve it, they kill the occupants of the apartment and are on their merry way. After this, we get a title card entitled "Vincent Vega and Marcellus Wallace's Wife" and we get that whole story. They go to dinner, casually flirt and dance at Jack Rabbit Slims (the restaurant). I won't give away anymore than that. From there, we go to "The Gold Watch", which tells the story of Butch Coolidge (Willis), a boxer who has been paid by Marcellus Wallace to throw his upcoming fight (we saw the payoff earlier, after the briefcase piece). Butch takes, seemingly a lot of money, but come fight time wins the fight and actually kills his opponent. He flees the arena, heads to a hotel, meets up with his fiance, Fabienne, with plans to leave the following morning. Only one problem - she forgot to pack his gold watch, an heirloom, which has been handed down, starting with his great grandfather. Now, with dozens of hitmen and criminals looking for him, he must go back to his apartment to retrieve the watch. We end with a funny little piece entitled "The Bonnie Situation", which involves a man's head being blown off...but that's just the beginning.

Okay, so before we get into talking about "Django Unchained', let me first talk about why I love "Pulp Fiction". You know, I actually still remember watching "Pulp Fiction" for the first time. My brother and I had watched "Reservoir Dogs". I was young, but lucky enough to have a cool older brother who showed me quality films at my young age. At the time, he had seen both "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction" and when the former ended and I loved it as much as I did, he promised to get "Pulp Fiction" and show me that as well, with promises that most preferred it to "Dogs". We started watching it and after a little while, I decided that it wasn't for me and quit on it. Yep, that was my first encounter with "Pulp Fiction" - a bailed out viewing. The next day, something was eating at me. I needed to finish that movie and I really didn't know why, but I just knew if I could get all the way through it, I'd love it. There was something about those opening minutes (during the bail out viewing, I probably didn't even get to the introduction of Mia Wallace) that sparked something in me. So, I put it back in (it was a rental VHS) and sitting by myself, I finished it. I think, at first, it may have even had something to do with wanting to impress my brother. "Hey, I finished Pulp Fiction and I loved it", was something that, perhaps, I wanted to be able to say. Well I did love it and over the years, through MULTIPLE viewings (probably close to fifty, at least), it's always been a movie that just totally encapsulates me.

It's like saying water is wet and heat is hot, to say that the dialogue in "Pulp Fiction" is magnificent. Everyone who has seen it and liked it cites those exact words, so I won't hammer that point home. But it's more than just the dialogue. It's the way these stories are made to hook us and that, my God, there's three of them!! Maybe it's the fact that each story isn't copy & paste, cookie cutter material and that any of the three stories potentially had dozens of different outcomes. Would Mia have cheated on Marcellus with Vincent had she not overdosed? What if Butch hadn't gone back to save Marcellus? What if Bonnie had made it home? And, sonofabitch, what's in that briefcase!!?? Tarantino keeps us on our toes. He hooks us with the common criminals, continues hooking us and makes us laugh a little with the "Royale with Cheese" dialogue, warms us up with the Mia Wallace story, keeps the heat on for the Butch Coolidge story, lets us breathe a little bit and laugh with the Bonnie Situation and finally, has the criminals, that we've probably forgotten about at this point, reemerge and meet our two main characters. It's a ride man and let me tell you, it's a lot of fun and it's just so damn good. With this film, in 1994, Tarantino proved that he was the next link in the great director's chain and that if he stuck around, he'd become a force to be reckoned with on the filmmaking scene.


Fast forward to 2012 and notice that Tarantino did, indeed, stick around. He's now made seven feature films (eight if you count Kill Bill as two) over the course of a twenty year period, proving that meticulous work goes into the making of each of his films and that he's not just making movies for the sake of making movies. So why didn't I like "Django Unchained" near as much as anything pre "Kill Bill" (including "Kill Bill")? In fact, why didn't I like "Death Proof" or "Inglorious Basterds" as much either? Simple. Because Quentin Tarantino is getting older and because Quentin Tarantino has officially established himself. Look at his work...

Reservoir Dogs - This is Tarantino writing as a fan of film, after jockeying the register at a video store. He's still a bonafide fan and therefore he knows what other film fans want to see. Plus, he's a nobody when he writes this, so he's trying to get his foot in the door.

Pulp Fiction - Foot is in the door! Still a fan, still knows what we wanna see and hear, creating over the top characters, having conversations that could only possibly exist in the realm of a fictional work.

Jackie Brown - His first (and only) adaptation. He's stepping up in the world, but he's still got those independent roots and still knows how to tell an intriguing story, using out of sync chronology and different angles of the same scenes to his advantage.

Kill Bill - The turning point. The last movie he truly makes for his fans and he sends us off in style, breaking this epic into two parts and giving us two chances to say goodbye to the Tarantino of old. QT has always been a self indulgent filmmaker, but after this he'll be fully indulging; a little "me time" if you will.

Death Proof - Just messing around, as far as I can tell. The transition period between Kill Bill (the fans movie) and Inglorious Basterds (his movie).

Inglorious Basterds - A truly, 100% self-indulgent masterpiece. Good, but not near as good as anything pre "Kill Bill". Huge, overblown hat tip to Sergio Leone and now he's officially going into business for himself. He's no longer a fan, he's a celebrity and he knows this now, without a doubt. This is why QT is starting to lose me.

Django Unchained - Better than "Inglorious", but only by chance, because he's still in business for himself, still knows he's a celebrity and is still giving Sergio Leone onscreen blowjobs about every 10 - 12 minutes. Sorry to be so crass...

Hey, I liked "Django", don't get me wrong. However, it's sad seeing those traces of the old QT and realizing that he's probably never going to make a better film that "Pulp Fiction" or "Kill Bill" ever again. Just look at the way Leonardo DiCaprio's character talks; "tasty refreshment", for example. It's like a tip of the hat to himself, except it comes off as something like ripping himself off. Also, while ALL of QT's movies have had traces of comedy (hell, QT himself considers "Pulp Fiction" to be a full blown comedy, once citing in an interview that it should be in the comedy section of video stores), has there ever been a more blatant example of comedy that the KKK scene in "Django", with the crooked eye holes in their hoods? That was just stomach turning and God, even Jonah fucking Hill was in there!! Give me a break! If only QT could become a full blown fan again, forget his celebrity or even get a bad review, then maybe that would be enough to knock him off his pedestal and push him to get back some of that originality. However, even if that doesn't happen, it is the opinion of this blogger that when Tarantino passes on, retires, whatever, he'll leave behind a catalog of work that can hold water against the likes of the greatest director's of all-time. I may not like the extremely self-indulgent, post "Kill Bill" QT AS MUCH and he still may not be hitting home runs, but he's getting some nice double plays, nonetheless.

RATING: 10/10   And "Le Trou" officially has competition this season...and my God, picking between the two is going to be harder than Sophie's choice.

DJANGO RATING: 7.5/10  Good score, but for QT it's still a disappointment. He used to be my favorite director and anything below an '8' seemed impossible. Oh the times they are a changin'.


April 20, 2013  10:22pm


  1. Hey Andrew!
    I am a huge Taratino fan as well. This is not really a popular opinion but I think he has gotten better as the years have past (although Dogs is still a favorite). The actors have definitely gotten better (John Travolta and Uma Thurman vs. Christophe Waltz and Brad Pitt). I think he has also taken on more epic stories (one heist gone terribly wrong vs. WWII). Inglourious Basterds is definitely my favorite followed closely by Reservoir Dogs so I guess I love him no matter what stage he is at. Sorry for rambling!

    1. Of course, there's not an exact science to what I'm saying and I welcome all opinions to the blog. It's not that I think he's a bad director or anything now, it's just that I think he has slipped. I liked "Django Unchained" a lot and, from what I remember, "Inglorious Basterds" was really good too...could use a rewatch though. Thanks Amanda.

  2. This has been the most personal review I've read on this blog so far - and I like that! Your personal connection to Pulp Fiction and pre-Kill Bill QT really shines through here.
    My first QT movie was Inglorious Basterds, which I loved because it was different from the usual WW2 stuff - neither too dramatic nor too stupid-funny-ish. Anyway, my favorite movie of his is Pulp Fiction but I love Kill Bill as well... I can see what you mean about him having become more self-indulgent and... well, polished I guess. Django Unchained was a fun ride, but overly forgettable.

    1. Thank you Mette. I really appreciate your kind words and it's becoming more and more apparent that I REALLY need to see "Inglorious Basterds" again. I've been talking about QT for a few days now, not just here, but elsewhere and everyone keeps reminding me how much they loved it. I saw it in the theaters when it came out, but that's the only time I saw it.

      Thanks again!

  3. I've never made my mind up about QT...Sometimes he's such a show off, loud, obnoxious "It dodesn't matter what I do as long as there are explosions, people swear a lot and it looks hip" a*****e.
    And yet I do quite like this one.
    My biggest congratulations to you ever for reviewing Pulp Ficyion without one use of the word 'Cool'
    I think the continula use of that word is one of the biggest 'off putters' of QT films I know. On every 'best film ever' show, all you get is young hip (almost always) men going, "well, it's just so cool", "yerr man, it's lik' such a cool film, you know, like that bit when he shoots the guy and..".. as if that is the only reason for a film to exist.
    That casual violence, calling women 'bitch', criminality etc are 'cool', and as long as rounded off with with a smart-ass one line comment, to be emulated.
    In short, perhaps it's not so much the films, but all the fans I object to!
    Sorry, I've done another rant...

    1. Great comment Ray...or should I say cool comment? just kidding.

  4. !
    As a decided un cool type of person, i have a problem when people start thowing 'Koooool' round.
    To steal and slightly paraphrse a comment from Ben Elton.. Cool is used as an excuse for bad behaviour. Cool is the layabout flat mate you are stuck with because he is a friend, but takes advantage. It is when you, repeatedly, come down for a rushed breakfast before going to work and find, yet again, as for the umpteenth time this month, he drank all your milk late last night when he came back from the pub (waking you upin the process). When you remonstrate with him you get "hey, you need to chill out, get cool. It's just some milk man. With all the starvation and wars in the world, you are making a thing about a few drops of milk?"

    1. Well stronger words seemed more appropriate to me when talking about "Pulp Fiction". While I do use the word "cool" quite frequently, I tend to (try) to bring a more mature vocabulary to my writing.


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