21 Years, 21 Movies: Pulp Fiction
Note: This post is the beginning of another list of 21 things. I already started my TV show list with Sliders. I gotta get rolling, considering I’ll only be 21 for another 10 months.
What can I say about this film that hasn’t been said already? It’s quite possibly the movie of the 90s (fuck Titanic). While arguably not as solid from start to finish as Tarantino’s debut Reservoir Dogs, it was the much more ambitious of the two and has some of the most memorable scenes in movie history (although the ear scene in RD is pretty infamous). It’s a roller coaster of a ride with amazing highs, unexpected moments, but admittedly, a few lulls. They don’t stop the film from being one of the most entertaining in recent history, though.
It’s the movie that revitalized John Travolta’s career, shot Samuel L. Jackson into stardom, and helped the career of every other actor involved. Many directors and films afterwards seemed to delve into the hyper-active, naturally cool mix of comedy and violence of Pulp Fiction due to its overwhelming success and praise, Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch) probably being the biggest offender, even though those two films are great. The film totally shook up Hollywood and changed the perception of what a popular movie could be.
Unfortunately, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is a complete joke. In 1994, Forrest Gump won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Now, I don’t hate Forrest Gump like many elite film snobs do, but it’s just a emotionally manipulative collection of pop culture told through a lovable, noble retard played by Tom Hanks. I’ll admit I get choked up when I watch it, and it’s a good movie, but it’s no masterpiece. The Academy doesn’t have the benefit on hindsight, but if they did, they would realize now that Pulp Fiction is possibly the most culturally significant movie of the 1990s.
For a counterpoint, one can say that the Academy would never give the award to such a violent, seemingly immoral film, but there was another deserving nominee that year: The Shawshank Redemption. One only has to look at the IMDB Top 250 to realize how beloved that film has become. (Hint: Only The Godfather is ranked higher. Also: Pulp Fiction is 5th) Surely, Forrest Gump did not deserve the Academy Award that year. At least Pulp Fiction won for Best Adapted Screenplay, though. Shawshank was shut out.
Getting back to the actual movie, its combination of frantic events, mundane dialogue in the vein of Seinfeld, innumerable memorable characters, and non-linear storytelling come together to make Pulp Fiction that masterful work of filmmaking it is. Not to mention the absolutely perfect soundtrack. And it’s not like many movies today where the film score and the released CD soundtrack are two completely different entities – Tarantino just knew exactly what preexisting song to pick for each scene. Because of him, the Dick Dale version of Misirlou became officially known as “the Pulp Fiction song.” Well, until the Black Eyed Peas FUCKING RUINED IT.
I really wish I was old enough to have seen and appreciated Pulp Fiction when it came out in theaters. Just watching the theatrical trailer on the DVD gives me chills. I would’ve been frothing at the mouth for it after seeing that 2 minute clip. The only movie in recent memory that I can think of giving me a similar vibe with such a stellar cast would be The Departed, but even its trailer wasn’t that memorable.
Basically, Pulp Fiction is the most quoted, spoofed, and homaged film of the past 15 years and for good reason. There’s a few scenes that drag, such as when Butch (Bruce Willis) is in the taxicab, and arguably the diner date, but the high moments more than make up for them. What other film has a single scene that comprises half of a celebrity soundboard? I had heard almost the entire apartment scene from the Samuel L. Jackson soundboard before I even saw the movie. Not to mention when Butch is selecting a weapon from the gun shop, or when he flips out when he finds out his lover forgot his watch, or when Vincent has to stab Mia in the chest with adrenaline, or the entire Marvin cleanup scene, or just about every single scene in the film. I could go on forever. It’s too bad that Tarantino has turned to shit.