Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Skuriels Countdown: #15 (tie)

Quentin Tarantino, 1994
[10 votes]

In 1994 and 1995, I saw Pulp Fiction four times in the theater and each time felt like an event.  I was thirteen and it was my favorite movie; I bought the screenplay and would obsessively read it during my 7th grade classes.  My chemistry teacher was not amused and she took it away one day during her class. I had to swing by after school to pick it up and promise not to read it during her class again.  Not that it mattered- it was basically all I was thinking about.

Pulp Fiction is in many ways a film for young people.  It is brash, confident, funny and exciting. It is constantly pulling the rug from under you with surprises and shifts that bypass intellectual response and hit straight into the visceral.  Every scene leads to discovery and pay-off, even when they initially seem to just serve the plot.  All of the stories within Pulp Fiction are archetypal hard-boiled narratives, but Tarantino’s zeal for cliffhangers, stylized dialogue and toying with expectations ensures that the film seems anything but ordinary.  Even the lingering mysteries (What’s in the case? Why the Band-Aid?) are just teases to tickle your imagination and give the sense that this is a film that cannot be contained. 

“For me, Pulp Fiction ended up being a gateway drug into independent films, art films and eventually world films.  I went to the library and picked up so many great titles on VHS that make it easy to draw the line connecting Pulp Fiction to the films of Rohmer or Hawks that I discovered directly because of my desire to see more things like Pulp Fiction.  I was chasing the rush and I’ve been chasing it ever since, with only the occasional dip in enthusiasm.  I go back to Pulp Fiction often and I always feel the same unbridled love towards it, and I can’t think of anything else that I love as much now as I loved this when I was thirteen.” ~ Jason Overbeck

“It's fair to say that my life changed a little bit on October 14th, 1994.  I was 16 years old, and I wanted to go to the movies with my friend.  I wanted to go see Wes Craven's New Nightmare (which opened on the same day), while my cinematically hipper friend suggested Pulp Fiction.  It's not that I didn't wanna see Pulp Fiction, but I hadn't totally loved Reservoir Dogs when my older brother had shown it to me earlier (it was a little much for 15 year-old me), and we're talkin' a new Freddy Krueger movie, man!  Thankfully, I let my friend talk me into going to Pulp Fiction, and 2 1/2 hours later I wasn't quite the same person.
“Right from the opening scene of Quentin Tarantino's quasi-surreal, philosophical pop-culture underworld epic, as Pumpkin (Tim Roth) and Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) speak plainly in Tarantino's trademark rat-a-tat dialogue about the diner they're about to rob, I knew I had never seen anything like this.  I was hooked, my eyes never left the screen, and I thought it was about the most galvanizing and original thing I'd ever seen.  Now, of course, I know that Tarantino is a supreme mixologist, culling multiple influences and twisting them into his own thing, but 16 year-old me didn't know about those influences yet. 
“It was also one of those times that the entire packed house in my suburban theatre seemed exactly on the same wavelength as I was.  In fact, my single favorite memory of seeing Pulp Fiction that magical first time is related to the audience itself.  When Mia (Uma Thurman) finally unveils the punchline of her Fox Force Five joke to Vincent (John Travolta), a bad pun that normally wouldn't garner a laugh outside of a grade school playground, the entire audience positively erupted with laughter.  Why?  After enduring the surprising terror of Mia's drug overdose and the suspense of her syringe to the heart, the audience was so full of pent-up anxiety that all it took was one little word (‘Ketch-up’) and a bad pun to relieve that tension and cause everyone to finally exhale and laugh.  It was a genuinely cathartic rush, a brilliant bit of screenwriting, and something I'll never forget.  And I was once and forever a Quentin Tarantino fan.

“Oh yeah, and when I finally saw Wes Craven's New Nightmare; it was pretty sweet, too.” ~ Jason Alley

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