Film #5 in FilmExodus’ AFI 100 Movies
Every Thursday FilmExodus does a review/analysis of a different cinematic masterpiece from AFI’s 100 Movies 2007 updated list. For a complete overview and how you can participate, click here.
The year is 19 motherfuckin’ 94. President Bill Clinton. Walkmans in every pocket. Enough tye dye to make you nauseous. Every Thursday night, as America consumes TV dinners, all eyes are on Will Smith in glorious high top haircut as he raps his way into Uncle Phil’s Bel Air manor. OJ leads the cops on a high speed chase in a white bronco (spoiler alert: Not guilty!). Oh, and a little known filmmaker named Quentin Tarantino, fresh off his low budget indie hit Reservoir Dogs, has just released PULP FICTION.
Budgeted at a paltry $8.5 million, the first draft was written by Quentin Tarantino with input by Roger Avary while the duo were getting lit in the Red-Light District of Amsterdam. Tarantino’s casting raised many eyebrows. He cast Sam Jackson, who only had a couple of supporting roles in Spike Lee Joints. But most of all, the studio balked when Tarantino demanded the largest role in the film go to a washed up 70s heartthrob. The notion was absurd but the studio eventually let Tarantino get his way. There was one person to alleviate their fears: 80s action star Bruce Willis. The distribution rights were sold on his name alone. Behind the scenes, a real life junkie was hired to coach the actors for drug scenes and, on set, sugar was used in place of cocaine and heroin.
Ultimately, this neo crime noir won audiences over unlike any other film with it’s eclectic dialogue, perennial characters, and idiosyncratic narrative. Cinema was never the same again after getting a taste of Sam Jackson’s bible-quoting, foul mouth hitman. And let’s just remember the movie virtually opens with characters discussing cheeseburgers and a foot massage! Now regarded as Tarantino’s masterpiece and a cornerstone of modern cinema, the film won the Palm d’Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, received rave reviews, and garnered 7 Academy Award Nominations, including a Best Original Screenplay win for Tarantino. Ebert had this to say, “If the situations are inventive and original, so is the dialogue. A lot of movies these days use flat, functional speech: The characters say only enough to advance the plot. But the people in “Pulp Fiction” are in love with words for their own sake. The dialogue by Tarantino and Avary is off the wall sometimes, but that’s the fun.”
While researching this movie, I found one piece of incredible mind-blowing information that I never realized… Pulp Fiction has no film score… NONE! It only contains a soundtrack comprised mainly of rock & roll and soul. How amazing is that? Can I mention how my young innocent eyes were never the same again after seeing Ving Rhames receive buttsecks from a leather-masked gimp? I love this movie, but my brother loves it even more. Each year I buy him something Pulp Fiction related for Christmas. First it was a poster, then a BMF wallet, last year I got him Jack Rabbit Slims shot glasses. When I was 14, I wore a Royale with Cheese shirt to school almost every other day. My brother and I quoted this movie endlessly. To this day, I reference Pulp Fiction every time I buy an expensive milkshake. And this movie further introduced me to Chuck Berry (following Johnny B Good in Back to the Future).
This is not a review, this is a look back at a cultural touchstone. But if it were a review, I’d award it a very rare and perfect 10/10. I’ll just leave you with my personal favorite scene of Travolta doing the batusi:
Roger Ebert’s 4-Star Review
Cinema Tarantino: The Making of Pulp Fiction