#7: Pulp Fiction (1994)

When and how did I watch this?

June 19th, 2017, on Amazon.

Had I seen this film already?

Nope.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

In terms of content, almost nothing. In terms of notoriety, it might be one of the most familiar on the list. When the film came out, I cared nothing for it, but my buddy came for a sleepover one time with the soundtrack and looped it for several hours, which did not resonate with me as I was enamored with the grunge and alt-rock movement of the era. I knew nothing about Tarantino, and have since learned that I care very little about his films, which makes me even more curious about this one’s ranking.

What do I know about it now?

It’s a hilarious, insightful, horrible, and ironic non-linear tale of several characters, starting with a hit job and ending with a couple of epiphanies. The film is also one big fat anachronism: it’s clearly set in the 90s, but our characters are all dressed up (and even dance) like it’s the 70s, smoke like it’s the 60s, and visit a 50s-themed diner in one scene. Vincent (Travolta) and Jules (Jackson) are well-dressed hit men; we follow them around for a bit, learning that they work for — and are somewhat afraid of — a boss named Marsellus Wallace (Rhames), who is also asking for a boxer named Butch (Willis) to throw a fight for a considerable payout. There’s also a related scene involving Vincent taking Marcellus’ wife Mia (Thurman) out for a “good time”, which results in a near overdose, and a holdup at a diner (the opener) which is tied together at the finale. But these are just details, and, beyond the blatant irony and the premise that nothing ever goes as planned, completely irrelevant plot points that are merely backdrop for the beauty and integrity of this film.  The meat of the film is in the characters and dialogue between them, primarily between Vincent and Jules.  There’s nothing important in the conversations themselves — it’s almost always small talk — but they’re brilliant.  This is how we speak — we don’t reveal huge plans and inform imaginary viewers of what we’re thinking, what our hopes and dreams are. Even as Jules and Vincent walk about with guns in their jackets, they’re talking about the relevance of a foot massage. Butch hires a taxi late at night, and the driver is obsessed with, perhaps even turned on by, the idea that Butch unintentionally killed a man. Mia loves conversation, but finds value in when people are so comfortable with each other that silences or pauses are welcome and signficant. There’s also a big fat McGuffin in a suitcase, of which its significance is never revealed. Loads of fun here.

What are some themes in the film?

Violence, conversation, infidelity, drug abuse, the mob, fate/destiny

Did this affect me personally?

I’m not sure. Some of the scenes are “suddenly” violent and shocking in nature, but there’s strangely no gross-out gore, with the exception of one somewhat hilarious scene.  The most graphic moment involves Mia’s overdose. As mentioned already, I’ll likely remember the conversations in the long run.

Why is this ranked #7?

This movie is why Quentin Tarantino is popular, and why other films of his appear on the list.  It’s a sharp and stylistic film, propelled by its cult classic status.  Travolta, Jackson, Thurman and Willis’ casting certainly help.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She watched most of it.  We determined this is a “dude” movie, and she was generally turned off by it and felt it seriously unworthy of a high ranking.

Would I watch it again?

Probably not — see below.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

The primary reason why I would not recommend this film to friends is language.  If this doesn’t bother you at all, it’s a fantastic film, but I felt like I had to wash my mouth out after watching it. I feel like a lot of the conversation could’ve done without the profanity and still worked.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

Despite my personal qualms, the film is clearly a monster of cinema. It’s unique and clever at the least, but is considerably more valuable than its cheap “pulp” billing suggests primarily due to its screenwriting and cinematography. There’s a million subtle things happening that I wouldn’t have noticed had I not watched the other 200+ films first, which critics and other viewers have clearly observed, and it’s obviously a brilliant piece of work worthy of its reverence.

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