“Pulp Fiction” (1994) dir. /scr. Quentin Tarantino

In honor of this year’s Cannes Film Festival (taking place as we speak), here’s one of the best-known and most beloved of all the Palme D’Or winners, 1994’s “Pulp Fiction.” There’s not much more I can say about the “Star Wars” of the 1990s that hasn’t already been said. I had seen Quentin Tarantino’s first film “Reservoir Dogs” on its opening weekend at an upscale Arlington, VA art theater in the fall of 1992, after reading about it nearly a year before in the magazine “Film Threat.”  After seeing “Dogs,” I obnoxiously demanded that everyone I knew at the time see this film, carrying a VHS copy of the film to practically every gathering I went to for the next year and a half.  A year later, I saw the Tarantino-scripted “True Romance” twice on its opening weekend in 1993 and became an even more annoying (and mouth-breathing) Tarantino disciple.  Needless to say, by the fall of 1994, especially after it won the Palme D’Or at Cannes and had so many major critics vehemently raving about it (or condemning it), I could barely contain my excitement when “Pulp Fiction” finally made its US debut.  This time, I saw it at a Tuscaloosa, AL mall multiplex, which was a real sign that the underground planets had aligned and Tarantino’s blend of violence and comedy had become VERY chic by this point.

Mark Seal recently composed a very lengthy, but immensely entertaining article about the making of “Pulp Fiction” for Vanity Fair’s March 2013 Hollywood issue, which you can read at the link below:

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2013/03/making-of-pulp-fiction-oral-history

Nearly 20 years later, “Pulp Fiction” still packs a wallop.

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“God Give Me Strength” (from the 1996 film “Grace of my Heart”) dir. Allison Anders

Video

This film appears to be based on Carole King’s life … but not exactly.  Because writer-director Allison Anders did a very smart thing when she came up with “Grace of My Heart.”  Instead of going the straight biopic route … and getting raked over the coals for fudging details of what actually happened to keep the story moving, she fictionalized her account.  This way, she could create composites of people, tell a compelling story, and keep people focused on her film.  And, instead of trying to buy the rights to all of the great songs from the Brill Building era (which would have been cost-prohibitive), she hired the composers of that period (Burt Bachrach, Gerry Goffin, etc) and teamed them up with Elvis Costello and others to write new songs.  This was another incredibly smart move, because not only are the new songs terrific in their own right, but having the old songs would have further distracted audiences from the narrative.

Anders script and directing are terrific. There’s loads of great actors in this film (Eric Stoltz, Matt Dillon, Patsy Kensit, Bridget Fonda, John Turturro), but Illeana Douglas towers above them all in the performance of her career as the lead, Edna Buxton.  She should have copped an Oscar nomination for this.  Unfortunately, even though Martin Scorsese was Executive Producer, the film was released by Gramercy Pictures (the mini-major created by Universal Pictures and Polygram Films), who botched the release of a lot of terrific films of the period (“Dazed and Confused,” “Mallrats,” “Bound,” “Kalifornia”) that are now considered classics.  When they had the occasional hit (“Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Fargo”), it seemed purely accidental.  But I digress …

This is the musical highlight of the film, in my opinion.  “God Give Me Strength” was written by Burt Bachrach and Elvis Costello and is sung by Kristen Vigard (Douglas is lip-syncing).

If you want to hear a great podcast about this film, check out The Projection Booth’s episode on this film.  It’s really terrific.

http://projection-booth.blogspot.com/2012/04/episode-60-grace-of-my-heart.html