“Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” – Warren Zevon

From Zevon’s 1991 album “Mr. Bad Example” (LOVE that title!), comes “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead,” a song that only Zevon could have written.

Unfortunately, most people nowadays think of the 1995 film of the same name when this song is mentioned. To be fair, it wasn’t a bad film. It had some good performances, especially Treat Williams as a psychotic hit man / scat-muncher.  But it was one of the lesser Tarantino-inspired modern noirs that arose like Herpes sores in the few years after the success of “Pulp Fiction” in 1994.

Ah, but I digress. The song is one of Zevon’s best.

“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:


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

“American Boy: A Profile of Steve Prince” (1978) dir. Martin Scorsese


During Martin Scorsese’s notorious “lost weekend” period when he had a serious cocaine problem, he still managed to produce a lot of interesting films. With the exception of the big-budget musical “New York, New York,” the documentary about the Band’s last concert, “The Last Waltz,” is probably the most famous and highly regarded. However, the least known (and arguably, best) film from this period is Scorsese’s documentary “American Boy: A Profile of Steve Prince.”

Prince is probably most famous as the scary gun salesman in “Taxi Driver,” but prior to that he was Neil Diamond’s road manager (among other jobs) and was a heroin addict. During one moment in the film, Prince relates a tale about reviving a woman who overdosed with a medical dictionary, a shot of adrenaline, and a magic marker that’s … um … very similar to a scene in the Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film “Pulp Fiction.”

The film is a fascinating look at the life of someone on the edge … a life that Scorsese obviously identified with considering his drug-intake and near-death at the time. Not only did Scorsese survive (and subsequently make many classic films), but so did Prince, who was the subject of a sequel in 2009 called “American Prince” directed by Tommy Pallotta.

“Romeo’s Tune” – Steve Forbert


A splendid rock ballad from the original Jack Rabbit Slim.  Forbert may have been a one-hit wonder, but my, what a hit (it went all the way to #11 on the Billboard singles chart in 1980).  Dedicated to the memory of Florence Ballard of the Supremes, not because the lyrics have anything to do with Ballard, but as Forbert said “That seemed like such bad news to me and such sad news. She wasn’t really taken care of by the music business, which is not a new story.”  He deserved greater success than he achieved, but it was nice that Tarantino named the 50s retro club in “Pulp Fiction” after Forbert’s album “Jackrabbit Slim.”

8. “The Stunt Man” (1980) dir. Richard Rush


Number 8 on Dave’s Strange World’s list of 10 favorite films comes Richard Rush’s bats–t crazy masterpiece from 1980, “The Stunt Man.” I saw this when it was in theaters in the fall of 1980, thanks to my Dad. Back in the day, my Dad was an avid “New Yorker” reader and likely wanted to see this based on Pauline Kael’s rave review of this film. Granted, this film was grossly inappropriate for a 10-year old to see, but I respect my Dad for trusting my intelligence and good taste in letting me see this.

Like “Pulp Fiction,” this is quite possibly the perfect film: action, suspense, comedy, violence, sex, and plot twists that seriously f–k with your brain and make you question reality. It’s cerebral, but ridiculously entertaining at the lowest common denominator as well. It’s what every Hollywood film should be like, but isn’t. Richly deserving of its 3 Oscar nominations for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actor for Peter O’Toole’s turn as the Satanic director. O’Toole could have easily walked off with the Best Actor Oscar that year, had it not been for DeNiro’s turn in “Raging Bull.” (Shaking fist in the air, Stephen Colbert-style: “DENIRO!!!!!!!”)

I think this is still available on Netflix instant and if you haven’t seen it, you’re in for one of the greatest treats of your life.