“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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“Out of Sight” (1998) dir. Steve Soderbergh

A lot of people consider director Steve Soderbergh’s comeback to be the double-punch of “Erin Brockovich” and “Traffic” in 2000.  I would argue his real comeback came with 1998’s “Out of Sight,” one of the best films of the 1990s and one of the best crime + comedy films ever made.

Based on Elmore Leonard’s stellar novel, Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Frank took Tarantino’s corrosive and winning mix of black comedy and violence and finessed it into a fine jewel of a film.  Probably the most ingenious thing Frank and Soderbergh did was take Leonard’s extremely tense and grim finale and turn it into high comedy, while not changing a single event from the original narrative.  Seriously, this is pure genius, considering how grim Leondard’s original finale was.  George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez have never been better.  Don Cheadle, Albert Brooks, Luiz Guzman, Ving Rhames, Steve Zahn, Dennis Farina, and Michael Keaton all provide fantastic supporting performances.

If you’re in a rotten mood, please do yourself a favor and see “Out of Sight.”  There’s a good reason the National Society of Film Critics (America’s most prestigious critics awards) voted this Best Picture of 1998 (over “Saving Private Ryan” and “Shakespeare in Love”).   It’s seriously that f–king good!!