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Watch It! - JediCole Presents His Mixed Bag...With a Topical Selection

JediCole here. Back again for my third installment of Watch It! This outing I had planned a bit of a mixed bag that featured three favorites with no real connection between them. Though as it worked out, one of them was well timed. I had outlined the first ten articles for this series and this one corresponded well with the latest episode of the USG.

Pulp Fiction
Could it be that Pulp Fiction was Quentin Tarantino's greatest work? If pressed I would have to say yes. I loved Kill Bill Part 1, but have so many issues with Part 2 that I am forced to take the first half out of the best film running. So there you have it! Pulp Fiction is best. But why?

When I saw Pulp Fiction for the first time it was like nothing I had ever seen. I really had no preconceived notions about the movie, I had only heard it was one I must see. The non-linear approach to telling the story really appealed to me. I like that Tarantino did not feel obliged to explain what was going on. Each story has its own merit no matter what order they are told in so it is left to the viewer to piece things together afterwards. This is what I call “a thinking man’s movie”. Far too many films spoon-feed their plots to the audience and aim squarely for the lowest common denominator. Thankfully Pulp Fiction aims a lot higher! Yet it is still approachable by the aforementioned crowd. Given its popularity it has to have been.

But it is not solely the plot that provides the inherent charm of this film. It is the diverse and richly developed cast of characters as well. It would seem impossible to make hired assassins into sympathetic characters but this is done masterfully with Jules Winfield and the incomparable Vincent Vega. You actually like these guys, their profession not withstanding. It is that aspect of the characters that makes their misadventures all the more enjoyable. They are essentially gangsters but they have so many little problems along the way that you can’t help but feel you have been there yourself, in much different way, when you have “one of those days”.

John Travolta truly shines as Vega and Samuel L. Jackson could not have been more bad-ass, yet at once personable as Jules. Add to the mix Uma Thurman’s understated performance as Mia Wallace, Ving Rhames’ quiet menace as Marsellus Wallace, and Bruce Willis as Butch Coolidge, the aging boxer, and you have all of the ingredients for a smashing film! The way the storylines of these various characters intersect and at times collide is nothing short of brilliant. And while many aspects of the story require considerable suspension of disbelief, certain aspects of the movie allow this to occur almost without notice. The title alone gives some clue as to the unreality of the story and this is underscored by the pacing of some of the scenes and the deliberately poor process filmmaking technique in the cab scene. Even old James Bond movies have more believable backgrounds during driving scenes! But that is the point and that is why the movie, on a whole, works so well!

And lest I forget...I must applaud the breakaway character in a movie filled to brimming with breakaway characters! None other than the man himself, Winston Wolf! "The Wolf" is by far the most incredible character in Pulp Fiction and is portrayed with perfection by Harvey Keitel. From the moment he arrives on screen to his departure outside of Monster Joe's Truck & Tow he chews up the scenery without that ever being a nuisance. That my friends is a memorable character. And while making this little side trip I must pay tribute to Christopher Walkin in his small but pivotal role in The Gold Watch segment of the film. Wow! The moment he appeared I was already starting to laugh. I just knew this was going to be gold. And Walkin delivered!

I give Pulp Fiction a score of five Big Kahuna Burgers (or five Royale with Cheese for our readers in Europe). That is one tasty burger!

Reversal of Fortune
I do enjoy a good dramatic film from time to time but rarely do I seek to own them and watch them again and again. This is certainly high in the realm of exceptions to the rule. Though I recall seeing some of the news about the case upon which this film was based back when it all unfolded, the only thing I really recall about that period is the David Letterman staging of von Bulow's reaction to his acquittal. It was Mrs. JediCole who introduced me to this movie and as a result it managed to become one of the Top 100 because it is simply that good.

Is it solely Jeremy Irons' impeccable performance in the role of the aristocratic and seemingly egotistical von Bulow that sells the film? It is certainly one of the strongest arguments for this recommendation to be sure. But Irons alone does not make the movie. It is a combination of his portrayal along with that of the late Ron Silver's personable and often dynamic presence in the role of Professor Alan Dershowitz that mesh perfectly into a true-crime drama that in the end simply sells itself. It would be a simple task to leave the audience disinterested in the drawn out process of building a legal defense were it not for the careful orchestration of the plot. Told through a series of flashbacks narrated by von Bulow, the complex circumstances leading to the murder conviction appeal is laid out in an engaging fashion. Like many of those directly involved in the case you cannot help but be baffled at the rarefied atmosphere in which the rich engage in their daily lives. A struggle of reconciliation that threatens the very fabric of von Bulow's defense.

While aloof and often dismissive, von Bulow manages to become a sympathetic character as the film progresses. And a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the American legal system illustrates the importance of this case in judicial history. Compelling questions are raised by the nature of the original methods used to bring von Bulow to justice while also illustrating the positive and negative aspects of our legal system. All of this might sound on the surface quite droll, but a well crafted script, a stellar cast, and an ideal pace keep combine to make this a worthwhile choice when you want something on the serious side for your viewing pleasure.

Free Enterprise

Yes, I do realize Ihave recently said quite a bit about this movie. But in fact I think I only just got started. We covered a lot of ground on the last episode and Free Enterprise was just one portion. So to give this movie its due I will explore more reasons you really need to "watch it".

First it is a geek's geek movie. Simply put it speaks our language. The language of referential metaphor. It is quite easy to lose track of the sheer volume of movie, television, comic book, and other pop-culture references that flow through this film from beginning to end. And if you happen to partake of the more recently released anniversary edition you will be treated to a few more, not the least of which is the added opening title crawl. Hmmmm...what could that be referencing? Fans of classic Star Trek will feel especially at home as the bulk of the references, direct or indirect, are culled from that series' long history. But there truly is a little something for everyone. DC Comics, Star Wars, Logan's Run, and even The Brady Bunch are fair game when it comes to dropping quotes or references.

Secondly, this is the film that not only talks the talk but also speaks to us as geeks. You will see not only yourself in the characters but practically everyone you know. The circle of friends brought to bear in this movie are a collection of, to coin a phrase, everygeeks. From the casual fan to the obsessive self-styled expert, from those who have a poster or an action figure on their desk at work to those who, like myself, have shelves buckling under the weight of the collectibles that surround our living spaces, you will find us all somewhere in the film. There are those who share our passion and those who love us even though they may not fully understand us. And there are those who are just along for the ride. Every aspect of fandom and geekdom and everything that goes along with it can be found somewhere in Free Enterprise. The group of friends making Toys 'R' Us the first stop on their outing together spoke to me quite personally.

And most importantly there is...THE SHAT! William Shatner truly makes this movie! It would be fun and quirky and certainly a geekfest without his presence, but it would also not be half the movie it is in the end. In fact it is revealed in the commentary of the DVD that Shatner's role was originally slated to be more of a cameo than a supporting gig. But he reportedly embraced the possibilities and the role grew and with it the potential of the movie itself. From the moment he first appears on screen to the bizarre musical number that brings the plot to its conclusion he dominates his every scene in the role he was born to play. That of William Shatner! Yes, he plays himself. And in the most self-deprecating, and ultimately hilarious, way possible. At times an idiot, at times an ego maniacal ass, Shatner presents a picture of Shatner that you can't help but love. He surrenders himself to the ridiculous and though the role is an exaggeration and likely the furthest from his true nature, it is at once a kind of fanciful picture of the man one can't help but wonder if it might be tempered by a touch of reality. For Shatner alone I would recommend this movie were it not for the fact that it has so very much more going for it in addition to his indomitable presence!


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