#95 – The Last Picture Show…Thank God; Also, #94 – Pulp Fiction

So, you’re back at this, huh Colleen? After your well-deserved vacation from nothing, you’ve come back to the project you claimed excitement about not two weeks ago?

Well, yes.

I took a break from the writing when the family came into town (what a blast), and then, miracle of miracles, I’ve been working! That’s right, working temporarily at home doing testbook editing. The glamor and excitement of doing paid work coupled with an attempt to keep job searching with the same vigor has thrown me off a bit, but don’t you worry, I haven’t forgotten.

To tell you the truth, I watched these movies about a week ago with my good buddies Michele and brother John. We began with The Last Picture Show, a 1971 classic starring Jeff Bridges and Cybill Sheppard in a poignant, bittersweet drama about small town America. It has numerous accolades and overwhelming acclaim from critics. Here are a few things those critics had to say on Rotten Tomatoes where it scored a 100 percent rating:

“A lot of films bill themselves as ‘Classics’, but here’s one that actually deserves the title. As entertaining today as it was in 1971.”

“Moving, understated, beautifully filmed story with memorable acting by all.”

“Bogdanovich’s perfect recreation of the sense of time and place, and his ability to mix wit with poignancy that make this such a charming, timeless film.”

“One of the all-time great coming-of-age movies.”

And here’s a sum-up of the reaction from our three-person audience courtesy of my brother John immediately following the viewing:

“That was the worst goddamn movie I’ve ever seen.”

Where’s the disconnect?

It’s something I feared most about this list – some of the most critically-acclaimed “good” movies can be incredibly painful to sit through. This movie was interesting, reflective of American society in the 50’s, tearing at the fabric of southern culture, and blah blah blah. It’s a two hour (seems like three) movie where three unlikable characters get together and nothing happens (what film-makers/writers call “slice-of-life”).

The movie begins with an unnecessarily extended opening of a bleak, dusty town (shot in black and white just in case the bleakness wasn’t obvious enough). Oil rigs, dusty roads, country music, child labor – we get it already, it’s 1950’s Texas.  The heavy accents take some getting used to, as does watching a young Jeff Bridges (what is “the Dude” doing in a Texas high school?). The main characters include Sonny, his buddy Duane (Bridges) and the rich, pretty girl Jacy (Sheppard). Without much of a story, the movie slowly unveils how the town is dying economically and culturally. The picture show, the last thing to do in town, closes at the end of the film (get it? It’s a metaphor!), and they all go about their lives in uninteresting and unsurprising ways.

I have so many more complaints, but I’ll keep it brief. The main character, Sonny, is a completely bland character who doesn’t seem to care about anything, just passively stands by as things happen (or don’t happen) around him. Cybill Sheppard’s character makes no sense unless the movie was trying to show that all pretty women are callous and manipulative for no reason. There are many explicit sex scenes, but they are all so painfully awkward you could never say they were anything close to pornographic.

In the end, I did think the narrative was interesting. The decade where small town life was supposed to be idyllic was when many small towns, especially in the South, were no longer sustainable. But the movie fails because it seems to bring a novel to life when it should have stayed in print. It probably would be a good book, but in movie form, it’s just painfully, painfully dull.

My recommendation? Just don’t watch it. You have better things to do.

After that snooze-fest, we needed a breather. Thank God for the next movie on the list – every dorm room’s go-to movie poster – Pulp Fiction.

I’m sure most people reading this have seen the movie, or at least know of many of the iconic scenes. Perhaps my favorite line about this movie ever: “I saw it on a plane once, it’s cute. It’s a thirty minute film about a group of friends who like cheeseburgers, dancing and the bible.”

Here’s my quandary – why do I like this film so much? Why is such an inappropriate film so delightful?

Like the above film, it’s not about much at all. Gore and advant-garde film-making aren’t my favorite things in the world. Yet when I watch this movie, I find myself not just liking it, but downright enjoying it.  There are a few things I can pinpoint:

1. Stellar pacing. I like a movie that gets where it’s going and keeps it interesting.

2. The characters. Even though the characters are gangsters/cheats/drug addicts, they are strangely likable.

3. The look. Highly stylized without losing substance.

4. The writing. This is what really brings it all together. Mixing humor and gratuitous violence in a nonlinear story is somehow pulled off with memorable lines that make the film obnoxiously iconic. It makes sense that the film was nominated for seven oscars and only won one – Best Original Screenplay.

Really? This guy?

Anything I didn’t like? Definitely, but it may just come down to personal taste. Like all of Tarantino’s movies, there were moments where it seemed he was just shocking and perverse just to make sure we know it’s edgy. Blowing someone’s brains all over the backseat of the car? Well, maybe it was important to a quirky escapade… but anal rape? Crucial to the movie? Not my cup of tea, but perhaps I’m not the edgiest person.

Although I always enjoy Tarantino’s cameos. It’s funny watching a movie with dialog for gangster’s and drug dealers, riddled with the n-word and the like, and then comes a scene starring the film’s writer. To me, he always looks more like the office IT manager or the dorky dad who thinks he can dance, not the boundary-pushing director/screenwriter who teaches me the importance of not mixing up cocaine and heroine and writes lines like, “Any of you f**king pricks move, and I’ll execute every motherf**king last one of ya!”

My only real confusion about why I like this movie is my basic reaction to it. When the credits roll, I’m not thinking about how clever the writing is or how innovative the director is. I truly think it’s a fun film to watch. It’s funny and engrossing, even cute at times, which is really strange given the subject matter. Does that make it a good movie, or does it make me a strange individual?

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1 Comment

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One response to “#95 – The Last Picture Show…Thank God; Also, #94 – Pulp Fiction

  1. JFlaherty

    Never you mind honey….never you mind

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