Friday, January 16, 2004

At least they're not taking up PVR space

There are certain movies I'm drawn to like a 22-year-old wanna-be-hippie college student to a Howard Dean Meet-Up. No matter how many times I've seen them, they suck me in whenever they come on HBO (or Cinemax or that one TMC channel we get).

And two of them were on tonight. One's a vastly under-rated film and one's an appropriately highly-rated masterpiece.

Under-rated: The Hudsucker Proxy. It was the Coen Brothers' 5th film and didn't make much of a splash in theaters. In the wake of Fargo and O' Brother, it's gotten a bit more attention, but it's still regarded as a lightweight film, seen by many critics as a simplistic story wrapped in a stylish package.

But it's the style that makes Hudsucker rock. No movie has done such a great job of capturing and mocking the big-company environment of the 1950s. Ignore the story if it seems simple. Dismiss Jennifer Jason Leigh's dead-on "fast-talking career gal" character as over the top. Even if you do that, scenes like the "they'll dock 'ya!" mailroom initiation and employment-office listing board, the montage of wheels in motion creating the Dingus and the fantastic 50s sets make it a genius film.

"You know ... for kids!"

Appropriately highly-rated: Pulp Fiction. OK, so chalk me up at the 105,372,387th person to hail Quentin's master work. But 10 years after its release, it still stands up as a great American movie. And 10 years after its release, it also stands as the best Quentin's shown he can do. If it was his peak, that's a pretty good way to top out.

There's a lot to praise about Pulp. The characters, the dialogue, the time-shifting, etc. But the most brilliant thing about the film to me is a simple but amazingly gutsy call by Quentin:

He made Travolta dance.

Nevermind that he alone is responsible for reviving the man's career. Tarantino did what a smart, brave director should do when you get John Travolta out of storage - make him dance. Problem is, if you make Travolta dance, and the scene doesn't work, you look like an idiot for trying. But Tarantino took a risk in casting Travolta, and he wasn't afraid to throw him up at Jackrabbit Slim's and make him do the twist. To me, that's brilliant.

So now it's 12:30 and I'm still up, watching Pulp Fiction and writing this. Butch is about to find out Fabienne forgot his watch.

Of course, I know what's going to happen, but I can't stop watching.


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