Day 360: Pulp Fiction/The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

#375/ 365 – ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994) – 154 mins
IMDb Challenge #246 / 250 – Ranked #5 – DVD Collection

The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster’s wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.

In 1992 with his debut directorial feature ‘Reservoir Dogs’, Quentin Tarantino shook the world of cinema by doing something completely different in style and substance to give the crime drama genre a complete rebirth. But the problem that arises with setting the bar to this new standard, is that the expectations for your follow-up feature are incredibly high and sometimes unrealistically so. However, Tarantino hasn’t needed to worry because in 1994 he turned the genre on its head again when he presented to the world the explosive ‘Pulp Fiction’. Which still continues to this day to have a profound effect on pop culture and independent filmmaking – it is doubtful that there has been a more influential film within the last decade.

With three interconnecting stories, “Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace’s Wife”, “The Gold Watch” and “The Bonnie Situation” that take place in modern-day Los Angeles, the film is one hell of a wild ride. As in Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino shows he has a unique talent for writing stylish, snappy and poetic dialogue and here his dialogue sparkles even more. The riveting conversations between Vincent (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) are pure cinematic gold and ripple with humor as they cover Hamburgers in Europe, a gold watch, foot massages and to what constitutes a miracle.

Another trick Tarantino does is to masterfully blend music into proceedings. From its classic R&B hits to instrumentals, the soundtrack acts as another character to convey mood.

The ensemble cast performances are incredible. Both John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson are mesmerizing in their hit men roles. Bruce Willis as the over-the-hill boxer Butch is also terrific. Christopher Walken is flawless in delivering the famous gold watch monologue.

Even though Tarantino deservedly won the Best Screenplay Oscar, it still bewilders me to this day how Robert Zemeckis movie triumphed over Pulp Fiction in the Best Picture category, a criminal injustice by the Academy. Tarantino’s defining nineties crime masterpiece is one of near perfection – it just doesn’t get any better than this.

#376/ 365 – ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ (1966) – 161 mins
IMDb Challenge #247 / 250 – Ranked #4 – DVD Collection

The Good is Blondie (Clint Eastwood), a wandering gunman with a strong personal sense of honor. The Bad is Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef), a sadistic hitman who always hits his mark. The Ugly is Tuco (Eli Wallach), a Mexican bandit who’s always only looking out for himself. Against the backdrop of the Civil War, they search for a fortune in gold buried in a graveyard. Each knows only a portion of the gold’s exact location, so for the moment they are dependent on each other. However, none of them are particularly inclined to share.

The third and most famous in Sergio Leone’s the “Man With No Name” dollars trilogy, unlike its predecessors, ‘A Fistful of Dollars (1964)’ and ‘For a Few Dollars More (1965)’, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is a grander epic of a Spaghetti Western, and by far the most effective of the three. Much of this is down to Leone’s brilliant directing style which is dramatic, powerful and well delivered in creating a suspense filled atmosphere. The plot is surprisingly compelling considering that it is somewhat on the slim side.

Opening with a whirling scene of a man trying to escape from a gun battle, the film is full of more of the same throughout, right through to its climatic blistering, eye piercing and suspense filled standoff between Blondie, Angel Eyes and Tuco. Other achievements included in the film that make it a fantastic watch are the cinematography and the production design. With its sweeping desert vistas and big and bright blue skies, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is a sublime delight to the eye.

I can’t go by without putting a spotlight on Ennio Morricone’s iconic score that haunts the film, it is a seminal piece of work and depending on your preference you’ll find yourself whistling or humming it throughout.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is truly a great western, maybe even the greatest. See it today.

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