100 Movie Challenge: #94 Pulp Fiction

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Pulp Fiction 1994
Pulp Fiction 1994

It’s just a great movie. Anyone who’s been within earshot of a film school student knows it. Quentin Tarantino‘s 1994 crime drama, Pulp Fiction, has emerged as the quintessential example of what is now referred to as a “cult classic.” Although, by now Pulp Fiction has grown so popular that it is less of a cult and more of a major religion. It simply has everything: great performances, auteur directing style, an innovative temporal structure, and some of the greatest dialogue ever put on screen. Though Pulp Fiction is frequently viewed a somewhat progressive / experimental film, by classical critical standards it still holds up.

Prototypically postmodern, Pulp Fiction follows the stories of several Los Angeles mobsters and the people they encounter. The film’s nonlinear structure spends time focusing on several different characters, eventually revealing how all of their storylines intertwine in the end. The structure was uniquely inventive, especially for the time, and has since inspired hundreds of other filmmakers to tell their stories in an anti-linear fashion.

Don't Worry, John Travolta Dances
Don’t Worry, Travolta Dances

The performances are equally compelling. Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Travolta (20 years before Adele Dazeem) each received Oscar bids; not to mention a slew of equally engaging supporting performances from Bruce Willis, Harvey Keitel, and Christopher Walken, among others. The actors are aided by Tarantino’s phenomenally nonchalant dialogue and his mastery of character chemistry. Throw in a gimp and a Royale with Cheese and you’ve got a recipe for neo-noir glory.

Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield and John Travolta as Vincent Vega
Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield and John Travolta as Vincent Vega

If you search hard enough, you’ll find some uppity film snob who thinks Pulp Fiction is wildly overrated, or they’ll insist it is not even close to Tarantino’s best work. They’re out there. But from this critic, Pulp Fiction is a well earned A. Like some of the others we’ve watched up to now, it’s one of those that the modern film-goer simply has to know in order to engage in an intelligent conversation about film. So if you haven’t seen it, go watch it!

Take a bit to unwind, then get ready to watch #93 The French Connection.

What about you? What do you cherish most about Pulp Fiction? Or are you one of those who scoffs at its critical success? Let us know!

To see the rest of the list click here.

Richard Mattox

Richard Mattox is the head editor of Smash Cut Culture and a 2013 alumnus of the Taliesin Nexus Filmmakers Workshop and Internship program. Currently pursuing a Masters in Professional Writing (screenwriting emphasis) from USC, Mattox is an avid film-junkie, a singer-songwriter, and a die-hard Baltimore Orioles fan.

  • Andrew Leigh

    You say Pulp Fiction “simply has everything.” While I agree that it is a lot of fun to watch, it does lack one thing — a point. It’s all flash, no substance, the equivalent of an extra-large serving of cotton candy (or whatever empty-calories treat you prefer). It may give you a temporary rush of pleasure, but you kind of feel “blah” afterward.

    I’m not arguing that every movie has to have some deep philosophical or moral meaning. But the absence of any meaning prevents a very good movie from being truly great.

    Speaking of which — what happened to your ranking of these films on liberty?

    • Richard Mattox

      Andrew,

      A great point. I definitely agree that while Pulp Fiction contains all the formal elements, it does lack a certain message that causes the audience to change or think. Your argument seems to call for an adjustment of the score, and I certainly would be understanding of that. However, I simply can’t get around how much I enjoyed the film, depite its apparent pointlessness.

      The Liberty rating is something I am continuing to use on most of these films. However, for the reasons you just mentioned, there are certain films that are difficult to rank due to their lack of commentary on the matter. As you said, Pulp Fiction seems to lack commentary on anything, let alone Liberty. But this is an area of critique I will continue to use on most of the films we watch.

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