Tag Archives: Pulp Fiction

Oscars vs. BBC Critics

Many serious, and even not-so-serious fans of cinema have long taken the Oscars with a grain of salt. Personally, I haven’t watched them for decades. Academy Award winners tend to be sentimental and pop culture-friendly choices. Just a couple of examples point this out; in 1989 the old-fashioned feel-good Driving Miss Daisy, about a black chauffeur who is loyal to his rich white employer, won Best Picture while Spike Lee’s hard-hitting but disturbing portrayal of race relations, Do The Right Thing was not even nominated.

Spike Lee Still Mad at 1989 Oscar Snub

Similarly, in 1995, the clever but basically insipid Forrest Gump swept all the major awards, beating out the far more groundbreaking Pulp Fiction. Another great contemporary films that were never even nominated for Best Picture was Robert Altman’s Short Cuts (1993), while another, far more simplistic and heavy-handed L.A. ensemble piece, Crash, did grab the award, in 2006.

Now, a BBC list of the 100 Greatest American Films challenges the relevance of the Oscars.

Oscar Shamed as BBC List of 100 Greatest American Films Largely Ignores Academy Awards Best Picture Winners

Personally, I like the BBC list more than most Academy Awards selections, but only up to a point. To me, for example, there is something rote and unthinking about putting Citizen Kane at the top of the list (as the BBC list does). It’s a great film, to be sure, but the almost universal assumption that it’s The. Best. Film. Ever. seems more like a shared myth than an objective fact. It’s similar in this way to the Great Books canon, where we repeat the list of the greatest authors and books so often that we no longer have to give it much thought. Obviously, every cultured person knows that the works of Homer, Shakespeare, Melville, Austen, Fitzgerald, etc. are superior to anything written in the last 50 or so years. Although this point of view is now controversial and politically incorrect, the mystique around the Great Books remains mostly intact. It’s similar with certain movies from the black and white era.

Of course, no one is going to agree with all choices made by any awards ceremony or any critics lists. In our decentralized age, such “Best of…” lists are quickly becoming obsolete. Ironically, the very ubiquity of such lists on the internet is evidence of their silliness and subjectivity; who’s to say your clickbait 10 best list of the year’s greatest films is any less valid than the Oscars or the film critics of the BBC, New York Times or Variety?

The Oscars is one of those dinosaur institutions whose relevance fades with each passing year (or, maybe more to the point, with each passing tweet). The age of renowned critics, whether the late Roger Ebert or the BBC reviewers whose opinions comprise the aforementioned list, has also passed, as today any movie fan can spout opinions on his or her fledgling blog (e.g. the one you’re reading now), on Netflix, Amazon, Rotten Tomatoes and hundreds of other places. Still, it can be interesting to use the experts’ opinions as the starting point for discussions about movies.

Guns, Girls and Gambling: Pulp Fiction Redux

Guns, Girls and Gambling (2011)
Directed by Michael Winnick

After the success of Pulp Fiction, there was a whole slew of Tarantino inspired spin-offs, similar to the endless parade of mafia flicks that followed The Godfather in the 1970s. Most of these were quite forgettable, but some were okay. While this trend faded away as even Quentin Tarantino moved in other directions, it’s back with a vengeance in Guns, Girls and Gambling.

From the opening sequence to the complex shifts in time, this film tries its best, with modest success, to be a present day Pulp Fiction. Even the cast, which includes Christian Slater and Gary Oldman is reminiscent of early Tarantino (both were in True Romance which QT wrote but did not direct).

The film also borrows from another 90s Tarantinoesque film, The Usual Suspects, most famous for its line, “Who is Keyser Soze?” One of the characters in Guns, Girls and Gambling turns out to be a similar mastermind of a whole string of unlikely events.

A movie that is derivative in so many ways is not destined for greatness, but Guns, Girls and Gambling still manages to be mostly entertaining. At least it doesn’t take itself at all seriously. I enjoyed it despite recognizing all the gimmicks that were unfolding scene after scene.

The plot is way too complex to summarize coherently, but it’s basically about a group of Elvis impersonators who compete (often violently) to find a Native American mask that was stolen from a casino. Christian Slater plays a man known as John Smith who gets beaten up in practically every scene.

The movie introduces so many freaky characters that it’s almost a parody of a Tarantino film. Considering that Tarantino’s work itself is blatantly derivative, by the time you start parodying him you’re on rather thin ice creatively speaking. It’s kind of like a painter copying Andy Warhol.

The most absurd character is probably a tall blond assassin who looks like a model. She walks around wearing two holstered guns and quotes Edgar Allen Poe before blowing her victims away. Remember the Daryl Hannah character in Kill Bill?

If you’re bored and a fan of Tarantino circa 1990s, you will probably enjoy Guns, Girls and Gambling despite your better judgement. Unlike Pulp Fiction, however, which fans can watch over and over again, watching this one more than once would be rather tedious.

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