Tag Archives: quentin tarantino

Didn’t She (Blow Your Mind This Time)

As soon as I learned that the subject of this week’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot” was Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown (1997), a thought struck me: “I’m probably going to choose an image of Pam Grier being a badass.” And here we are! The above is part of a rat-a-tat-tat shot sequence, timed down to the millisecond courtesy of Tarantino’s late editor Sally Menke. Jackie scans a list of tenants and dials the number for Bridget Fonda’s Melanie, whose voice snaps out of the intercom: “What?” Jackie retorts with her own name, as if reciting a password. That sharp delivery, the way she sidles up to the intercom during this roughly two-second shot… it’s become cliché to call Tarantino’s characters “cool,” but I don’t know another word that would fit her so well.

That coolness has a special power here, too, because Jackie Brown is by far the lowest-key of Tarantino’s movies. Although he’d already aestheticized the bullshit small talk of L.A.-area criminals in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, here that inclination toward the mundane is pushed even farther. Stylized dialogue and genre movie homage—the latter represented mostly by Grier’s mere presence—take a backseat to scenes of Jackie and bail bondsman Max Cherry doing business, killing time, and awkwardly getting to know one another. This is a very autumnal story, one that’s frank as can be about the ages of its stars, so moments of intense cool like this take on a new significance.

In light of the weariness that pervades Grier’s performance, right up through that heartbreaking lip-sync to “Across 110th Street” in the final scene, shots like this come to feel like anything but movie star posturing. This is Pam Grier: genuine badass. Her image is burnt into the composition, with her matching red nails and dress balanced against the muddy blue of the intercom. The shades suggest glamour, mystery, while the glint of her gold earring and the hair flowing out toward the edge of the frame put me in mind of classical sculpture. Jackie Brown may break down the iconography of Grier’s 1970s performances, but as she leans against that intercom you can see it rising stronger than ever before, phoenix-style, from the ashes.

1 Comment

Filed under Cinema

Here Comes the Bride

I wrote about the Kill Bill movies for Press Play. I also noticed a couple of Easter eggs in them. First is the reference to Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (left) at the end of Volume 2 (right) as the Bride and B.B. curl up in bed, bathed in red light… not unlike Michel Piccoli and Brigitte Bardot, the latter of whom is another B.B.

The second is the repeated references to cereal across both Kill Bills: Vernita’s box of Kaboom, the Lucky Charms in the motel room at the end, and of course the “Silly rabbit… Trix are for… kids” line during O-Ren’s battle with the Bride. This motif calls childhood to my mind. It’s that act of sitting in front of the TV on a Saturday morning, bowl of sugary cereal in your lap, having your mind shaped by whatever trashy movie happens to be on.

Distant memories, immaturity, channel surfing. Yeah, that sounds like the whole Kill Bill saga in a nutshell.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cinema

Link Dump: #87

This week’s kitty is from the prestige drama Notes on a Scandal, which has some terrific work by Judi Dench (and her poor sick kitty) but left a bad taste in my mouth with its aggressive homophobia. Anyway, kitty. And now links:

Two weird, bestiality-themed search terms this week: first the relatively prosaic “beautiful boy fuck sheep” and then the “Whaaaat?”-inducing “pussy girls fucking horse monkey zebra camel etc.” Whaaaat? indeed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cinema

Link Dump: #83

Japanese staring-you-in-the-eyes KITTY!

We’re baaaack! After a November hiatus, new content is finally returning to Pussy Goes Grrr. More to come over the next few weeks, too, as we wrap up 2012 and see what the new year has in store. In the meantime, we have a kitty for you—this week’s ominous feline comes from Kaneto Shindo’s spooooky ghost story Kuroneko, which literally translates into Black Cat—and some links!

Finally, some recent/disturbing search terms: “convinced sister to have sex with me,” “constantly worrying if baby is alive,” and “ten men dum in one pussy.” On the more amusing side, “lustoffuck.” Which, I guess, is “lust of fuck” condensed into a single word?

Leave a comment

Filed under Cinema, Literature, Media, Sexuality

Horror is everywhere (4)

Over the past couple years, I’ve written repeatedly about how “horror is everywhere”: how horror iconography slips across genre boundaries, turning up in surprising places; how savvy filmmakers employ traditional horror imagery—vampires, witches, ghosts, etc.—even in “straight” dramas, often to shocking effect. So now here are five more films, all plucked from the TSPDT “1,000 Greatest Films” list, and their scariest moments…

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

I’m certainly not the first to point out that Frank Capra’s “beloved Christmas classic” is also one of the darkest films to emerge from 1940s Hollywood, tearing as it does into American ideals like family and the free market with severe emotional precision. But the darkness extends beyond the film’s sociopolitical implications: when Clarence lets George experience the world if he had never been born, it’s visually coded as an actual horror movie—an anti-ghost story, if you will. George investigates his and Mary’s would-be house, but nobody lives there; in this reality, it’s an unlit, decrepit building with graffiti and broken windows. And it’s haunted, sure enough, by George and his now-false memories of his wife and children. Capra uses cobwebs and shadows right out of Gothic horror to give George the ultimate “Be careful what you wish for.”

Easy Rider (1969)

Long before he became an avatar of cackling grotesquerie in The Shining and Batman, Jack Nicholson was on the other side of horror, as a victim of redneck violence in Dennis Hopper’s hippie picaresque. Although smoking pot and riding motorcycles may sound like fun, a cloud of southern “good ol’ boy” bigotry hangs over the film. When free spirits Billy (Hopper), Wyatt (Peter Fonda), and George (Nicholson) stop off for lunch in a small Louisiana town, their mildly rebellious looks and behavior stir up rage and jealousy in the local men, leading to a late-night ambush on the hippies’ campsite and George’s death by beating. This bloody turn of events directly anticipates a whole wave of horror movies (DeliveranceThe Hills Have Eyes, Pumpkinhead) wherein rural folk assault unwanted outsiders. (See “Getting Even,” the third chapter of Carol Clover’s Men, Women, and Chain Saws for more on this “city vs. country” strain of horror.)

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Really, what isn’t scary in Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian classic? In its futuristic England, no amount of locked doors can keep out psychopathic thugs, whose ranks include the protagonist, Alex. The film follows two different home invasion subplots, one of which segues into a rape-revenge narrative, while the other ends abruptly when Alex cracks the homeowner’s skull with a penis statue. The only reasons, I’d say, that A Clockwork Orange isn’t categorized as pure horror are 1) because of its sci-fi setting and 2) because it’s from the POV of the monster. And what a monster! Malcolm McDowell’s performance stretches the definition of “human” as he gibbers, lies, and beats his way through adolescence. Just listen to his low, chuckling delivery of the closing line, “I was cured all right.” Absolutely spine-chilling.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Watch the last 10-15 minutes of Coppola’s war epic without sound or context. Then tell me it doesn’t look like the kinkiest, most homoerotic art-horror movie ever made. A soldier, wearing little more than sweat, fog, and shadow, breaks into a temple and—symbolically cross-cut with the ritual slaughter of a water buffalo—stabs an older man to death. By now, they’re both possessed by “the jungle” (i.e. by the film’s still-colonialist conception of the Southeast Asian wilderness) and far from the pseudo-civilization of the American military. That soldier, Martin Sheen’s Willard, has refashioned himself as something more like the primordial Creature from the Black Lagoon than a war hero. And the coup de grâce he delivers is edited to feel more like an orgasm than an assassination. “The horror, the horror,” indeed.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Quentin Tarantino routinely makes visual nods to obscure horror movies—see the references to Dario Argento and Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell in the first Kill Bill, for example—but when Pulp Fiction‘s “Gold Watch” chapter (my favorite of the bunch) descends into Maynard’s basement, its horror is more than just an allusion. It becomes a short, sharp recapitulation of that same “city vs. country” horror found in Easy Rider (or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), as a pair of Angelenos are bound and gagged by a coven of pro-Confederate hick rapists. Butch and Marsellus get their grisly revenge, of course, but they can’t unsee what they’ve seen: that L.A.’s horrors go so much deeper than the criminal underworld they’re used to.

This lesson applies equally well to moviegoers, too: you may think you know what genre you’re in, but horror could be lurking just around the corner.

3 Comments

Filed under Cinema