by Istvan Kolnhofer
What else can be written about James Foley’s adaptation of David Mamet’s Pulitzer prize winning play other than devastatingly scorching.
Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Alan Arkin, and Jonathan Pryce: perhaps the greatest acting ensemble ever put before a camera, collectively portray employees of a real estate agency- the sales department. Some of the greatest characters written in the 20th century cinema. Lemmon, ‘the machine’ Levene, is the old hero, now on a steady and sharp decline. Revered by others. Pacino,Ricky Roma the hot shot. He keeps an arm’s length from everyone. Alan Arkin, George, is simply the loser. Never was hot, never will be – totally hopeless. Ed Harris is Dave Moss, a fighter, kinda like DeNiro in Raging Bull. Not hot, willing to do anything to reach the top. Like a rabid pitbull. Frustrated and at the boiling point. Kevin Spacey, Williamson, is the manager. A puppet of the owners, a real pencil pusher. But at least he doesn’t live off of door-to-door sales. Alec Baldwin, in his greatest performance of his career, only taking up a mere 10 mins of screen time, tears the screen to shreds and burns the film up with one of the most incendiary, provocative, foul-mouthed, scene-chomping speeches ever. I was 17 when I saw this in the theatre and Alec Baldwin blew my mind with that scene. In college we used to watch this film over and over and rewind the speech 10 times over. We knew every line, every gesture. Jack Lemmon’s face when Baldwin yells "Put that coffee down! Coffee’s for closers". Or "You see this watch? this watch costs more than your car".We would kill ourselves laughing, that’s how much we loved it.
It’s well known that all of Tarantino’s films take place in the same universe – this is established by the fact that Mr. Blonde and Vince Vega are brothers, everybody smokes Red Apple cigarettes, Mr. White worked with Alabama from True Romance, etc.
As it turns out, Donny Donowitz, ‘The Bear Jew’, is the father of movie producer Lee Donowitz from True Romance – which means that, in Tarantino’s universe, everybody grew up learning about how a bunch of commando Jews machine gunned Hitler to death in a burning movie theater, as opposed to quietly killing himself in a bunker.
Because World War 2 ended in a movie theater, everybody lends greater significance to pop culture, hence why seemingly everybody has Abed-level knowledge of movies and TV. Likewise, because America won World War 2 in one concentrated act of hyperviolent slaughter, Americans as a whole are more desensitized to that sort of thing. Hence why Butch is unfazed by killing two people, Mr. White and Mr. Pink take a pragmatic approach to killing in their line of work, Esmerelda the cab driver is obsessed with death, etc.
You can extrapolate this further when you realize that Tarantino’s movies are technically two universes – he’s gone on record as saying that Kill Bill and From Dusk ‘Til Dawn take place in a ‘movie movie universe’; that is, they’re movies that characters from the Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, and Death Proof universe would go to see in theaters. (Kill Bill, after all, is basically Fox Force Five, right on down to Mia Wallace playing the title role.)
What immediately springs to mind about Kill Bill and From Dusk ‘Til Dawn? That they’re crazy violent, even by Tarantino standards. These are the movies produced in a world where America’s crowning victory was locking a bunch of people in a movie theater and blowing it to bits – and keep in mind, Lee Donowitz, son of one of the people on the suicide mission to kill Hitler, is a very successful movie producer.
Basically, it turns every Tarantino movie into alternate reality sci fi. I love it so hard.
EDIT: Oh hai upvotes. Glad everybody liked this as much as I did! Let me address some things:
1) I don’t think the same actors necessarily correlate to the same characters – the bit about Mia Wallace in Kill Bill seemed like just an interesting detail or maybe an exception rather than the rule. Mr. White and The Wolf are two different people. That said, I remember Tarantino mentioning that Sheriff McGraw and The Wolf are the only characters that can jump between the regular movie and the movie movie universe. Proof.
2) I’m not implying that nuking scores of innocent people is less violent than anything else – I just think it would have a different effect on the American psyche. Growing up knowing our home country vaporized two whole cities has influenced our culture in its own ways; I feel like the movie theater plot would do the same. Also, since this is primarily a fan theory, I don’t think the psychology of it needs to be 100% irrefutable and airtight.
3) Yes, I initially saw this on Cracked and then extrapolated on it. Since it was a fan theory and it blew my mind, I posted it here.
So I just finished watching Raging Bull last night and noticed an awesome scene in there with Joe Pesci RAGING it up and kicking some dude’s ass majorly and that seems to be a common theme in all the Joe Pesci movies I watch. So I decided to compile a nice video gallery of awesome moments in movies when Joe Pesci channels his inner pitbull and unleashes a fury of rage and anger on some poor bastard. Enjoy.
Definitely worth seeing just for the twisted and perverted ending but Oldboy is the story of Oh Dae-Su, who is locked in a hotel room for 15 years without knowing his captor’s motives. When he is finally released, Dae-su finds himself still trapped in a web of conspiracy and violence. His own quest for vengeance becomes tied in with romance when he falls for an attractive sushi chef.