Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Half a million dollars will always be missed

The topic of Jackie Brown was recently brought up in a conversation I had with Nick. With his praising of the film after a recent viewing (on pan-and-scan VHS, no less), I got to thinking about filmmakers' careers. Moreover, the film that follows the career-making film and seems destined to disappoint and be tossed aside by fans and critics. This is beyond the simple premise of "the sophomore slump" as I've seen it with third, forth and fifth films. I'm simply trying to understand how the playing field can get manipulated and overshadow any follow-up, whether the film is good or bad.

Jackie Brown followed Pulp Fiction, the movie that -- in case you forgot -- elevated Quentin Tarantino from ace indie movie writer/director to the pop culture stratosphere. Releasing Jackie Brown in '97 after the Pulp Fiction buzz died down, the movie seemed to be quickly tossed aside by the public at large. It seemed as though the mass audience had written Tarantino off until '03's Kill Bill Vol. 1 arrived in theaters.

I've never seen Jackie Brown, but I do distinctly remember people close to me enjoying it when it first came out. Be it my Best Buy co-worker James coming into the store really pumped after he saw it or the large poster hanging up in Matt and Tim's apartment in Austin, this proved to me this was no "meh" of a movie. It wasn't the pop culture lightning rod that Pulp Fiction became, but so few films are lucky to ever become that.

Does it seem cruel to dismiss something this way? I think so, but I think it's very important to remember the context before passing judgment. It's easy to forget how high the stakes are raised. And it's easy to forget how any follow-up that's bigger or smaller isn't going to measure up with the vocal critics and fans.

As evidenced in a recent post, Richard Kelly's Southland Tales has been on my mind quite a bit. No matter how well (or poorly) it does theatrically, I guarantee there will be a mindset that will find it falling short of expectations. That's perfectly fine and understandble, but I should remind people that Donnie Darko was not a well-embraced movie right out of the gate. Playing theatrically in the US for only a few weeks, it gained its cult status after a healthy foreign box office and repeated viewings on DVD. Like the stories Kelly tells, there's a lot of zig-zagging going on, but the document on film is the pearl. Love it or leave it, the film's future home is on DVD and the format won't be vanishing anytime soon.

Rounding back around, Nick was the one that sold me on Donnie Darko. Maybe I should look into finally watching Jackie Brown.


the secret knitter said...

You should watch Jackie Brown. It's been awhile since I've seen it, but I'm tempted to say it's his best. It not as freewheeling as his most popular films, but I think it's really affecting.

Robo-Pirate said...

I think part of the blase response to Jackie Brown had to do with the fact that it was sort of an adaptation of Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard. The book is great, the movie's good, but I think Tarantino fans expected another ground-breaking film. You should check it out.