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“The Things You Gotta Remember Are the Details”: Reservoir Dogs and the Fragility of Memory and Meaning in the Nineties…

It’s always interesting to understand how much of being one of the defining artists of a cultural moment is down to understanding the zeitgeist, and how much of it is down to simply being in the right place at the right time.

This is not to denigrate the incredible skill and talent required to be perfectly positioned “in the right place at the right time”, as any amount of sustained success requires both a great deal of determination and an incredible amount of talent. Quentin Tarantino is undeniably determined and impressively talented. Tarantino has a unique knack with dialogue, a keen understanding of genre, and a fine appreciation of the history the medium. It is hard to imagine a world in which Tarantino would ever have been unable to parlay those skills into some form of success in filmmaking.

Still, there are very few directors who were so perfectly in step with the nineties as Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino is a writer and director who emerged almost fully formed, to the point that many critics and pundits would argue that his first two films are the best films in his filmography; Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. (As an aside, there are a not-insignificant number of pundits who would argue that Tarantino’s best film was his third, the underrated Jackie Brown.) It seems fair to describe Tarantino, however controversial his legacy and however divisive his modern films might be, as a defining nineties filmmaker.

(As an aside, it should be acknowledged that Tarantino arguably had something of a similar moment towards the end of the first decade and into the second decade of the twenty-first century. Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight are films that have generated a lot of polarised debate, but they also seemed very much on-the-pulse in terms of the tensions and anxieties that bubbled to the surface of American popular consciousness at towards the end of the twenty-tens. However, that is perhaps a debate for another time.)

Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction speaks specifically to a collection of nineties anxieties and uncertainties that seem only to have crystalised in retrospect, as if working through an existential crisis that the decade didn’t realise it was having in real time. Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fictions are stories about memory and meaning, and how fleeting the human understanding of a chaotic world can be. They are stories about the breakdown of social order, and of trying to find some way to navigate increasingly turbulent and unstable times.

They are films that embody the tensions of nineties as effectively as Forrest Gump or the films of Oliver Stone or Chris Carter’s work on The X-Files and Millennium.

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Star Trek: Voyager – The Cloud (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

The Cloud feels more like a first season episode than Time and Again and Phage did. Star Trek: Voyager has ploughed fairly effectively into its first season, primarily by treating it as the eighth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, the first season has been falling into a regular pattern so fast that pausing for forty-five minutes to do some awkward and ill-defined character work doesn’t feel like a bad idea.

The Cloud is an awkwardly constructed piece of television that feels like it’s interested in building up this ensemble. As such, the pacing suffers, and the episode makes a number of awkward mistakes along the way, but it still feels like it is at least trying to do something worthwhile.

Shaking things up around here...

Shaking things up around here…

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Non-Review Review: interMission

interMission is a fantastic piece of Irish cinema, a broadly accessible exploration of intersecting and overlapping life in Dublin with a witty script lending the film some distinctly Irish flavour. The structure owes a little bit of a debt to Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction or even Altman’s Short Cuts, capturing a variety of perspectives on life from a reasonably-sized ensemble who only occasionally overlap with one another. It’s a funny, clever, well-acted and well-directed slice of life.

Drive of your life...

Drive of your life…

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Non-Review Review: Reservoir Dogs

I had the pleasure of attending the Jameson Cult Film Club screening of this film.

Reservoir Dogs is my favourite film amongst Quentin Tarantino’s accomplished filmography. It seems a strange choice, as most film fans would concede that it’s pretty great, but would readily point to Pulp Fiction as the definitive Tarantino film. However, I think that Reservoir Dogs has an elegant simplicity that elevates it, allowing Tarantino to demonstrate his unique skills in an environment where he isn’t too confined or too rigidly structured. In a way, it’s that wonderful structure that makes Pulp Fiction so exceptional, but Reservoir Dogs has a relatively modest scale that makes it a lot easier to appreciate Tarantino’s deft mastery of form.

Whiter than White?

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Non-Review Review: Staten Island

Staten Island is a convoluted little film that seems to shameless emulate several anthology films, with the most obvious influence being seen in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, borrowing the device of telling three interlocking but distinct stories set in different timeframes relating to the same bunch of characters. Still, that’s not necessarily a reason to dislike the film, which manages to offer an interesting, if not comparable, set of tales. James DeMonaco probably should have realised that borrowing so heavily from a classic film sets a ridiculously high standard, and one the movie falls far short of reaching. Still, there are moments where the film does work, even if they seem evenly-spaced with awkward and pointless sequences.

One psychotic mobster, sitting in a tree...

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Non-Review Review: Mars Attacks!

I have a genuine affection for Mars Attacks! It’s certainly not Tim Burton’s best work, but it’s also miles above some of his more disappointing output. It feels like an affectionate homage to Ed Wood, putting together the kind of movie that the old B-movie director would have approved of, except with the judgement to play it as a comedy rather than entirely straight (although Wood’s filmography is typically “so bad it’s good“, one could scarcely accuse the director of being in on the joke), and made with a more significant budget. Seen in that light, it’s hard to resist the movie’s (admittedly uneven) charms.

The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, they say...

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Non-Review Review: Pulp Fiction

It’s strange. I always feel a flutter of uncertainty when I prepare to tackle a film I hold in particularly high esteem on this blog. Perhaps it’s the fact that I worry I might not be entirely objective, or perhaps it’s the fear that I’ll embarrass myself with a particular film, or perhaps it’s just the worry that I really don’t have anything worth committing to the internet. Pulp Fiction is a film that has been loved and hated, picked apart and put back together, critiqued and venerated, and I’m really not sure that I have any particularly insightful observations to make about Quentin Tarantino’s palme d’or winning film.

I'll be brief...

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