Thursday, August 20, 2009
Anyone who even remotely knows me knows that I am absolutely in love with the movies. My passion for all things cinematic can be traced all the way back to the triple powerhouse viewing of King Kong, Rocky and Star Wars in the early years of my life, three viewings that still make up some of my earliest and most vivid memories. Going right along with my affair with film is my passion for actually going to the movies. In what is becoming a lost art for many, young and old, the act of going to see a film for me is one that I still get excited about. It is perhaps a bit ironic that I like going out to see a film so much as I am, in all honesty, a bit of a homebody. There is something about the anticipation of seeing a film, even one that only remotely interests me, that makes leaving the little safe haven I have created for myself a pleasure, and I hope I never lose that passion. Despite the fact that more often than not these days a talker, texter or inexperienced projectionist will in some way partially spoil a film for me, I still get that same old particularly special feeling every time I sit in a crowded, or empty, theater waiting for the whatever film I have just sometimes spent my last dollar on.
To kick off my little Quentin Tarantino celebration I thought I would share my very vivid memories of seeing each one of his major films for the first time. Fellow fans will know that Tarantino’s films have a particular exciting kick of adrenaline in that special first viewing and, while they all hold up to repeated viewings, that initial jolt is hard to recapture...a fact that makes my memories of seeing each one for the first time particularly special to me. So here’s a few pages out of a diary that I have never kept documenting some very special memories.
1. Reservoir Dogs: This is the only film on the list that I missed at the theater, a fact that annoys me to this day. I first caught Tarantino’s first major film as a writer/director on VHS one evening while I was staying over at my old high school friends David's house. I was around 21, so we had been out of school for a while, and it was the first time we had seen each other for a while. He had seen the film already and had been telling me all day how incredible it was. It was the middle film in an all night festival of sorts we were having and it was close to 2 in the morning before we revved it up. It was quite a wonderful way to be introduced to Tarantino’s work, although perhaps just as memorable was the savage cold I had the next day due to falling asleep on a freezing water-bed that wasn’t plugged in. Sadly, it would be the last time I stayed over at Davids as we lost touch soon after, as so many former high school friends do over time.
2. True Romance: This memory is particularly special for me, as I actually saw this incredible Tarantino scripted film in Detroit, the city where much of it was shot. I was visiting my friend Kimbre, who lived outside of Detroit in that period in a lovely little town called Holly, and we were looking for a film to go see. A recommendation from a guy who would later threaten to kill me after he found out that I was secretly seeing his on and off girlfriend (I could go on and on with this story) convinced Kimbre and I that it was the film we should see. Ironically the guy’s plug for the film didn’t have much to do with Tarantino’s remarkable script, as all he could talk about was how amazing looking Patricia Arquette was (what can I say, the guy had good taste and I am still grateful he didn’t end my life as promised). Kimbre and I drove to Detroit, stopping off for some snacks to sneak into the theater, and saw the film at a late showing with an audience made up of folks clearly enjoying all the local references. To this day the film remains a favorite, as does Patricia Arquette and the mighty Motor-City.
3. Pulp Fiction: About a week before Pulp Fiction landed and changed everything (and this film really did alter the cinematic landscape in a way that no other film from my generation has) I was in a Lexington, KY. Record store called Cut Corner flipping through their new LP releases. I was going to the University of Kentucky at the time and would frequent the store all the time, often stopping in to discuss horror films with a fellow enthusiast who worked there. Anyway, they had gotten the Pulp Fiction soundtrack in on vinyl and I didn’t buy it! To this day, it remains one of my biggest buying mishaps as I haven’t seen an original sealed copy of that LP since. I saw the film opening night by myself in a pretty crowded but not sold out theater and was just floored. The thing you have to remember about Pulp Fiction is that it took a little time to really hit with the general public, so that first weekend or so it was possible to see it with folks who really knew it was something special. The audience reaction that night was so memorable that I went back the next day and the day after, and I am still grateful that I saw it three times that opening weekend before it really caught fire. To this day, I have still never seen a more enthusiastic audience reaction than I did on that second viewing, particularly during Christopher Walken’s scene when some of his dialogue was drowned out by laughter and applause. By the time I saw it for a fourth time a month or so later it already seemed like it had become part of pop culture, and some folks in the theater were actually speaking the dialogue along with the film.
4. From Dusk Till Dawn: Alone again in a Lexington theater and I would have been 23 or so at this point. The film felt like a wet-dream for exploitation and horror fans and I still have a real love for it. My only specific memory of that day was that it was a weekday afternoon showing, as I had been out of town opening weekend. While the theater was mostly empty the few folks in the place proved memorable, especially at the first site of Salma Hayek’s Santanico Pandemonium when two let out an audible sigh.
5. Jackie Brown: I’ve written on seeing my favorite Quentin Tarantino film for the first time here, and it remains probably my favorite big screen memory. It was snowy Christmas night in Lexington and I saw it with my movie buddy Dave (a different Dave than the one I mentioned above). I was coming off what had seemed like an endless shift at the Video Store I managed at the time, and the excitement I felt was shared by almost everyone in line for the film. I fell completely in love with Jackie Brown that night, but didn’t see it numerous times like Pulp Fiction, as I didn’t want to lose the buzz of that opening night. I only saw it on the big screen twice more with the last being near the end of its run in a completely empty Louisville, KY theater where it felt like it was being screened just for me.
6. Kill Bill Volume 1: So much had changed in my life between Jackie Brown and the first installment of Kill Bill that it almost feels like I am remembering myself as two completely different people. Blame it on a lot of things, but it came down to the fact that I had lived a lot of life between 1997 and 2003. I might have changed a lot but my movie buddy Dave was still there, and we saw the film for the first time on a sold out Saturday afternoon showing in Lexington with his cousin Mike. I’m not sure why I hadn’t been able to go opening night but, like Pulp Fiction, I was back for more at least three times that opening week with the rest of the showings being in my favorite Frankfort, Ky. Theater.
7. Kill Bill Volume 2: I have two very clear memories of my time with the second volume of Kill Bill. The first is Dave and I after the film bitching and moaning to each other after the show that QT had blown it. The other memory is me calling Dave after seeing it for a second time and attempting to convince him that we had both been dead wrong.
8. Grindhouse: For everyone that was wowed in the theater by the film there was an equal number of obviously baffled viewers. I saw it twice (and regret not seeing it more) in a Bowling Green, Ky. Theater. The first time with my girlfriend Kelley (who loved it) and the second with my cousin Shane. Both times I saw people leaving after Planet Terror as they apparently didn’t understand what a Double Feature was. For the record, I dig Planet Terror but I am a Death Proof guy all the way…
9. Inglourious Basterds: ???