Thursday, August 20, 2009

"I can't blame anybody else for something I did."

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: ???


Neil Fulwood said...

I remember when 'Kill Bill Vol 1' was released in the UK; advance word said that Vol 2 would follow 2 - 3 months later. It was actually closer to 6 months and when it finally came out I was in a state of almost bed-wetting excitement. Went to see it with a good friend of mine, who like me had been a QT fan from the outset, and we came out of the cinema feeling distinctly underwhelmed. We walked across the multiplex car park in silence and got in his car. Turning the key in the ignition, he sniffed and said one word: "Disappointing."

It was four years later that I revisited Vol 2. This time it was on DVD and I watched parts 1 and 2 back-to-back. Seeing them together, without a 6 month hiatus and minus a totally unrealistic weight of expectation, it was a revelation. I, too, completely re-evaluated my opinion of the second instalment.

Brandon Colvin said...

Lovely stories, Jeremy.

You know I'm a big Tarantino supporter - something of a rarity in the critical community nowadays - and I'm glad to hear about your experiences. RESERVOIR DOGS was definitely one of the 2 or 3 films that completely changed my life when I was about 14. PULP FICTION followed soon after. I'm not sure I could ever overstate the importance of his films in my life and what his appreciation of other films did to spur on my own cinematic interests. It may seem a little ridiculous, but I STILL think he is underrated.

I saw INGLORIOUS BASTERDS tonight, and I've got a hunch that you're gonna like it.

Also, I've gotta say that I would take PLANET TERROR over DEATH PROOF. I really love PLANET TERROR.

Steve Langton said...

Thanks for sharing those great memories, Jeremy. I've always loved going to the movies, and the experience of seeing certain films on the big screen just can't be beat; still get a buzz even if the auditorium is virtually empty. I used to attend the Fantasm festival in London where we were treated to the likes of Tenebrae, Danger: Diabolik, The Addiction and loads of others. Sadly, our cinema trips have been reduced to once every three or four months due to the recession, but when money allows, we take great pleasure in settling back to enjoy some movie magic.
Thanks for a great read.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks so much for sharing your story Neil. This is just the kind of memory I hoped someone would post. Now if we could only get the long awaited WHOLE BLOODY AFFAIR out on disc to see the films together. Thanks again.

Jeremy Richey said...

Awesome Brandon...thanks for commenting. I loved reading your memories of what his films meant to you and I am in total agreement with you about him being underrated. He really is, especially after the GRINDHOUSE backlash (which I still don't get). I thought this was particularly spot on:

"his appreciation of other films did to spur on my own cinematic interests."

Absolutely...The number of films that have come back into light due to homages in Tarantino's films (or praise in his daily life) is staggering. And his tastes are a lot broader than I think many give him credit for...just check Kim Morgan's interview for some examples.

Oh, and I love me some PLANET TERROR...It's an incredibly fun and entertaining film, but I just prefer DEATH PROOF slightly over it. Honestly, my favorite way to watch them is together like GRINDHOUSE was in theaters.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Steve,
I am envious of those Fantasm Festival memories you have. Those must be splendid. I miss the days when I could do marathon sessions of 3-5 films a day with my movie buddy Dave, but sadly those days are over due to money, my back and other factors. Thanks again.

Mr. Peel said...

I saw PULP FICTION opening night at the Chinese with an amazing audience, the place was pretty close to full. I'd been waiting to see it for months, building it up in my head and I remember seeing Tarantino at the Nuart a few times that summer--the first time I spotted the guy all I could think was, "It's him. My God, it's him." I built it up in my head so much that there was no way it could live up to those expectations...and it surpassed them. Seeing it at that theater with that audience was truly revelatory and to this day it's probably one of the best experiences I've ever had seeing a movie. Afterwards, I just drove around for a while, almost in a daze.

Jeremy Richey said...

Awesome...thanks so much Mr. Peel for stopping by and sharing your special memories. They were great to read.
It's funny, as I was writing this and recalling my own memories, I recalled that it really took JACKIE BROWN for Tarantino to become one of my favorites. Which isn't to say that I didn't love Dogs and Pulp, but JB hit me in a way emotionally only a few films had before or since. My love for JACKIE BROWN actually elevated how I felt about RESERVOIR DOGS and PULP FICTION. I tell you, minor issues aside with a couple of the films, the guy is batting a thousand with me.

Yaeli said...

That's a great post. I share your love for JACKIE BROWN.

About DEATH PROOF: I only saw it once, at the theater, and was totally wowed.

As a woman, I have to say it's thrilling when a male director is so into girl power, and so smart about bringing it to his films.

That long car chase in DEATH PROOF isn't only a great action sequence; it's also about a woman's right to do whatever she wants with her body. That was a big wow for me.

Keith said...

Great post. It was really neat to read about all your experiences of watching QT films. Thanks for sharing this with us. While I love Planet Terror, I'm definitely a Death Proof guy.