Hey, Harry here again. Among the coolest things about living in Austin, Texas is that when Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Richard Linklater and/or Mike Judge have a new theatrical project ready to go, they do a special screening of it here. And it is through this organization called, The Austin Film Society, that this happens. Tonight they screened Quentin's latest... JACKIE BROWN.
Now usually I tell yall about how my day went, give you the mindset that I am in when I see the film I am seeing. Welllll, this day I basically was customizing my new laptop that cool people sent me as a Christmas/Birthday type a thing. Tis mondo cool. I love it, I can update from the bathtub now. No, I'm not writing this in the bathtub.
Around 1700 hours (cst) My father and I picked up my sister from her friend, THE MANATEE (long story), and took off for the ARBOR THEATER in Austin for the screening. Now, ya see, I had special super duper tickets that would let me in without standing in a line. However, I can't friggin imagine NOT standing in a line for something as cool as this. We were suppose to be there and just walk in about 30 minutes ahead of time, but we showed up about 2 hours before. We were first in line.
After about thirty minutes the spy named Copernicus and his lovely lady arrived. We were waiting on my sister's boyfriend LOBO (that's not a spy name, it's the dude's real name... ugh) and RORO (my best friend since about age 4 or 5). We were having conversations about the PULP FICTION screening, RESERVOIR DOGS screening and the FOXY BROWN screenings that Copernicus and I had been seeing these past 3 weeks. Talking about the radically different styles and feels, etc etc etc...
The line began growing... larger and larger. Every seat had sold out, so there were a TON of people there, not to count the ones that showed up just to try to catch a glimpse of the man himself. RORO was about thirty minutes late, and we were about a half a minute from scalping his ticket for a couple of hundred bucks, but as luck would have it, he actually showed up. (this is a false threat to scare RORO into ARRIVING ON TIME NEXT TIME)
1840 hours (cst) arrives and Dad, RoRo and I enter the theater. I try to go to my "regular" seat at the ARBOR (fourth row center), but my seat has a sign on it that reads "Reserved for Sandra Bullock". WOW, my seat was stolen by Sandra Bullock. So I sit on Row 3 center, right in front of her, and toy with the idea of sitting up real tall to teach her not to sit in my seat, but I chicken-shitted out and sheepishly (meow- whu chi!) slouched in my seat. RoRo gets Junior Mints and Mr Pibb (I chose Mr Pibb because it has the same kinda Font as the Jackie Brown lettering) for me. And we sit back and await the arrival of famous types.
1850 hours (cst) Tim arrives. He's the owner and tireless runner of THE ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE where I see all da cool films. (Godzilla Vs Smog Monster, Foxy Brown, SuperFly, ThunderRoad, Beneath the Valley Of The Dolls, etc etc) Week in week out he is the cool film programmer of choice. Come Midnights Thursdays and Fridays, you'll find me there. This was his first night, not at the theater in 6 months. He and his wife flipped to see who came and who minded the Theater. Tim won.
1900 hours (cst) The crowd begins to enter the theater. Copernicus and his lovely lady (that's her code name) sit next to me (technically one seat over) Then Felicia, the fabulous film fox sits next to me, and relates the harrowing tale of turbulent traveling from LA today.
1930 hours (cst) Some Radio dude comes out. Actually the KHFI guy. Someone in the audience says, "oh no, where's lulabelle the cash cow" (that's a local joke about their pathetic mooooooooolah give away). The Radio dude talks, you know that Charlie Brown teacher voice. Waaa wa waaaa WA WA waaaaaa....
Then Louis Black arrives to do his intro. Louis is the editor (and all around mover and shaker in the Austin scene) of the AUSTIN CHRONICLE, the local cool weekly that gives away most of the film passes that I get to see movies in advance. He gets up there and basically does a "history of the film society" "mission of the film society" and an enthusiastic "can't wait to see this movie" bit, killing time for Quentin to arrive from introducing the film from the "other" screen.
Louis ends by introducing Richard Linklater (Slacker, Dazed & Confused, Before Sunrise, Suburbia and the upcoming Newton Boys). Richard relates a story about how when Quentin brought Pulp Fiction to Austin when that came out. He and Quentin went to Sound Exchange (a really cool vinyl shop here in town) and Quentin found a 'Three The Hard Way' (1974) soundtrack, that was tacked up on the wall. Quentin was looking for 'Coffy', but flipped when he saw "Three The Hard Way".
Quentin sort of takes over briefly and said something to the effect of, "Actually they didn't want to sell it. They said it was for the wall. That's when I pulled out the Celebrity Card and now IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII have it."
Back to Richard. Richard says that Quentin was telling him how he met Pam Grier, to which Richard remembered what he (Richard) said exactly, "Wow, you met Pam Grier!?!" Richard was proud of that memory. Pam apparently had come in to audition in Pulp Fiction for the Rossanna Arquette role, and Quentin had thought she was good, but wanted to wait and give Pam the right part. Let's see if I remember what Richard said exactly... "Quentin said that she wasn't perfect for the part, but when he had something perfect for her, she would have the LEAD" Well I guess he's a man of his word, cause here's Jackie Brown with Pam upfront.
Richard introduces Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi, Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn). Robert was wearing his BANDANA and was sporting a bit of a goatee. I really like what Robert had to say, because it mirrored my feelings of Quentin based on the time I spent watching his fest with him (and about 180 others) a year and a half ago. Robert said that Quentin is the kinda guy that is happiest showing movies to his friends at his place, up on his wall, using his 16mm projector, eating and drinking and having a blast. "The happiest I think I have ever seen Quentin was this one night when he had me over. He had just picked up a 16mm print of WHITE LIGHTNING. He showed it on his wall... not a screen. And about half way through it Quentin looked at me with the biggest smile and said, 'Isn't this the fucking greatest?' and I had to agree because next was a double feature of Lee Van Cleef westerns." (HARRY NOTE: can't remember if it was Lee or Yul Brynner Westerns)
Robert then introduces Mike Judge (Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill). Technically Robert introduced him like so, "Now who better to introduce Quentin with a big Texas welcome than Hank Hill..." Mike comes out and in Hank's voice says, "Boooy, I'lll tellll you..." The audience begins cracking up. As the laffs dwindle he says (in Hank voice), "Nooow if you like sodomy..." The audience begins laughing again. Then he basically does a nice introduction of Quentin.
Quentin then takes center screen. Now folks, let me say this. The NUMBER ONE reason to see one of these Austin Film Society Premiere Screenings of Quentin's flicks is to have him prepare you as an audience for the film. Before the screening for FROM DUSK TILL DAWN he got the audience so riled up and ready for the coolest damn 'Drive-In" flick you'd ever see. If you ever see me in person, ask me to do Quentin's intro to Dusk Premiere. It is engraved in my memory. Quentin doesn't come out and do that, "Well I'd like to thank the following people without whom I couldn't of made this film which was a growing experience where I learned.. Isn't Austin a great town (crowd goes wild)...." OHHHH NOOOOO. Quentin prepares the audience for the movie. No false hype, no self bravado, but a perfect intro for the film that is to follow. Personally I think all Quentin films should come with a short 15 minute filmed intro where he sets up the film. (this isn't a new opinion, if you look at my recording of his Film Festival he threw here in Austin last year, you'll see me mention it there too.
He talked for about 15 minutes, but the most important part, and the bit that prepared me completely for the film was where (the following is all paraphrased since I didn't have audio recording equipment) Quentin described how like Pulp Fiction was different from Reservoir Dogs so this (Jackie Brown) is from Pulp. Next he said that this was an older movie. Not that it was a "seventies" movie, but that Pam's character is in her late 40's, Robert Forster is like 58, Samuel is in his forties, Deniro is in his fifties. These people are tired, they are desperate. They were in their prime in the seventies, that was their time, they showed alot of promise, but for whatever reason they didn't make it. And this.. this last thing is their chance to make it, and they all want it bad.
Then Quentin sat down, and the movie began.
Now I had read Elmore Leonard's RUM PUNCH, 3 different drafts of JACKIE BROWN the script, and now I saw the film. Let me give you a bit of background on my personal feelings about Quentin's work. The man is not god. He is a guy, like you and me, that loves movies. He did his films and well it all went a bit insane. Personally while I like Pulp, I prefer Reservoir Dogs. I never "got" Quentin till his Film Fest here last year. At the fest I realized that Quentin was the most non-snobbish film lover I've met beyond my Dad. He loves his films, he loves 16mm, he loves watching people watch his films (his various prints of movies he's collected). He isn't a quality freak, in otherwords a print can be a bit red or green, it can have scratches, but dammit it's a real live MOVIE. And he really does have a love for these films, and I can understand it, because dammit I have 3500 films on tape and about 60 on 16mm, and on 16mm I have everything from Giant Gila Monster and LaserBlast to Casablanca and On The Waterfront. He's the same way.
So, I had some trepidations about seeing JACKIE BROWN. You see, I trust Hallenbeck's views on films, and when he hated Jackie Brown, I was worried. Because his opinion 8 times out of 10 matches my own. However, when Joe told me that he didn't like Blaxpoitation films, I had a bit of hope, cause you see... I do.
I HIGHLY recommend reading the book first. Why? Well, because this film very closely follows it. Sure sure some key elements are different, and some major scenes are missing, but it is a perfect companion for the film. I personally feel this is by far Quentin's most mature work to date. Gone is the gore, the flashy drug use and dancing. This really is a story of six character (and focusing on Pam Grier and Robert Forster).
This is a film about faces, looks in the eyes, the wrinkles. It's about people that are tired of the doldrums of life. Like the Bounty they hit a windless place, and they are desperately trying to row to some semblance of movement. Let me take a look at how I saw the characters. Now this is non-spoiler stuff. This isn't who they are or what happens to them, but rather what I saw in their faces, what I heard in the timbre of their voices and who I thought they are. You may see them differently. Hell so may I in a month or two.
Michael Keaton-Ray Nicolet: Singular of mind. Anal retentive. Attention to detail. Smug. This is a man that I see spending his life trying to pray off of others, to use them. He is a bit animalistic, but in the sense of one of those yapping dogs that barks when someone's at the door, and is proud of being smart enough to bark.
Robert Deniro - Louis: Tired, impatient, impulsive. He's seen alot, he's made the same mistakes several times, and he is one hell of a screwed up boy scout. Trustworthy, loyal helpful, friendly... I don't know how he stands on the reverent bit, but he does revere Ordell. You can tell it in the way he looks at Ordell. He's tired of making mistakes. I see him as the type that wants to live somewhere away from it all with some pot, a tv and with someone who'll do all the talking. He doesn't want to explain anything, he wants it to go smoothly for a change. I really like this character.
Ms. Fonda - Melanie: Sex Bunny. She's that type a girl that ya just wanna do. You don't want a relationship with her, and she doesn't want a relationship. She just wants sensations whether they be drug induced, sexually induced or induced via some form of entertainment. She's tired of doing what others say. She feels she knows it all, she's been around this great big world and knows how it works. And damn if she ain't gonna rip and claw her way through it all.
Samuel L Jackson - Ordell: Tired of being surrounded by a bunch of dumb fuck ups. At the same time, he himself is a dumb fuck up. He tries to put up the act. He tries to be cool, to be respected. But the only ones that respect him are people stupider than himself. He knows he's walking a tightrope, he knows that his little world is in trouble, but he has to depend on these people he knows are fuck ups. I feel for this character. I get the idea if he'd been in a different world, he'd be one successful SOB, but he's not. He's stuck in his little kingdom, where he routinely faces self denial. He has this idea, and nothing else matters, cause he knows he's played his angles right, and he's gonna make it. Like a certain wallet, he's a BAD MUTHERFUCKER, and someone you wouldn't want to piss off.
Robert Forster - Max Cherry: Did you see ULEE'S GOLD? You know Peter Fonda's wonderfully nuanced character? No? Ok, Max here is a bee, doing his little droning. He goes out gathers pollen, brings it back, and makes a little honey. He's been doing it so long he doesn't know anything else. He's old, and he's realized this isn't it. He wants the white picket fence, two car garage, PTA, that life he knows was there for his parents, but there are no prospects around. He's a drone, droning about for life, trying to break out, but not really trying.
Pam Grier - Jackie Brown: I'm not gonna do her. She does a FANTASTIC job of conveying the futility of her existence in a scene with Max Cherry. She is the type that plays the angles, does the math, and shoots to score. She is COOL personified on the other side of the hill.
I loved that group of characters, I loved the lingering shots where you could see a look of the eye. Instead of an overuse of close ups, the scenes play out like they would in life. Not a series of close ups, but a series of full shots. It's so nice to be able to see body language, to see these characters live. To see them tire, to get excited, to be.
While this may not be the direction some of you would want Quentin to go, I find this film a step in the right direction in making non-"GOTCHA" flicks, and maturing as a filmmaker. I get the idea that Quentin isn't going to follow anyone's preconceptions of what he should do, but rather, he wants to make the films he'd be proud to own on 16mm. He says that he's itching to do a western maybe. I sure as hell would love to see that. I love living in the here and now, but I love to visit those thrilling days of yesteryear and tomorrows.
One last thing on JACKIE BROWN, after you see it read the book, and go see it again. You can thank me later.
After the film Rick, Robert, Mike and Quentin did a Q & A at the Barnes and Noble next door to THE ARBOR. In what looked like a really uncomfortable speaking platform for the four of them, they were on the second floor balcony, talking to film fans below (kinda like Evita). It was basically the typical Q & A, with the same sort of things you can read in normal interviews.
Afterwards I was invited to go out with the group to eat at Kerbey Lane North. So, Dad, RoRo, Felicia and I all went out. I sat at the table with Linklater, Tarantino, Louis Black, Felicia, RoRo and Rodriguez. Now I'm not going to talk about that conversation, but suffice to say we covered everything from our thoughts on the film (including Mr Hallenbecks), the Alamo Draft House, theories on off the wall Godzilla ideas, Titanic (Linklater and I LOVED it, Quentin and Robert hadn't seen it yet), a cool idea I had for a drama based on the aftermath of the events in FRIDAY THE 13th which prompted Quentin's Godzilla idea, stories about Dennis Hopper, Johnny Weismuller, and many many more. We ate till 0120 hours (cst) today, and then went to a bar...
Called the LITTLE LONGHORN, this dive in North Austin, that I have been to since I was a wee little one. It was someone named GEORGE's birthday, and he was an old resident alcoholic of the LITTLE LONGHORN. We drank Shiner Bocks till about 0230 hours (cst) and then parted our ways.
I'll be hooking up with them later today. Once again I think it really does help if you've read the book, though personally I believe it works without it. This is a movie for people that watch people. You know, the type that loves to watch faces, trace the wrinkles whether they be happy ones or sad ones. There is a lot here, and I thought it all worked. It's in my 10 for the year so far. You'll get that list around Oscar time.
Oh yeah, just a cool little thing. Ms AK-47 was sitting sorta behind me.