As independent films continue to eclipse the Hollywood blockbusters both in audience appeal and Academy Award nominations, the next logical step would be to scale the budget back even further to, say, nothing. A diligent few in San Francisco are doing exactly that, sitting in their apartments, stealing snippets of other films, and splicing them together onto VHS tapes that, under current copyright laws, will never be legal to sell. But what is money, really, as long as everyone in your living room is laughing at death and profanity?
Kevin Kataoka and Vernon Chatman spent zero dollars a few years ago editing together their impaling masterpiece, an extremely violent several minutes of footage slam-banged together from major Hollywood films. This hideously gruesome stream -- human beings dropping onto spikes, crossbows shot into stomachs, often accompanied by bloodcurdling screams -- encompasses everything from Dracula movies and Edward Scissorhands to a sequence from a Disney animation feature where the prow of a ship sticks an evil character right in the gut. Impaling may seem an unlikely basis for an entire genre, but as evidenced by this video, it's a dramatic technique that major film directors utilize with glee.
Coming on the heels of this evisceration festival is a short video by Robert Mac that he has titled Pulp Fuction, a 6-1/2-minute version of Pulp Fiction, edited down to only those moments where a character says the word "fuck." Quentin Tarantino may shoot his mouth off on talk shows and awards programs, but when he writes a script, he becomes a man of few words -- and he tends to repeat himself. Among the highlights of my review copy were Ving Rhames' immortal "I'm fuckin' far from OK," Rosanna Arquette's "That was fuckin' trippy!" and most of the dialogue of Samuel L. Jackson, who clocks in with several robust "muthafuckas," including a close-up shot of the word embossed on his wallet. Bruce Willis, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth -- well, let's face it, pretty much everyone in the movie makes an appearance here, and at the end, Uma Thurman bids us adieu with the line, "Did they mention the f-word?"
According to Mac, Pulp Fuction started when a friend noticed the frequency of the word in the film and decided to count up every time it was uttered. "The whole movie has about 200," says Mac, "but there are 20 or so that I did not use because there was music playing, or they were too quiet."
The project began as an editing exercise for his new Adobe Premiere software, and ended up filling his 2.1-gigabyte hard drive. "It became a strange movie-reduction," he adds. "The story is clear and followable. Picking a vulgar word also gives it an artsy feel, like it's the portions that were edited out to not be seen."
Reactions have all been positive, says Mac, a stand-up comic who recently moved to the Bay Area. People watching it "don't know when to break away from it and laugh, so they are completely mesmerized by it."
The only disappointment in Fuction is John Travolta. He has been given a lot of "fuck" lines, but they aren't delivered with any real passion or sense of conviction. Is it the strong jawline? The teen-idol eyes? Whatever the reason, John-boy says the word, but he doesn't own it, especially in contrast to Jackson and Keitel, two of the best four-letter-word actors in the business, along with Al "Scarface" Pacino. And Travolta's scenes suffer as a result.
The viewer leaves the film with a few final impressions. One, if it's actually possible, Robert Mac has taken America's appetite for pop-culture irony to yet another level, deconstructing something that essentially was a deconstruction to begin with. Two, if Travolta absolutely had to be cast, the producers should have hired a dialect coach and worked more on his consonants. And three, the audience's suspicions are confirmed: Tarantino is a hack.
Heads on Tight
Reader John Magnuson checks in with a video bit that could well find its way into a promo spot for the NRA. It came from a recent edition of the ABC talk show Politically Incorrect, which airs nightly on KGO-TV Channel 7. Host Bill Maher's guests this particular segment were violinist/conductor Zubin Mehta, satirist Harry Shearer, commentator Lawrence Otis Graham, and attorney Leslie Abramson, best known for her unsuccessful defense of the parent-killing Menendez brothers. During a spirited discussion of the case, the shrill Abramson made no attempt to stay grounded in reality, and insisted, "They didn't shoot them. They unloaded shotguns in their direction."
The audience was astonished, as was the panel. Maher, attempting to restore some sanity to the show, confronted the attorney and pointedly reiterated her contention that, in her mind, the two brothers didn't blow their parents' heads off. Did she truly believe that to be the case? "I'm saying they didn't blow their heads off," answered Abramson. "The heads were still on!"
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