Posted in: by Bruce Reid, Contributors, Links

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of Friday, November 4

“Who makes movies like this? And why aren’t more movies like this? Like Tarantino’s direction itself—stylish, cool, tight, but also relaxed, taking its time, in profile close-up, to show Ordell thinking, or Robert De Niro’s hilarious but deadly Louis, trying to figure out the phone, or Bridget Fonda’s stoner beach bunny sweetness mixed with amusingly acerbic shit talking, or Michael Keaton’s ATF agent chomping his gum, a little bit of a douchebag but not a terrible guy. There’s also the fantastic soundtrack adding heft and emotion to actors already doing the same. All of this surrounding Pam Grier who is, in a word, complex.” Kim Morgan’s notes for Jackie Brown are almost as much a (deserved) love letter to Pam Grier as the film itself. Via David Hudson.

“We don’t see Rio in prison, but we see how it changes him. He starts out as a carefree young bandit who perches on the counter during a bank holdup eating bananas and playfully weighing the peels on a scale, then steals a woman’s ring and uses it in his attempted seduction of an aristocratic señorita. After his time in the pen, though he still sports rakish scarves and a dazzling scarlet poncho, he has become sullen and withdrawn, brooding obsessively on revenge. When he finds his old partner in the coast town of Monterey, now a respectable sheriff with a family, he mirrors Dad’s hypocrisy, pretending to accept his lie about what happened while scheming to destroy everything he has. “A man can’t stay angry for five years, can he?” Rio asks with a wickedly disingenuous grin. Ask Ethan Edwards in The Searchers about that.” Imogen Sara Smith’s essay on One-Eyed Jacks begins by tracing the lineage of films that married the shadowed terrors of noir with the sunbaked vistas and haunted men’s-men of the western.

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Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Interviews

“You never know how you’re going to get from point A to point B”: Robert Forster Interviewed

Quentin Tarantino developed a reputation not simply for unconventional storytelling and inventive writing, but for inspired casting. Reservoir Dogs introduced Lawrence Tierney to a new generation of crime movie fans. Pulp Fiction revived the faltering career of John Travolta. And Jackie Brown, his first film based on someone else’s story, he cast as his leads two veterans of the seventies drive-in and exploitation cinema: Pam Grier and Robert Forster.

Last week I published my interview with Ms. Grier. This week, I present my conversation with Mr. Forster, one of the most underrated performers of his time and an actor we almost lost to neglect before Tarantino gave him a showcase. Again, limited to twenty minutes, I had very little time to really dig into his career, but I was able to touch on some of my favorite films of his, and discover that they are his favorites as well.

Sean Axmaker: Let’s talk about Jackie Brown. Quentin Tarantino was a fan of your films. Were you a fan of his when you were cast?

Robert Forster: Well, sure. This guy made great movies. I had auditioned for one of his movies, for Reservoir Dogs. I thought I was going to get it until I realized that he had dedicated the film to the guy to did the part that I wanted, Lawrence Tierney. So it came as a big surprise when I walked out of that audition thinking that I had just hit it out of the park, and then Quentin comes out after me and says, “Look, this isn’t going to work. I’m going to give this part to the guy I dedicated the script to, but I won’t forget you.” And I thought, “Okay, good.” And then he did Pulp Fiction and became a huge filmmaker and years had gone by and I ran into him in a coffee shop. By then my career was really, really dead and we blah-blahed for a few minutes and then six months later he showed up at the same coffee shop with a script in his hands and handed it to me. I by then had been reduced to hoping some young guy who liked me growing up would turn into a moviemaker and give me a good part and here comes the guy and what a script! When I read it I could hardly believe that he had me in mind for Max Cherry except that nothing else made any sense, so when I asked him about it he said, “Yes, it’s Max Cherry that I wrote for you,” and that’s when I said to him, “I’m sure they’re not going to let you hire me.” Because I’ve had the experience of getting close to good parts and realizing the distributors wanted something else. So when I said that too him, he said, “I hire anybody I want.” And that’s when I realized I was going to get another shot at a career and this guy gave me what I’d been hoping for: a good part from someone who liked me growing up.

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Posted in: Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Essays, Film Reviews

Blu-ray: Jackie Brown

[Expanded from a feature originally published in 1997 in Seattle Weekly]

“Amateurs borrow, professionals steal,” goes the maxim. Quentin Tarantino steals like a pro. Where directors of the previous generation peppered their films with classic cinematic quotes, Tarantino plunders the films of his formative years for ideas – mostly B-movies and exploitation films about cars and capers and criminals – and riffs on them with a mix of reverence and sly playfulness.

Tarantino’s films aren’t so much stories as strings of anecdotes: movie moments, urban myths, conversations strewn with pop culture references. His challenge with Jackie Brown is how make someone else’s story—Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch, to be specific—his own. His solution: set it in his own reference riddled world. From the film’s opening shot—a quote from The Graduate overlaid with early seventies movie lettering and set to a Motown tune—we know we’re in Tarantino territory.

Pam Grier’s entrance in her retro stewardess outfit introduces the kick-ass star of Foxy Brown and Friday Foster gracefully aging into the modern world. Robert Forster, the almost star of the late 60s turned exploitation film stalwart (see Alligator and Vigilante), brings the understated authority that marked his genre pictures to the lived-in ease age brings. That’s the genius of Tarantino’s casting. Jackie Brown is not some stand-in for Foxy Brown but a projection of where she might be 25 years later. Grier’s persona is intertwined with the role, a middle aged woman with her back to wall who turns her situation around: from victim to player. With the weight of her career as an action star, Grier makes Jackie her own and dominates the screen with her energy and charisma.

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Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Interviews

“What was it like to live and work in someone else’s dream” – Pam Grier interviewed

Jackie Brown may not Quentin Tarantino’s best film, but it should be. With grown up, lived-in characters, Tarantino broke through the jacked-up, smart talking pulp adolescents that populate his (admittedly ingenious and inventive) reference-riddled earlier films to tell the stories of a pair of middle-aged survivors. For those key roles, Tarantino cast a couple of middle-aged survivors—70s blaxploitation action queen Pam Grier and exploitation stalwart Robert Forster—and surrounded them with a cast that included Robert DeNiro and Samuel Jackson.

With the Blu-ray debut of Jackie Brown this week, I had the opportunity to speak with both Pam Grier and Robert Forster for my home video column, Videodrone, on MSN. I was able to use just a fraction of my conversation on MSN but I offer the entire interviews on Parallax View. This week, I present Pam Grier.

Twenty minutes was barely enough time to get started on her career, let alone the experience of making Jackie Brown, a film as much inspired by the films of her career as by Leonard’s novel, so we started on the present. “I live in Colorado. People always assume that I live in Los Angeles or New York in a hotel somewhere, but I have horses. I have English and Western, Dutch Warmblood, Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred. Matter of fact, my Thoroughbred is a descendent of Bold Ruler, who was the sire of Secretariat. And he’s a jumper, he’s a fabulous horse, and he’s a little teddy bear. Well, he’s a big teddy bear.”

Sean Axmaker: Quentin Tarantino was a fan of your films. Were you a fan of his when you were cast?

Pam Grier: Very much so. He had established himself as a filmmaker of really raw or true grit when you saw Reservoir Dogs and he paid homage to me in that. Everyone said, “Do you know you’re mentioned in the Quentin Tarantino movie?” And I said, “Yes, and I fell out of my chair.” I love his work. And then when he did Pulp Fiction… I had met with him, we had talked about a role and it wasn’t going to work out, the same way with Robert Forster, so he said, “We’re going to work together.” When I went into his office to meet with him, he had all of my posters on the wall, from the Roger Corman films to the AIP films, you know the progressive films of the women’s movement, and there they were, one after the other. I thought he was a stalker. He saw something in those films in how we were attempting to translate a time and a place in politics and pop culture and chaos and so much. And the music, he loved the music. Every song that was in every film, he knew. He knew the composer. He was this maven who loved film and we would talk. We had the same tasted in films and I just said, “God, I hope I get a chance to work with him. Naaah, I’m not gonna, it’s gonna be all those male shoot ’em up movie, I’m not gonna get to.”

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