Monday, February 19, 2024

15 Things About PULP FICTION

 by Adam Riske

Kick off 1994 Week with some odds and ends about my third favorite movie of all-time.

1. This might not make sense in writing, but it makes sense in my head. No other movie feels quite like Pulp Fiction. There’s something special going on in between the frames. At the same time, it’s obvious why it works so well (the writing, the performances etc.) but it’s also sort of mysterious in its power. It’s loungey and quiet and a total vibe. It’s like it has the feel of a vinyl record with that great hiss sound.

2. I’m a sucker for diners, so the fact that Pulp Fiction is bookended by a diner sequence makes my day. I wish I could go to the diner in the movie (The Hawthorne Grill), but it has since been demolished.
3. I love the soundtrack, which is a great mix of genres including Surf Rock and R&B/Soul music. Here’s my ranking of the songs on the album. I’m including the extra tracks on the Collector’s Edition of the soundtrack:
1. "Let’s Stay Together"
2. "Misirlou"
3. "Strawberry Letter #23"
4. "Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon"
5. "Surf Rider"
6. "Out of Limits"
7. "Bullwinkle Part II"
8. "Son of a Preacher Man"
9. "You Never Can Tell"
10. "Jungle Boogie"
11. "Rumble"
12. "Since I First Met You"
13. "Comanche"
14. "Flowers on the Wall"
15. "Bustin’ Surfboards"
16. "Lonesome Town"
17. "If Love is a Red Dress (Hang Me in Rags)"

4. The John Travolta performance is fascinating. I love his characterization of Vincent – he’s not stupid. exactly. as much as he’s a man of limited interests. He can wax poetic on things he cares about but can’t be bothered by stuff he doesn’t. His lack of redemption compared to Jules’s is partly out of laziness. He’s set in his ways (to be a hitman who likes drugs) and that’s that.

5. Why do Travolta comebacks feel better almost anyone else’s? I might be biased because he’s my favorite actor, but people seemed genuinely thrilled he was back on top after Pulp Fiction came out. I love the way he says, “A FELT PEN!” and “I gotta stab her 3 times?” in the scene where he resuscitates Mia (Uma Thurman).

6. Speaking of Uma Thurman, she’s one of the best actors around at delivering Tarantino dialogue. Her cadence and inflection are perfect at capturing the humor.

7. I’m happy Tarantino cast Samuel L. Jackson as Jules. Up to that point in his career, Jackson was so good in smaller parts over the years like in Do the Right Thing, Goodfellas, Juice, and Jurassic Park, just to name a few. His performance in Jungle Fever is incredible and put him on the map while Pulp Fiction launched him into stardom. Can you imagine what movies would be like if Samuel L. Jackson didn’t become a star after Pulp Fiction?
8. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when John Travolta and Uma Thurman go out to dinner at Jack Rabbit Slims. The 2002 Collector’s Edition DVD came with a menu for the restaurant, which is one of the coolest inserts to ever be put into a physical media release. Here are the top 10 things I’d want to order off the menu:
1. Five Dollar Milk Shake
2. Yankee Pot Roast
3. Vanilla Coke
4. Root Beer Float
5. Baked Meat Loaf
6. Apple Pie
7. Butterscotch Sundae
8. ½ Fried Chicken
9. Cherry Pie
10. Slims Famous Speedburger

9. I bet the people who work at Jack Rabbit Slims hook up a lot after work. I mean they would have to, right?

10. Pulp Fiction was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won one for Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay. If my vote were the only one that counted, I would have given it five Oscars that night – Best Picture, Best Director (Quentin Tarantino), Best Supporting Actor (Samuel L. Jackson), Best Supporting Actress (Uma Thurman) and Best Original Screenplay (Tarantino). It breaks my heart I wouldn’t give John Travolta Best Actor, but I would have chosen Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption and I would have given Best Editing to Hoop Dreams in part because it was the only award that great film was nominated for and they edited footage spanning years into three incredible hours.

11. I always wondered if having Samuel L. Jackson in the Best Supporting Actor category and John Travolta in the Best Actor category at the Academy Awards was category fraud. Turns out it was not; according to Matthew Stewart on Twitter (a guy who tracks screen time for actors in movies, usually award contenders), Travolta is on-screen for 51 minutes, Bruce Willis for 40 minutes and Samuel L. Jackson for 39 minutes in Pulp Fiction.

12. One more thing about the Oscars: Bruce Willis was robbed of a Best Supporting Actor nomination. His performance in Pulp Fiction is so underrated. He gives off that cool vibe I’ve heard people reference endlessly regarding Steve McQueen’s screen persona. For my money, Willis has him beat.

13. This is the movie I first learned about Fruit Brute breakfast cereal, which is, in my humble opinion, the best of the monster cereals.

14. Winston Wolf (Harvey Keitel) should have been spun off into an episodic TV show where every episode he helps a new person get out of a jam.
15. When I visited the Academy Museum a year ago, I saw a cast wish list Tarantino wrote before he made Pulp Fiction. As a fun exercise here’s who I would have chosen from that list if I couldn’t have the existing cast in their roles
1. Pumpkin – Christian Slater
2. Honey Bunny – Lili Taylor
3. Vincent – Michael Madsen
4. Lance – John Cusack
5. Jody – Jennifer Jason Leigh
6. Mia – Bridget Fonda
7. Jules – Laurence Fishburne
8. Butch – Nicolas Cage
9. Fabian – Irene Jacob
10. The Wolf – Warren Beatty
11. Marcellus – Delroy Lindo
12. Captain Koons – Al Pacino

Your turn! What are some of your favorite anecdotes, observations, or random thoughts about Pulp Fiction?


  1. I would watch the hell out of a Winston Wolf TV spin-off!

  2. Great article Adam!!!

    I would consider my first theatrical viewing of Pulp Fiction to be one of the top 10 transformative movie experiences thus far in my life. Saw it at an art house theater in Chicago juuuust before it blew up with a group of friends. We all adored it and revisited many many times.

    You asked for observations....hrmmm....well i have a never-ending complex take on QT. I adore his movies but am regularly conflicted by the levels of 'creative license' he adopts as well as his untouchable knowledge of cinema -vs- his hubris. Its a huge rabbit hole that as with most movie uber nerds started with Reservoir Dogs v City on Fire and continues to unfold. So for Pulp i will offer up something interesting i came across this year. Obviously the movie is filled with elements "borrowed" from other movies...thats QT's playbook...however i didnt realize that more than a little of the story is the result of not just QT. The inception and early writing and final product includes the writings of Roger Avery. (note: he does get a 'story by' credit but QT is listed as sole writer). Digging into that further it sounds like Roger wrote a bunch of stuff early in their relationship and bits and pieces of his writings ended up in or informing True Romance, Reservoir Dogs, and Pulp Fiction.