I can remember doing homework at the table, as Mom finished making dinner in the nearby kitchen, swaying and singing to the Jackie Brown soundtrack. I loved it. I’d never seen the movie, and didn’t have any pressing urges to find out more about the story behind the sound, but I loved what it stood for: my mom’s happiness.
Flash to another scene from my childhood, in which my dad and I drove over to pick up dinner from Mark’s Pizzeria, and he was telling me about a fantastic movie with John Cusack. He’s talking to me like an adult, I thought, excitedly. My dad continued, “So Cusack — he was a professional…ahem…killer.” Talk about a conversation killer. Dad bit his tongue and we started talking about something else.
These movies have always sounded great, but I’ve never gotten around to watching them. Time has passed, and as new movies come up, the older ones I’d always meant to see take a back seat.
Honestly, I’ve been okay with it. I’ve never missed what the best of the 90s had offer the cinematic canon (besides the stand-outs like Dancing with the Wolves and such, of course). Because what’s come around in this past decade has been dynamite — with the Edgar Wright parodies, Coen brothers‘ masterpieces and many more unknown anomalies, which have emerged in the indie scene-turned-mainstream. It’s been a fair trade-off.
But weekends are great, because they give those of us who just want to be couch potatoes a chance to find a wonderful movie we’ve never before encountered. Netflix has opened me and the Mister’s eyes to the great crime movies of the past. Just open up the webpage and there they are — the movies my parents loved that I’ve yet to see, like Out of Sight and Jackie Brown. And even more luckily for me — my husband is a movie factoid genius. I was floored when he told me both movies had been adapted from Elmore Leonard crime novels, and existed in the same story universe. If you know what an academic nerd I am, you can imagine my chagrin, when I realized I could capitalize on this lazy weekend of movie-watching, turning it into an investigative cross-referential cultural experience.
Quentin Tarantino‘s Jackie Brown was based on the novel Rum Punch, which pays homage to the 1970s blaxploitation movies like Foxy Brown. The film has plenty of stars, like Robert Deniro and Samuel J. Jackson, but the leading lady is a cool and confident lady by the name of Pam Grier…I mean Jackie Brown. To paraphrase the words of “Groucho” reviewer Peter Canavese, it has a witty crime plot and a surprisingly good mid-life love story all at once — with a Rochesterian Robert Forster as the leading love interest for Jackie. Rochester represent.
We found Out of Sight to be a perfectly pertinent accompaniment to Jackie Brown. What’s so great about it? Well, first of all, Steven Soderbergh is amazing. It’s also really fun to watch George Clooney make his way into stardom and the lovely Jennifer Lopez before she became crazy-pants “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” J.Lo. The gun-heavy heist includes other greats, like Don Cheadle as a “Wire”-esque gangsta, Catherine Keener as a “Sopranos”-ish Adrianna type and Albert Brooks as a bald multi-millionaire.
The movies, and what they represent, are good reminders that there are whole gaps of cinematic history that I’ve yet to experience. And not just obscure and tantalizing independent films, because those are rare treasures one needs to seek out, but pop culture classics I haven’t seen that so many of my American brethren, with whom I work and speak every day, own and I love.
So let’s all be thankful for the small things, like lazy weekends and way better than we deserve entertainment options. For I can catch up those frames of references I missed out on, and pretend that, by watching the 90s greatest hits, I can start to piece together those iconic symbols of age and life and culture and relationships that went over my head, the first time around. It might take awhile, but there are worse pastimes to take on. Moving forward, you’re likely to see more movie reviews. So give me your tips, help me along, and we’ll see what kind of pop culture quilt we come up with.