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Pulp Fiction (#110 of 20)

Review: Adilifu Nama’s Race on the QT: Blackness and the Films of Quentin Tarantino

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Review: Adilifu Nama’s Race on the QT: Blackness and the Films of Quentin Tarantino
Review: Adilifu Nama’s Race on the QT: Blackness and the Films of Quentin Tarantino

Aiming to confront “the racial frankness in [Quentin] Tarantino’s films and not the man himself,” Adilifu Nama’s new book offers close readings of the writer-director’s eight feature films (and additionally, True Romance) in order to unveil the complexities of racial interest and formation as they occur within the Tarantino oeuvre. Nama takes this charge as a corrective to critics like Armond White who view Tarantino’s films as “pop sleaze without the politics,” or Stanley Crouch, who’s compared Tarantino’s interest in race with novelist Ralph Ellison’s. Nama falls somewhere in the middle, wishing to lift the “hackneyed claims that Tarantino is a racist,” while stopping well short of hagiography, stating “at most [Tarantino’s films] serve as catalysts for discussions around black racial formation across the public sphere.” The latter assertion is well taken, since the totality of Race on the QT provides ample, perceptive examinations, but almost exclusively along narrative and character lines, with little attention paid to form or aesthetics, rendering several of these readings useful, but only up to a point.

Nama’s best insights come in the book’s first chapter with analyses of Reservoir Dogs and True Romance, where clever approaches to dialogue and each film’s implicit critiques will make even the most ardent viewer want to revisit them. Nama is particularly on point with Reservoir Dogs, which he deems “a visual analogue of the type of hypermasculinity and extravagant violence rapped about on top of 1970s funk samples.” That is, Nama meticulously mines each of the film’s white characters’ racist views on blackness (of which there are plenty) and positions them in relation to Holdaway (Randy Brooks), the film’s sole black character, since he’s “a formidable tactician and the principle architect for bringing down [the] crime organization.” By recasting Reservoir Dogs as a “racial revenge narrative,” Nama acutely displays the film’s ties with Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, films that utilize this kind of narrative far more explicitly. However, Nama’s discussion of these films proves largely unsatisfactory, since here he’s adamant and repetitive in his assertions that Inglourious Basterds is a “science-fiction fantasy” and Django Unchained a “Gothic horror film.” These categorical imperatives detract from Nama’s stated interests in reading for blackness.

Review: Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

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Review: Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
Review: Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

The subtitle of Hotline Miami 2 should read “Wrong Decade.” The arcade-style scoring system, synth-driven soundtrack, and Miami setting all express developer Dennaton Games’ devotion to the ’80s. But this aesthetic mindset happens to distract from the game’s more substantial allegiance to that juvenile streak of the ’90s wherein explosions of gore and criminality in games were interpreted as mature, cool, and, by some parents and politicians, corrupting. That attitude is already represented in the 1995 PlayStation game Loaded, a twitchy and bloody shooter that Hotline Miami most resembles, in addition to Mortal Kombat, Steel Harbinger, Carmageddon, and numerous other games of the period. This sequel’s pretentious haze of violent ugliness, like that of its overrated predecessor, doesn’t deserve to be praised for “high-octane” action or characterized as an example of Lynchian surrealism.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Matt Maul’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Matt Maul’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Matt Maul’s Top 10 Films of All Time

In compiling my Top 10 film list, I tried to avoid obvious choices based on general consensus. Movies like Modern Times, It’s a Wonderful Life, and The Searchers are great, and I respect them for what they are, but I almost never stop what I’m doing to watch them. The list below includes 10 films I must make a pilgrimage to at least once a year.

15 Famous Dance Numbers

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15 Famous Dance Numbers
15 Famous Dance Numbers

This weekend, the Step Up franchise returns with Step Up Revolution, an installment that takes the action to Miami, but likely can’t trump the heat of its irresistible predecessor, Step Up 3D. Still, its release presents the perfect opportunity to glance back at famous movie dance numbers, whose smooth moves paved the way for the flash-mob spectacle the new film boasts. Before there was Channing Tatum (and his lineage of avatar successors), there were Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, Moira Shearer, and, yes, Sarah Jessica Parker. Before you get a load of the latest hotties and hardbodies to stomp the yard, check out the 15 films we’ve shortlisted for their unforgettable steps.

15 Famous Movie Mustaches

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15 Famous Movie Mustaches
15 Famous Movie Mustaches

Brightening theaters this weekend is Illumination Entertainment’s take on Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, which features Danny DeVito as the voice of the fuzzy and colorful eco-guardian. DeVito’s Lorax sports one bushy tuft of facial hair, its overgrowth stretching past the width of his waistline. The rest of cinema’s most memorable mustaches can’t boast that same disproportionate bulk, but they’re not to be undervalued. Two are among the most iconic physical traits in film history, four make up one big whiskery package deal, and one is so indelible that its wearer spawned the name for a whole style of ’stache.