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Movies of 1997 Bracket Game: Jackie Brown vs The Game

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Today we have a matchup between films by two unique and widely admired directors who aren’t afraid of taking on violent or upsetting subject matter. Unfortunately, despite our admiration for both of these movies, neither one managed to fulfill expectations at the box office. The Game spent a week in the number one spot and raked in more than $100 million (if you include overseas receipts), but when compared to Fincher’s hit Se7en from just two years prior, this number had to feel disappointing to the film’s producers. The fact that the film’s production budget is not easily available also suggests that Fincher and company might have over-spent on it. Meanwhile, Jackie Brown‘s production budget was a pretty reasonable twelve million dollars, which would make its eventual domestic gross of close to forty million more than acceptable in most cases. But, like Fincher, Tarantino’s most recent full-length project Pulp Fiction had not established reasonable expectations for some people, not only because of its domestic take of more than $100 million, but because the director had become a star in his ow right. Both have continued to do the kind of work they’ve wanted to and have had some successes along the way, making these movies simply look like well-reviewed base hits in the long run. But which one do we want to stick around another round in our game?

Well, it looks like we’ve got our first relatively comfortable victory. Most of our commenters expressed affection for Harrison Ford’s fun “Die Hard with the President on a plane” movie, but the more sophisticated crime picture L.A. Confidential was not a good matchup for Ford and company, sending him and his plane packing. L.A. Confidential will face the winner of today’s match in our next round.

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Quentin Tarantino has probably been the most important and influential director of the last quarter century. Not because his films are always genius level work (sometimes they’re great, sometimes they’re wildly overrated), but because of where he came from and what he decided he wanted to do. Tarantino was perhaps appropriately named after a character played by Burt Reynolds in the long-running television western “Gunsmoke,” where he appeared for fifty episodes. He responded in part, by writing an early script based on Reynolds’ hit movie Smokey & the Bandit. Tarantino took his love of low culture and elevated it through obsessive attention to detail and the application of high level cinematic technique, helping to make it an important part of mainstream culture in the 1990s. His use of pop culture references and non-linear storytelling were prime components in creating first the breakout indie heist flick Reservoir Dogs and then the critical and box office champ Pulp Fiction. Before you knew what hit you, your local cineplex was practically buried in criminals and other n’er do wells who spent a lot of time talking about movies and other cultural touchstones of the preceding fifty years. Unfortunately, most of the Tarantino apers only adopted his approaches in the most surface of ways and it didn’t take long for any steady filmgoer to get tired of it. Artists have now pivoted from pop culture references and turned them into what we now call “easter eggs,” leaving Quentin to go his own way with his always expanding, but somehow also very insular cinematic world.

David Fincher was similarly bitten by the filmmaking bug early in life. But his physical proximity to the effects of success have continued to inform his approach to his place in the industry. You see, David Fincher lived right next door to George Lucas as a young man. According to Fincher,”When I was ten years old, he was the guy who had done THX 1138. By the time I was twelve, he was the guy who did American Graffiti. By the time I was fifteen, he had done Star Wars. By the time Star Wars came out, this guy couldn’t go anywhere in town. He couldn’t walk into some place and not be the focus of it.” The way Fincher sees it, celebrity gets in the way of the job the director is trying to do. “One of the things I like about being a director is, when your plane is late, you are doing homework. Because you are sitting there in the lounge, listening to people talk. That’s your job. When you become the focus, when people feel like ‘I can’t act like myself, because that’s the guy who did whatever’, all of a sudden you lose an advantage.” I can’t speak from the point of view of a film director, but I will agree that people watching is a huge tool for any artist who attempts to tell a story with any real authenticity. He spent most of his early career, like many of his contemporaries, honing his craft by directing music videos. If you’re around my age, you’ll probably be able to conjure the visuals from the videos for songs like “Englishman in New York” by Sting, “Roll With It” by Stevie Winwood, “Vogue” by Madonna, “Cradle of Love” by Billy Idol, and “Freedom 90” by George Michael. Yeah, those were all his.

Allright, so I didn’t really talk much about either of these movies. If you want something more like that, you’ll have to convince your fellow readers to vote for the movie you want to learn more about. Throw in your own vote here and then make your argument in the comments section.

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Posted on January 21, 2017, in bracket game, Movies, poll, trailers and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I didn’t know anything about David Fincher’s music video directorial career until this writeup, but now that I do, I can say I really liked the visuals for “Cradle of Love”, “Vogue”, and “Freedom ’90”. As for my vote here, wow, it tough. Well, who ever wins I’m fine with, but I think I’ll go with “The Game”.

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  2. This one’s another easy one for me. spoilers for a 20 year old movie I liked The Game, but that ending was a massive cop-out. And I don’t buy the argument that it’s a cop out on purpose or that the happy ending is fake and Michael Douglas’ character actually died or any nonsense like that. Fincher went on to make better movies. The Game was a stepping stone.

    Jackie Brown felt like a disappointment coming on the heels of Pulp Fiction as it did. It opened on Christmas, but I was able to screen it for friends and employees on Christmas Eve. It was a small crowd, but we were all jazzed to see what we assumed would be another jolt of adrenaline like PF. Jackie Brown wasn’t that movie. I still enjoyed it, but even I had to admit it fell a little short of my highest expectations.

    Over the years, I have been able to appreciate JB on its own merits. It’s a very assured crime drama with some terrific characters. How often do we get a protagonist like Pam Greer as Jackie? Bridget Fonda (a fave of Le Blog) gets one of the best and most shocking roles of her career. Samuel L Jackson is both at his funniest and most scary. Robert Forster as a jaded potential love interest edging into AARP territory. And Michael Keaton in a role he would reprise in Out of Sight. I love Jackie Brown more every time I revisit it.

    Now JB vs. LA Confidential will be a tough call..

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  3. A fairly easy call here for this Elmore Leonard fan. You have a movie that’s one of the best adaptations of Leonard to the screen, up against some inferior competition.

    Now, as lebeau says, the next round is going to be a much closer call.

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  4. The Tarantino and Fincher films that time forgot. In some ways I think Tarantino did Jackie Brown when he did for 2 reasons: 1: He wanted to adapt an Elmore Leonard novel he loved and 2: In a way Pulp Fiction had painted him into a corner and this was his best way out. It’s definitely his most underrated movie. Not on the same level as Pulp or Inglorious Basterds or Django Unchained. But if I were ranking Tarantino films it would be in the top five.

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  5. Just can’t believe that this is already 20 years ago. Jackie Brown still seems to be so fresh and is using the best movie citations and references ever – in the meantime “Lala Land” trying to do the same with a different genre looks rather old fashioned in spite the chemical Stone/Gosling relationship.

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    • Old-fashioned is some of the point of La La Land. While I have some definite and basic criticisms of it, I don’t think this particular comparison is all that meaningful. Jackie Brown’s references are mostly within the period of my lifetime, while those of La La Land extend to even before my parents were born. They are two very different kinds of films also. While I agree that Jackie Brown is more consistently solid and complete in what it is trying to do, I’d also argue that there are individual scenes/moments in La La Land which have already emblazoned themselves on my brain after just a single viewing and will stay there forever. My logical self will call it a middling to lesser winner when it takes home the Oscar for best picture next month, but my subconscious and emotional self will forever honor and uphold those moments of pure brilliance which define it for me.

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