Australia :: June 1994 - March 1995

Subject: Feel good . . .
Date: March 1, 1995 12:17

00:20 Brisbane, Queensland-Australia :: 1 MAR 95

My mother told me, she said, "Elwood, to make it in this world you either have to be oh, so clever or oh, so pleasant." Well, for years I was clever; I recommend pleasant.

Elwood P. Dowd (Jimmy Stewart, in the film "Harvey")

"Pulp Fiction" is a clever little film that will earn Quentin Tarantino the Oscar for Best Screenplay. The trippy events and crafty interweaving of narrative make it a masterpiece of structure and as near a shoe-in as can be expected of the quirky Academy. What will push it over the top is the oh, so clever oh, so black sexiness of the violence. Hollywood, the pacemaker of popular culture, loves intelligent portrayals of violence.

It will win despite the oh, so unpleasant nature of the chuckle that rises like bile when a bump in the road and a loose trigger results in a spray of ketchup, and again when a spray of bullets miraculously fail their targets leading first to the predictably murderous return of fire and then an epiphanic redemption, and I gulp down the treacle again when the veteran of Action tries on for size the inventory of weapons for slaughter: baseball bat, shotgun, chainsaw. In this latter scene we gruesomely imagine along with our hero the mayhem that each new implement would cause and when he discovers the current favourite of sexy, sophisticated, cultured white men, the Katana, we know there can be only one conclusion.

This evening I saw the only film the Academy feels competes with Tarantino's masterpiece of style. Tonight I had the oh, so pleasant experience of Forrest Gump. A film Elwood P. Dowd would recommend to his friends. A film with a flesh-and-blood beating heart.

Forrest Gump should win Best Film. Clever isn't any more difficult than pleasant. Heartfelt is hard to portray without the spoonful of sugar that robs the tastebuds of the cocoa. And heartfelt feels so much better. The fantasy machine doesn't often choose to present films with a message, even one so simple and direct as in Forrest Gump, even a message no one needs to explain.

Tarantino's vision is that violence is sexy, fun, that assassins are people too. Even the master, Clint Eastwood, rethought that vision in "The Unforgiven" where the courage to murder came from a bottle, where a gunslinger was recast for what he was, an assassin, and no more. Others who loved "Pulp Fiction" make earnest appeals for its value based on its 'black humour' but what I see in it is basely cynical, nihilism.

Besides, the interweaving of Forrest Gump's life with all those presidents, it's oh, so clever. (Such a hearty laugh I had as Forrest Gump unwittingly exposed the Watergate break-in.) The way Jenny always runs from Forrest while he always runs after her, ironically by standing still, that is intelligent screenwriting. That people find peace in the presence of a good-hearted man, a man unmoved by money, power, fame or sex, that is a clever, heady little theme Hollywood has been remiss in producing since the heyday of Jimmy Stewart. Yes, Forrest Gump should win Best Film. More than that, the cleverness of Forrest Gump should win Best Screenplay.

Forrest's Mom was right about those chocolates; I'm not sure which one will win on Best Picture come Oscar night. But I do know that pacemaker's ticking away in Hollywood and the winner will indicate the path ahead for popular culture.

People have been asking me what I intend to do when my travels are over. I've had to admit to being at a loss for an answer, until tonight. My response will still be too vague for most, but what I've finally grasped is that I want to make things that will leave people feeling the way I did tonight after the 9PM screening of Forrest Gump.

Patrick. -- Responses Sought --