'The Piano' & 'Pulp Fiction': First-Rate Gothic Drama & Obnoxious Hipness

by Andre Soares
The Piano Holly Hunter Anna Paquin
The Piano with Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin.

Writer-director Jane Campion's Gothic drama The Piano, the best of the 1993 Best Picture Oscar nominees and one of the greatest – and greatest-looking – films of the 1990s, will be screened as the first feature in the fifth and final season of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' “Great To Be Nominated” series. The Piano screening will take place on Monday, April 21, at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. Afterwards, actor Cliff Curtis and U.S. casting director Victoria Thomas will take part in a discussion about the film.

Set in the mid-19th century, The Piano follows the emotional struggles of a mute Scotswoman, beautifully played by Holly Hunter, sent off with her quirky daughter (Anna Paquin, delivering one of the two or three best child performances ever) to an arranged marriage with a landowner (Sam Neill) in New Zealand. Once there, however, she falls for her husband's neighbor (Harvey Keitel – the one weak link in the film's cast), a free spirit with Maori tattoos on his face.

The Piano received a total of eight Academy Award nominations, winning Oscars for Actress in a Leading Role (Holly Hunter), Actress in a Supporting Role (Anna Paquin) and Writing - Screenplay written directly for the screen (Jane Campion). The film also received nominations for Best Picture (Jan Chapman, producer), Cinematography (Stuart Dryburgh), Costume Design (Janet Patterson), Directing (Jane Campion) and Film Editing (Veronika Jenet).

Michael Nyman's score, one of the most dramatically cogent in film history, was ignored by the Academy's Music Branch. Also ignored was Andrew McAlpine's first-rate production design.

Frédéric Back's Oscar-nominated animated short Le Fleuve aux grandes eaux / The Mighty River, about the environmental history of the St. Lawrence River and narrated by Donald Sutherland, will be screened prior to the feature.

Passes for all 17 screenings in part five of “Great To Be Nominated” are $30 for the general public and $25 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. A $5 discount is available for those who wish to renew their passes from parts one, two, three or four of the series. Individual tickets are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Passes and tickets may be purchased online at www.oscars.org, by mail, in person at the Academy during regular business hours or, depending on availability, on the night of the screening when the doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Curtain time for all features is 7:30 p.m., and pre-show elements will begin at 7 p.m. The Academy is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 247-3600.

Photos: Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library

Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, John Travolta, Bruce Willis - Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, a 1994 Best Picture nominee (and, in my view, one of the most overrated movies of all time), will be screened in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' “Great To Be Nominated” series on Monday, April 28, at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

Following the screening, costume designer Betsy Heimann, casting directors Ronnie Yeskel and Gary Zuckerbrod, cast member Julia Sweeney, editor Sally Menke, production designer David Wasco, set decorator Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, and executive producers Stacey Sher, Michael Shamberg and Richard N. Gladstein will participate in a panel discussion about the film.

After its 1994 release, Pulp Fiction accomplished a number of feats: It resurrected John Travolta's zombiefied career; it turned its “film geek” writer-director Quentin Tarantino into a major star; and, worst of all, it inspired countless imitators to recreate the mix of arrogance, violence, and obnoxiousness found in Tarantino's films.

On the positive side, Pulp Fiction offers two excellent performances – Uma Thurman (right) as a gangster's drugged-out wife and Samuel L. Jackson as a Bible-versed hitman – and a bit of social commentary about the blood-thirsty world in which we live. Needless to say, the “social commentary” is thoroughly nullified by the filmmaker's portrayal of violence and weaponry as the acme of cool.

In addition to its Palme d'Or win at the Cannes Film Festival, Pulp Fiction received a total of seven Academy Award nominations, winning an Oscar for Writing – Screenplay written directly for the screen (Quentin Tarantino; stories by Tarantino & Roger Avary).

The film also received nominations for Best Picture (Lawrence Bender, producer), Actor in a Leading Role (John Travolta), Actor in a Supporting Role (Samuel L. Jackson), Actress in a Supporting Role (Uma Thurman), Directing (Quentin Tarantino) and Film Editing (Sally Menke).

Forrest Gump, a highly popular paean to idiocy and conformism, was the big winner at the Oscars that year.

Also in 1994, Krzysztof Kieslowski's masterpiece Three Colors: Red failed to win a single Academy Award out of its three nominations – and failed to take home the Palme d'Or as well. Too intelligent, too profound, and much too uncool, I presume.

David Stoten and Tim Watts' Oscar-nominated animated short The Big Story, an homage to Kirk Douglas' career, will be screened prior to the feature.

Passes for part five of “Great To Be Nominated” are $30 for the general public and $25 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Including Pulp Fiction, 16 films remain in the series. A $5 discount is available for those who wish to renew their passes from parts one, two, three or four of the series. Individual tickets are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Passes and tickets may be purchased online at www.oscars.org, by mail, in person at the Academy during regular business hours or, depending on availability, on the night of the screening when the doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Pulp Fiction John Travolta Quentin Tarantino

Curtain time for all features is 7:30 p.m., and pre-show elements will begin at 7 p.m. The Academy is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 247-3600.

Photos: Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library

Quentin Tarantino talks at Pulp Fiction screeningQuentin Tarantino talks while Pulp Fictionalists listen.

Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino & editor Sally Menken: Academy's 'Pulp Fiction' screening

The 1994 Best Picture nominee Pulp Fiction was screened as part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' “Great To Be Nominated” series on Monday, April 28, at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

Produced by Lawrence Bender, Pulp Fiction was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It won for Best Original Screenplay. In the cast:

John Travolta. Uma Thurman. Bruce Willis. Samuel L. Jackson. Eric Stoltz. Maria de Medeiros. Tim Roth. Amanda Plummer. Rosanna Arquette. Steve Buscemi. Alexis Arquette. Harvey Keitel. Julia Sweeney.

Quentin Tarantino at Pulp Fiction Academy screeningQuentin Tarantino keeps on talking.

'Pulp Fiction' reunion

Following the screening, several Pulp Fiction veterans took part in a panel discussion about the making of the film. They were:

  • Oscar-nominated editor Sally Menke.
  • Cast members Julia Sweeney (“Raquel”) and Stephen Hibbert (“The Gimp”).
  • Production designer David Wasco.
  • Set decorator Sandy Reynolds-Wasco.
  • Costume designer Betsy Heimann.
  • Executive producers Richard N. Gladstein and Stacey Sher.
  • Director/screenwriter Quentin Tarantino (who co-wrote the original “story” with Roger Avary).
  • Casting directors Ronnie Yeskel and Gary Zuckerbrod.
  • Sound editor Avram Dean Gold.

Quentin Tarantino at the mike photo: Greg Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Pulp Fiction group photo: Todd Wawrychuk / ©A.M.P.A.S.

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Leave a Comment

2 comments

Nim -

This movie has a style. It does.

It's kinda special:
Which movie created before(maybe even since) reminds you this one? hm..

The script it ain't a sample of intelligent or something, but the way of serving it, is.

Soundtrack is just cool.

Characters are f**ing awesome!

Plus I like the sense of humor:
If someone won't, won't like the movie either.

Reply
Jovanna Marie Fuchs -

Quentin Tarantino would be the best flickin actor.

Reply

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