Tag Archives: Steve Buscemi

The Set of 400: #4 – My Favorite $5 Milkshake

Today! Because personality goes a long way –

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino (x6)

Starring John Travolta (x3), Samuel L. Jackson (x13), Uma Thurman (x2), Bruce Willis (x6), Christopher Walken (x4), Harvey Keitel (x5), Eric Stoltz, Tim Roth (x2), Amanda Plummer (x2), Ving Rhames (x4), Frank Whaley (x3), Steve Buscemi (x5), Roseanna Arquette, Maria de Medeiros, Phil LaMarr, Angela Jones, Quentin Tarantino (x3), Julia Sweeney (x2), Kathy Griffin (x2), Paul Calderon (x2), Bronagh Gallagher, Peter Greene, Duane Whitaker

As I’ve stated numerous times, I didn’t really discover good movies existed until roughly 1992. Up until that point, what Leonard Maltin said was about the only barometer I had – we didn’t have Twitter reactions or Rotten Tomatoes, Cinemascore or IMDB rankings, Metacritic or the late, great Epinions. It was The Scranton Times movie reviews – culled from other newspapers, largely, as I recall, and Siskel & Ebert at the Movies, when I could remember to catch it. But come 1992, it appears my parents gave up on restricting us from R rated films, and by early 1993 I had subscribed to the magazine love of my life – Entertainment Weekly. No joke! It wasn’t the glossy, People-esque nonsense that appears on newsstands today! Or maybe it was, and I just wasn’t discerning. But these events coupled together quickly advanced movie appreciation for young Joey Joe Joseph. And the pinnacle of this was the glorious 1994 movie calendar – one of the best years in film history, featuring the most transformative film of the generation, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

Anyone who lived through the era and doesn’t agree with the above statement is not to be trusted. Disregard their opinions at your leisure.

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The Set of 400: #12 – My Favorite Artist With a Thompson

Today! Because, hell, I ain’t embarrassed to use the word. I’m talkin’ about ethics –

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (x6)

Starring Gabriel Byrne (x2), Albert Finney (x5), John Turturro (x5), Marcia Gay Harden, J. E. Freeman (x3), Jon Polito (x2), Steve Buscemi (x4), Mike Starr (x3), Al Mancini, Tom Toner, Michael Jeter (x4), Mario Todisco, Richard Woods, Michael Badalucco (x4), Sam Raimi, Frances McDormand (x4)

My favorite Coen brothers movie, their earliest effort on this list, with one of the best screenplays ever written, Miller’s Crossing is a gangster movie, unquestionably, but it is really so much more. Its twisty plot of continually shifting loyalties and multi-directional romances can be a bit bewildering at first, as the whole thing is given a very light touch and seems the breeziest of crime chronicles. It adopts a comical old-timey vernacular right from the jump, and showcases character quirks and extremes so rapidly and immediately that you might suspect you’re in for a decidedly light-hearted movie. At first.

Back when the main topic of the film appears to be Ethics

But quickly the story drills down into the group’s complex, internecine strife and we’re off to the races. It’s a film I saw too young to fully comprehend, to be sure, to the point that it literally took decades of sporadic rewatching for me to pick up on everything. Not that it’s all that complicated, but to a ten-year-old it seemed just a lot of hokey turns of phrase, over-the-top shouting, and operatic violence – entertaining, but not necessarily in depth. Thanks for the early primer, early ’90s HBO! Like many of the top, top films on my list, Miller’s Crossing is something I can rewatch endlessly, but it is the rare one that fits the old saw often floated about great works of art – every time I see it I find something new.

Are we all actually Tom’s hat??

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The Set of 400: #91 – My Favorite Saddam Hussein Dream Sequence

Today! Because that rug really tied the room together –

The Big Lebowski (1998)

Directed by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (x5)

Starring Jeff Bridges (x2), John Goodman (x6), Steve Buscemi (x3), Julianne Moore (x3), David Huddleston, Philip Seymour Hoffman (x6), John Turturro (x4), Sam Elliott (x2), Jon Polito, Peter Stormare (x2), Tara Reid (x2), Flea (x3), Jack Kehler (x2), Dom Irrera, David Thewlis, Ben Gazzara, Aimee Mann, Mark Pellegrino, Philip Moon

As mentioned earlier, the Coen brothers aren’t exactly flush with box office hits over their career. But coming on the heels of Fargo finally getting them Oscar attention, you’d have though their next film would fare a little better than, say, Species II or Simon Birch or Gus Van Sant’s Psycho remake or John Carpenter’s Vampires, but no. The Big Lebowski was virtually ignored on its initial release, landing in 96th on the 1998 box office chart, and garnering no significant year-end awards. Reviews were good by and large, even if it’s hard to go by Rotten Tomatoes today, with so much revision that is done to films predating the website. But I remember it being generally liked, but far from loved.

Even with the Jesus

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The Set of 400: #128 – My Favorite Three-Cent Stamp

Today! Because I’m not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work, there, Lou –

Fargo (1996)

Directed by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (x3)

Starring Frances McDormand (x2), William H. Macy (x2), Steve Buscemi (x2), Peter Stormare, John Carroll Lynch (x3), Harve Presnell (x2), Kristin Rudrud, Steve Reevis

I was well on board with the Coens by 1996 – even if it had been a few years since a really strong outing. The Hudsucker Proxy is weird fun and Barton Fink is surrealistic madness, but prior to those we got Miller’s Crossing, Raising Arizona, and Blood Simple – a pretty range-y group of movies sharing some bits of that Coen sensibility we’d all come to know and love. But I’d venture the majority of viewers didn’t really get into the Coens until they made Fargo, which kicked off arguably their best period of filmmaking, in tight competition with the last decade’s output of No Country For Old Men, True Grit, A Serious Man, and Inside Llewyn Davis.

In addition to ultimately spawning the excellent FX inspired-by TV show, Fargo provided instantly iconic characters and moments, superseded in the Coen canon only (probably) by their next film, The Big Lebowski. Between Frances McDormand’s pregnant police chief Marge Gunderson and William H. Macy’s bitter, inept criminal plotter Jerry Lundegaard and the case of loot buried in the snow and the wood chipper, this movie finally brought the brothers around to the full-on pseudo-comic mayhem and violence their earlier movies hinted at. And while it wasn’t exactly a box office hit – they didn’t really have any hits per se, until No Country won Best Picture and cracked $50 million for the brothers – it was the awards darling that had long eluded them, and a massive cult favorite.

Their later take on Prince Valiant was unconventional, I’ll give you that

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The Set of 400: #252 – My Favorite Stealers Wheel Musical Number

Today! Because for all I know, you’re the rat –

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Starring Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel (x2), Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Quentin Tarantino, Lawrence Tierney, Randy Brooks, Edward Bunker, Steven Wright, Kirk Baltz

And we finally get to some Tarantino! Reservoir Dogs was his first feature film, and the first one I saw, albeit when I was thirteen and obviously couldn’t know what was to come. Like everyone else, I thought it was pretty amazing, just super violent and complex with dazzlingly funny dialogue and terrific songs. This hyper-stylized, off-kilter attitude crime thriller managed to feel like something entirely new, while also firmly keeping a foot in the past history of the genre. It had flashbacks and flash forwards and characters lying to each other but where the audience already knew the truth, and that soundtrack! I had this tape in my old ’87 Firebird all the time when I was in college.

Available on eBay!

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