Better Living Through Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: The Greatness of Pulp Fiction

April 11, 2012

Film, Humor

Why is Pulp Fiction just so, so great?

I realize you can’t answer until after the fact, but it’s really not a rhetorical question.  It’s a question that needs answering because Pulp Fiction is great; it was great when it came out, and continues to be great, viewing it now… 10… 12… 15… OH MY GOD, PULP FICTION CAME OUT 18 YEARS AGO!!??

*Panics*
*Breathes in to a paper bag*
*Blacks out anyway*
*Comes to shrieking at comprehension of own mortality*
*Grabs clumps of hair, contemplating passage of own life*
*Panics again*

Sunrise...sunset... sunrise... sunset... *sniff*

*

Sorry.  I’m back.  What was I talking about?  Right, Pulp Fiction. A film that, given how heavily it utilizes pop-culture references, would seem likely to lose its luster, yet remains as exciting, vital, hilarious and intense now as it did… some time ago… when it was first released.

It was, of course, a film endlessly imitated, but never matched.  And there may lie the key to what makes it such an extraordinary film.

It’s a film that is utterly sincere, and utterly full-blast in every area it pursues – it wants to be hilarious, it wants to be exciting, it wants to be scary.  And it wants to be all of these things, most crucially, not at the expense of the other elements. In other words, it isn’t a horror movie that is intentionally goofy in order to get laughs.  It isn’t a comedy that goes gross-out for the sake of easy shocks.  It manages to be simultaneously genuinely shocking and hilarious in the same moments.

A lot of so-called "scholars" ignore the sugary snack-based theories of cinema. They are fools! Fools, I tell you!

Tarantino may have captured the essence of it when, asked about his success, referenced the classic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups ad by saying, “Funny and scary.  Two great tastes that taste great together.”

And that’s exactly it – he doesn’t undermine one genre for another, he celebrates them.

There’s no better example than Exhibit A: The “Oh, man, I shot Marvin in the face” scene.  Why is this scene so funny?  Nothing funny happens in it, the scene is exactly what it sounds like… I mean, there’s the shock of it which could explain nervous laughter, but it’s still funny on repeat viewings.

And, uh, if for some reason you’ve never seen this scene, or heard of it, and the title of it doesn’t give you a clue, this clip is fairly graphic.  Also there’s swearing.

You laughed, didn’t you.  Don’t feel bad. You’re still a good person.

Exhibit B: "That was intense."

Is it because Travolta’s delivery is just so perfect?  Is it purely because, even though you know it’s coming, it doesn’t seem possibly that it’s really coming?  Is it because after all these decades of people in movies and TV nonchalantly waving guns around one finally, finally went off?

Possibly, I would argue, the film succeeds so well because the disparate elements are combined with such clear joy and devotion.  The entirety of the movie is made up of shorter scenes and moments Tarantino wanted to see; wanted to will in to existence.  And that sincerity bleeds through.

Just the pure joy in this scene alone - joy of music, or dancing, of movies, of Hollywood, of flirting...

Remember the sincerity of the joy in that movie?  Remember how it felt the first time you saw it?  Better yet, remember the first time I saw it?  Because that was AWESOME. Remember how that friend said he was invited to a pre-release screening of a movie by the guy who made “Something Dogs.  Reserve Dogs” but asked if you wanted to go instead?  And so you had to lie, lie, lie to get in?  And Tarantino introduced it and talked about it and you met him?  And the movie wasn’t quite done and had more scenes? And you said “Quentin, baby, love it.  But what if – instead of an all Motley Crue soundtrack – you used cool funk and fringe rock from the 70’s?”  And he was like, “Hmmm, I don’t know music very well, maybe you could give me some ideas?” And how maybe that last part didn’t happen but the rest did and the movie was like an adrenaline shot of cinematic joy to the heart? (But just one stab of the adrenaline shot.  Not over and over)

His more recent films are still well made, still interesting, but one of the things I don’t like as much about them is it feels like he’s making “Quentin Tarantino Movies” now, instead of making movies.  The idea of him, the persona of him, is making films.

And, of course, Exhibit C: "Bring out the gimp"

But for such a dark film, there’s joy in every frame.  And combining those different elements really is like chocolate and peanut butter.  I love this.  I love this.  Let’s put them together and… WOW!

So what’s the secret?  Why could no one ever replicate Pulp Fiction?  Because it’s not the swearing. It’s not the violence.  It’s not the hip soundtrack, or one-liners, or any of that.  It’s taking things you love for their own sake and putting them together.  That makes better films. Better desserts. Better living.

***

Check out these other “Better Living Through Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups” Participants!

Fifty Four and A Half

Fix It Or Deal

Play 101

Life In The Boomer Lane

Peg-o-Leg’s Ramblings

Refrigerator Magnate

She’s A Maineiac

The Byronic Man

The Good Greatsby

The Monster In Your Closet

The Ramblings

Thoughts Appear’s Blog

Unlikely Explanations

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Blog in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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56 Comments on “Better Living Through Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: The Greatness of Pulp Fiction”

  1. gojulesgo Says:

    Awesome PB post, Byronic Man! I enjoy your film reviews more than any other film reviews, and that’s still a compliment even though I don’t really read any other fiml reviews. And I’m totally jealous of your Pulp Fiction screening experience!

    P.S. – I need that brown paper bag when you’re done with it (18 years ago?! Holy crud!).

    Reply

  2. Life in the Boomer Lane Says:

    I have, personally, found Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to be hilarious and shocking at the same time, as well. Hilarious because they are just so darn fun-looking and chocolate is the best joke ever. Shocking because of the peanut butter, which ruins everything. Why is it always inside? Why can’t it just be all chocolate?

    Reply

  3. spilledinkguy Says:

    “Whose candy is this?”
    “It’s not candy, baby, it’s a Peanut Butter Cup.”
    “Whose Peanut Butter Cup is this?”
    “Zed’s.”
    “Whose Zed?”
    “Zed’s fed, baby. Zed’s Fed.”
    🙂

    Reply

  4. Chris Says:

    This was strangely entertaining and moving at the same time. I would not have envisioned comparing Reese’s PB Cups to Pulp Fiction, but it all makes sense. Of course, they’re two of my favorite things, so I guess it stands to reason. Well done. Excellent post.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Thanks. I’m actually always fascinated by things that no one can seem to successfully imitate, and between Tarantino’s quote and Peg-o-leg’s idea for this “reese’s” themed morning it got me contemplating.

      Reply

  5. Soma Mukherjee Says:

    The last para says it all and so beautifully put. Love the movie…beautiful balance of subtle humour and scary sequences…
    Will check out all the links
    You posts are always so wonderful
    Always keep a paper bag with you..always 🙂

    Reply

  6. 1pointperspective Says:

    Excellent movie, excellent post. Apparently I missed the memo on the Reese’s PB cups. Wassup with dat?

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      All credit goes to Peg-o-leg and Darla at She’s A Maineiac. I guess they were talking about pb cups, and had an idea to contact a few bloggers and all post at the same time with the same title. They’re thinkers, is what they are.

      Reply

  7. Lenore Diane Says:

    Wow, Byronic. I am at a loss for words and simply want to echo the comments above mine. This is excellent, funny, smart, clever, thought provoking, etc. I need to take a few moments and savor this goodness. Brilliant.

    Reply

  8. aFrankAngle Says:

    At least linking Reese’s to the movies spike my craving. Well done!

    Reply

  9. Life With The Top Down Says:

    Remember the original commercial for Reese’s PB cups? The chocolate always accidentally made its way into a jar of PB and low and behold …. a match made in heaven. Well, not exactly like Marvin getting accidentally shot in the face, but still an unexpected event that drastically changed the plan. Plans are great when they work, but accidents usually lead us to unexpected places that force us to live up to our potential. Loved the post! (and a little John Travolta in the morning is always GOOD)

    Reply

  10. MJ, Nonstepmom Says:

    So very true, it is hard to define why this movie is soooo good – it just is. However, you must be wrong, it cant be that old…..that would make me…. I am NOT that old !!!!!

    Reply

  11. Elyse Says:

    Yum, I need to digest this post. Perhaps I just need to see Pulp Fiction and then it will all become clear to me.

    Reply

  12. She's a Maineiac Says:

    This is the kind of post you have to read and read again and again. Much like eating peanut butter cups.

    So you seriously met Tarantino? Really? get out! Really?? You’re serious. Or am I just tripping on a huge sugar high right now?

    Reply

  13. pegoleg Says:

    I DID laugh at that scene, and that horrifies me. Because it’s gruesome – it’s not funny. It’s NOT FUNNY. Except it is, so..I guess that makes your point, doesn’t it?
    I can’t believe your parents let you watch Pulp Fiction when you couldn’t have been more than, what, 8? Or else you really are getting pretty old. Better hold on to that paper bag.
    Woop, woop whoo-hoo!

    Reply

  14. bigsheepcommunications Says:

    I’ve never seen the movie. I’m so ashamed : (

    Reply

  15. happykidshappymom Says:

    What a clever comparison of Pulp Fiction and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. I couldn’t imagine where you were going, but when you went there, I got it. 🙂 There is joy in the simple things, the parts that make up the whole. And when they combine? WOW — like you said.

    Reply

  16. madtante Says:

    Pulp Fiction: the only film I’ve seen 4 times at the cinema–because I kept dragging people to see it. I watched it in different countries, too.

    Reese’s PB Cups are gluten-free, which is why I’ve eaten my weight (or more) in them since January.

    Reply

  17. sj Says:

    Oh, mannnnnnnnnnnnn.

    That whole scene with Eric Stoltz is one of my very favourites in all of cinema (and not just because I’ve had a huge crush on him since Fast Times at Ridgemont High).

    “Are you talking to me on a cellular phone? I don’t know you! Who is this? Don’t come here! I’m hangin’ up! PRANK CALLER PRANK CALLER!”

    [crash]

    Reply

  18. BrainRants Says:

    So not amusing that this classc flick came out 18 years ago. Can I blame you?

    Reply

  19. susielindau Says:

    This is a pretty well-orchestrated Reese’s event! 18 years ago? I remember going to the first Star Wars, Jaws, and Raiders of the Lost Arc!

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I know, it’s an impressive coordinated effort, isn’t it?

      The first time I saw Raiders I was too young, and had a fear of skeletons. The scene in the Egyptian tomb and the “face melting” at the end did me no favors. Then a I saw it a few years later and couldn’t believe it was the same movie.

      Reply

  20. Amy Says:

    Love this movie! And, if anyone asks me why I love this movie, I can’t give a coherent answer. It’s just . . . everything. And did you seriously get to see a pre-release screening and meet Tarantino? That is twelve kinds of awesome!

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      One of my big regrets, in some ways, is that basically every cool thing I’ve ever done I was so busy being cool, that I wouldn’t say “SOMEONE TAKE A PICTURE.” So I have no photos of anything.

      Reply

  21. Jackie Cangro Says:

    Here are two things that go together like chocolate and peanut butter: awesome and Byronic!

    Reply

  22. every record tells a story Says:

    I came out of the cinema eighteen years ago (really?!) with my head spinning like that girl in the exorcist. It was the small talk, the chat that usually get’s cut from a film, the odd running order, the humour, the stories….
    Still my number one film…

    Reply

  23. Angie Z. Says:

    I nearly dropped to the floor when I read 18 years. 18 years? No, please say it isn’t true. I was in college when I saw this in the theater. Immediately after watching it I went out and bought the soundtrack and started wearing 70s-esque t-shirts. A lot. Oh, and I also dressed as Mia Wallace for Halloween 1995. But who didn’t?

    “But just one stab…Not over and over.” Fantastic.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I remember someone putting the soundtrack on at the restaurant where I worked. They did not think about the fact the the soundtrack begins with someone shouting, “Alright, everybody be cool, this is a robbery!” “Any of you fucking pigs move, and I’ll execute every motherfucking last one of you!”

      It was not a wise choice.

      Reply

  24. Laura Says:

    My to-do list for this weekend:

    1. Buy Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
    2. Watch Pulp Fiction again.
    3. Avoid being shot in the face.

    Thank you for giving my life some much-needed structure.

    Reply

  25. Michelle Gillies Says:

    What can I say? You pretty much have it covered. An absolutely brilliant film. A film I never tire of watching again.
    I’m afraid I am more of a Reece’s Pieces kind of gal though, you can keep the peanut butter cups.

    Reply

  26. Valentine Logar Says:

    My children (sons) who are not children any longer, the youngest turned 32 yesterday, still periodically quote this movie. When they first saw it, before me I might add, with their father (scum), they came home as if they were on a perpetual sugar high for days pretending they were characters in the movie and acting out scenes.

    I suspect between them they have watched this movie at least 100 times. Personally, I loved early Tarantino, this is without compare and my favorite for all the reasons you stated; though I have to admit to a particular fondness for Dusk to Dawn.

    Excellent job, as always.

    Reply

  27. mistyslaws Says:

    Ah, 1994. I was in college. I went with my boyfriend, roommate and her boyfriend (she eventually became a lesbian . . . I’m sure that has nothing to do with the movie) and we were all floored. We had an intense discussion about the movie all on the way home and late into the night. You are right . . . it is so much stuff just all stuck together. But it completely works and is just everything. Funny, moving, horrifying, dramatic, scary, enlightening. I am gonna have to watch this movie again. It has been so many years. Not 18, but a lot. And I don’t appreciate you calling me old, by the way. I mean, we just met!

    Reply

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