Newsletter: Title Protagonists
When the movie is named after the main character, it's ride-or-die.
Welcome to the Rewind Video Newsletter, the premier video store newsletter on the internet.
For years, our customers' favorite shelf in the entire store has been the Staff Recommendation Shelf. When we rotate new movies onto the shelf, the staff always adheres to a theme chosen by store management.
"The Shelf" has gotten so popular, in fact, that we now discuss our selections on the Rewind Video Podcast. In The Newsletter, we dive a little deeper.
This week, Robinzon Chavez takes a closer look at the movies he chose for the "Title Protagonists" theme.
You know what you're getting when you put on a movie named after the main character.
All of your eggs are in that person's basket. You're going to be spending most, and likely all, of your time with them, so they better have qualities that make it worth it to be around them so much.
Whether it's enthusiasm, charisma, a sense of humor, or even something bad that makes it fun to hate them, if you're not on a ride-or-die basis with your title protagonist, it's probably not a trip you should be going on anyway.
1997 • 154 min • dir. Quentin Tarantino
Jackie Brown is a down-tempo, crime hang-out. We spend so much time soaking in the atmosphere, learning about our characters and the messy world that they live in, and Tarantino exercises so much patience that it borders on lackadaisical.
Most of the people we meet are at the end of their productive years, about to leave middle-age, and they've all found themselves at a point where they're starting to wonder if they're ever going to get more out of life.
The central heist is fairly small-time, especially in the context of modern heist cinema, but for them, it could be their last chance to get ahead, to finally hit a jackpot in Sweepstakes America.
In the middle of it all is Pam Grier as Jackie, the center of the story, but also the center of everyone's attention.
This is a woman that has always put herself on the line for the men in her life, and now she's working for a shit-ball, last-chance airline. Why wouldn't she try to rig together a scheme when she sees her chance, no matter how small the potatoes?
It might be a little slapdash, and there was a lot of luck along the way, & maybe some happy accidents, but isn't it about damn time that Jackie Brown caught a break?
1994 • 127 min • dir. Tim Burton
Ed Wood is about a wildly incompetent film director that, through sheer force of charisma, created work that has managed to stand the test of time.
What he and his band of weirdos understood, even if none of them articulated it, was that the point of art is in its creation. To them, it doesn't matter if it's good or bad — and it's very bad — but only that they got to make it.
People are drawn to him because he believes in himself, in what he's doing, and in those that help him along the way. Ed is walking proof that enthusiasm is more important than competence — perhaps the wrong lesson for modern America, but maybe an apt one for early Hollywood go-getters.
The real-life Ed Wood eventually succumbed to raging alcoholism, writing pornography to pay the bills. The joy in his life & work had run out.
Tim Burton recently directed a Dumbo movie.
It's not the choice I would be making for him, one of the most singular directors of the 90's. But then again, it's possible Dumbo is what makes Tim Burton happy.
And maybe a happy Tim Burton isn't great for my movie collection, but fuck it, at least we have Ed Wood.
1988 • 96 min • dir. Craig R. Baxley
The concept of "so bad, it's good" has never struck me right. If I like something, I can defend it. And if I like something, at least by that measure, then it's not "bad."
But, what I will say about Action Jackson is that it does take a certain level of incompetence to create art this pure.
The character (and apparently the entire movie?) was concocted by Carl Weathers during a coffee break on the set of Predator, someone found a stunt man that thought he could direct a movie, and the next thing we know, Action Jackson was in theaters.
Or something not too far off from that. The result is, predictably, 96 minutes of hunky dudes, hot chicks, exploding cars, people set aflame, and Craig T. Nelson doing karate. Also, Carl Weathers runs down and tackles a moving car.
Competent filmmaking is sometimes overrated. Action Jackson might be trash, but it's platinum trash.