Jennifer Rathwell: The Queen Of Screen


Will You Let Your Kids Watch These Modern Classic Movies?

Look who's turning 20!

Uma Thurman on Pulp Fiction poster

They came to be classics in very different ways, but two landmark films turn 2-0 this year: The Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction.

In 1994, you couldn’t visit a dorm room without the iconic Uma Thurman poster from Pulp staring down at you with her blunt black bangs, or go for beers with friends without hearing someone launch into one of the monologues. Now that it’s turning 20, many of the cinematic and narrative flourishes that Quentin Tarantino debuted with his first major hit have become expected pieces of movie making, which, whether you love or hate the violence and characters he brings to life on screen, is an amazing testament to his style of filmmaking. For those who can claim to be fans since the 1992 debut of Reservoir Dogs I salute you—for many of us, Pulp was our introduction to Tarantino and Dogs was only discovered at the video store long afterwards.

I was too young and excited by what I saw on screen to be truly jarred by the violence on display in Pulp, and though much is made of Tarantino’s “glorification” of violent acts, it can be argued that they are part and parcel of the stories. The shocking violence, though represented gratuitously, could not be removed from the films and without altering their impact. It’s still one of the few films that I can remember seeing that has left an impact on me over these past 20 years, and reaffirmed that it is OK to love the movies so much. Because Tarantino does. His films are always love letters to cinema itself, overlaid with his unique style, which when we absorbed it in 1994, was like nothing we’d seen before.

You won’t see Pulp Fiction on TV every night of the week (or if you do, you won’t be getting much of the spirit of the movie), but you can almost always count on the listings showing The Shawshank Redemption somewhere in the cable universe. Short on bad words and long on beautiful narration (and performance) by Morgan Freeman and the rest of the cast, Shawshank didn’t exactly blow up the box office when it premiered in 1994. Through steady word of mouth and possibly the most prolific TV running rights of all time, it slowly became the adored classic that it is today, because it is the simplest formula of all for a classic filma great story. The story, which originated in a Stephen King short story collection, shows his mastery of voice and human experience. King’s work can suffer or be elevated when brought to the screen, and Shawshank is elevation.

My kids are too young for these classics, but I own both in my collection, and look forward to the day I can introduce the boys to Andy Dufresne and a “Royale with cheese.”

If you crave the unique and forceful tones of Samuel L. Jackson narrating things, he also read Go The F**k to Sleep as an audio book, which is NSFW but very fun for parents. And Stephen King is a very gracious famous authorone of our bloggers met him!