My Favorites

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It’s Friday. (More than) half the country is in a funk. Thanksgiving is next week. Work is crazy. So, instead of obsessing over politics or reading another essay about how to hack your way to greatness, I thought I’d just go light today and run down a list of my favorites.

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In Appreciation of: “Once Upon a Time in America” – The Best De Niro Gangster Film You’ve (Probably) Never Seen

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This was a murdered movie.

So begins Roger Ebert’s home video review of Once Upon a Time in America, the final film from legendary director Sergio Leone.

Continue reading “In Appreciation of: “Once Upon a Time in America” – The Best De Niro Gangster Film You’ve (Probably) Never Seen”

21 Acclaimed Films I (Still) Have Yet to See

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Note: I originally published this in early 2016 and in the 18 months since, I still have not seen any of the films on this list, including the two most recent Best Picture winners. The list continues to grow…

When my wife and I first started dating, I lived in Philly and she lived just outside New York City. Every week, we would meet halfway and have dinner before seeing a movie. For that year, I saw everything, including Batman Begins two or three times.

Continue reading “21 Acclaimed Films I (Still) Have Yet to See”

Quentin Tarantino’s Amateur Film

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Quentin Tarantino is a genius. We can argue the details, but as a filmmaker, he is almost unmatched. Pulp Fiction alone changed cinema forever. He can work in any style and deliver a fantastic film. Nearly every film is not only good or even great, but spectacular. Even his weakest effort (and the fact that no one can agree on what one that is) is better than nearly every filmmaker’s best work.

All of which makes My Best Friend’s Birthday a fascinating viewing experience. Co-written by Tarantino and Craig Hamann and directed by (and starring) Tarantino, the film was made from 1984 – 1987 on 16mm for an estimated $5,000 while Tarantino worked at a video store. (The Clerks parallels are pretty astounding.)

It was originally a 70-minute film, but due to a fire only 36 minutes of the film remains, and this cut has been screened at several film festivals. If you’re interested, the screenplay can be found online. Tarantino never attended film school, but he considers My Best Friend’s Birthday to be his coursework:

Tarantino has referred to this film as his ‘film school.’ Although the film was by his own admission very poorly directed, the experience gained from the film helped him in directing future films. Some of the dialogue would go on to be used in Quentin’s script True Romance.

It’s a bit of a mess and not just because only half of the film survives. The music is often louder than the dialogue and the editing is far from smooth. Unlike Clerks, it is not a great film on its own, but there are certain scenes and camera angles that show a window into a budding auteur  that would soon go on to change the game and the dialogue is unmistakably Tarantino:


Christopher Pierznik is the author of eight books, all of which can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, and many more. He has been quoted on Buzzfeed and Deadspin. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Movie What Ifs

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It is often said that so many things need to go right on a movie set that it’s amazing that any films survive long enough to make it to the theater. Also, many scripts and plans take years to develop with various directors and actors becoming attached to productions before dropping out of them and pursuing other avenues of work.

Here is a short list of just some my favorite what ifs in the film industry:

  • What if Will Smith had not turned down the lead roles in The Matrix and Django Unchained?
  • What if Marvel Studios had not let Jon Favreau cast Robert Downey Jr. as the lead in Iron Man?
  • What if Quentin Tarantino had gotten his dream cast for Pulp Fiction?
  • What would The Dark Knight Rises had been if Heath Ledger had lived?
  • What if Jim Carrey and Steven Spielberg had made Meet the Parents (Carrey is the one that came up with the last name of “Focker”)?
  • What if Jack Nicholson had not turned down the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather?
  • What if Francis Ford Coppola had not waited so long to make The Godfather Part III?
  • What if Robert Duvall’s salary demand not have prevented him from starring in Godfather III?
  • What if Robert De Niro hadn’t dropped out of the role of Frank Costello in The Departed?

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  • What if the ending of I Am Legend not been changed?
  • What if Molly Ringwald had not turned down the lead role in Ghost?
  • What if Leonardo DiCaprio had not turned down the role of Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights?
  • What if Forrest Gump had been made with any of the studio’s first three choices as the titular character – John Travolta, Bill Murray or Chevy Chase?
  • What if Brad Pitt had played the lead in Memento?
  • What if David Lynch had directed Return of the Jedi?
  • What if Lucas had let others direct (and write) the prequels?
  • What if Brandon Lee and River Phoenix had lived?

Christopher Pierznik is the author of eight books, all of which can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Quentin Tarantino’s Original Wish List for the Cast of “Pulp Fiction”

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Pulp Fiction is one of those films where it’s hard to imagine anyone portraying the characters other than the actors that were ultimately in the film. However, this list of Tarantino’s dream actors for the cast is great.

For me, the most interesting case is Lance, the drug dealer in a robe, who was ultimately played by Eric Stoltz (the original Marty McFly). Stoltz was great, but seeing John Cusack in that role would’ve been incredible! Also, I think Michael Keaton would’ve brought an interesting take to the role.

As far as Vincent, Tarantino wrote it for Michael Madsen, who portrayed Vic Vega in Reservoir Dogs. If Madsen had been Vince, how does that affect the Tarantino universe? Are Vic and Vincent (who are now said to have been brothers) the same person? Are they twins?

Movie What Ifs fascinate me and it’s pretty amazing to see what Pulp Fiction could have been.

[via Reddit]


Christopher Pierznik is the author of eight books, all of which can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, and many more. He has been quoted on Buzzfeed and Deadspin. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.