A Grain of Truth

Welcome to Wild-Card Wednesday.  Get ready to compare why the stories you love resonate with you.

Great story, but pretty unbelievable…except for those excellent characters

The stuff we read and the stuff we watch is pretty unbelievable.  We’re talking vampires, werewolves, bank robbers, hitmen, and disappearing islands.  So what makes these outlandish stories believable?

In every movie or book I really love, I find something that resonates with me.  Quentin Tarantino is a fantastic writer both of dialogue and character.  His movies always strike a chord in me. I’m going to use a few examples from his films to illustrate my point.

Sometimes it’s simple.  This scene from Kill Bill Vol. 2 is an example of simplicity mixed with humor.

What made Kill Bill appeal to so many people? It certainly wasn’t that we believed Uma Thurman was that tough.

(Come on! It’s only the first thirty-three seconds.)

Bill:  You haven’t, by any chance, kept up with your swordplay?

Budd: (belches) I pawned that years ago.

Bill: You hocked a Hattori Hanzo sword?

Budd: Yep.

Bill:  It was priceless.

Budd: (laughs) Not in El Paso, it ain’t. In El Paso, I got me two-hundred-fifty dollars for it.

This scene sticks with me because it is such a truism of life.  No matter what you have, it’s only worth what the current market says it’s worth.

I even have my own way of expressing this:

You can dip a turd in gold, and it might look pretty.  But, really, all you’ve got is a gold-plated turd.

Then, you have Jackie Brown.  The whole story is about a fear most of us have: getting old and having nothing to show for your life.  Even though the caper is something most of us will never experience, the emotion motivating the caper is.

Jackie sums it up in this quote:

Jackie Brown: Well, I’ve flown seven million miles. And I’ve been waiting on people almost 20 years. The best job I could get after my bust was Cabo Air, which is the worst job you can get in this industry. I make about sixteen thousand, with retirement benefits that ain’t worth a damn. And now with this arrest hanging over my head, I’m scared. If I lose my job I gotta start all over again, but I got nothing to start over with. I’ll be stuck with whatever I can get.

Watch the preview if you’ve never seen the movie. It’s one of my favorites:

And it’s not just Jackie Brown who is in a mid-life mess.  Everybody in Jackie Brown is middle-aged and is watching their opportunities dwindle.

  • Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson) is going to cash out of the gun business and retire on his savings.
  • His girlfriend Melanie (Bridget Fonda) wants to make a deal for herself because she’s used up her youth.
  • Louis Gara (Robert DeNiro) has lost his edge and is no longer sharp enough to run cons–and he knows no other life.
  • Max Cherry (Robert Forster) is nearing retirement age and is wondering what a life of writing bail bonds has meant in the grand scheme of things.

It’s easy to empathize with these characters.  It’s easy to cheer for Jackie Brown, even though she’s being dishonest.

For our last stop, we’re going to revisit Kill Bill.  It would be criminal to let this pass.

The Superman monologue made me rewatch Kill Bill the first time.  I realized as I listened to David Carradine speak that I’d missed something big in this movie.  I’m not going to quote it.  It’s too long for that.  Besides, this needs to be watched.

(If you really can’t watch it, click on Superman monologue in the above paragraph.  This kind individual has quoted the speech word for word.)

Even though Bill is using this analogy to describe Beatrix, who is a killer, there’s a universal truth to his words.

We all wake up the morning as our real selves.  We put on a face to meet the world that is often quite different than who were when we awoke.  We reflect what the world expects us to be.


Sometimes we don’t even know who we really are.  We spend our lives trying to figure out who we are.

Some of us write to figure out who we are.  Some of us make music with the same purpose in mind.  Some of us become adventurers.  Some of us–probably the wisest of all–just march through life, never worrying about such foolishness.

Wouldn’t it be great if David Carradine could just show up and tell us who we are?


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