Quentin Tarantino eluded the sophomore jinx in a huge way after “Reservoir Dogs” put him on the filmland map in 1992 by scoring an Oscar win for best screenplay for one of the best picture nominees, “Pulp Fiction” (1994), which also garnered him a best director nom among seven total nods. After acting stints here and there in the last three years as well as press reports of altercations, plus his chill-out following the hoopla and biographies that attended the phenomenon of his out-of-the-video store ascendance to major player, Tarantino has put the finishing touches on his all-star adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel, “Rum Punch,” called “Jackie Brown.”
Conventional wisdom states that some of the dogs in the speculative press and the more traditional quarters in the academy are waiting to pounce on Tarantino if “Jackie Brown” isn’t a home run — a circumstance that could put a strange spin on the film’s nominations chances.
An asphalt-level thriller set in South Florida, the film returns Tarantino to the world of guns, drugs, robbery, gangs and doublecrosses. The talent Tarantino attracted to the film has both big power and a central twist as former blaxploitation doll Pam Grier stars in the title role of a flight attendant caught smuggling cocaine and dirty money and gets caught between the feds and a nasty gun runner.
Her blue-chip support is Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton and Robert Forster.
This is Jackson’s second film for Tarantino after he and John Travolta received acting nominations for “Pulp Fiction.” If the year-end-debuting picture captures the public imagination and Tarantino follows through with another involving compendium of action, left-brain dialogue and pop-culture references to a best picture nomination, expect a half-dozen other noms, including a couple for actors, possibly Jackson. The Grier from-nowhere-to-limelight situation is ripe for academy exploitation.
Non-A-list femmes who have been rewarded with best-actress noms in the past decade include Stockard Channing for “Six Degrees of Separation”; Mary McDonnell, “Passion Fish”; Pauline Collins, “Shirley Valentine”; Sally Kirkland, “Anna”; and winners Frances McDormand for “Fargo,” and Kathy Bates for “Misery.”
Classic Oscar credentials: 1 (Oscar says no to drugs)
Cause celebre: 0 (Crime never pays)
Vanity element: 9 (Tarantino’s back with vengeance)
The David vs. Goliath Syndrome: 5 (Tarantino is still hip, man)
The feel-good movie of the year factor: 5 (Remember “Get Shorty”)
The unavoidable, inexorable buzz pic: 10 (Curiosity factor is very high)
Idiot savants have more fun: 0 (No dingo babies here)
Timing is everything: 7 (Very late year entry)
OQ total: 37