Movies

That Glourious Basterd

In defense of Quentin Tarantino

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(Note: The following article about Inglourious Basterds contains spoilers. Significant spoilers. Giving-away-the-ending spoilers. If you intend to watch the film but haven't done it yet, see it before reading further. The article will still be here when you're finished.)

With Inglourious Basterds, his genre-scrambling film about vengeful Jews killing Nazis, writer-director Quentin Tarantino has had his strongest opening weekend ever, finishing first at the box office and taking in about $37.6 million. His movie deserves to do well next weekend, too: It is witty and suspenseful, smart and entertaining. It is also controversial, which ought to boost its receipts even more.

Tarantino has always been a figure of controversy—when Bob Dole denounced the culture industry during the 1996 presidential campaign, he singled out two Tarantino-scripted pictures, True Romance and Natural Born Killers—but by taking a deeply unorthodox approach to the Nazi persecution of the Jews, a topic Hollywood usually approaches with somber reverence, the filmmaker has attracted more uneasiness than usual. Three charges against the director stand out:

Charge #1: Quentin Tarantino is Tommy Westphall. All of Tarantino's movies are marinated in pop culture. He names characters after obscure European actresses; he deliberately echoes images from films both famous and arcane; his protagonists chat constantly about pop songs and superhero stories; even the fonts in his credits are nods to the Hollywood past. This thicket of allusions has left him open to accusations of ignoring the real world. His "frame of reference," to quote one typical appraisal, "seems limited to the movie theatre, the comics store and the record store." In a scathing review of Basterds in The Independent, Johann Hari accuses its author of "mistaking his DVD collection for a life." In a more sympathetic assessment in Salon, Stephanie Zacharek still feels the need to suggest that "real-life moviegoers might be frustrated or flummoxed by Tarantino's constant parade of references" before arguing that this time, at last, "Tarantino's vision is opening wider instead of closing in on itself." For many critics, Tarantino is the auterist equivalent of Tommy Westphall, the autistic boy in St. Elsewhere who turns out, in the most common interpretation of that TV show's finale, to have imagined the entire run of the series while staring at a snow globe (and, according to a logically cracked but diverting fan theory, to have imagined the 280-plus programs that overlap in some way with the St. Elsewhere universe as well).

The first thing to note, before we say anything about Inglourious Basterds, is that this charge has always been unfair. It's true that Tarantino's pictures are tapestries of quotations and allusions, some of them invisible to everyone but him. But his films aren't merely about movies, music, and comics; they're about the people who watch movies, listen to music, and read comics. In other words, they're about us. Tarantino's dialogue reflects the way the citizens of a media-saturated society actually talk: We debate the meaning of Madonna lyrics, explain ourselves with allusions to Superman or Kung Fu, crack jokes about Tom Cruise movies, and shift easily from such subjects to Seinfeldian arguments about tipping, foot massages, and other matters of social protocol. Tarantino's dialogue is too comic and stylized to be completely naturalistic, but it reflects the world outside the movie theater at least as much as the world within it. This isn't the Tommy Westphall mode of media consumption, the perspective of an autistic boy lost in a self-contained universe. It's groups of people experiencing the culture together and relating it to their lives.

You can't claim such realism for the equally pop-savvy dialogue in Inglourious Basterds, given that it takes place in Europe during World War II. (It's unlikely that a real Nazi soldier would be familiar with the phrase "Mexican stand-off.") But the new film's conversations aren't mere movie-geek games either.

Films about World War II typically conform to the conventions of one genre or another, from gritty platoon tales like The Naked and the Dead to solemn Holocaust dramas like Schindler's List; viewers generally judge them by how well they meet their expectations for the genre. The most popular of these pictures are often the ones in which those expectations are unstated and the mechanics that meet them act invisibly, so that we don't see, say, that when Schindler's List invites us to identify with its hero, it lets us flatter ourselves into believing we too would act so nobly under such difficult circumstances. Inglourious Basterds, by contrast, constantly calls attention to the fact that it's a movie, and not just by making sly references to everything from The Searchers to The Wizard of Oz. It recognizes frankly that its fantasies are confined to the theater. Indeed, when it gives us one of the most brazen plot twists ever to appear onscreen—Adolf Hitler is assassinated and the war comes to an early conclusion—the fantastic event takes place in a theater. Movies ignore the real details of history all the time, and typically only historians notice the errors. This movie breaks with history so radically that it's impossible, deliberately impossible, to miss the fact that it's a fantasy. That too is far from Tommy Westphall territory.

Charge #2: Quentin Tarantino is John Yoo. The violence in Tarantino's movies has always been controversial. But this time, with sympathetic characters committing acts that would be war crimes in the real world, the topic has been especially contentious. Hari describes the movie as a story that "sees the Holocaust as just another spaghetti Western, and one where the suggested solution is more torture, coming from the victims this time." In this view, Basterds is a brief for sadism, a movie for the sort of people who think the way to defeat Al Qaeda is to emulate its brutal tactics.

There's no denying it: The film's anti-Nazi warriors, a French Jew seeking revenge for her family's death (Mélanie Laurent) and a Jewish fighting unit led by Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), are torturers and killers. Any time Pitt's platoon lets a German fighter go, he first carves a swastika on the soldier's forehead so he'll never be able to deny his past. In Newsweek, Daniel Mendelsohn writes that this echoes a Nazi practice of carving Stars of David into rabbis' chests before murdering them. Mendelsohn also notes that the film's climax echoes another set of German atrocities:

A group of unsuspecting people is tricked into entering a large building; the doors of the building are locked and bolted from the outside; then the building is set on fire. The twist here is not that Tarantino, a director with a notorious penchant for explicit violence, shows you in loving detail what happens inside the burning building—the desperate banging on the doors, the bodies alight, the screams, confusion, the flames. The twist is that this time the people inside the building are Nazis and the people who are killing them are Jews.

If you assume the audience is supposed to root uncritically for the people who set that building on fire, it's easy to find Hari's simple moral in the movie: Villains deserve to die of their own medicine, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But Mendelsohn doesn't mention something significant about the burning building: It's a movie theater, and the people inside it have been watching a violent picture about a Nazi sniper (a man known, we're told, as "the German Sgt. York") as he picks off Allied soldiers. In a movie that has invited us to sympathize with savage soldiers, we suddenly see a roomful of grotesque German theatergoers, one of them Hitler himself, cheering delightedly as the shooter on the screen cold-bloodedly slaughters Americans. Tarantino doesn't just show us vengeful Jews reenacting the crimes of the Nazis; he shows us Nazi film fans reenacting his own audience's bloodlust. And then they're killed for their complicity.

Tarantino engages in this sort of doubling throughout the movie. In the film's first segment, an SS officer nicknamed the Jew Hunter (played brilliantly by Christoph Waltz) delivers a speech echoing the Nazi propaganda theme that Jews are equivalent to rats. In the second segment, Pitt's Nazi-hunting commando delivers a speech that treats German soldiers as vermin fit only to be killed. And when Laurent's character prepares for an evening of killing Nazis, the soundtrack thunders with David Bowie's theme from Cat People. Perhaps it's just a coincidence that Tarantino selected a track by a musician who infamously flirted with fascism in the mid-1970s. But surely it means something that the song he chose keeps returning to the line "I've been putting out fire with gasoline." When Inglourious Basterds shows anti-Nazis emulating Nazis, it's more than willing to raise the possibility that such tactics will make things worse.

It's also willing to suggest that the bastards deserve it. From Death Wish to Thelma and Louise, critics have accused revenge movies and their cinematic kin of being fascist. When Tarantino shows us Hitler reacting gleefully to a film filled with cathartic violence, he takes that charge seriously. But he also poses a question of his own: What if the people your vigilantes are killing are fascists themselves?

He doesn't give an easy answer. Tarantino once said that he'd like to make films that deal with the atrocities of the past "but do them like spaghetti westerns, not like big issue movies. I want to do them like they're genre films." What he didn't say was that the first genre picture that he'd make along those lines would ask the sort of open-ended moral questions that the middlebrow Holocaust movies that win Oscars aren't interested in engaging.

Charge #3: Quentin Tarantino is David Irving. Some critics seem offended at the very thought of treating weighty subjects this way. In a blog post that repeats many of the above criticisms—he calls Basterds a "gleeful celebration of savagery" with a "blindness to history" and an "infantile lust for revenge"—former Chicago Reader critic Jonathan Rosenbaum announces that the movie is "morally akin to Holocaust denial." Mr. Brown, meet Mr. Death.

Obviously I disagree. But if it's still necessary to demonstrate the moral complexity of this film, consider its conclusion.

At the end of the picture, Waltz's SS man switches sides, agreeing not to stop the plot to kill the Nazi leadership in exchange for a comfortable Nantucket home, a Congressional Medal of Honor, and other rewards from the U.S. government. At this point, the doubling process that began with Waltz and Pitt's dual speeches is complete: The most repellant figure in the film—more frightening even than Hitler, who is played here as a simple buffoon—has become an essential part of the fight against the Reich. (Apparently essential, that is. Neither Waltz nor Pitt is aware of a parallel plot that would have killed the Nazi leadership anyway.) Pitt's character accepts that the Nazi's help is necessary to win the war, but he won't let him off easy. Waltz gets a swastika on his forehead, same as all the other prisoners the team has released. Grinning like a confident auteur at his expertly carved cross, Pitt says the last eight words in the movie: "I think this just might be my masterpiece."

Maybe you helped defeat an enormously evil enemy, that act seems to say, but you can't erase your own complicity in evil. It will forever be on your head. Each viewer can decide for himself whether this message is meant just for the Nazi writhing on the ground, or if it applies equally to the avengers on the other side—and perhaps to the audience itself.

Jesse Walker is managing editor of Reason magazine.

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  1. I love how in his movies miscegenation is so completely normal..as it should be of course.

    “Hey, did you see a sign outside that said ‘dead-nigger storage?'”

  2. Do people really still pay Tarantino to make movies?

  3. Tarantino is actually a pretty good producer.

    What he needs is a great editor.

  4. Meh. Tarantino generates more discussion than his films deserve.

  5. Meh. Tarantino generates more discussion than his films deserve.

    I suppose you drink Miller Lite, too?

  6. I saw the trailer for his new movie where Brad Pitt announces that his group doesn’t take prisoners (presumably to demonstrate how badd-ass they were) and I thought big deal – in the Pacific hardly anyone took prisoners.

    1. The problem with armies which don’t take prisoners is that the enemy becomes more determined and is more likely to fight to the death.

  7. No. Piss off.

  8. You know, whether you love him or hate him, QT clearly doesn’t make movies that *he* doesn’t love. When and where he manages to tread into some interesting meditations on moral ambiguity and the human condition, it almost seems to have occurred by accident; his priority is making an enjoyable movie as he sees it. I don’t think this is a bad thing *at all*…and for my part I much prefer it to the forced, preachy gravitas of directors who want nothing more than to win an Oscar and have people talk about how “important” their movies (excuse me, films) are.

    My favorite sentence about IB so far came from the review in our local alt weekly: “If the Oscar voters can set aside their aversion to irony, comedy and subtlety, Waltz should get best supporting actor in a walk.”

  9. He’s like John Carpenter-lite. Same idea–the guys are making movies that entertain them first–but Carpenter was always more interesting and fun. Comparing their best stuff and not their crap, of course.

    There’s nothing wrong with movies just being an entertaining romp around someone’s crazy take on some story. I just don’t think QT does all that great a job. But he’s had some entertaining moments in his films, certainly.

  10. I’m sorry Jesse, but there simply is no defense for an egomaniac like Quentin Tarantino or his trashy films. No, I haven’t read your article and I’m not going to waste even 10 minutes of my life doing so. In 1994 I made the mistake of plopping down good money to see “Pulp Fiction” and two hours later came out of the theatre stunned that such garbage could even get made, let alone be lauded by critics far and wide. IMO, Tarantino is the most grossly overrated writer/director in the film industry today and, unfortunately, HE can bank on that.

  11. But he’s had some entertaining moments in his films, certainly.

    Hence, my observation that, more than anything else, he needs a good editor.

  12. R C Dean,

    We’re in agreement. I had that reaction very strongly in Pulp Fiction, which I thought had 20-30 minutes of good film.

    I also agree that QT is quite overrated as a director. This ain’t the 70s, that’s for sure.

  13. You can’t charge $10 a pop for a 20 minute movie, though. Well, unless it’s a porno.

  14. Charge #2: Quentin Tarantino is John Yoo.

    After reading the discussion under that part, do we put you down as a “maybe” for this one, Jesse? Or under “the movie leaves it open-ended, so you can see it either way?”

    It also seems that some people who make this charge are close to agreeing with the Jonah Goldberg comment that Radley found ridiculous. Indeed, from both this article and your earlier one, it seems like you would put some merit in the argument that vigilante movies can say something about how we’d like to treat evildoers, even if they also embody ambivalence.

  15. Wax philosophically, why dontcha.

  16. Unlike John Woo, Quentin Tarantino has never caused me to swear an oath to never see one of his films again.

    My oath can be broken in one situation: if Woo shows up at my house, hands me a cash refund and apologizes for Face/Off.

    1. The funniest thing ever isn in FLCL episode five when there watching a John Woo movie. “Brother I am turbo king”…”Brother what are all these pigeons doing here”…”Brother!”

  17. Tarantino has become one note. When you’re reduced to beating up Nazis, you’ve run out of ideas.

  18. Pulp Fiction is my least favorite QT movie. I think the Kill Bill movies and Jackie Brown were quite good. Face/Off is one of my favorite action movies.
    Nuts to all o’yuh!

  19. Face/Off is what? You appear to be typing in English, but your words have no meaning.

  20. Why is it when Jews kill Germans, who only openly oppressed and murdered them for a period of 12-13 years, it’s a harrowing tale of revenge, but when they kill Arabs, who openly oppressed and murdered them for 1400 years, it’s the Jews themselves who get called Nazis?

  21. Reservoir Dogs was a great movie.

  22. A thing I especially like about QT is that he doesn’t just love movies, he’s in love with the movies and it shows. He’s like an infatuated adolescent. He’s an artist with no sense of restraint or holding back. I don’t think he even could hold back, or make anything less than exactly the movie he wants to make.

    This doesn’t make his movies great of course, but they are pure artistic expression.
    He might be the last director left in Hollywood like that.

  23. Arabs, who openly oppressed and murdered them for 1400 years

    [citation needed]

    Yay! I got to be the jerk who does that!

  24. Hey ProGLib! I said “NUTS to yuh!”

  25. Yeah, I understood that. Don’t try to Woo me.

    What I do like about Tarantino is that he’s clearly a film geek fanatic. There’s something refreshing about the kind of enthusiasm he has for film and its many genres. I still don’t love his work, but I don’t despise him. I mean, he’s not Michael Bay or anything.

  26. highnumber,

    Google the words “Dhimmi Laws”. There are so many sources (both Islamic and non-Islamic, spanning at least a millenium) out there that detail the second-class citizen status of non-Muslims in Islamic societies that stating a source for my statement is about as necessary as stating a source that says that Jews were discriminated against under the Nuremberg Laws.

  27. Joe,
    That’s a load of BS. If I were a medieval Jew, I would have preferred living in an Islamic state over anywhere else. There are a ton of sources out there documenting that, too, but since I wasn’t the one who made a BS assertion to start, I’m not going to bother providing you with a citation. Go peddle your ignorant crap at LGF – they may be full up on it already, but I hear they’re still buying.

  28. highnumber, there’s never a shortage of buyers for ignorant crap.

  29. Reservoir Dogs was a great movie.

    Thankfully someone said it. And Tarantino is a very skilled writer at his best.

  30. QT gets to much love for Pulp Fiction and not enough for Jackie Brown. He, along with Kevin Smith (like chasing amy), can really nail dialogue.

    I really enjoy his movies overall, however I agree with a couple of other posters…this movie needs some editing work.

    Also, while I like David Bowie I wasn’t crazy about the song in movie, it seemed too jarring. Just like the big neon lettering that announces one of the Basterds.

    I have no problem with references to other movies, I just which he choose ones that were more subtle.

    Again, I really did enjoy his film. I have seen most of his movies on the big screen and I never fell ripped off and that is far more than I can say about most directors/films.

  31. highnumber,

    As the son of two Jews who were violently expelled from Aleppo, Syria during anti-Jewish riots in 1947, I was raised by two eyewitnesses, who themselves were raised by witnesses, to the daily lynchings, rapes, muggings and incitement that characterized life in the “enlightened” Ottoman Empire, the years of the French Mandate, and the anarchy of the pre-Assad Syrian Arab Republic.

    Medieval times were no different, with forced conversions and more stringent applications of Sharia law. While it is true that life for a Medieval Jew was no picnic in Christian Europe, it certainly wasn’t the multi-culti love-fest of a picture modern revisionist historians love to paint of Islamic Spain. Much like the Jim Crow South, non-Muslims had a place in society as defined by Sharia and when they stepped out of that place, retribution was swift and unforgiving.

    Call it all “ignorant crap” if you want, but I’m not the one responding to facts and analysis with ad hominem attacks…

  32. The ending of Kill Bill (2) could have been, oh, 25 minutes shorter. Not that the interminable repartee between Bill and What’s-Er-Name wasn’t, er, riveting, in a self-indulgent way.

  33. Player-hating is so boring.

  34. The sheer volume of punditry rationalizing Taratino’s infantile vision betrays their poseurist circumstances. Fakes bloviating another fake.

  35. The more I think about it, the more I think it was quite brilliant how UNSATISFYING the “revenge against Hitler” fantasy ultimately was.

    Nobody in the audience I was in applauded or laughed when HItler’s face was blown to bits by machine-gun fire, which would be the high point of the night if this was a typical exploitation flick. Instead, the movie actually CHALLENGED the crowd and made them ponder. Mere moments before they were watching a theater full of Nazis laugh and clap for an on-screen hero savagely killing The Enemy.

    It’s like QT cheated the audience out of their simple catharsis by showing them what it looked like from the outside. Brilliant.

    I put it to you that people who hate his films are either prudes who can’t see past the stiff R (or NC-17) rating, or else rubes who simply don’t get what it is that his films are saying.

  36. rubes

  37. I like Ouentin Tarrantino’s movies a lot (although Jackie Brown was waaay too long).
    Anecdote:
    I met him once when both of us were in our late teens ( very early 80s,friend of a friend visiting from out of town).He was excruciatingly annoying.A small group of us dropped some “vitamin A” and I figured the onset would shut him up.SOB started talking incessantly about Welcome Back Kotter and other bad TV shows.The group split up and I was extremely happy to be away from him.

    I saw Resevoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction well before reading a bio/interview piece in a magazine somewheres and realizing that the dickhead and the director were one and the same.

    (The only film conversation I remember is that he really didn’t like Ken Russell’s movies and I did.Exploitation movies of the 70s were not discussed.I remember thinking “this guy watches way too much TV”.)

  38. I’m skipping the preceding discussion and going straight to the obvious:

    Quentin Tarantino films : filmmaking :: The Obama Joker poster : political criticism.

    Quentin Tarantino’s movies are really just bad movies. He used to be able to play them off as “homages” to B movies, but at some point, you just gotta admit that he makes actual B movies. Sure they have nice budgets and big stars, but there’s little that’s genuinely original, thought-provoking, intelligent, or artistic about them.

    The only value that comes out of Quentin Tarantino’s movies are the reactions. This is why I’m drawing the analogy with the Obama Joker poster. You have far-ranging reactions from the “Oh my god this is racist and insensitive and crude” to the “no, this is sublime and well-crafted but in-your-face and pop-culture laden too!”

    I think we need to just stop pretending that Quentin Tarantino is actually responsible, or even capable of being responsible, for the wide range of craftsmanship, moral deliberation, intellect, entertainment value, what-have-you that’s attributed to his films.

    His movies are so far removed from the mainstream that audiences and critics will do all the heavy thinking on his behalf. It’s Rorschach filmmaking.

  39. Nazis. It’s all so overdone. Where’s the Chinese peasant getting his/her revenge on Genghis Khan movie? Or perhaps one about the last Australopithecus…he can take out a tribe of Cro-magnons with a jawbone or something..

  40. It’s also a lot slower than the previews make it out to be.

    A good movie though and probably better over all than Valkyrie.

  41. “The sheer volume of punditry rationalizing Taratino’s infantile vision betrays their poseurist circumstances. Fakes bloviating another fake.”
    Did you say anything at all? You sure sound like a bloviator yourself, Cris. We get it. You can speak purdy and highfalutin. But that doesn’t mean you have to. Faux-latin derivatives suck, anyway. Also, if you are going to try to impress us with your vocabulary, avoid basic syntax mistakes. Subject plurality begets verb plurality. Subject singularity begets verb singularity.

  42. Pardon me. Subject singularity begets pronoun singularity. Although the pronoun’s number is still in contradiction with its corresponding verb’s number so yeah, there it is.

  43. Inglourious Basterds is way too long, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t have the most satisfying ending I can remember in a long time. (I for one thought the “revenge against Hitler” fantasy was just fine. Hitler riddled with bullets I shouldn’t like?) And he continues to give forgotten or unknown actors interesting things to do. Christoph Waltz is absolutely fantastic.

    And SIV, I guess Travolta should count his lucky stars that Tarantino was such a Welcome Back, Kotter fan, huh?

  44. It’s only a movie.

  45. A good question is, “why is QT the only one making movies that people actually talk about?”

    I think people should forget about this being a “Tarantino movie”, or a WWII action movie based on a 70’s B movie that ripped off the “The Dirty Dozen”, or a “revenge fantasy” or whatever.

    Instead I’ll think of this as an actor’s movie. There are things to criticize about the writing, but I thought the performances were great and too much discussion of QT is a disservice to the cast.

    As for the ending, it reminded me of the bloody end of “The Wild Bunch”. It was like Peckinpah was basically saying, “the classic western is done. It’s dead and I killed it.”
    Yes, there would be other westerns but the classic period of the genre is done. Arrogant? Sure. But that’s what it was and westerns have mostly sucked since.

    I got the same thing out of IB’s bloody climax. The “classic” WWII genre movie is done, it’s dead, and QT killed it not out malice but out of love… if he intended to or not.

    Yes, there will probably be more “serious” WWII movies in the future. But I’ll never see them the same way again… and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I understand the history and how horrible the war was, that won’t change. But I for one am tired of these so-called important WWII movies that either glorify the whole stupid thing or trivialize the worst of it with its commercially palatable moralizing and “this is the way it really was” computer generated realism.

    Some of us want challenging movies, even if they’re from QT.

    You want a serious but great war movie because it doesn’t strain for realism or moralizing, go see “The Hurt Locker”.

  46. Q-Glad my high faux latin ways got your knickers knotted up. Have a nice day!

  47. You too. I guess this is…goodbye?

  48. The thing about Quentin Tarantino is that he is actually Quentin Tarantino. He isn’t any other filmmaker. He makes the film he wants to make, and it is great that people want to see his film, because then he gets money (and women) and may choose to make another film.

    To explain Tarantino as if he were, or were not, a selection of other filmmakers is silly. He isn’t any of those people. He’s certainly seen their films. And pays homage to the ones he really liked.

    I like the way Tarantino gets into the head of each character and gets it right. He figures out why people would do things, even wrong things, even things that get them killed. And he shows that on the screen.

    Tantino’s films are quirky, funny, exciting, and well-made. They are worth watching because you never know what he’ll do next. But you know it’ll be interesting.

  49. What does John Yoo (some hack that worked for DOJ) have to do with movies? Perhaps you mean John Woo?

  50. How about a damn SPOLER alert?

  51. How about a damn SPOLER alert?

    SPOILER: If you scroll down a thread about a movie currently showing in theaters, people might just be talking about what happens in the movie.

  52. I got the same thing out of IB’s bloody climax. The “classic” WWII genre movie is done, it’s dead, and QT killed it not out malice but out of love… if he intended to or not.

    Brad Pitt said something similar when talking about the movie.

    You want a serious but great war movie because it doesn’t strain for realism or moralizing, go see “The Hurt Locker”.

    Agree. That was good. District 9 is also good and should be seen on the big screen.

  53. Q-We’ll always have Paris.

  54. “I think we need to just stop pretending that Quentin Tarantino is actually responsible, or even capable of being responsible, for the wide range of craftsmanship, moral deliberation, intellect, entertainment value, what-have-you that’s attributed to his films.”

    Wow. That is some effective, subtle parody.

  55. I thought it was pretty good. Not surprising it’s been popular; people like movies like this and 300 about as much as they avoid antiwar movies like Redacted.

    I also thought it was some of Brad Pitt’s best work. The scene where he’s speaking Italian is hysterical.

  56. “In other words, they’re about us. Tarantino’s dialogue reflects the way the citizens of a media-saturated society actually talk: We debate the meaning of Madonna lyrics, explain ourselves with allusions to Superman or Kung Fu, crack jokes about Tom Cruise movies, and shift easily from such subjects to Seinfeldian arguments about tipping, foot massages, and other matters of social protocol.”

    Um, no.

    Sorry, but most of us in the REAL world are too busy to go around quoting Madonna lyrics. We have this little thing we like to call a life.

    Look into it.

  57. He makes great movies. Who cares about anything else?

  58. i seen mysef this here motion pitcher an it wuz bout stuff!!!

  59. His films contain dialogue that reflects how normal people speak? Really?

  60. I don’t know about “normal” people, but they do reflect how media aware intelligent people talk.

  61. Tarantino does remain true to his film. I almost produced one of Quentin’s films when he was first starting out, and now look where he is! Sure, some may dislike his movies, but the majority really, really enjoy the things he creates!

    Here’s my article on not producing Quentin’s “My Best Friend’s Birthday”, which was filled with traditional Tarantino dialogue at a viewing room in UCLA. http://www.pryourstory.com/inglourious-basterds/

  62. Did anyone commenting actually see the movie? It was great.

  63. pmharrell, I saw it. I was hoping it WAS a b-movie: nothing but a bunch of action. Instead, I found it pretentious with it’s heavy dialogue and corny directing techniques. I also found it BORING.

  64. I think a lot of people are missing the real thing about QT. He writes excellent, tension filled, dialog. This may be the hardest thing for a writer to do. Most people who write can wax on about the surroundings or detail action. But dialog that is at once natural, filled with tension from beginning to end, and doesn’t get ahead of itself by knowing where it will end up is very very hard.

    Unfortunately, while QT can do that well, the other stuff, the EASY stuff is lost on him. He should partner with another writer, bounce off of him and for the love of god let someone else DIRECT. Some of the blocking shots in this movie were atrocious, especially the scene in the basement bar.

    If you want a good example of what can come from QT dialog but another director, check out True Romance. This may be one of the best movies ever made, especially because of two specific scenes.

    First, and more importantly, the scene with Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken. Hopper’s character knows he is going to die, but chooses instead of giving up the location of his son to go out with a ‘bang’ so to speak by insulting Christopher Walken’s character so brilliantly that it causes Walken’s character to kill him personally, something he hasn’t done for many years as a mob boss.

    Second is the scene in the elevator with Bronson Pinchot and Christian Slater. Very well done, especially with the commentary of the listening FBI agents as the scene unfolds.

    Oh, and I almost forgot the scene with Gary Oldman and Christian Slater. AWESOME. And further near the end with Saul Rubinek when he learns he was snitched out…

    It is easy to dismiss QT if you don’t like the types of movies he makes, but that is a mistake. I did not like Kill Bill (VERY slowly paced, again get a DIRECTOR) but the dialog was well done. As for Pulp Fiction, I loved the movie dearly, it paid homage to an out of date genre and did some playing around with situational plotting that was exceptionally done if you know what you are looking for, but I can understand why some others didn’t. We call them the ‘unwashed masses’ but that is ok, we still accept them. 🙂

  65. Jesse Walker pulls off some great contortions to find some meaning in IB.

    IB is just a compendium of riffs on the Dirty Dozen, Raiders of the Lost Ark (the fire in the theater as Shoshanna’s ghostly face reappears), Kelly’s Heroes I bet, and most probably an “in your face” to Valkyrie.

    It’s clear that Aldo Raine’s unit would not have survived in France for 2 days, much less months or years as the movie has it, based on their cleaning up of the tavern crime scene–and much less if the French Resistance had any say.

    QT also has his Germans preoccupied with the “American Negro” which is just his way of apologizing for not having one in his movie…like all of the other WWII-sploitation films, including the original IB.

    Why all the flashbacks? Are we really not going to know what is running through Shoshanna’s mind in the cafe when Landa shows up?

    I’ve liked all of QT’s films just not this one.

  66. I think most people are really missing the point here. What you should be asking yourself is whether Inglourious Basterds was a excellently written flim, with brilliant performances, nice photography, and an original idea.

    Absolutely so.

    This was a reinvention, fiction, an alternate history, and anyone who takes Tarantino seriously grossly misses the point.

    Inglourious Basterds is the best film of 2009… so far.

  67. Everyone wants to ‘say something’ and few write a good story, a character-driven story. That’s exactly what Tarantino does best, in his own genre-blending unique way.

    I mean, did anyone see the Academy Award winning No Country For Old Men? What did it say? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I rest my case.

  68. Mr. Tarantino is the only filmaker working today who knows how to tell a story intelligently, humorously and entertainingly. This film was so much better than last year’s Academy Award winner, “Slumdog Millionaire” that to speak of the two films side by side is an insult to Tarantino’s genius. “Basterds” is by far the best film I have seen this year. The story had me on the edge of my seat. The events, up to and including the very end of the film were completely satisfying. What a great retelling of history. What a great fantasy. I was left in my seat, unable to move well after the film was over and the lights came back up. The cleaners had to shoo me out of the theater. I was mesmerized by the great actors play characters that were alive and dynamic. I was spellbound by the suspense of the film and not knowing what would happen next. The scene in the cafe where the German double-agent meets her team is one of the finest in all of cinema history. The closeness of the physical space and the bold drunkenness of the new father are so real you might as well be sitting with them. When the Nazi SS officer walks around the hidden corner and disturbs the meeting the game of cat and mouse is played out at its very best.
    I cannot say enough good things about this masterpiece.

  69. Man, I saw a great analysis of Tarantino’s directing style on marqueestars.com.

  70. “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal,” said T. S. Eliot. While Eliot’s characteristic hyperbole is meant to be a justification for his own borrowings from Dante, Shakespeare, Baudelaire and all the other poets and knowledge producers before him, it also helps one understand what the Nobel-laureate poet-critic-dramatist elsewhere meant by “the consciousness of the past.” A true artist is conscious “not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence.”

    For three million and thirty-five obvious reasons, Quentin Tarantino is the T. S. Eliot of cinema. He draws on forgotten films and past-their-heyday genres, and invariably comes up with a strikingly original work of cinematic art. His greatness consists in changing the present through the past.

    It’s wrong to say that Tarantino is a contemporary filmmaker because contemporaneity implies strict adherence to what’s in vogue. He’s Modern ? just as Eliot and Joyce are in literature, with his 1994 masterpiece “Pulp Fiction” clearly marking the beginning of Modernism in cinema. And as the unacknowledged legislator of this Modernism, Tarantino also exerts a profound influence on popular culture (advertising, for example).

    Tarantino has been criticised for depicting violent excesses in his films. But what his detractors miss is that the artist’s mind is too receptive to ignore the violence pervading the society. Look at the Elizabethan and Jacobean revenge plays ? look at “Hamlet”! Violence in a work of art is a reflection of its time. This violence is not vulgar; it’s aestheticised. It doesn’t hurt or make you feel nauseated; it shakes you out of your complacence. Moreover, Tarantino uses violence not for its own sake but as a means to his moralist ends. The baddies are eventually punished while the goodies are rewarded at the end.

    Watch him not only for sheer fun, but also for enlightenment and instruction.

  71. I loved it. Classic Tarantino. I go to all his films. Some better than others.
    I don’t understand the critics comment on the film supporting holocaust denial.
    To me-it just gave comment on how mad (I mean crazy) the nazi era was. Yes, I could believe that a deal like the one at the end could be made and how a unit like the inglorious basterds (love the spelling) could be formed to combat the nazi propaganda machine.
    All in all, a bit cerebral and silly but all in all: entertaining!

  72. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane

  73. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won’t get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there’s more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I’m not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It’s just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight…the Bible’s books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on…the Bible’s books were written by people with very different mindsets

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