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Movies of the Month > Inglorious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)

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message 1: by Phillip (last edited Aug 26, 2009 11:45AM) (new)

Phillip | 10697 comments Inglorious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)
Only a hint of SPOILERS….

I had to wait a day before writing this – I was so deeply annoyed by this movie that I needed a day to cool out and form some semblance of objectivity. If you’re looking for someone to encourage you to rush out and see Tarantino’s newest excuse to wage violence against his audience, you might want to look elsewhere.

I want to start by saying that I have had mixed feelings about Tarantino from the get-go. His first release Reservoir Dogs was so shocking the first time I saw it, I walked out of the theater in a state of post-traumatic shock. But time passed and I watched the film a few times now and it has grown on me. I was eventually able to see the humor that everyone was raving about. RD remains his strongest and most original effort. The movie explores the theme of trust really well and it doesn’t feel like he’s copying other films.

Pulp Fiction was a step forward in terms of how Tarantino handled structure and I enjoyed it without reservation. Yes there are lots of images of graphic violence and the ample supply of humor is dark, but again, I felt a freshness in the narrative that I enjoyed and I feel the film holds up under multiple viewings.

On first viewing Jackie Brown felt like a step backward but it has actually become my favorite movie by QT. It doesn’t seem overcrowded with clichés borrowed from other filmmakers, which was my main criticism of Kill Bill. Sure, it’s a take on Blaxploitation, but he resists some of the clichés (like not insisting that Pam Greer take off her clothes). It’s a good solid caper flick and the performances are memorable.

Then we come to Kill Bill…

In jazz there are two kinds of improvisers: the masters of the genre are the kind of players that can spin endless variations on themes in their own unique style. The other kind (which I can’t stand) are the players that have learned a lot of licks (little melodic phrases or motifs) from their heroes and their improvisations consist of stringing together those riffs that they have stolen and are passing off as their own ideas.

In Kill Bill, Tarantino assumes the cinematic equivalent of the latter example. KB quoted (note for note) so many sequences from Hong Kong fight films, samurai classics and Spaghetti Western scenes that he really should have called it a tribute to his favorite films (perhaps he did…but I seem to have overlooked it). The violence is turned up to 11, but somehow Uma Thurman keeps you focused on her plight and her road to liberation. If it were not for the violence inflicted upon her by her targets the film would be absolutely senseless. But Mr. T. at least offers us a glimpse of why she takes pursuit against her oppressors. Ultimately the film doesn’t hold up so well. It’s a long movie with one too many episodes and stylistic leaps - many of which are borrowed, no, make that stolen - from other movies.

Inglorious Basterds isn’t so much a plagiarism fest, but an excuse to exercise his insistence on intense violence propped up by one of his favorite fixations: revenge. Apparently Kill Bill didn’t offer Tarantino enough screen time to exorcise all of his revenge fantasies. Without giving away anything that doesn’t already exist in the film’s trailers, I would like to talk about the basic engine that drives this movie: using the Nazis as Tarantino’s idée fixe…

One of the central problems with this movie is that the Nazis at this point are passé. I’m not saying they didn’t commit horrors during the Second World War and I’m not saying we should forget the holocaust. But in 2009, some 75 years after the close of WWII, it seems time to move on. Have any of you been to Germany lately? Trust me, things have changed! The Nazis are too easy a mark for this kind of belligerent ridicule from an intelligent filmmaker at this point in history. Movies like Der Untergang (Underground) have masterfully examined the Nazi party from the inside, offering us a glimpse of the human beings (not monsters or fictional constructs) that populated the party and drove the holocaust.

But Tarantino isn’t interested in history or examining the psychological impulses that are inherent in holocaust narratives. Instead he props up the SS like so many wooden puppets so his heroes (and, conceivably, his audience) can have a ball destroying them. And yet he seems to take as much pleasure revealing the Nazi’s reign of terror as he does when he portrays the payback waged upon them by a regiment of killer Jews.

His film begins with a Morricone-flavored theme set that I associate with the Leone Spaghetti Westerns (????) OK, it’s a Tarantino film, no need for anything to make sense as long as it sounds hip or looks cool. This opening gesture merely beckons the kind of flimsy logic that operates throughout.

If you’ve seen the trailer for this film, you have witnessed Brad Pitt addressing his recruits. This is about all you get in the way of character development for our heroes. It seems Tarantino is just too anxious to get to the point: murdering Nazis and scalping them Apache style (because beating them to death with a baseball bat just isn’t quite brutal enough). Most of the Germans are introduced similarly, if at all. Adolf Hitler is a flimsy shadow of a character that squeals like a pig - a cartoon construct roasting on a spit. Colonel Landa is one exception (the actor playing Shoshana the other) and consistently offers the most satisfying sequences in terms of performance. But the majority of the script feels forced. Elements that work in a movie like Pulp Fiction (the foot massage dialogue for example), doesn’t seem to work when it flows from the mouths of Nazi operatives. The humor often falls flat as a result.

I’m not saying the guy doesn’t know how to make things look good, or that his crew doesn’t know how to light a scene. The cinematography is nice to look at, but the pacing often feels rushed or compressed due to Tarantino’s insistence on labeling everything in chapters (because he figures we’re not smart enough to follow along without the aid of cue cards).

Since this film cannot be viewed as a study of the war or the holocaust, I have to assume that QT is issuing this latest effort as pure entertainment. If this relentless (and mostly mindless) bloodshed is entertaining then I don’t want to be a part of a society that values such expression as entertainment. Instead of accessing the thrills, suspense or psychological intrigue that comes with horror or various suspense genres, the violence in this film reads as one of Tarantino’s most exploitive efforts. The director has rarely shown so much contempt for his audience. There are no heroes in Inglorious Basterds, only
bloodthirsty killers.

message 2: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Great review Phillip!! Well thought out and detailed. I'm seeing this tomorrow and glad I read this so I have a different approach to the film. I'll post my review in a few days.

message 3: by Phillip (last edited Aug 25, 2009 08:19PM) (new)

Phillip | 10697 comments cool, thanks for your words, as always, alex. i'm very interested to hear what you think. i tried to steer from giving away any of the you can see...

message 4: by Djll (new)

Djll | 925 comments Phillip Dawg: Allow me to insert a little technical critique to your views on Kill Bill. I don't mean Tarantino's grasp of cinema, but Uma Thurman's grasp of the samurai sword. Not that we should always expect it of Hollywood starlets, but one presumes some research and training went into the part Uma Thurman was engaged to play. If that took place, it doesn't show in her style. She can't even hold the goddamm sword right. She holds it like a cudgel, tightly, with all fingers wrapped around the tsuka (handle). You can't control a blade that way (try chopping vegetables like that!). Really it should be held as the precise instrument it is, firmly of course but with the leading hand (right hand) index finger loose, nearly pointing forward along the blade's length. Lest I be accused of being geeky-dogmatic about this, remember that Tarantino is supposed to be an expert on Japanese films. It only reinforces Phillip's argument to realize that Mr. T has not gone beyond the films to a deeper understanding of the actual culture that goes into the films he fetishizes. Imagine watching a fried-chicken Dukes of Hazzard-style movie where they're driving Renaults around; that's what it was like for me to watch the dunderheaded hack-work in Kill Bill.

Tarantino's simple-minded transfer of samurai-level gore to movies like Kill Bill and Inglorious Basterds reveals his smirking bad-boy approach to subjects that deserve a lot more respect, understanding, and critique.

message 5: by Tom (last edited Aug 26, 2009 06:22AM) (new)

Tom | 5413 comments Hmmmmmmm. Well, here goes.

I saw BASTERDS last night, and had very mixed reactions. When it is good, it is very very good, and you're watching some of the finest filmmaking on display out there right now. When it is bad, you're watching Brad Pitt.

BASTERDS showcases Tarantino's strengths and weaknesses. As usual, for me at least, Tarantino's weaknesses overwhelm the strengths.

For the record: I liked RESERVOIR DOGS very much when it was first released. Fast, funny, entertaining, and as Philip notes, deeply upsetting. Mr. Blonde's big scene had me absolutely terrified, I didn't know what was going to happen, I didn't want to see what was going to happen, and I had to see what was going to happen. DOGS shows the real darkness and evil underlying all the hip posturing: the skull beneath the smirk.

I hated almost every minute of PULP FICTION when it came out, and repeat viewings over the years have increased my respect for Samuel L. Jackson's performance, but I still think it is the most appallingly over-rated non-Eastwood film to be released since I came of age.

I didn't bother with JACKIE BROWN after that, and I don't think I've seen it yet. I rather enjoyed the KILL BILLs for the sheer kinetic joy of the filmmaking, but they reminded me of the old cliche about Chinese food: an hour later, I wanted to see a real movie.

I wholeheartedly agree about the lack of thought on display in BASTERDS. Mr. Tarantino is playing with some very big ideas here, and he doesn't really have very much to say with them or about them. And we have to watch Pitt do one of his character roles, where he tries yet again to show the range that any sentient being (to say nothing of any sentient director) should realize Pitt simply doesn't bloody well have.

I'll write more and post more later. There's no way to intelligently discuss the film without spoilers, but they will be carefully announced up front, I promise.

message 6: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Tom, give JACKIE BROWN a try someday; I think it's his best film. But many don't like it because it's to tame and character driven.

message 7: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5413 comments Alex, I've been meaning to, but at some point I just lost interest in crime movies, due at least in part to the proliferation of Tarantino wannabe flicks that came out in the wake of PULP FICTION. I've heard that JACKIE BROWN is a good film, and others I respect claim it as Tarantino's best.

message 8: by Bill (new)

Bill I basically agree with both Phillip and Tom about BASTERDS. I first saw RESEVOIR DOGS at the Telluride Film Festival (it may have been the first festival showing of the film), and was blown away by it, as were many of the audience. Of course, that was a film lover's crowd and very sympathetic to Tarantino's filmic world vision. But as his career has progressed, Tarantino's vision has not. In the seventies in film school, I called the new breed of directors techo twerps - these were directors like Spielberg, Lucas, dePalma who had grown up on film and could manipulate the media to make the audience feel whatever they wanted it to feel. But they weren't saying anything with their movies. And with the exception of Speilberg, they haven't really changed much.

Tarantino is similar. He is a talented filmmaker, but he doesn't have anything to say. Also, I think he is taking his press too seriously. He's told he's a great writer of dialogue (and he does write some wonderful exchanges), but he over indulges. The scene in the tavern is a great examaple; it's fun to listen to, but then it goes on and on and on and on ... and ultimately, what is it about? Hardly any of the dialogue in that scene advances the plot.

What he really needs is a good editor. INGLORIOUS BASTERDS is in the tradition of the great B movie, grind house features Tarantino loved, but those films were short 90 minute action adventures from people who knew how to tell a story efficiently and quickly. Those are traits Tarantino didn't pick up.

And now that I am sufficiently annoyed about all these, I can't even get to Brad Pitt and the ciphers that are the other basterds in the film. During the film, I could barely tell them apart, and an hour after the film, I couldn't even remember any of their character names.

The only good thing about the movie was Christoph Waltz’s Nazi Colonel Landa; his name I can remember. And he was having way too much fun.

message 9: by Sam (last edited Aug 26, 2009 10:24AM) (new)

Sam | 548 comments oh my oh my oh my ... thank you gentlemen - Phillip, Djll, Tom, Bill (Alex I can't wait to see what you write) ... once again you've all written from the heart - such enjoyable reviews and points of view to read ... you've all given this silly girl plenty to think of with regards to IG - in fact the whole QT shebang

if you're interested - here's how it went down today when a certain Aussie chick ventured out to see this gorefest for herself

she actually read PG's review this morning, from the bus, on her way to work ... and found herself very conflicted ... she's always enjoyed QT's flicks (nothing to think about - nice to look at - his passion for representing himself / his chosen craft in his own way coming through in bucket loads)... but she found herself actually agreeing with most, if not all of the less than favourable points that PG made ... what? - this can't be? ... she'd been looking forward to seeing IG for. ever. and now she was wavering ... but she can be a bit stubborn ...

and now after seeing it - i still agree with PG ("...the pacing, which feels rushed or compressed to me due to his insistence on labeling everything in chapters, seemed awkward and self-conscious.") ... darlin' you wrote somewhere else it was cliched and QT was in a rut ... i was disappointed to see the same style / structure

... and Tom ("When it is good, it is very very good, and you're watching some of the finest film making on display out there right now. When it is bad, you're watching Brad Pitt.") ... awh poor Brangalina - he doesn't always do a bad job, Tom - but Aldo lacked something didn't he

... and Bill ("He's told he's a great writer of dialogue (and he does write some wonderful exchanges), but he over indulges.) ... oh yes - the scene in the tavern went on and on and on - indulgent is spot on Bill

... with one exception ... i still enjoyed it

i'm still pondering over why - but i'll take a stab at it in marketing terms (because when all else fails that's what i know) ... possibly i'm what could be considered as "loyal to the QT brand experience" (read sucker for it)

message 10: by Bill (last edited Aug 26, 2009 11:54AM) (new)

Bill Sam,

I understand exactly what you mean. I also found myself enjoying a lot of IG. I think what causes us such passionate disappointment is our expectations. There seems to be something in Tarantino - he seemed to show such promise in the early years. But now he seems to have squandered so much of that talent. If he just wanted to churn out fun and enjoyoable action pictures - that would be great. I mean, let's face it, IQ is both a better and more enjoyable picture than Watchmen, Transformers, Wolverine and most of the summer blockbusters. But critics, fans, and even Quentin seem to expect more from his pictures. I was getting fed up with him before Kill Bill came out so I had no expectations when I saw vol 1. And I enjoyed it immensely. But when I went to see vol 2, my expectations so much higher, I was disappointed. Again, over indulgent, over written and way too fanboy. As I mentioned earlier, I felt much the same way about earlier filmmakers like Spileberg, Lucas, dePalma,etc. Some of them went on to make great pictures. Some didn't. Perhaps Tarantino will grow up one day and make a meaningful movie - something that's about something other than movies. And this comes from a guy who made a documentary about the making of the film THE BLOB.

message 11: by Sam (new)

Sam | 548 comments Nodding along with you Bill ...

but what's this about a doco?? ... where oh where can an Aussie chick view it?

message 12: by Bill (new)

Bill Right now, my film BEWARE THE BLOBFEST! is making the festival rounds. It was shown at Cannes in May, and has been in three film festivals so far in the states, and will be shown at the Tacoma Festival in October. There are some other festivals pending, including Sundance. But when the festival season is over, it will be somewhere on the web for people to see. It's only 24 minutes.

message 13: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10697 comments fantastic! i hope to see your documentary someday, bill! i love 50's sci-fi and B-horror, and the blob is an all time favorite.

message 14: by Phillip (last edited Aug 26, 2009 11:50AM) (new)

Phillip | 10697 comments i just did some revisions to my post (the section on IB), the original was really messy....sorry!

i'm in agreement with bill - if tarantino hadn't shown such promise in the early films, i wouldn't be kvetching like this. artists are supposed to mature in their later years and bring some wisdom to their work...(what is that well-worn phrase about wine?). but it seems (with the exception of the grindhouse feature deathproof) that QT has rested on his laurels and hasn't grown as a filmmaker. he has a fan base that is willing to sit through more than four hours of kill bill fantasies, and he rewards us with less and less.

message 15: by Bill (new)

Bill Phillip. I loved your jazz analogy. Spot on.

message 16: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5413 comments Martin McDonagh is the writer/director that Tarantino was supposed to grow up into. McDonagh's plays feature all the graphic violence and pitch black humor without the smirking tenth-grade vibe that makes Tarantino so irritating. His film IN BRUGES is a great favorite of mine.

message 17: by Ceci (last edited Aug 26, 2009 12:57PM) (new)

Ceci (cecialbiceleste) | 529 comments I'm looking forward to IB... It's been getting mixed reviews everywhere. I have, however, loved most of QT's other works, and really enjoyed JB, PF, RD and both KB films. I think he's a master storyteller. Sure, he uses other films but which filmmaker doesn't? He's still got an original voice. Sadly, IB only opens here on 4 Sept but I'll be seeing it then.

message 18: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5413 comments There might be spoilers below, but I don't think it is anything you haven't read about already...


“Nein! Nein! Nein! Nein! Nein! Nein! Nein!”

Wildly uneven, Tarantino’s latest film veers from brilliant to banal and back again. I can’t say the film is a total catastrophe, and I certainly can’t claim it as anything like a complete success.

The titular Basterds don’t appear onscreen for a good half hour, indeed the best half hour in the movie, featuring Christoph Waltz in a star-making performance as SS Col. Landa, known as The Jew Hunter. Landa arrives at a farm in Nazi-occupied France and has an extended discussion with the farmer about the local Jewish population. Landa is all good humor and sleekly sophisticated pleasantry but with a definite air of menace; for all the surface bonhomie he’s clearly not a person to underestimate. This opening section is followed by some stuff with the Basterds, led by Brad Pitt in full “Look Ma! I’m acting!” mode, and it gives Tarantino a chance to pander to his fans with some icky violence and smart-ass gabbing.

The film settles down a bit when it decides to be about Shoshanna (Melanie Laurent), the owner of a Paris movie theatre which has been chosen as the venue for the premiere of a new piece of Nazi propaganda. When it transpires that the entire Nazi hierarchy, Hitler included, is going to attend, Shoshanna hatches a plan to bring down the Third Reich. Col. Landa is involved in the proceedings, of course, as director of security for the event. Things progress from there, and it wouldn’t be fair to give away much more except to say that a large collection of films on nitrate stock plays a very important role.

Waltz’ and Laurent’s performances are far and away the highlight of the film, which lags pretty drastically when they’re not onscreen. And that’s a big problem. For a film by Tarantino, set during WWII about a series of plots to kill Hitler (British Intelligence has the idea to blow up the theatre, too, and there’s a lot of huffing and puffing and shooting and movie-referencing as they try to send an agent to contact the Basterds, and it just goes on and on and on, really, there’s just too much going on in this movie) to actually LAG is kind of remarkable.

But lag it does. And the fault is entirely Tarantino’s. BASTERDS is comparatively straightforward for a Tarantino film, lacking the chronological games of PULP FICTION and the KILL BILLs. The biggest problem with INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is the Basterds themselves, and pretty much everything having to do with them. Brad Pitt’s latest attempt at a performance gets very old very quickly. He juts out his jaw, squints a lot, and talks with a bad Southern accent, and he’s just unwatchable. The other bastards don’t fare much better, being little more than excuses for nicknames and barely sketched out backstories: none of them comes alive as an actual human being. Only one of the Basterds, Til Schweiger as Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz, is given anything of consequence to do, and he doesn’t get to do it for long. And certainly none of them carries anything like the emotional weight of Col. Landa or Shoshanna, or even the basic wacko interest of Daryl Hannah’s memorably wacked out eye-patch-wearing assassin in the KILL BILLs.

This might be the point, I guess. If I gave a damn about more of the people in the film I might find the brutal violence unbearable. And there’s the big problem with the movie, I think. It doesn’t quite know what it wants to do. I’m reminded of the problem that finally sinks SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, the apparently unresolvable tension between wanting to make a serious film about the horrors of war and the temptation to make a Really Bitchin’ War Movie with lots of planes and bombs and stuff. But where Spielberg panders to his audience’s survivor guilt and ends by wagging a finger in our collective face (“Earn This!”), Tarantino gleefully goes for bloody broke and uses the power of cinema to destroy the Nazis (quite literally).

Tarantino’s results are ultimately as mixed as Spielberg’s. I wasn’t as appalled by the Holocaust that Tarantino unleashes on his massed Nazi victims as I was by the final act of smirking deliberate personal torture that a grinning Brad Pitt perpetrates on a single character. There’s something about that last gesture that really turned me off the movie and those associated with it for not being as appalled as I am by it.

message 19: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Again, great as always Tom! I just returned from seeing IB about an hour ago. I will probably post my review tomorrow.

Bill, can't wait to see your film!! I'm also a fan (and bit historian, I think) on classic science fiction films: And I never call them sci-fi (shudders).

message 20: by Phillip (last edited Aug 26, 2009 02:56PM) (new)

Phillip | 10697 comments nice post tom, and i'm not just saying that because, for the most part, we are in agreement. great writing, and, as usual, a great eye for detail and a low tolerance for BS....i also always enjoy your brand of humor.

message 21: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (Quentin Tarantino, 2009, USA) The power of cinema to kill: to change the world, to capture truth at 24/fps and develop a new reality, a nitrous allegory concerning propaganda and revisionist history. Unfortunately, Director Quentin Tarantino buries his grand idea amid the violent squalor of hack acting and boring exposition, delivering a superficial catharsis where the once powerless Jewish victims punish Nazis, represented by the commando squad of Inglorious Basterds, who fill their abattoir with the bodies and scalps of German animals. This is frustratingly Tarantino’s worst film because there is a good story here, one that should have been homage to Truffaut’s THE LAST METRO instead of B-movie action flicks. The opening sequence as Colonel Landa cross-examines a farmer, knowing that the farmer is hiding a Jewish family under the floorboards, is absolutely stunning. Actor Christopher Waltz brilliantly portrays Landa, and it’s mostly his performance that keeps this dull film from being a total bore. The Colonel toys with the farmer, drinking milk, his subtle expression betraying the secret confidence that lingers between them: it’s not the words that matter it’s the eyes. But even here, Tarantino implodes the suspense with a harsh soundtrack instead of letting the machine gun’s staccato accusation pass judgment. And here is the crux of the real story, as one young girl escapes…to exact her revenge upon the Colonel and the entire Third Reich. Why did Landa let the girl escape? This question should have been Tarantino’s architecture of revenge and redemption…but it is a question never explored within the ‘Jew Hunter’s” psyche. The film should have followed Shosanna and her conflict with the Colonel, using her Cinema as the means to destroy the Reich: there is no need for the Basterds, and their exploits do little to drive the narrative: their purpose seems to add comic relief and bloodletting. Tarantino’s usually taught dialogue is mostly purposeless and inert, creating few laughs as Brad Pitt and Eli Roth chew up the scenery and spit out languid profanity. The exception is a café sequence where Landa sits across from Shosanna years later…and orders her a glass of milk. Is this an insight into his lust for the hunt, an answer to why he let her escape? We never know, because the story isn’t concerned with her plight, only the adventures of imbeciles. Tarantino fills scenarios with Pabst and Riefenstahl references, an Emil Jannings walk-on, and was that a Dietrich poster in the background? Our Jewish heroine burns down the house with a cinematic fury while her ghostly visage condemns these tyrants: she speaks for the millions of dead because she is one of them, and here is the heart, the cathartic thrill of the story. But it’s washed away by Tarantino’s vainglorious misbegotten skin-carving climax. (D)

message 22: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10697 comments that's my BOY, yo!
great review, monsieur de large!

i really appreciate that you focused on the enormous hole QT left where there should have been a shoshana....and instead we get that ridiculous coda...

here's hoping mr. t learned something on this outing. i don't want to just write him off, i really think he could do great work if his producers exercised a little restraint. the guy can get pretty much any actor he wants to work with and the weinstein brothers don't seem to have a problem throwing lots of money his way. too bad with all the money and resources at his disposal he makes a film like IB.....

message 23: by Alex DeLarge (last edited Aug 27, 2009 05:25AM) (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Thanks brother:)

I think he suffers from having a lot of "yes" men & women around him. Any idea he vomits forth people just agree that it must be fantastic: what he needs is a good editor, someone to filter his creativity through. Like some of the best musicians and writers, that filter (editor or producer) is all-important because we (the creator) are the worst judge of our own work, we're too close because the very thing we create is an extension of ourselves.

message 24: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5413 comments There are so many holes in the plot that I eventually stopped counting. The principal and most gaping hole involves the surprisingly minimal security measures taken by the Third Reich in general and Col. Landa in particular to protect their leaders.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who found the Basterds themselves to be the main drag on the story. And that interminable scene in the tavern, God I thought it would never f*ckin end.

I'm interested in my own reaction to the final scene.


Sideline questions before the big problem: I wasn't bothered by "Adieu, Shoshanna!" so much. It seemed like a neat little ego trip for him, to let one of them go and spread his own little legend, the way the Basterds let the occasional Nazi free to spread theirs. I was more bothered by why Shoshanna seemed so determined to stay in the open field instead of running into the forest.

I found the big fire sequence to be not quite up to the Tarantino Big Action Sequence standard. It was certainly exciting and well-managed as usual, but it didn't quite have the astonishing flair that Tarantino has brought to his other set pieces, especially in KILL BILL. Just me.

Okay, the big issue: as I mentioned before, I found myself less bothered by the scenes of mass death in the cinema than I was by the final torture scene. I'm not sure why this is. The other bits of individual brutality didn't bother me at all. Well, its not that they didn't bother me, but they didn't have the same stomach-turning impact, somehow. The Bear Jew beating the Officer to death in the woods was suitably revolting, but didn't disturb me much, because after all, the guy was a Nazi who wouldn't have thought twice about returning the favor. Likewise the other deaths: they're Nazis and they have it coming.

To get specific here. Those who have seen the movie remember the final scene: Landa and his driver with Raines and the Little Jew in the woods. Landa expecting the terms of his deal to be honored, and Raines shooting the driver and carving the swastika on Landa's head, and delivering the ghastly kicker line: "I think I've just made my masterpiece."

OK. Now all through the big negotiation scene between Landa and Raines I'd been wondering how on earth the terms of this agreement were going to pan out. Surely Landa isn't dumb enough to expect the Americans to honor this deal? All it would take would be a quick pull of the trigger and Landa would have been lost in the bureaucratic shuffle that would have followed the sudden destruction by cinema of the Third Reich. I sincerely doubt any questions would have been asked about him by the Harvey Keitel voice on the phone, and if they had, well, Raines could certainly have made up a story of some kind and anyway, what's another dead Nazi at the end of things?

And I really do think that Raines would have just shot the guy in that scene in the woods. Handcuffs, obligatory little Tarantino quip, BANG spatter thud big yellow THE END. And I would have been fine with that. Instead we get the closeups of the knife slicing flesh, the hand tearing the grass, and Pitt's noxious mug and "masterpiece" and I was more than a little bit repulsed.

Why would I have been okay with the shooting of a Nazi, and why was I appalled by the drawn out explicit torture of a Nazi, shown complete with the smirking enjoyment of the torturers? The only answer I have is that I think I was being expected to revel in the torture, in the slow agonizing pain being shown on screen as I hadn't been expected to before.

I can't see this is as being in the TAXI DRIVER tradition, where hideous horror is the point. Scorsese shows the awfulness but doesn't seem to want me to dig on it, the way Tarantino seems to be doing here.

message 25: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments I also expected Aldo to kill both Nazis. I suppose this was Tarantino's way of being ironic, funny, or both (in his mind)...without really caring to understand the scene. He set up the ending earlier in the film so it wasn't totally unexpected, but he just wanted Pitt to mug for the camera and deliver that final punch-line with his classic POV shot. I also didn't like it and felt that Landa should have been smart enough to know he wasn't going to survive the journey.

message 26: by Bill (new)

Bill While I also did not care for the ending, I think (beware the intentionalist fallacy here) Tarantino is playing with our own expectations of WWII war movie ethics and honor. In all the WWII movies from the beginning to even those somewhat more gritty sixties films (like the great DIRTY DOZEN) one main thread is always, "we are better that them, we are not going to sink to their level, that's what makes us Americans." No matter whether we actually believe that or even believe that Americans acted that way during the war (and I think a majority of the soldiers did act that way), that is what we expect our American heroes to do. No matter how much he might dislike it or disagree with it, the American hero will honor the deal. So in a way, Tarantino is trying to have it both ways: Aldo is honoring the deal in principal but making his own statement. Personally, I prefer the ending to KELLY'S HEROES where everyone, Americans and Germans all become crooks together.

message 27: by Tom (last edited Aug 27, 2009 08:42AM) (new)

Tom | 5413 comments You want an intentionalist fallacy? I got your intentionalist fallacy right here!

Yeah, Bill, I certainly got that Aldo is honoring the deal but making his own statement, and I didn't like the statement he was making. And there's no denying that deals were made with Nazis who were allowed to escape and live in relative comfort for the rest of their lives. A more interesting ending might have involved Landa having expected betrayal and made another arrangement and being rescued by Mike Myers' character, and the surviving Basterds being executed on the spot for crimes against humanity. All those scalpings, terrible don't you know?

And the point playing with our WWII ethics expectations is fair enough, also. I always like what Hitchcock did in NOTORIOUS -- the Nazis are presented as sophisticated gentlemen funding scientific research, while the American Intelligence Forces are quite literally a pack of pimps.

I'm increasingly coming to the conclusion that Tarantino raises a lot of interesting issues (WWII ethics, violence in films, audience identification with heroes/villains) but simply can only deal with them in the most juvenile manner. It might be fun to create the ultimate in smooth suave Nazis in Col. Landa and the ultimate in lowlife tough-talking Americans in Aldo Raine, but what's really the point in making Raine into such an utterly irredeemable scumbag? There's a difference between blurring the lines between good guys and bad guys for moral ambiguity's sake, and the giddy giggling glee that Tarantino goes for.

message 28: by Bill (new)

Bill Tom, don't get me wrong. I thoroughly disliked the ending of the film as well. In fact, from the moment I first saw the trailer, I was dismayed. I was praying that the film was a comedy or there would be something redeeming or ironic about it because the concept of scalping and mutilating Germans is so abhorent to me. Besides the fact that not all German soldiers were Nazis, I just can't get behind the idea that we have to be as bad as our enemy is in order to beat them. That's not the United States I envision or want to live in. Yes, war can make people do terrible things to survive and live, but in IG, there are simply a bunch of sociopaths running around beating people with baseball bats and scalping. And although I tried, I can't find anything ironic or postmodern or even winking (blink blink nod nod) in this film. In fact, the more I think about it, the more rephrensible I find the film.

message 29: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Bill, I think we're all on the same page about the ending.
I still think Tarantino told the wrong story. I would like to have seen the confrontation between Shosanna & Landa as the film's climax. Maybe we can do a "PHANTOM EDIT" kind of thing, where we re-cut the film at home and post it online. Unfortunately, I guess they aren't enough scenes with Shosanna to tell the whole story...but it could make a good short film.

message 30: by Bill (new)

Bill Actually, I think a film about a group of Jewish American soldiers sent behind the lines to kill Hitler in a movie theater could make a good movie; one of those WWII mission movies like THE DIRTY DOZEN. We could call it THE DIRTY MINYAN. Unfortunately, that's not the movie Tarantion made.

message 31: by Matt (new)

Matt | 218 comments This is just to say, I was very disappointed when I saw JACKIE BROWN when it was first released in theatres and now it is one of my favourite films... I think it being an adaptation had a similar positive effect (on the film/filmmaking) as say NO COUNTRY had for/on the Coens; the use of someone else's material somehow freed them of the pressure to out do themselves.

This being said, it appears that I am in the minority here in that I enjoyed INGLORIOUS BASTERDS. Some have attempted to denigrate this film as being a "pop-corn movie." Well guess what IMHO that what summer releases are all about. And although I do not necessarily agree with Aldo Raine's assertion that this indeed may be "his master-piece" I did not run back to the ticket counter demanding my money back nor did I exit the theatre midway through the picture.

message 32: by Sam (last edited Aug 28, 2009 05:43PM) (new)

Sam | 548 comments Alex DeLarge wrote: "... I still think Tarantino told the wrong story. I would like to have seen the confrontation between Shosanna & Landa as the film's climax..."

Alex - the more I think about it the more I agree with you ... your idea sounds like a neat one to me ...

message 33: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10697 comments duh!

who needs that messy (and useless coda)???

message 34: by Jill (last edited Aug 29, 2009 04:31PM) (new)

Jill (wanderingrogue) | 123 comments Alex DeLarge wrote: "Tom, give JACKIE BROWN a try someday; I think it's his best film. But many don't like it because it's to tame and character driven. "

I'd agree with this. Of all of Tarantino's films, it's the most character driven. All the performances given in it are top notch. Pam Grier's performance was just fantastic. So was Jackson. DeNiro gave a great performance while barely saying a word. And Robert Forster was fantastically understated as probably the nicest bail bondsman in history.

Of course,I happen to be a fan of Tarantino because of his Grindhouse style of filmmaking. Grindhouse films were the films I always watched as a kid and are therefore a kind of comfort food for my brain. So take my view of Jackie Brown with whatever grain of salt you wish. But I agree with Alex that it's his best work.

I haven't seen Inglorious Basterds yet, but I still plan to. I'll give you my opinion when I finally get around to it. :)

message 35: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10697 comments always enjoy hearing your thoughts, jill. i didn't really mention death proof, but i think if tarantino stuck to a leaner 90 minute (grindhouse) format, he might just make better films than kill bill and ingotious basterds.

message 36: by Matt (new)

Matt | 218 comments love me some death proof- cgi seventies style smash'em up!!! halicki would be proud. so what's wrong with a little WHERE EAGLES DARE???

message 37: by Matt (new)

Matt | 218 comments Should read cgi free!!! i am getting sloppy!

St[♥]r Pr!nc:$$ N[♥]wsheen pictures, pictures, pictures ||| ♥ Zin Uru ♥ |||| | 482 comments < I think some spoilers..>

Phillip, just found this post, thanks for the beautiful review where you compared music to Kill Bill movies. Do you maybe secretly like KB, oh common you can say you like Uma Thurman!!
I must say I got to know about QT from this movie onwards,I have watched a few martial arts movies from China and Japan, they are mostly really bloody and often revenge themes. I kind of felt that Kill Bill actually had a disguised moral message of some kind which I didn't get , so I watched it again and ...just gave up and enjoyed the fight between Lucy Liu and Uma instead,, a year or so later, I think I like the bamboo sequence from DOA better now and maybe another sequence from Elektra and perhaps even Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil. There was so much kill I almost forgot they were real people, if that makes sense. They sure seem to die easy. And about Bill,he was a bore and disappointing, I was so curious to know how and why and where of the whole "Kill Bill"thing....ooppss...:((

I think I liked Once Upon A Time in Mexico better, it was slightly more choreographed and conceptual, like a graphic comic come to life. Come to think of it KB would be one of those black and white comics with caricatures, that are so popular with Asian kids.

I watched a little bit of Pulp Fiction, QT would like us to know about these violent men, I sure wonder where he grew up!! Have any of these movies ever helped a girl in self defense, hmmm must speak to Sam about it, she seems to know a thing or two?! :D <>

message 39: by St[♥]r Pr!nc:$$ N[♥]wsheen pictures, pictures, pictures (last edited Sep 01, 2009 09:01AM) (new)

St[♥]r Pr!nc:$$ N[♥]wsheen pictures, pictures, pictures ||| ♥ Zin Uru ♥ |||| | 482 comments Did someone mention Where Eagles Dare in the same post as QT movies, I am a huge fan of Alistair MacLean. I have watched Where Eagles Dare, aw common, it wasn't a war movie at all!! and certainly cannot be compared to gore movies. War is just sad, and holocaust was revolting...Gore is just plain old senseless gore.

For the record, I haven't seen Inglorious Basterds yet, maybe they will rotate it soon on cable. Alex I lked reading about the recut and post online thought of yours...!

message 40: by Sam (new)

Sam | 548 comments i've so enjoyed reading this thread ...

maybe because there's been a bit of distance between now and when i saw it - but gosh i loved death proof - the dialogue was just so fab ... i just fell. in. love. with all the female characters (even the ones that didn't make it) ... gosh Zoe Bell - playin' herself i realise - but man! ... and Kurt Russell?! - surprising! ...

i think i've written this somewhere else but my favourite line was "you have two jobs, to keep my hair dry and to kiss good" ...or something along those lines ... too cool

Nausheen - i've never had to learn any fancy sword play for self defense ... eyes, throat, crotch my friend - that's all you really need to know ;o)

message 41: by St[♥]r Pr!nc:$$ N[♥]wsheen pictures, pictures, pictures (last edited Sep 01, 2009 09:32AM) (new)

St[♥]r Pr!nc:$$ N[♥]wsheen pictures, pictures, pictures ||| ♥ Zin Uru ♥ |||| | 482 comments I don't believe I have watched Zoe Bell's movies, but Oh! how I wished you would say something like this!! Sam bless you!! Eyes, Throat, Cr...indeed..reminds me of the last scene in KB, what say we look for old Samurai up in the hidden Cloud mountain and make him teach us that shit..haha

Heels are a girl's best friend!!

message 42: by Phillip (last edited Sep 02, 2009 07:57AM) (new)

Phillip | 10697 comments heels are a man's best long as you treat your woman right.

i made a comment, sam i am, about death proof. i think QT should focus on those grindhouse 90 minute film narratives, because i think he really shines with that sort of thing.

nausheen, QT didn't make once upon a time in mexico. that was his pal, richard rodriguez. and yeah, i hella like uma. i got to spend some time with her once, but that's another story....

message 43: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5413 comments Mmmmmm, love me some Uma. I've always thought she was a better actress than anyone's given her credit for being.

Phillip, you can't just drop a little bombshell like that without giving details.


message 44: by Sam (new)

Sam | 548 comments I'm with Tom ... Uma details please PG

message 45: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10697 comments ok, so my friend heidi is a childhood friend of uma's. back when uma was out here filming gattaca, heidi calls me up and says, i'm having lunch with uma at the MOMA (museum of modern art) and then we're going to check out the exhibit (can i remember what was on display now? i can not)......wanna join us?

i said, well, maybe you guys should have lunch and have a little time together to girl talk (not that i'm not able to hang in such situations) and i'll just come a bit later and we'll walk around the museum together.


when i got there they were still dining in the cafe (which is pretty darn good if you're ever in the neighborhood), uma had got there a bit late. so we sat chatting a bit and then walked around the museum for like two hours. i can't tell you how impressed i was with her. heidi introduced me as her "literary and musical genius" friend (gulp), and we didn't talk at all about her career. she was really open and sweet and witty and not at all full of herself but obviously confident....hello! she's like one of the most beautiful women on the planet! i was really impressed with her wide-range of knowledge. she knew a lot about music and literature, we talked a lot about proust, and bach and jazz and she had a lot of clever things to say about the art we were viewing. her sense of humor is really sly.

i was in a daze after that for a few days, couldn't really believe it really happened.

message 46: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5413 comments I'm dying of jealousy, Phillip. I've always had a little buzz for her. Thanks for sharing.

message 47: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10697 comments my pleasure, i figured i was living a fantasy for lots of guys and gals that day...

message 48: by Sam (new)

Sam | 548 comments get. out.

love this pg ... i'm completely jealous of course

message 49: by Steve (last edited Sep 02, 2009 09:08AM) (new)

Steve | 957 comments Great story, Philip. I lived around the corner from Uma in NYC, and saw her a few times. She is really striking in person. It's cool to know that she's also a neat person!

message 50: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Nice Phillip! Uma is uber cool:)

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