Monday, August 24th, 2009

Flicked Off: Two Things Not To Get Wrong About "Inglourious Basterds"

ART FILMChoire Sicha: I have a question. At where did you see the new film by Quentin Tarantino?

Seth Colter Walls: Battery Park City, which was very clean. And very weird.

Choire Sicha: Oh yes! Oddest theater ever. I saw "Soul Plane" there. Crowded?

Seth Colter Walls: Yeah, it appeared to be sold-out or nearly so. The theater may have been unprepared. At one point after the previous crowd finished exiting, the people waiting for our showtime just sort of made a mad dash for the theater!

Choire Sicha: This is where I would insert an offensive joke about Europe and World War II.

Seth Colter Walls: There was popcorn and soda in the arm-thingies everywhere. And when a duly-deputized member of the Regal Cinemas staff came in to ask us to leave for a few minutes while they cleaned everything up, he was treated badly.

Choire Sicha: Holy mackerel.

Seth Colter Walls: Verbally, I mean. In the manner of people who are ready to see a motherfucking Quentin Tarantino movie.

Choire Sicha: Right. Give me my motherfucking stab-'em-up which, in fact, turns out not to be a stab-'em-up at all!

Seth Colter Walls: Yes, exactly! Which is why all the reviews dissing this movie as "for fanboys only" are so puzzling to me.

Choire Sicha: I have read exactly one review. PLEASE TO EXPLAIN.

Seth Colter Walls: Hello my name is Rick Groen, and I write for the Globe and Mail: "Let's start with this certainty: No one but Quentin Tarantino could possibly have made Inglourious Basterds. Now add another: No one but his most ardent fans will be entirely glad that Quentin Tarantino did make Inglourious Basterds."

Choire Sicha: Good gravy. A CERTAINTY even.

Seth Colter Walls: Even some of the lukewarm reviewers take this tack, like in what's probably the closest thing I have to a hometown paper, Portland's Oregonian: "… to get so caught up, in fact, that you're converted to Tarantino's point of view and find pleasure in the preposterous turn of the finale. But to do so is, I fear, to approach the film in the throes of a fanboy crush and not with the sort of rigor that an artist of Tarantino's stripe deserves."

Choire Sicha: I find this sort of thing puzzling. So, if you like someone's work a lot… then you're influenced because you like their work a lot?

Seth Colter Walls: Right, this isn't a particularly "rigorous" line of thought. But also … I think I heard a lot of bitching from Tarantino fanboys after this one was over.

Choire Sicha: So the case that this was a movie for fanboys… is not the case?

Seth Colter Walls: As in: "There were too many bullshit talking scenes! I could go to a restaurant to listen to people talk!" Stuff like that.

Choire Sicha: Oooh, the bitter Battery Park crowd! (I heard much the same in Murray Hill, by the way!)

Seth Colter Walls: NY Tarantino fanboys do not approve! (Two makes a trend.)

Choire Sicha: Fanboys Offended!

Seth Colter Walls: But more substantively: there's very little "pop" referentiality in this one. No Burger King, no Eddie Floyd songs on the sountrack, etc. Instead, Tarantino's allusive kick is all high-cinematic, with Leone and Lang gestures. And references to Pabst, Riefenstahl, et al.

Choire Sicha: Et al indeed.

Seth Colter Walls: It's the kind of haute cinema feast that would be heralded if it came from Godard. But when Tarantino does it, it's somehow offensive, or not what movies are supposed to do? And this is where Time's Richard Corliss gets it right, I think: "It's just possible that Tarantino, having played a trick on history, is also fooling his fans. They think they're in for a Hollywood-style war movie starring Brad Pitt. What they're really getting is the cagiest, craziest, grandest European film of the year."

Choire Sicha: I truly hate to be in agreement with Corliss. Are you SURE he's right elsewhere, as he's right in that instance?

Seth Colter Walls: Hey, I call 'em like I see 'em. Past performance being no predictor of future earnings, and all that.

Choire Sicha: Well he's right in that respect! I had been talking about "Jaws" all weekend. And how everyone forgets that about half of "Jaws" is guys sitting in a boat, jawin'. Which, you know, was great prep for "Basterds."

33 Comments / Post A Comment

jolie (#16)

Sorry, can we back up to the part where you saw "Soul Plane" in the theater?

I know I should never have said that! But I really liked that movie. I will go anywhere for Mo'Nique. And also, for instance? I am SERIOUSLY going to see Final Destination in 4D as soon as possible.

By which I mean: I'm not an actual smart person like Mr. Colter Walls. He's probably watching PBS right now.

hockeymom (#143)

I imagined you saw it in the theater IRONICALLY. Now, I know you saw it EARNESTLY.
Now I love you even more.

Or you know. At his job.

Bittersweet (#765)

How is Final Destination in 4D? Do you magically get the 2 hours back after you've seen it?

NatashaVC (#464)

Mo'Nique! This one time, on Charm School, some wayward hussy pulled a whole apple out from between her boobs. And offered it to Mo'Nique as a 'First Day of School Gift'. Mo'Nique held it between her fingers and cried:

"THIS IS WARM!!! What am I going to do with a TITTIE APPLE?!"

She flies first class on my Soul Plane.

Not to be more film geeky than necessary but there's also reference to Hitchcock–I'm pretty sure that split screen that shows the black and white clip of some getting on the bus with the flammable nitrate canister is from Sabotage.

keisertroll (#1,117)

Ooh, did Tarantino kill off a precocious boy in this, too?!

Matt (#26)

OMG to the 'fanboy' charge I say WTF? I've heard this hurled against (The Greatest Movie Ever Made) Jackie Brown, Kill Bill II, even goddamn Death Proof — 'too much talking, too much talking.' Um? If you don't like a lot of language and a lot of impish-spiraling-into-baroque play with language, you are probably not actually a fan of Quentin Tarantino!

(Thank you! Have been waiting for this all day!)

ericdeamer (#945)

Eric Deamer likes this.

NinaHagen (#131)

Another Soul Plane lover! Come to Mama! Mo'Nique is phenom – see Domino if you have no history of seizures.

I like everything about that movie except that movie, great movie.

KarenUhOh (#19)

'Talky'? People fucking talk in his films after they've been offed.

sigerson (#179)

What I loved what the movie "Nation's Pride". So… after gleefully sitting through a killfestival of cinema with Americans butchering Nazis, the audience watches uncomfortably as Adolf Hitler and a movie audience gleefully sit through a killfestival of cinema with Nazis butchering Americans? And the Nazi war hero is upset at the butchery and has to step out of his private box and the audience starts to feel sympathy for him? And then he boorishly starts to force himself on the secretly Jewish heroine before she shoots him? And then he shoots her?

Meanwhile, the lead villain and the lead hero are at a completely different place, negotiating the villain's Congressional Medal of Honor with Harvey Keitel via long-distance radio?

Wow. Just wow. I have to go see it again to get it all. Verging on genius filmaking.

Matt (#26)

STRONGLY AGREE. Especially in that Nation's Pride was essentially Saving Private Ryan.

sigerson (#179)

SPOILER ALERT. SORRY. (Choire, feel free to delete this post. I would if I could, in retrospect).

joeclark (#651)

1. Paginate chat transcripts.
2. ?
3. Profit!

Damn filthy lucre!

katiechasm (#163)

And yet it's not half as phoned in as Rick Groen's review. I enjoyed this! And the movie.

Sure. When you cramp down on a country, or a number of countries, you must control the art.

The Soviets made amazing advances in this area, specifically in the Baltics and other non-Russian countries with specific cultures.

Also? Inglourious Basterds was amazing.

Bittersweet (#765)

The Soviets were pretty good at controlling the Russian art, too. Just ask Prokofiev and Shostakovich.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

A lot I like how Choire makes Nazis cramp down on art rather than just manually clamping down on it.

I mean this was fun and all, I guess, and this Seth guy has an interesting three-part-name and apparently a very deep knowledge of German opera during World War II but I would really (REALLY) love to read an essay about this movie like the one about Transformers or The Hurt Locker or even the one with that stupid baby-liking girl in the audience, PLEASE, SOMETHING LIKE THAT?!

(srry to be negative)

kurtck (#887)

Very clever, the review of this movie running as a dialogue with obscure references.

jfruh (#713)


I really, really don't think of myself as some sort of insufferable film snob — I only half-got all of the nerdy film hat-tips, for instance — but I guess I just don't see movies the way other people do, because many of the things that actual film critics panned about this flick were for me the most amazing part. Someone (I can't remember who now, maybe the NY Times) actually called the sequence in the basement bar "interminable." Um, interminably awesome, maybe? Jesus, every bit of dialogue in that scene was great. Tarantino has always been about extended unspooling dialogue as it has been about cutting off ears.

And speaking of cutting off ears, the movie was also significantly less gory than I had been led to believe, and my tolerance for movie violence isn't particularly high. It was certainly nothing compared to, say, Kill Bill, which is what I had been expecting. The only bits that I found honestly disturbing was when Eli Roth beat the German officer to death, and when Brad Pitt kept pushing the bullet into Diane Kruger's leg. Everything other than that was cartoonish.

It did only occur to me later that probably the majority of the dialogue in the film was in subtitled. I suppose people looking for an awesome action/war movie will be befuddled by having to read so much.

I completely agree: re: the dialog-driven scenes. The farmhouse scene, "strudel" scene, and tavern scene were some of the most tense parts of the movie, driven by dialog and character.

BJ Novak claimed in an interview about the movie last week that they did not think it would be a problem because people are desensitized to subtitles in movies because of IM and texting.

zidaane (#373)

Explain the neck scar? A reference to munchkins maybe?

En Vague (#82)

I believe it's a reference to Clint Eastwood's character in "Hang 'Em High".

zidaane (#373)

Oof, how did I miss that?

Swass LikeMe (#1,317)

1. The big pipe was FUNNY.

Now what else did I get wrong about this movie? (which i thought was remarkable enough to discuss in parentheses)

whoneedslight (#758)

There was a guy at the showing I saw that demanded his money back because of the subtitles.


I thought it was fantastic and totally Tarantino. If you don't like him or you're looking for something to bitch about, DON'T GO SEE IT!

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