Wednesday, September 23, 2009

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is a World War II porno movie for Jews. Quentin Tarantino’s latest film about a rogue band of Jewish soldiers hell-bent on bringing down the Third Reich should earn him boxoffice riches and every deli in New York will name a sandwich after him.

People have always been divided on Tarantino’s work. Those who resent his “too cool for school” sensibility will surely hate INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. This is the first World War II movie I can recall with a hipster vibe. And spelling freaks will also find the film abhorrent (yes, that’s how you spell abhorrent).

But those like me who find his work rollicking good fun (when he is on his game) should enjoy the crap out of it. The mistake most filmmakers make when tackling World War II is that they are true to facts. These only get in the way. You want authenticity? Then go to the HISTORY CHANNEL. You want a fun date night bloody war epic? Then INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is just your dish.

A good friend of mine, who is the most discerning filmgoer I know, judges World War II movies by how many Nazis get killed. I agree (and this movie delivers big in this happy department) but I look for something more – a great villain (besides Hitler – he’s a given). And in this case, Tarentino has hit not just a home run but a grand slam home run.

Christoph Waltz, as the evil Nazi Colonel Hans Landa, is the best screen villain since Alan Rickman in DIE HARD some twenty-one years ago. So charming, so hateful, so methodical, so scary – he could only be in the SS or CAA. Waltz is an inspired choice and absolutely deserves the Oscar. If Heath Ledger got one for the Joker, Waltz should get two for this role.

And then there’s lovely French actress Melanie Laurent. If she reminds you of Ingrid Bergman in CASABLANCA that’s because she looks just like Ingrid Bergman, wears her hair the exact same way, and even dons the same hat. She spoke primarily in subtitles but was clearly up to the material.

Warning: A lot of this movie is in subtitles and I was terrified at first because I thought if Tarentino can’t spell either of the two words in the title, how the hell is he going to subtitle a hundred pages of dialogue? Thankfully though, all was spelled correctly.

Brad Pitt, as the hillbilly leader of the brigade of killer Jews (think: Dirty Dozen as the Mayhem Minyan), is clearly having fun, speaking in a fractured accent that one must assume is a loving homage to Larry the Cable Guy. And Eli Roth as the “Bear Jew” might have an outside chance for “Best Supporting Actor”. If not him than his bat.

The story builds nicely and cleverly, and has the feel-good ending of the year. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS – now killing and scalping Nazis in a theater near you. I doubt if there will be a TV version because I can see the networks all saying to Quentin, “We love it! There’s only one thing that bother us just a little. Do the soldiers really have to be Jewish?”

47 comments:

YEKIMI said...

I played "I.B." at my theater. I thought it might be a little too highbrow for the type of crowd (i.e. Neanderthals) I usually get and was right when a customer came up an complained about all the subtitles: "If I knew I was gonna have to read the movie I would have just stayed home and watched TV." And another lady came up and asked "How do I turn off the closed captioning? It's very annoying." I just shook my head an locked myself in my office and wondered why did I ever move to Ohio.

Tiffiny Kaye Whitney said...

Am I the only person who thought that this film succeeded not only because it was fun, but because Tarantino did what he usually does...which is to mimic a film genre? He pays a lot of homage to Goebbels (sp?) and Liefenstahl. Am I the only person who thinks Tarantino created a propaganda film....for the Allies?

Alex said...

I agree about Waltz's performance. His first name, though, is Christoph not Christopher.

Just yesterday I discussed it with a friend who'd just seen it. He thought the first scene at the dairy farm was boring and too long. I now know I can disregard any movie opinions he should ever offer in the future.

k said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
k said...

IB is two movies swirled into one. The one with Melanie Laurent and Christoph Waltz is amazing enough to overcome the stinker with Brad Pitt. He's absolutely terrible in every scene he's in, right down to the last one. I left thinking that Tarantino was screwing with his audience by wrapping such a wonderful film in shit.

Ben said...

I'm dying to see it, but I've learned the farther north one travels, the less likely one is to see quality films. YEKIMI thinks it's bad in Ohio; try here in northern Michigan, where "Basterds" played for a weekend, and where last winter, "Slumdog Millionaire" played for almost a whole week, while "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" played eight weeks straight.

Tim W. said...

Well, quite frankly, if someone is really picky about spelling, they shouldn't be spelling anything in `American', anyway. I'm surprised that Americans haven't taken that spelling for bastard. I mean, you took the u out of words like `colour' because there were too many letters.

As for the movie, apparently it's anti-semetic, Ken, so you might be an anti-semite. I thought you should know that.

I thought the movie itself was lots of fun, and realized that the ending was going to go against reality, but thought it was great. It may be the only WW II film in history that finishes a movie that way.

I also concur about Christoph Waltz. Absolutely fantastic, and will be very curious to see whether he's nominated.

WV- Banfoo: Fake bamboo.

D. McEwan said...

Count me among the non-Tarantino fans. And I can't really get enthusiastic about a movie which CELEBRATES the "heroes" committing one war crime after another. Bashing skulls and scalping. What a slapstick kick. Ha ha.

Scalping isn't okay just because they're Nazis.

How are we the good guys if we're just as subhuman as the Nazis?

I shall continue my policy of avoiding all Tarantino films like the plague. PULP FICTION remains the only one I've punished myself by seeing. and I saw that one only because I used to live in the building that Travolta & Jackson go to to get the briefcase. One doesn't often see a movie shot in one's former home, or see two movie stars playing a scene in an elevator, standing on the very spot where I've - ah - engaged in intimate behavior with a guest en route to my apartment.

Too Many Zombies said...

Totally with D. McEwan here. Let's not forget that it was buying into labelling of Jews as villains that allowed such atrocities to take place. The 'they're bad guys therefore anything goes' mentality is naive and dangerous, in my opinion.

That's not really a comment on your take on
the film. More about your friend's system for judging war movies.

jbryant said...

It's a great movie. And there's more to it than scalping Nazis. There are even a couple of somewhat sympathetic Nazi characters. Even if the story isn't your cuppa, you really shouldn't miss the performances of Waltz, Laurent and many others.

Too Many Zombies: I guess the obvious answer to your comment is that the Jews were falsely labeled as villains, while the Nazis were guilty as charged. We didn't "buy into" it; it was true (allowing for varying levels of guilt and complicity of course). Maybe it doesn't justify brutality against them, but IB is a revenge fantasy, not a documentary. I doubt you'd find many concentration camp survivors who think the Nazis just needed some hug therapy.

Anonymous said...

For some reason Tarantino has one of those personalities that I used to find annoying but I became a fan when I worked briefly with him a couple of years ago; he was an absolute professional with no attitude.

He did a recent interview with Elvis Mitchell about INGLORIUS BASTERDS that was pretty entertaining.

Ref said...

The strange spelling is because there was an earlier, more serious film using the proper spelling for the title. Speaking of spelling, isn't that supposed to be "minyan?"

Shelia said...

"So charming, so hateful, so methodical, so scary – he could only be in the SS or CAA."

Ken, you crack me up!

Mark said...

QT's movies are all so divorced from reality, it's impossible to take them seriously as drama. If you approach them the way you would a comedy, a musical, or any other movie that takes place in an alternate universe, you're giving them a fair chance. They will not survive even a cursory fact check, but how many movies can?

IB is NOT a movie about the war. It's a movie about war movies.

Joe said...

I like QT films, and this one is no different.

And that, people, is all that counts.

WVW - Seriper: Someone who shoots holes into episodic TV.

WizarDru said...

If you want accuracy, go to the History Channel?

Oh, that's ADORABLE. :)

Lauren said...

Ken,
This is off topic...Do you have any knowledge about the progress of Lloyd Thaxton's show DVD?
I miss him. I check his site but there's nothing there. Thought you might know.

alan said...

I found this movie annoyingly gimmicky. From the spaghetti western soundtrack to the ridiculous Brad Pitt character, I felt that the kitschiness got in the way of a great movie. I wouldn't say it ruined the movie, but it made me like it less.

Greg said...

The "best screen villain" (particularly with a German accent) of the past 20 years is neither Christoph Waltz nor Alan Rickman...

...but Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List (1993).

As a bonus, Ralph Fiennes is also the "inglourious" title holder for Biggest Injustice Perpetrated At The Academy Awards of the past 20 years, as he lost the Best Supporting Oscar that year to Tommy Lee Jones for uttering one memorable line in "The Fugitive".

Greg

Anonymous said...

Eh. It certainly leaps and bounds better than either the self-indulgent cartoon that was KILL BILL or the "so bad QT must have intended it to be bad" DEATH PROOF.

But it is sadly more evidence that we'll probably never get another film out of QT that isn't seriously flawed.

Mike

Anonymous said...

What D. McEwan said.

Wojciehowicz said...

Forget just Jews. My grandfather was at several camps chasing after the retreating German troops and saw the aftermath, saw what they hurriedly tried to cover unsuccessfully. If you turned him loose after seeing that, he'd have gladly killed Nazis for all day for free. He many times told me how SS were separated out from the rest of the German captives and handed over to armored units and never seen or heard from again. There was a reason for that.

It's easy to be principled this far removed but there's a side of all humans that when exposed to the atrocities that the Nazis committed, rears up and makes one mad and demands action.

James said...

@ Mark

"QT's movies are all so divorced from reality, it's impossible to take them seriously as drama. "

I understand your point about QT's movies not having a footing in reality, but totally disagree that that precludes them from being good drama. I would put the first scene in the movie and the bar scene up against any other film from the last few years as masterful examples creating drama and ratcheting tension, before delivering the explosive goods.

Anonymous said...

"I would put the first scene in the movie and the bar scene up against any other film from the last few years as masterful examples creating drama and ratcheting tension, before delivering the explosive goods."


The other films would win because their scenes of tension likely wouldn't have required so much audience indulgence. QT's scene is like a roller coaster that lasts for 35 minutes.

Mike

Tam said...

Tarantino, not Tarentino.

Cathy Krasnianski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Tassone said...

I haven't seen this yet but the Levine seal of approval will certainly speed that up.

I was just telling a friend Tarantino should redo the old Trinity movies with Brad Pitt. I am referring to the Terence Hill movies, My Name is Trinity & Trinity is still my name. I think that has huge potential. Maybe James Gandolifini as bambino.

Please contact somebody in hollywood and make that happen right away.

Cathy Krasnianski said...

Christoph Waltz's performance was nothing less than brilliant. A shame the rest of the film didn't live up to that. Entertaining as it might have been, I found Tarantino's work -- as always -- overly long, and far too self-congratulatory for my taste.

Tim W. said...

I forgot to mention my disagreement (unless you were being sarcastic) about Eli Roth. I thought he was TERRIBAL! I cringed every time he opened his mouth. Everyone else was great, though, which made his performance even more noticeable.

D. McEwan said...

"jbryant said...
I doubt you'd find many concentration camp survivors who think the Nazis just needed some hug therapy."

There is a middle ground between "hug therapy" and committing war atrocities, let alone committing them as revenge slapstick comedy. You'll find that middle ground at the Nuremburg trials. Fortunately, the real-life allies were considerably more civilized than Quentin Tarantino (not that it's hard to be more civilized than Tarantino).

His films, as a whole, celebrate depravity as a "kick." They are dehumanizing.

"Anonymous said...
What D. McEwan said."

You lived in that building also? It's gone now. It was so severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, it had to be demolished. It was gone before PULP FICTION played Cannes.

AlaskaRay said...

Tiffiny Kaye Whitney said:
"He pays a lot of homage to Goebbels (sp?) and Liefenstahl."

Not to split herrs but I think you mean Riefenstahl, Leni Riefenstahl.

Ray

Joe said...

On a semi-related note, towards the very end of WWII, the British High Command realized there would be many, MANY Nazi war criminals who, by reason of relatively low rank, etc., would get off unpunished by any war crimes tribunal.

The Nazis in question had done particularly awful things (even by Nazi standards, and that's saying something) and teh idea they would get off scot-free deeply rankled certain high-ranking British generals.

So, they authorized several groups of SAS personnel to hunt down these Nazis and "take them into His Majesty's permanent custody."

While I doubt they scalped anybody, they also didn't seem to be troubled by any discomfort these Nazis underwent. The idea being not only to dispose of these, but to strike terror into their comrades in a way that a mere sniper shot would have never been able to accomplish.

UncleWalty said...

I think you could argue that "The Bridge At Remagen" and "Kelly's Heroes" both had a hipster vibe to them, but that's just my opinion.

IB was good, albeit rather talky and a bit too slow. But Christoph Waltz will get a well-deserved Oscar nod, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Brad Pitt get one, too.

Alan Coil said...

I can understand why some women might not like Tarantino movies, but men should think his movies are genius. GENIUS, I tell you. They are exactly what men want most in movies...a lot of blood and violence, and some attractive women.

The crowd I hang with, mostly age 30-40, absolutely love Tarantino, as do many other younger people I know.

Alan Coil said...

And I'm still not getting this internet thing where it is a requirement that one post a response, or an endless series of responses, telling all the world how much one hates something or how little one cares.

gottacook said...

Surely some readers here will enjoy this recent item from The Onion:

"Next Tarantino Movie An Homage To Beloved Tarantino Movies Of Director's Youth"

(www.theonion.com/content/news/next_tarantino_movie_an_homage_to)

D. McEwan said...

"Alan Coil said...
I can understand why some women might not like Tarantino movies, but men should think his movies are genius."

I should expect such rampant sexism from someone who thinks Tarantino films are "GENIUS!"

This particular man will decide for himself what he likes, not simply accept the reactions blanketly assigned to his entire gender by someone with lousy taste in movies.

As long as we're assigning "shoulds," people with taste should think his movies are slick trash.

jbryant said...

"As long as we're assigning "shoulds," people with taste should think his movies are slick trash."

D., all due respect, you know I love ya -- but you admit the only Tarantino film you've seen is Pulp Fiction. I'm not saying you'd like the others if you'd see them, but I would think that seeing them is a prerequisite for forming an opinion. Inglourious Basterds is actually getting some strong reviews from critics who haven't been particularly enamored of Tarantino in the past, so ya never know.

David K. M. Klaus said...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/21/AR2005072101680_pf.html

"The soldier who returned to Nuremberg in 1945 with the 45th division was a different person from the refugee who had left seven years before. He had a new name, for one, borrowed from the back of the jersey of a fleet-footed University of Wisconsin football star; a new family back in Janesville; and a new nationality and mother tongue, which he spoke with a flat Midwestern accent. Nor was he a boy any longer, forced to run away from Nazi bullies. He was a man, part of the most powerful army the world had ever seen, and it was his turn to do the chasing.

"Advancing through sniper-filled Nuremberg, Weiss barely recognized the city he grew up in. Its narrow streets were too littered with rubble for U. S. tanks to pass. The block where his parents had lived was a smoldering hulk; his old orphanage stood silent and empty. Virtually everyone he had been close to was dead: the stern but kind-hearted orphanage director, the kids he had bunked with, the friends he had gone to school with. His uncles had shot themselves rather than face deportation to the death camps. And his grandmother, the person he was probably closest to in the whole world, the warm, loving woman he would sneak out of the orphanage to visit, had been sent to the ghetto at Theresienstadt in the Czech Republic, and then to Auschwitz in Poland to become one of the 6 million."

David K. M. Klaus said...

"Orders had come from 7th Army head-quarters for advance elements of the 45th to rush to Dachau, to liberate the camp before a group of highly valued political prisoners held there was moved or killed.... What he remembers most about Dachau, though, was the smell. 'I still have dreams about it,' he says. A revolt had broken out in the camp before the 45th's arrival, and while the SS retained control of parts of the perimeter, the crematoriums had not worked for some days. Bodies just piled up, or lay decomposing between the long rows of low, wooden barracks. Where SS guards still manned the watchtowers, near the main rail embankment, an entire trainload of corpses rotted. 'The SS had prevented anyone from unloading it. The people locked inside the cattle cars slowly suffocated or died of thirst,' Weiss says.

"Even though the camp was technically liberated, the prisoners were so weak and skeletal that they perished at a rate of several hundred per day. Some would crawl on their hands and knees to get outside through holes cut in the barbed wire, so that they could die free. Others were 'hell bent' on finding and killing kapos, the club-wielding prisoner turnkeys who, in exchange for extra rations, were as brutal as the SS guards they worked for. 'Mobs would descend on them and rip them limb from limb.'"

David K. M. Klaus said...

"When the war ended, Weiss's real work began. The vast death machine Hitler assembled had untold parts and myriad accomplices, and most of them did not simply vanish with Hitler's suicide. The job of identifying and accounting for those with the blood of millions on their hands would be neither quick nor easy. Weiss had a daunting list of thousands of wanted Nazis to find. He remembers one in particular, a man who had not even bothered to move from his pre-war address or take on an assumed name. Weiss had simply looked him up in the Munich phone book and knocked on his door early one morning in 1946.

"Why the man had not bothered to conceal his tracks was a puzzle. Perhaps he thought that after all these months no one would come looking for him. Or maybe he believed he could hide beneath his low rank. He was an enlisted man; there were plenty of bigger fish for the Americans to fry. But he had belonged to the SS Death's Head, the notorious battalions tasked with liquidating Europe's Jews, and Weiss, if he could help it, wasn't going to let the even lowliest private from any of those killing squads go free.

"'This guy was walking around Munich without a care while most of the people I knew were dead,' he says. 'And at the time we still didn't even comprehend the enormity of what they had done.'

"Of all branches of the SS, it was the Death's Head, and specifically its Einsatzgruppen and sonderkomandos units, who ran the death camps and herded entire villages into synagogues to be burned alive. They were the ones who dug the mass burial pits on the outskirts of towns and dumped truckloads of earth on women and children gasping for air. It was the Death's Head that was responsible for devising ever more efficient ways of killing. At Auschwitz, the pinnacle of their industriousness, they 'processed' 60,000 people a day.

"The man had been a guard at Auschwitz and Theresienstadt. It said so in his military service ID record, which, astonishingly, he was still carrying when Weiss nabbed him, as if these posts were somehow marks of distinction. Nor did he make an effort to deny who he was or where he had worked, once Weiss had him in a concrete cell flanked by two MPs.

"'I had interrogated some very bad people,' Weiss recalls, 'but there was something about this guy, an utter lack of remorse. He was oblivious, like he'd done nothing wrong.'"

David K. M. Klaus said...

"Weiss says he spent less than an hour in the cell, getting the information he needed: names of superiors, other guards and so on. 'I just wanted to get out of there and take a shower.

"'I guess what got me was the complete absence of humanity. To him, Auschwitz had just been a job. The fact that more than a million people were killed there didn't seem to faze him in the least bit. He didn't see Jews as people.'

"Weiss thought of his father, his friends at the orphanage, his grandmother. The SS man had worked at the same two camps where she had been sent. He was only a lowly cog in the killing machine, and that meant he was of little value to intelligence headquarters in Frankfurt...he didn't have to be kicked up the intelligence food chain. In that sense, the man had been right about not needing to go into hiding. No one at Allied Command was particularly interested in someone of his status. But if he believed that his low rank would somehow spare him from justice, he was dead wrong.

"'How did you do it?' I ask Weiss. 'The kapos,' he explains, 'that's where we got the idea. We had seen what the DPs did to the kapos, and we realized they could do us a favor.'

"DPs, or displaced persons, were the survivors of death and POW camps -- Jews, Poles, Russians, Hungarians, refugees of virtually every nationality who either could not return home or no longer had any homes to return to. They numbered in the hundreds of thousands in Europe, and they were housed in huge temporary DP camps. Several such refugee camps, converted German Army barracks, were near Munich.

"'We studied up a little on military law, and there was nothing on the books preventing us from delivering suspects for additional debriefing to the DPs,' Weiss recalls. He says he's not sure where the idea originated, who first put it into motion, or how widespread it was. 'Whoever first came up with this, I honestly don't know. I don't think they'd own up to it anyway.'

"While it was perfectly legal under military law to hand over suspects for further questioning to DPs, says Benjamin Ferencz, who was a lead U. S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunals in 1945 and 1947, knowingly delivering suspects for execution was not. And of course the DPs were not interested in extracting information.

"Ferencz, who today is 85 and lives in New York, cautions against making sweeping armchair moral judgments. 'Someone who was not there could never really grasp how unreal the situation was,' he says. 'I once saw DPs beat an SS man and then strap him to the steel gurney of a crematorium. They slid him in the oven, turned on the heat and took him back out. Beat him again, and put him back in until he was burnt alive. I did nothing to stop it. I suppose I could have brandished my weapon or shot in the air, but I was not inclined to do so. Does that make me an accomplice to murder?'

David K. M. Klaus said...

"Ferencz -- who went on to a distinguished legal career, became a founder of the International Criminal Court and is today probably the leading authority on military jurisprudence of the era -- cannot specifically address Weiss's actions. But he says it's important to recall that military legal norms at the time permitted a host of flexibilities that wouldn't fly today. 'You know how I got witness statements?' he says. 'I'd go into a village where, say, an American pilot had parachuted and been beaten to death and line everyone one up against the wall. Then I'd say, "Anyone who lies will be shot on the spot." It never occurred to me that statements taken under duress would be invalid.'

"Weiss says that his unit had its own system of ethics when it came to handing former death camp guards over to the DPs. 'You couldn't do that by yourself,' he says. 'You consulted with the other CIC agents, and usually there was a duty officer. We would have never done this,' he adds, 'without at least some nod from a superior.'

"The key was to make certain that there were no cases of mistaken identity. The SS men would have to own up to their participation in mass murders of their own volition, never as a result of torture, since people tend to admit to anything under such circumstances, says Weiss. As a backup, 'I'd make them write out a detailed history of their war record, including who they served with, when and under who.' This was double-checked against captured Nazi records to make sure that the person was indeed who they claimed to be. Only then was the decision taken, Weiss says.

"Weiss remembers the panic in the SS men's eyes when they finally realized where they were being taken. 'We never told them where they were going,' he says. At the sight of the old German Army barracks, they grasped their fate. Some would try to cling to the jeep, but the reception committee would forcibly remove them. Weiss says he never looked back in the rearview mirror to see what happened next. Nor did he need to."

David K. M. Klaus said...

"He says he has never...had any moral qualms about his actions. 'I never gave it much thought after the war,' he says. 'The point is: What do you do with these guys? The war crimes courts were already backlogged with more senior Nazis. The jails were full. They were going to slip through the cracks.'

"The overwhelming majority of the lower-level SS guards did in fact escape justice.

"Ferencz prosecuted members of the Einsatzgruppen. 'There were 3,000 members of these killing squads who did nothing but kill women and children for three straight years,' he says. 'These 3,000 men alone were responsible for almost 1 million murders. Do you know how many I brought indictments against? Twenty-two. The rest were never tried.'

"'I remember talking to Soviet officers,' he adds. 'And they were baffled. "You know they're guilty," they'd say. "Why don't you just shoot them?" There was a lot of that kind of feeling in postwar Germany.'

"Weiss, for his part, says he never went to Germany bent on revenge. 'Whatever anger I might have had was dissipated by the devastation and destruction I witnessed of German society. The German people paid dearly for their infatuation with Hitler. But there were times when justice just had to be done.'"

David K. M. Klaus said...

This is me in my own voice again, rather than the Washington Post author I've quoted so extensively above. I did so because of the debate on how Nazis should be treated in World War II films, to show that whether one approves or not, something very much like Mr. Tarantino depicts did in fact happen.

When I worked at the old Jewish Hospital side of the combined Barnes-Jewish Hospital here in St. Louis, I had a patient who had been in the Polish Underground, where, he told me, he had permanently damaged his lungs breathing grain dust as he hid from the Gestapo in a silo. He had lost 140 members of his (presumably extended) family to the Camps.

I never knew the nature of his illness, but I'm sure he thought he didn't have much time left. He would look up from his copies of the Torah and the Talmud, grab my arm, and emphatically tell me "Never forget! NEVER FORGET!"

Tontine said...

No doubt Inglourious Basterds is a good and successful movie by Tarantino.Thanks for the review. I am going to watch it again.

Spelling geek said...

It should be "then" not "than"....