Monday, April 12, 2010

Thoughts on the film: Inglouriousz Basturdzes

After an eternity of Netflix telling me I couldn't have Inglourious Basterds I finally got it this weekend and watched it last night. I read the screenplay back in the day and tried really hard to not let the fact that Tarantino doesn't proofread distract me from the story. There were some really brilliant scenes - the whole sequence in the basement tavern being the best of them - but they were sandwiched in between really dull talky scenes that took me away from the story I wanted to know more about. And the change in historical events came as a complete shock. I figured, though, since Tarantino was directing, that some of this would be cleared up on film.

I mean, this is the man who made Reservoir Dogs, and there are few films more perfect than Reservoir Dogs. I'm still waiting for that man to come back.

So Basterds. The fact that it's a fairy tale is much more apparent on screen than on paper, and again there are some really brilliant moments, but I still felt like there weren't enough scenes I wanted in the film, and some that made me really disappointed. There's this brilliant moment when he played up the obvious spaghetti western element and had a slow motion shot of a German officer walking toward camera. I was blown away by the brilliance of the shot and thought, okay, here's Tarantino, this is why everybody thinks this movie is so good.

But then it suddenly turned into a blacksploitation film with random voice over and I was completely ripped out of my happy moment. It felt like mishmash of styles. I do think the film is easier to watch if you think of it as a series of short films, but I still think it was just so inconsistent in tone and style that I lost all the great scenes to the weak ones.

I know a lot of people - many of whom I respect - who absolutely adored this film. I've heard more than one person I generally agree with who said it was the best film of the year. But I just don't get it. I thought it was a bit of a mess.

So enlighten me. If you loved Basterds, please tell me why. I really want to understand.


  1. I am actually there with you. I didn't hate or love Basterds, I just thought it was okay, but I was let down.

    Pulp Fiction and KILL BILL were wayyyyyyyyyyyy better.

  2. Some people just aren't going to get it. It's the most ballsy, brilliant film of the last few years. Far and away better than The Hurt Locker.

    If you get bored with "talky scenes" you just don't get Tarantino. In the films that rip him off (among them Boondock Saints, which I hope you're not a fan of) the dialogue is just there to be quirky. In Tarantino films the dialogue is about set up/pay off. But not everybody gets that.

    And Dogs is near the bottom of his work. Pulp, Jackie Brown, and both Kill Bill's are far and away better films than Dogs.

    Your favorite films are pure action films with explosions and plenty of fight scenes. It's not hard to figure out why you didn't like this film.

  3. There you go again, Jack, telling me all about myself even though you've never met me.

    I didn't ask why you don't think I liked the film. I asked why you did. So why did you like it?

  4. What did I say that wasn't true about you? None of it was insulting.

    Are you saying your favorite films aren't pure action films? That would be surprising to pretty much anybody that has read your blog over the years.

    I didn't say it was a bad thing. Stop being so sensitive.

  5. So I guess that's a no then on answering the question.


    This review is a pretty good idea of why I liked it. I'm not a movie critic, and even though I am a writer I'm not the best at detailing why I liked a movie.

  7. So what did I say that was insulting or wrong about you?

    Or are you admitting you may have been overly sensitive?

  8. Emily you summed it up for me with this. "...lost all the great scenes to the weak ones."

    Landa was phenominal, very deserving of his oscar.

    But the stuff with Eli Roth is one thing killed it for me. His intro, his character, there was nothing cool to me about him, but they sure seemed to try and push his role.

    For entertainment value. This is one of the lower Tarantino's for me. I was sadly a bit disappointed. Killin natzis should be fun! hehe jk.

  9. The movie is called INGLORIOUS BASTERDS andthe trailers made it seem like the Jewish DIRTY DOZEN... and I wanted to see that movie. That's not the movie that showed - instead it was about this chick that runs a cinema and this other chick who is an actress... and this Jew Hunter guy who starts out the villain and ends up a comedy relief character. WTF?

    And the Basterds end up superfluous!

    At least the movie was better than the script. He cut out a ton of boring stuff.

    I think as long as Tarantino is adapting something he's okay, but when he's working without source material he is rudderless. He ends up the dialogue version of Michael Bay - a bunch of scenes in search of a story.

  10. Thinking Out Loud9:29 PM

    I think there's no discounting Roger Avary's influence on QT's "greatness." Once QT and Avary had their falling out, the quality of QT's writing (and even his directing to a certain extent) wasn't what it once was. I think Avary had the skill and QT was the showman. And it shows in a film like Inglorious Basterds.

  11. Nobody else liked it? Just Jack?

    And Jack, your last post was about how concerned you are that I watch reality TV. Before that you posted about how concerned you are that I don't seem to like to write. This post was about how I watch action movies and therefore can't possibly understand Tarantino.

    I'm tired of seeing you talk about me as if you know me.

  12. I came in late to Basterds, not seeing it until I got the blu-ray at xmas, and I felt quite late to the Tarantino party for once(I went to an arts cinema to see Pulp Fiction at age 14 - it was an 18 cert here in the UK - and had pirate VHS copies of the Reservoir Dogs and True Romance laserdiscs at the same time. It was the only way to see them!)

    Anyway, I've now seen IB twice, and I really was blown away by it as a whole. Apologies if this ends up long and verbose, but I'll just run down what I personally liked about it.

    The first scene, between Landa and the farmer, was insane. I honestly didn't realise all that time had passed by the end of it (20 mins, I think?) That had a lot to do with seeing a really devious, always thinking man slowly toy with another and be in control the entire time - it's mostly Christoph Waltz doing this of course but I think it was also seeing this very twisting, slow version of a familiar type of scene gradually end how you know it's always going too.

    The second part is the Basterd's introduction of course, and this is definitely the weakest section of the film. Misleading title, or advertising, but beyond the ones who get backstory, the rest don't even get to the level of ciphers - they're just extras really. (And some of them seem to get offed somehow between this scene and the finale, with no explanations or acknowledgement, since it's only Office Ryan left with Aldo at the end) Pitt was enjoyable, and you point out the masterful way some of their scenes are done, Emily, but they are at best secondary to the movie. Odd to say, if I was losing something, I'd lose this!

    I loved the re-introduction of Shoshana, but I'm a sucker for any in-depth cinema conversations in films they don't really belong in. Of course she's the touchstone for the movie, but going along with her character, you can feel that palpable sense of fear when Landa hoves in behind her (and using the attack music then from The Entity was just incredible)

    The whole build-up of Michael Fassbender and Operation Kino when it in fact turns out to be useless strikes me as typically audacious Tarantino, and again audacious is sustaining the tavern scene. All the dialogue here is wonderful, the sudden curveball of the Gestapo officer, the escalations...brilliant. I also though Diane Kruger did really well in this scene, and particularly the aftermath where she has to convince Raine of her loyalty.

    The Italian impersonation comedy is unbelievable, but enjoyable, since we know that Landa isn't fooled for a moment. At the end now, it's just a confluent conflagration (couldn't resist alliterating that, sorry) I found the re-writing of history to be fun - it reminded me of Michael Powell's old quote about all films being surrealist, and indeed the whole movie reminded me in many ways of the Powell/Pressburger wartime films, though I can't say why.

    Hmm...I've come all this way and I can't really say I have a point. Looking at what I've written, I really, really loved this movie for the astounding performances (without Waltz and Laurent I think the whole thing would collapse) and a lot of the dialogue - the sly looks, the misdirections (that the characters are doing, not the film)...from that point of view, I adored it. And that makes me like the whole movie, even if there are parts of the movie I didn't like as much.

    Which I'm not sure helps at all - sorry!

  13. So maybe this is a film that for some people transcends its flaws because of the brilliance of its parts, and for others is brought down by those same flaws because they overwhelm the brilliance.

    That makes sense.

  14. That's every film. There is the good column and the bad column and when the things we like in a film outweigh the things we dislike, it's a good film. Same film, same good and bad elements, different person - the things they dislike may outnumber the things they like and it's a bad film.

    I am always amazed by people who like crap I wrote, since most of it falls in my dislike column.

  15. Bill, do people like it just because it's fun to watch? Because I you know how much I love Zombie Strippers but I'm under no illusions that it's a masterpiece. It's brilliant at what it is.

    I guess that's what's perplexing me about IB. People think it's a masterpiece. If they just said it was fun I'd get it.

  16. The dialogue version of Michael Bay.

    I love it.


  17. I enjoyed it, but I wouldn't call it my favorite film of that year ... I think the script deserved the nom, sure, and the movie really surprised me ... I guess what I liked about it, and this is where I don't know if I can articulate it well, but what I liked is that it did everything you're NOT supposed to do with regard to telling a story ... seriously.


    Brad Pitt really isn't the protag, nor does he kill Hitler ... the woman who engineers it dies before it happens, and her black boyfriend, whom we know very little about, does the deed.

    While Pitt is tied up talking.

    A great example is the British dude, who gets this big setup in England, he goes to the tavern and has a wonderfully tense scene with a Nazi and an actress, lives by his wits and ... gets killed.

    Never saw that coming.

    In other words, I never felt I could predict what was going to happen and that's what I liked about it. In a way, QT does what everyone says you should NOT do when writing a movie, he does it and somehow makes it WORK ...

    I like that. He really does make the show work, and it's got a heavy Italian western tone to it as well.

    Granted, I don't think it's a GREAT film ... I'm just saying that I got caught up in the twisty unpredictability of it, it felt more like a novel than a movie, and I kinda liked that about it.

    That's my take.

  18. I can appreciate that. The man has this huge love of movies but also loves to challenge expectations, so what you end up with is a twisted homage much of the time. It doesn't always work, but I can see some appeal.

  19. I know I'm late to the party, but here are my dos pesos. IB is a lot of fun and it was probably my favorite movie of '09, but ask me tomorrow and I might say The Hangover, District 9, or The Messengers. But once you go beyond these four movies, there's a big drop. It was a fairly weak year.

    If they lost Roth's silly, overblown entrance and added about 15 minutes of Nazi-killing, IB would have approached Kill Bill but still fallen short of Pulp and Reservoir.

  20. I'm not sure about Roth's introduction, but I did enjoy him in the film. I'm glad he ended up playing a big part in the end.


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