Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Okay, But Where Are The Glorious Basterds?

Yeah... I'm done with Quentin Tarantino. Inglorious Basterds has been the impossible-to-Netflix movie of the year, and it finally landed in my queue, and Abby and I watched it, and I gotta be honest: it's a piece of shit. No really. It's a piece of shit.

First objection: narrative structure. Your immediate response should be "What did you expect? It's Tarantino." Fair point, but in all seriousness, what's with the chapter breaks? Unlike almost every other film Tarantino has made, this one went in chronological order. There was no reason for it, and nothing cute was gained from it. It was simply pretentious bullshit, giving it the vague appearance of a "literary quality". Having read a book or two, it behooves me to inform Mr. Tarantino that if Inglorious Basterds had been a book, no one would have published it. Especially since a book would have been sans all the graphic gore. And while I'm at it...

Second objection: it's overly gory. Your immediate response should be "What did you expect? It's Tarantino." Fair point, but would it kill him to throw in a little compelling action every once in a while? There was very little action, and most of it went too fast to be enjoyed. There was no shortage of gore, however, what with the scalping and carving going on. Most of the "action" action took place off camera--you hear about the Basterds' reputations, but you never get to see them earn them. All of their exploits happen between the first time we meet them, which is a lengthy monologue, and the second time we meet them, which is a lengthy dialog. Speaking of which...

Second objection: it's overly talky. Your immediate response should be... But I digress. Dialog is okay, if it serves a purpose. Even lots of dialog is okay, if it's done well. But the dialog in IB was insipid. Characters repeated plot points three and four times. Then that plot point was repeated back as a flash-back and/or a title card...

Fourth objection: the title cards. I realize I'm nitpicking, but how many fucking fonts do we need? Two for the opening credits? Another for chapter headings? Another for Goebbels' introduction? Another really funky one for Stigliz? Another scrawly one for the other major members of the Nazi Party? Plus whatever got used for the title. And while we're on the subject...

Fifth objection: the title. And not because of the spelling, artistic license, whatever. My problem is that it is a direct homage to a movie that it has nothing in common with. And I could say a little something about the marketing, because the movie I saw and the one I saw advertised had very little to do with each other either. And lord knows it had nothing to do with the actual goings-on of World War II, because...

Sixth objection: historical revisionism. The "facts" of history are one thing (if you haven't heard of the movie's major departure from actual history, I won't spoil it for you here), but I strenuously object to the cartoon-ification of Adolf Hitler. And he was a punchline in this movie. And in my opinion, treating him that way seriously cheapens World War II and the Holocaust. Which is not to say I outwardly approve of his major departure, which came from out of nowhere--as if space aliens killed the shark at the end of Jaws. Honestly, it's so surreal that it transcends the usual trying-to-make-an-interesting-movie argument against revisions, so I didn't care that much. Of course, by that point I was desperate for anything interesting to happen. Which brings me to my overarching complaint...

Seventh objection: it's fucking dull. This movie had no reason to be two and a half hours long, and it's doubly offensive that it should be so long and so boring all at once. Hell, between Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, and The Pacific, Steven Spielberg has been responsible for nearly twenty-three hours of World War II footage--and it was all interesting. Apparently Tarantino couldn't stop drooling on his typewriter long enough to cobble more than ten minutes of interesting footage together for this overlong, epic master(bation)piece.

Now, I'd had my hesitations about Quentin Tarantino before, but with Inglorious Basterds I think he really nuked the fridge. And I don't say that lightly. But let's be honest with ourselves--Tarantino's recent catalog has consisted of increasingly overlong inside jokes and love letters to himself. Oh what the hell, let's be blatantly honest--his entire catalog is that way. Yes, Pulp Fiction was phenomenal, but I'm convinced that it was a fluke.

Pulp Fiction worked because it showed us a world of professional gangsters and criminals and showed them coping with larger-than-life problems while having lively philosophical discussions and the occasional dance-off. But mostly, it worked because it was totally unlike anything we had ever seen before. By contrast, Inglorious Basterds fails because it is exactly like everything we've seen from Quentin Tarantino. Every Tarantino cliche is in place. Even the old Mexican Standoff, and they stop the action in the middle of that scene to talk about it--to make sure that the audience knows it's a Mexican Standoff even though only one person is holding a gun.

Making homages to yourself isn't clever--it's pathetic. Making references to movies no one but you has seen isn't visionary, it's trite. They worked in Pulp Fiction because nobody noticed, but that shit just doesn't fly anymore. Seriously, can he once do something normal? When we need to know about the flammability of nitrate films, can you work it into the the dialog perhaps, rather than having Samuel L. Jackson describe it to us in an elaborate voice-over sequence? It's just not funny anymore. You know that... um... "mentally challenged" kid who made a joke once and everyone laughed, so now he keeps making the same joke over and over hoping it will get a laugh again? And we gave him sympathy laughs for a while, but now we just wish he'd either learn a new joke or shut the hell up... That kid is Quentin Tarantino.

And frankly, I'm done with him.

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2 comments:

Bill Haworth said...

I thought I'd posted very similar feelings about IG, but I was wrong.

I love Tarantino's work (Pulp, Kill Bill, even the bad From Dusk til Dawn and Grindhouse movies), but this one was utter shit. It wasn't exciting, it wasn't thrilling, and it had about as many twists in it as a plumb line. Sorry I didn't get the warning out to you guys sooner.

And the really sad thing is that QT has been working on this particular movie for like a decade and a half. At some point, you think you would give up on trying to make pie out of a shit sandwich.

Ben said...

Aside from the title credits and the endless self-referencing, I had almost precisely the same complaints the first time I watched it.

On my second viewing, quite inexplicably, I enjoyed the movie a lot more, but I still can't argue with a single one of your points. Except the Samuel L Jackson part. It's *always* OK to let Samuel L Jackson explain things.