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Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds Opens Strong

Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds Opens Strong

Thompson on Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds opened strong Friday night, raking in an estimated $14.3 million. (We’ll see how it holds.) Reviews were mixed, 69 on Metacritic. Richard Corliss, Roger Ebert and Jim Hoberman were thumbs up on this cinephile’s fantasy, while Ken Turan, David Denby and Manohla Dargis were thumbs down on the slow-paced, often ridiculous alternative take on history. Here’s New Yorker blogger Richard Brody and LA Weekly’s Tarantino Q & A.. UPDATE: Looks like a $37-million opening, and great opening overseas, too. The film performed similarly to last weekend’s District 9.

Inspired by Inglourious Basterds, MTV Movies collects five of cinema’s most bad-ass Jewish action heroes.

Here’s Matt Zoller Seitz’s compilation of memorable Tarantino dialogue bits:

[Photo courtesy LA Weekly]

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Bob Westal

I don’t really think you can call the reviews of “Basterds” mixed. 69% is a pretty good score on metacritic, and I personally believe the Rotten Tomatoes aggregator is more useful in that it includes more critics. Metacritic has a bias towards large/mainstream publications which I think is no way more reflective of a film’s quality or anything else other than what people who write for big publications tend to like, and there’s a dynamic there that can perhaps distort the perception.

For example, I suspect that Quentin Tarantino will always do worse there than at RT because a great many of the older critics simply don’t get him, and people who don’t get him are often members of a rather vituperative permanent backlash. It’s never any fun to be in the minority on something like this and it tends to inflate the overall negativity. (I think he’s a terrific critic in general, but Kenneth Turan is very definitely a case in point. I remember when he was touting “The Usual Suspects” as the sort of antidote to “Pulp Fiction” and, more dubiously, Bryan Singer as a better director than Tarantino. His review/articles on “Kill Bill” reminded me of some of the notices Michael Powell got on “Peeping Tom.”

Each to his own and all, but I think a more inclusive approach to these things will yield a result that more accurately reflects what the mass of people who write about movies really think, rather than the very select, and shrinking, crowd who’ve been able to write for the shrinking number of mass pubs.

P.S. I haven’t seen “Inglourious Basterds” but, on the other hand, I’ve loved every QT directed feature except “Death Proof,” so there’s my bias.


Any film that offers up Hitler and Goebbels as major supporting characters and Winston Churchill and Emil Jannings in cameos, and name-checks Leni Riefenstahl, G.W. Pabst, Max Linder, Edgar Wallace, Karl May, Mata Hari, Pola Negri, Sergeant York, Van Johnson, Louis B. Mayer and David O. Selznick, not to mention Hugo Stiglitz and Antonio Margheriti, already has a far keener sense of history than most Hollywood films. (I would argue that IB is more likely to send young viewers to the history books than PUBLIC ENEMIES was.) So, I don’t agree with The Doc.

Tarantino loves film, but also the historical context it comes wrapped in. How else could he have imagined a German counterpart of Audie Murphy and a Goebbels-produced film version of his life story? A brilliant touch.

Also, the Germans were remarkably layered characters, and not just “comic relief” and “symbols of evil.” They were much more rounded than any of the cartoonish Allied characters, esp. Pitt’s cornpone Lt. Raine. Did the print you saw of this film not have such important characters as Col. Landa, Fredrick Zoller, Major Hallstrom and Sgt. Wilhelm in it? You don’t have to endorse what the Nazis did to feel something for each of these characters.

The Doc was here

The film was promoted with the phrase “Once upon a time…” both a tribute to one of Tarantino’s heroes, Sergio Leone, and a tip off that the film presented would be a FANTASY. Tarantino has been stuck in strictly revenge fantasy mode since Kill Bill, as the two Bill films, Death Proof, and now Basterds are all nothing but revenge fantasies. He clearly let us know he was not making a film that presented us with accurate history. The Nazis in the film serve two purposes, comic relief and symbol of evil and the violent destruction of them fulfills the fantasy. Hitler being violently executed by a crazed Jew in a movie theater was meant to be viewed as comedy…not alternate history.

It is well known that Tarantino does not make films that are polite or in “good taste” he makes films that satisfy his childhood film fantasies. I can’t imagine a person walking into a Tarantino film thinking they are going to get a history lesson or learn something. This has never been the point of a Tarantino film, he makes films to pay tribute to the pop culture and filmmakers he loves so much. He is not a complex filmmaker, he is a kid in a candy store and like that kid all he wants to do is overindulge himself. The “fun” in seeing one of his films is watching him do so with such glee.

This film is a big goofy mess, not meant to be taken seriously, the thing is you can either laugh along with Tarantino or walk away. I won’t argue that there is plenty in this film, including the ending, which could obviously be seen as “offensive to Jews” and some of my Jewish friends have already told me they think the film is a travesty…but I think the thing is you have to try to take into consideration is Tarantino’s intention, which was to make a film that would make the kid in him yell “That’s so cool!”

Is that sort of dumb considering Tarantino is an adult? Sure it is, but I guess watching the film is like watching kids open presents, they are thrilled and excited to be tearing off all that pretty colored paper…not very deep but it is true.

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