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Tarantino, Quentin


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#1 helloemigoodbye

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 08:31 PM

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Quentin Tarantino
Arguably the most famous figure of the American independent film movement of the early 1990s, Tarantino exploded onto the scene with Reservoir Dogs in 1992, establishing himself as a director with a flair for stylized violence, carefully crafted homage, and snappy, smart dialogue. His second film, Pulp Fiction, made him a household name, earning him the Palme D'or at Cannes, and an Academy Award for best original screenplay. From there, he moved into new territory, eclectically mashing up genre films, from his psuedo-blaxploitation gangster film, Jackie Brown, to his martial arts/spaghetti western revenge epic, Kill Bill. His public persona as sort of a self-aggrandizing loudmouth with a penchant for film history makes him a polarizing figure for film buffs and scholars, but, love him or hate him, he's undeniably influential, the style he created with Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs being constantly imitated, but rarely if ever bested. -helloemigoodbye

Recommended Films:
Pulp Fiction
Kill Bill
Inglourious Basterds
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#2 hal0000

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 09:49 PM

Anyone catch Inglourious Basterds yet? Admittedly, I wasn't looking forward to it but I think this may be Tarantino's third, or even second best feature. His usual self-references are here, but it didn't reach the level of self-aggrandizement that Death Proof had. Mostly, it was similar shots (which I had no problem with). Maybe the only really annoying part was the occasional musical quotes from previous films.

I guess I was expecting nothing more than the premise: killing nazis. But there is something buried in here, although I'm not quite sure what. A second viewing is probably necessary, but I'll probably just wait for the dvd. The film is brimming with black humor, but somehow, it thankfully didn't reach the tiresome or graphic excess of Kill Bill Pt. 1 or Death Proof. Hitler was deliciously satirized, and there is something hilarious about his cartoonish rants while a mural artist calmly paints a massive, dignified portrait of him.

I'm still not sure what it's about, but I feel there is some kind of great film here in spite of some flaws. It's set during WWII, but I doubt an authentic period piece was what QT had in mind.

There are particularly strong ideas on the incendiary power of cinema here, expressing both its influence and fragility. Even if it's not Tarantino's best (and I feel it comes very close), it may very well be his most ambitious, and I think that's worth something. I don't mind a title-dropper, to be honest. New Wavers like Truffaut did it, so why not now?*

Digesting these words is probably as messy as eating a sloppy-joe with a spork and foon, so I apologize. I may find Tarantino the person insufferable, but if a movie reaches some kind of greatness, I must acknowledge that.

*Eh, sorry. Not so much title dropping as a worship of the Cinema.

#3 sexy rancheros

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Posted 12 September 2009 - 10:34 PM

^What would you consider his best feature?

I need to see that since even people that aren't fans of Tarantino have been giving it good notices.
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#4 hal0000

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Posted 13 September 2009 - 12:15 AM

^ I'd place Jackie Brown as his best. Pam Greer and Robert Forster give incredibly mature performances and I felt it was one of his more touching pictures. Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds will probably duke it out for second.

I'm not a Tarantino fanatic, so was pleasantly surprised by it. Not sure I can fully explain why though and a second watch is needed.

#5 mikesncc1701

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Posted 13 September 2009 - 12:27 AM

^ I'd place Jackie Brown as his best. Pam Greer and Robert Forster give incredibly mature performances and I felt it was one of his more touching pictures. Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds will probably duke it out for second.

I'm not a Tarantino fanatic, so was pleasantly surprised by it. Not sure I can fully explain why though and a second watch is needed.

See, I would consider Jackie Brown his worst although it's not a bad film by any means. I would go like this:

Reservoir Dogs
Pulp Fiction
Inglourious Basterds
Kill Bill Volume 2
Kill Bill Volume 1
Death Proof
Jackie Brown

#6 hal0000

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Posted 13 September 2009 - 08:54 AM

See, I would consider Jackie Brown his worst although it's not a bad film by any means. I would go like this:

Reservoir Dogs
Pulp Fiction
Inglourious Basterds
Kill Bill Volume 2
Kill Bill Volume 1
Death Proof
Jackie Brown


Sorry to sound like a jackass, but why? This whole ranking the oeuvre, stars, number ratings, etc. as a stand alone is really tiresome.

Tarantino seems like Mr. I'm-so-cool-I'll-do-whatever-I-want, which culminates in Death Proof, his most self-indulgent, messy film. He seems to gravitate towards things that the college boys will say: "dude that was fucking awesome!" or some other empty, worthless superlative to. Reservoir Dogs is one of those pictures where the characters serve the plot and "shock scenes," when I don't believe it should be that way, especially if Tarantino is capable of fleshing out his characters as he did in Jackie Brown. Plot must serve the characters for me, but not necessarily the other way around. What, exactly, is Reservoir Dogs known for? If it's about its characters, I'd say it's piss-poor development. All I get from that picture is a lot of angry Fuck-Yous, "cool" characters, and a shock value scene that services nothing but itself. It's masturbatory. Like a precursor to forthcoming torture films, thank you very much QT-presents-Eli-Roth's-Hostel.

Even Pulp Fiction starts losing its appeal, and its quotability is both a benefit and a detriment. Again, I'd argue there's little point to such snappy dialogue. We always seem to start with how great the dialogue is, how funny the thing is, or how shocking the violence is. Pulp Fiction has colorful characters, certainly, but if I don't hold it as high, that's because it lacks the emotional depth of something like Jackie Brown. Tarantino can make an entertaining picture, there's no doubt about that. But with the notable exception of Jackie Brown and maybe Inglourious Basterds, he seems to lack the ability to buckle down and stop telling himself he's so awesome (and even in those pictures, you can feel him itching to pat himself on the back). Those movies also have a level of poignancy (although Basterds is a trifle uneven in that regard) I find lacking in his other movies. I feel something of a disconnect with his characters. Other than knowing they can swagger to cool music, kill people, and handle his admittedly colorful dialogue, I don't really get to know them. Jackie Brown is an exception, in that he buries an undercurrent of humanity beneath that surface fluff. Jackie and Max are two surprisingly mature characters, and it's even harder to believe coming from Tarantino. This is the guy who gave birth to Mr. Pink, who's known for "why do I got to be Mr. Pink?" Mr. White, who's known for saying "Fuck you" more angrily than anyone else, and Mr. Brown, who's only apparent contributions are an idiotic, pointless explanation of "Like a Virgin" and "'Mr. Brown' is a little too close to Mr. Shit."

Reservoir Dogs is one of those cool-for-the-sake-of-cool, plot-for-the-sake-of-plot, shock-for-the-sake-of-shock, characters-who-are-loud-mouths-but-otherwise-deadened (figuratively throughout, literally in ultimatum) movies. It's a picture paraded around by proud high school students who think violence is cool (admittedly, I was one of them).

#7 hal0000

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 08:29 PM

See, I would consider Jackie Brown his worst although it's not a bad film by any means. I would go like this:

Reservoir Dogs
Pulp Fiction
Inglourious Basterds
Kill Bill Volume 2
Kill Bill Volume 1
Death Proof
Jackie Brown

Sorry to sound like a jackass, but why? This whole ranking the oeuvre, stars, number ratings, etc. as a stand alone is really tiresome.


Well mike, it's good to see how much you're willing to back up that opinion.

I couldn't get Inglourious Basterds out of my head, so I decided to see it again to try and solidify what I liked about it. I think it helped.

Spoilers abound....

I don't really think this is a war movie. At least not exclusively and I don't think QT's central interest is in war, violence, or morality (although to some extent, these things are a result of his main concern). I'll go ahead and call this his Persona. It's a rumination on images and myth-making, not dissimilar to Leone's spaghetti westerns. The movie, after all, begins with an amalgamated homage to Unforgiven and the Dollars movies (the interrogation is clearly inspired by Angel Eyes at the beginning of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly). Most of the scenes, and all of the best, have some kind of self-reflexive wink. This is, at its heart, a love letter to cinema and not just kung-fu movies, westerns, or grindhouse pictures, but to cinema that transcends genre.

If there are implications on violence, I think they are more observations than any sort of judgement call on QT's part. In my audience, there was one guy in particular who had a very annoying laugh. He would laugh consistently at any reference to Nazi killing (the more brazen references, of course). During the screening of Nation's Pride, Hitler giggles with immature fits of ecstasy, just like that guy. I'm not at all sympathizing with the Nazis, nor do I think this is Tarantino's point*. After all, this is the guy who helped produce Eli Roth's Hostel movies. Speaking of which, there is some criticism of casting Mr. Roth. I can't stand the Hostel movies myself, but I can't see Inglourious Basterds without him.

Labels, titles, reputations, and masks become central to the film. So much of it revolves around flaying the skin off these facades, in an attempt to divide reality from myth, and finding out when these can't be split. We hear of the Bear Jew before we even see him. He scares Hitler like the Boogeyman scares little children. His entrance is built up, and somewhat anti-climactically, we see Eli Roth. Not that the film goes quite so far as Monty Python and the Holy Grail's rabbit monster, but we really expect someone nicknamed The Bear Jew to be an ogre. Maybe more like Hugo Stiglitz. Not to mention Aldo Raine says: "watching Donny bash Nazis' skulls in with a baseball bat is just about the closest we get to going to the movies." So of course we need Eli Roth, the maker of torture films. Again, it has nothing to do with the quality of Eli Roth's directing abilities, but his reputation as a filmmaker that makes his role (and his direction of Nation's Pride, essentially a gratuitous massacre movie) ring true.

The audience I was with seemed to like the Basterds sections more. Although I don't see any glaring errors with those scenes, I do find the European portions of the film more to my liking. The story with Shosanna and Frederick Zoller is perhaps one of the movie's strongest suits (and it is a strong picture), reinforcing these ideas of reputation. Not to mention some of the best images and cinematic ideas in the film. That scene in the projection room is just beautiful: Before that scene, Frederick projects a persona of innocence. He's like the wholesome German boy next door. Yet facades are deceptive aren't they? He intrudes forcefully, with a hint of sexual predation. Shosanna shoots Frederick and looks out at his still moving image on the screen. He is gone but his image lives on. There is a hint of remorse, and ultimately, her act is reciprocated. More brilliantly, her image transcends even the screen. I think this is allegorical of what the film experience is. It's physically light on a screen, but it is not tethered to the screen alone and exists in an indefinable space as well. The other image, I suppose, is this one:

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What is that title trying to say? I think to some extent, cinema is the bastard child of the arts. It's an amalgam of painting, stage, music, photography, and sculpture. It's something of a grotesquery in regards to production, yet when it all comes together, it works. Bastard childs, too, are often the subject of labeling as well as creating facades.

*There's no denying that the film enjoys its Gentile pleasing Nazi killing. I'd be lying if I said there wasn't some exhilaration in seeing Hitler's face turn to mush under machine gun fire. But I still think this belongs more on the periphery of what the film is trying to do.

I think a second viewing was a good idea. These thoughts are still "hot" in my head, hence the sloppy Wiki-cribbing dribble. At any rate, when we make that 2000s S&S list, I know what I'm putting on there.

#8 hal0000

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Posted 21 September 2009 - 10:29 PM

See, I would consider Jackie Brown his worst although it's not a bad film by any means. I would go like this:

Reservoir Dogs
Pulp Fiction
Inglourious Basterds
Kill Bill Volume 2
Kill Bill Volume 1
Death Proof
Jackie Brown


Mike, are you planning on responding at all? I am curious to know why you think Reservoir Dogs is QT's strongest film. I'm sorry if I sounded so rude earlier, however, this is just the sort of thing that's been rankling me. If you're going to make a claim, you have to be able to back it up with a (hopefully sound) argument, otherwise your credibility is at risk. It's not enough to simply call something great because you liked it, nor something bad because you didn't.

That being said, has anyone else seen Inglourious Basterds and care to comment? I'm bored and tired of looking at .org's discussions, if only because I don't know anyone there and would like to talk to someone I know.

In thinking about Inglourious Basterds, I think I can safely bump it up ahead of Pulp Fiction. The more I think about Pulp Fiction, the less I see worth looking at, comparatively. Pulp Fiction is a fun film, I can't deny that, but I do wonder what the fuss is about. Is dialogue as an end to itself really justification for greatness? Or even innovative, tightly constructed narrative? I think part of it has to do with what we individually value in films. For me, I have little interest in narrative as an end to itself. The story must evoke thematic elements somehow connected to my own experience or thoughts. It's not enough for something to simply look, flow or sound Cool. As Guillermo del Toro said: "I try to make films that aren't just eye candy, but eye protein."

This is where I'm willing to forgive the pacing of Inglourious Basterds, because it deals with many themes that, as a film obsessor, I feel close to. The division between illusion and reality is something that resonates because every time I see a movie, I deal with that blender of escape and reality. Yet Tarantino's focus isn't on tapping directly into my own situation as it is in The Purple Rose of Cairo or Pan's Labyrinth, but rather on iconography and the power of myth and propaganda. For this reason, it's important because it deals with a different facet of illusion and reality. I think Tarantino's in a perfect place to make this film. I suppose he's kind of The King of Cool with the frat boys, and with Inglourious Basterds, he's deliberately pointing at his images and Bastardizing them, so to speak. Look at the posters for the film:

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Is Diane Kruger really a bastard? Not in the usual sense of the word, but there are posters for "Eli Roth is a Basterd," "Brad Pitt is a Basterd" and so on. But filmmaking, more often than not, is an act of fraud. Look at Beauty and the Beast. We know those effects are done by some guy crouching just out of frame or behind a door, but they are nevertheless effective. When we cross over from our reality to the silver screen's, we have to be willing to suspend what we have experienced as real. This is partly why I can't stand The Plausibles. It's a movie! It doesn't have to fit with our "real world" perceptions of reality and yet that complaint is brought up again and again. For me, I'd much rather have individual scenes that serve a thematic, rather than narrative thread.

I don't really get any strong ideas from Pulp Fiction, which makes me question why it's valued so highly. It moves, and boy how it does! But it lacks the emotional resonance and poignancy of Jackie Brown, as well as the thematic strengths of Inglourious Basterds. Ebert's "great movie" review isn't helpful either. He simply comments on Tarantino's ability to write dialogue and weave his narrative together tightly; implanting ideas that will be built upon later. That's important, I'm sure, but I still don't get much from Pulp Fiction that I can tangibly write about.

If anyone (Mike? Anyone?) wants to defend Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs, I'd appreciate it. I'm lost on the appeal those movies have beyond storytelling or entertainment.

--------------------------

This isn't aimed at anyone, but I'd like to point out that writing long posts doesn't really take that long, in case you guys think I "don't have a life." All it takes is for these ideas to build up in your head, then they'll come flowing out nice and easy.

Time to study for Anatomy. Glial cells and all that jazz.

This is my happening and it freaks me out!

#9 sexy rancheros

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Posted 21 September 2009 - 11:13 PM

Is Pulp Fiction even *that* entertaining, though? I want to see Inglourious Basterds, even though my love affair with Tarantino seems to be over. Even non-Tarantino fans seem to appreciate it so you know...
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#10 helloemigoodbye

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Posted 21 September 2009 - 11:57 PM

Hal, i want you to know that i respect you a lot, and i completely agree on Inglourious Basterds. Im gonna see it again this week to enhance my arguments, but i plan on having this discussion.
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#11 mikesncc1701

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 02:18 AM

Haha, sorry about that guys, I totally forgot I posted in here. First off, I have an Inglourious Basterds review in the Rate The Last Movie... thread if you care to read it. Your analysis of Tarantino is spot on, however I find that it works for him. He may think he is, but his films definitely are "cool". That's the total appeal of them. I really don't think he intended Pulp Fiction to be this sort of original never before seen type of film thrown into the gangster genre (and I single that one out because of its known critical reception). Sure, his characters are by far some of the most interesting ever put on film and I don't think anyone can fault his casual dialogue between them because it is very clever. To think he's any sort of auteur isn't exactly a bad thing, but I find it to be just an over-examination of his work. I really don't find him to be overzealous, I just think he's a big film dork (much like everyone around here) that got a chance to do what he always wanted to and feels a sense of self accomplishment and overindulgence. Who wouldn't?

#12 hal0000

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 08:09 AM

^Thanks for responding, but I still have to ask about Reservoir Dogs being his best for you. And I wonder whether the cool-o-meter alone is justification for discussing the merits of a film.

Is Pulp Fiction even *that* entertaining, though? I want to see Inglourious Basterds, even though my love affair with Tarantino seems to be over. Even non-Tarantino fans seem to appreciate it so you know...


Haha, I haven't seen it in about 2 years, so maybe it's not. Its status on IMDb's 250 (shit, did I just mention that??? SHAME ON ME) may simply be: Everyone else likes it, so I, as an IMDb user, must like it too. I just ordered it dirt cheap, so when I refresh my memory, I'll get back on that.

I don't know rancheros. I'm anxious to hear your thoughts, ya' contrarian son of a gun!

----------------------------

K, so I happened upon Ian's thoughts on this (I am super late to this discussion) and felt like responding. I'd be interested to know his thoughts.

I thought the film was well directed, the opening interrogation at the dairy farm in particular is amongst Tarantino's best scenes, but a sprawling and messy screenplay brings the film down substantially.


I suppose this comes from what we value in films. I have little use for plot and I forgive messy or rambling screenplays if they enhance the thematic elements. Plot's just something to hang the clothes on (and there is this shot in Inglourious Basterds of a sheet on a clothesline and the Nazis appear on the road from behind it. Tarantino is pulling down the silver screen, so to speak. I don't think it's a stretch that he's implanting the self-reflexive nature the film will mire itself in).

Unfortunately all the characters in Soshanna's story are frankly a little too one dimensional and don't get the opportunity to be fleshed out and be interesting enough.


Guillermo del Toro said of Pan's Labyrinth: "In fantasy, the character's have to be one-dimensional. They are archetypes necessary for the simplified nature of the genre. They aren't supposed to be John Cassavetes characters."

I think that holds with Inglourious Basterds as well. The film is constantly playing around with iconography, stereotypes, and labeling (Hugo Stiglitz, Shoshanna, Martin Boorman, etc.). The film is in essence, a fantasy. The characters in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly are hardly "Cassavetes" characters but they don't have to be, and doing so mortalizes them and destroys their mythological image*. We don't get to know Shosanna precisely because she's supposed to be mysterious; hiding behind facades and putting on different characters. First, she's the Jew in hiding (under the floorboards as a rat, as Landa said). Then she becomes the cinema owner and romantic interest of Good-Natured-All-German boy Frederick. Then she becomes The Girl in the Red Dress and a kind of martyr**. A gorgeous image, no doubt, but one that is linked (as Ebert points out in his review) with noir-ish paintings. Finally, she transcends the corporeal world to inhabit the celluloid and attains her vengeance.

Bratt Pitt, Eli Roth are just hamming it up.


Those scenes with the Basterds may be lesser than the Shosanna scenes, but not by much. Brad Pitt is supposed to be a caricature: The Movie War Hero. At this point in time, he is the quintessential movie star, so casting him makes sense. Eli Roth makes even more sense, for me, because of his reputation as a torture movie director. The Basterds watch him beat Nazis as entertainment ("it's the closest we get to going to the movies."). I don't care for the Hostel movies at all, but again, Tarantino is tapping into reputations.

They don't really advance the plot either, since Soshanna's plot to burn down the theatre would have accomplished exactly the same goals had the film focused entirely on that. The basterds seem to only exist to provide comic relief, brief scenes of violence and scenes in english that play well in trailers.


Again, I'd argue that "advancing the plot" is something viewers shouldn't be concerned with (with most movies, for that matter). Savor each scene as its own entity and in regards to its thematic contributions. The Basterds scenes are loaded with stereotypes and facades where the Shosanna ones are loaded with disguises.

Comic relief? I don't really think it functions that way. Tarantino is not just pointing out stereotypes. He's satirizing them. To an extent, he is playfully thumbing his nose at audience expectations, too.

The basterds gives the audience a break from what is an essentially foreign language art house film and gives them briefs spurts of the typical american summer blockbuster that they were expecting.


I wouldn't call those scenes a "typical summer blockbuster." Aware of movie cliche? Undoubtedly. But he's constantly toying around with these conventions. With a name like The Bear Jew, we expect a Hugo Stiglitz sized character, but in a way, it plays out like Monty Python and the Holy Grail with the rabbit: deliberately anticlimactic (if not so extreme as Holy Grail) to point out cinematic cliche.

Consider hackneyed phraseology as well, particularly with Landa. He asks: "How does that American saying go with shoes and feet?" or "Oooh, that's a BINGO!" Again, these cliches, personas, and mythological images are brought up and toyed around with.

I'd say the picture is better than most Tarantino movies because it's his least "Tarantino-esque." The Cool veneer his films have is a novelty, I think, that wears off quickly. But Inglourious Basterds, unlike most of his other pictures, is more than just a schlock or kung-fu homage. It's a cinematic love letter like Day for Night. It's him professing his love for cinema more broadly and effectively than anything he's done. Not just a love for movies, but cinema that transcends the screen (the burning of the theater is a beautiful representation). Cinema is not just light on a screen but exists beyond it. Cinema is iconography, cliche, myth-making, myth-remaking, and images are powerful (figuratively and literally here become one and the same). They exist long after the projector is turned off or the cinema has been torn down.

* The opening shot of the film mirrors Unforgiven's. Yet this cinematic quote actually means something, I think. Eastwood's film dealt with an aging legend, a man with a brutal past. Inglourious Basterds deals with possibly the most brutal regime in history, yet because of the cinematic reference, this film deals more the iconography of mythological figures and movies.

** I watched the special features for Pan's Labyrinth last night, so maybe this is why I bring it up. del Toro said:

"The villain's reign ends when he dies. The martyr's life begins when she dies."

---------------------------

Mike, I'm responding to your review as well.

A different film than I thought it would be


I think this is precisely what Tarantino is trying to do. The advertisements suggest a Dirty Dozen rehash, but it's aware of itself and avoids that. It's filled with cliche, but it's always pointing at that like the Scream movies.

I loved Pitt and Roth and found them be hilariously serious


Pitt and Roth are hilariously serious and seriously hilarious. They're both playing off personas (Pitt as the quintessential Movie Star and Roth as the Violence-for-entertainment guy). They're caricatures of what they're known for, so naturally it'll be humorous.

Melanie Laurent is not only good in her role, but also good looking and totally captured her part.


Yes, Laurent is amazing. If there's someone we sympathize with, it's her. Not just her role as a cinema lover, but her acting. The little ticks and expressions are endearing and she's capable of putting on different personas well: The Girl in the Red Dress is played beautifully, as well as the cackling celluloid image attaining her vengeance.

I find this to be far from the worst thing Tarantino's ever done


Far from his worst, and one of his best. Certainly the most thematically interesting of his work.

#13 mikesncc1701

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 07:48 PM

^Thanks for responding, but I still have to ask about Reservoir Dogs being his best for you. And I wonder whether the cool-o-meter alone is justification for discussing the merits of a film.

I think so if it's exactly what it sets out to be. It's along the lines of what I was discussing on how I rate movies. If it's meant to be something that needs to be explored, analyzed, and experienced such as Solaris, Au Hasard Balthazar, and things of that nature, then it should be rated as such. Now if it's something along the lines of Shoot 'Em Up or Crank 2 that sets out only to entertain, then it should be rated along those lines. I feel Tarantino's films are among the latter although not quite as mindless, but more jocose.

#14 Ian

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 08:48 PM

Well, my comments aren't going to be very good, as anything specific to Inglorious Basterds has already faded from memory but I'll try and elaborate on some of my views of the film.

Firstly, I don't think Soshanna's story would have suffered at all had it been developed. There are two main reasons I have for this - firstly, unless I am not remembering the film correctly, we don't see any other Jews in the film. We don't even see her other family members shot in the opening scene at the dairy farm. Simply by being the only Jew in the film (outside of the Basterds), the character takes on symbolic tones for all Jewish people hiding in France at the time, since she is are our only real access to their plight. Had she had a stronger character arc, we would still see it as being an archetype for the Jews and it would have only benefited the films emotional punch, which I definitely found lacking. We don't need to know her background but even more scenes related to how she managed to survive and adapt, would have stoked the emotional fires that were needed, while being symbolic as you indicated.

Secondly, I think Quentin made the mistake of giving the audience the burden of having to know the history of Nazi Germany and relying on that to cover up a few weak points in his narrative. Yes, her family was killed by a gestapo but I don't think that was enough to fuel her motivations to wipe out all key members of the nazi party. We know why she wants to do it, all the jews and poles in hiding, all the dead family members littered through Europe. the death camps, starvation and lack of any human rights. (After all, Soshanna is supposedly iconic and represenative of the Jewish people) The film doesn't address this at all and relies on the notion that that the audience already knows the horror of the nazis and that they should be punished by the films end. I think that's lazy film making. If we had set this in a fictional war and not one that we are so well versed in , I think a lot of people would be confused by her motivations in her revenge plot. In a fictional war using Quentin's script, we wouldn't really know who was right or wrong or even justified in their actions.

As for the Basterds being a satire of American war films, too some degree...but maybe it's one of the downsides of seeing a movie like this in the theater. I don't think the audience realized any satire was going on, while I thought a lot of it was camp and silly most other people in the screening I was at thought it was the highlight of the movie and were a hootin' and hollerin' everytime the Basterds were killing someone or delivering scenery chewing lines about America kickin' ass. For the most part it went right over their heads...and maybe that's rightly so. For a satire, it's a dull one. Satire is best when it's scathing (which usually means highly political/controversial). Besides a slight mocking of typical war films, I don't really know that I felt that the satire of the Basterds had any real point to it.

#15 mikesncc1701

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Posted 23 September 2009 - 01:56 AM

Secondly, I think Quentin made the mistake of giving the audience the burden of having to know the history of Nazi Germany and relying on that to cover up a few weak points in his narrative. Yes, her family was killed by a gestapo but I don't think that was enough to fuel her motivations to wipe out all key members of the nazi party. We know why she wants to do it, all the jews and poles in hiding, all the dead family members littered through Europe. the death camps, starvation and lack of any human rights. (After all, Soshanna is supposedly iconic and represenative of the Jewish people) The film doesn't address this at all and relies on the notion that that the audience already knows the horror of the nazis and that they should be punished by the films end. I think that's lazy film making. If we had set this in a fictional war and not one that we are so well versed in , I think a lot of people would be confused by her motivations in her revenge plot. In a fictional war using Quentin's script, we wouldn't really know who was right or wrong or even justified in their actions.

But to show all of that in THIS film would've been unnecessary. Either it would have nothing to do with the characters at hand or it would've just been too much. For instance the only way I can think of him showing at least some of the suffering of the other Jews was to possibly have Soshanna apprehended and sent off to a concentration camp only for her to escape and then play out her revenge scheme. It would've been an overload of typical Hollywood perceiving the crowd is dumb and on this subject, I wouldn't feel surprised if people were offended by such.

#16 hal0000

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Posted 23 September 2009 - 08:55 AM

^That would be called having your cake and eating it too.

Secondly, I think Quentin made the mistake of giving the audience the burden of having to know the history of Nazi Germany and relying on that to cover up a few weak points in his narrative. Yes, her family was killed by a gestapo but I don't think that was enough to fuel her motivations to wipe out all key members of the nazi party. We know why she wants to do it, all the jews and poles in hiding, all the dead family members littered through Europe. the death camps, starvation and lack of any human rights. (After all, Soshanna is supposedly iconic and represenative of the Jewish people) The film doesn't address this at all and relies on the notion that that the audience already knows the horror of the nazis and that they should be punished by the films end. I think that's lazy film making. If we had set this in a fictional war and not one that we are so well versed in , I think a lot of people would be confused by her motivations in her revenge plot. In a fictional war using Quentin's script, we wouldn't really know who was right or wrong or even justified in their actions.


I think part of it, Ian, is that you were expecting certain things to happen which didn't and Inglourious Basterds subverts these expectations because they have become conventional. Inglourious Basterds' focus on WWII is about as much as Rear Window's is on peeping toms; it's what the films are implying that is of the essence (or in the case of Basterds, implication becomes explication). Do we really need another movie that reminds us of the horrors inflicted upon the Jewish people? The convention for most WWII movies is to include this almost out of guilt-ridden obligation. It's the same reason that a lot of movies will include minorities. Not because they want to as much as they do it out of fear and political correctness. It's something that we've become so conditioned to, that it limits us with convention.

Inglourious Basterds is not focused on the personas adopted by Jews, but the persona itself. Jim Emerson has pointed out that scene after scene is an interrogation. We don't get to know these characters intimately because they've got their poker faces on. Basterds mires itself in self-reflexive ideas constantly, reminding the audience that they are simply watching a movie. Why do we need to show the horrors of the Holocaust when countless WWII movies have turned that subject matter into an almost perfunctory routine? No, Basterds is not really concerned with WWII. But it is concerned with the conventions of WWII movies. Tarantino has made this movie with the understanding that anyone with half an ounce of film going experience has learned about WWII through the movie screen. I don't consider it lazy filmmaking at all because Tarantino trusts the audience. There's no obligatory explanation of the Holocaust because he assumes we're smart enough. That's hardly patronizing. The trailers suggest this will be a Nazi-killing Jewish-wish fulfillment gore-fest. This is the convention set out by Hollywood. But what Tarantino delivers is a film that deals with looking at conventions, personas, and movie cliches. He needs those scenes with the Basterds as a touching off point.

#17 Ian

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Posted 23 September 2009 - 05:22 PM

Well, I didn't really have any expectations going in but over the course of actually watching the film, I did have the notion that Quentin was playing with some rich, fertile ideas that haven't really been explored in cinema. I left the film thinking that it had all the ingredients for a much better picture. I have similar views on The Double Life of Veronique, which I know many here love.

I don't know how I would have improved it....maybe instead of the propoganda trailer in the film being about the German solider who killed 200 Americans from a watch tower, it could have been about a "brave" German gestapo officer who found a family of evil jews hiding under the floor board and ends up with the officer shooting the daughter. Take the fantastic opening of the film and create the mirror image reflecting the horrors of nazi germany and it's beliefs without having to create additional plot strands. Would have been a double edged sword, allowing the film to provide the proper motivation for Shoshanna's attack on the Nazi party and also again using cinema itself as a character in the film.

Dunno, nothing more to add really. Glad you loved it Hal! I think it's a good direction for Tarantino to move in...as I said in my original review, I see enough promise in the film that I think Tarantino will surprise people and make one of the great art house movies in his lifetime. There's a definite maturity in his abilities in IB.

#18 hal0000

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Posted 26 September 2009 - 08:33 AM

Is Pulp Fiction even *that* entertaining, though?


As promised, I revisited this and am left wondering what the fuss is about. I think I like it more than you do, rancheros, but definitely not as much as a lot of people here (it shows up on 8 out of 12 people's lists here. That's got to be a record). I don't know. I'd like to see what people think of Pulp Fiction 20-30 years down the line, but it's hard to think about that perspective. Yet, I wonder what the film is trying to do.

Part of me feels it's anti-symbolic, or at least debating symbology. Several scenes, like Vincent and Jules' debate on the meaning of a foot massage, exemplify this. Interesting, too, how Jules changes from "foot massages don't mean shit" to saying that Ringo is "the weak man." Yet is Tarantino trying to suggest divine inspiration? I doubt it. I really don't see any consistency for a religious parable. He seems to use it more for its rhetorical aesthetic. There is Marsellus Wallace's bandage (I have heard several "divine" interpretations for this) and the Briefcase. I have heard everything from gold, to Wallace's soul, to a light bulb in a brief case is in there. But I don't think the case is supposed to "be" a specific object. If anything, it's symbolic of symbols. I think Tarantino has said it's merely a Macguffin, so I doubt reading into its religious significance means anything. If the film is about anything, I think it may be the antithesis of symbols, meanings, or consequences to those symbols. Yet this line of reasoning leaves me in a bit of a pickle because how do you argue for meaninglessness without contradicting yourself even a little?

Is Pulp Fiction even *that* entertaining, though?

Well, yes and no. I think the narrative structure proves my point in how unimportant plot lines are. "Figuring out what happened" isn't what makes Pulp Fiction interesting. Rather, this film lives for the moment, unconcerned with (long term) consequence and defusing that by jumbling chronology. Yet certain sections of the movie DRAAAAAG, particularly The Gold Watch bits. I don't know. Maybe it's because I don't like Bruce Willis very much (his section of Sin City, too, is the weak suit of the film). Yes, Inglourious Basterds has prolonged sequences, but they're there for a reason I can latch onto within the context of the entire picture. The scenes with Fabienne and Butch could arguably be a throwback to noir-ish ideas (a bit like The Set-Up?), yet I have some resistance to this idea. I really don't think Pulp Fiction is concerned with moral ambiguity (maybe moral vapidity), loneliness, or masculinity.

I still get the impression the picture is arguing for style over any tangible substance. I think part of the reason I don't treasure the thing like others is that I don't really value stories as an end to themselves, nor Coolness for the sake thereof. My problem with Pulp Fiction is that I don't see any major thematic elements beyond what is apparent, and the Cool Scenes and Quotability distract me from harnessing any sizable analysis. Interpretation of Pulp Fiction feels forced. Even if Pulp Fiction is nihilistic and anti-symbolic, I don't see much to hang onto that. It's kind of like: Okay. It doesn't mean anything. But there it is. And if it's dealing with iconography, I feel it was all done better in Inglourious Basterds.

Does someone want to defend this movie beyond its entertainment vaue and point out what I'm clearly missing? I don't know. As Pair has said, I'd rather talk about movies I feel strongly about, which is why I could only muster up so much for Pulp Fiction.

#19 marcusbulbous76

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Posted 26 September 2009 - 08:44 AM

Interesting, too, how Jules changes from "foot massages don't mean shit" to saying that Ringo is "the weak man." Yet is Tarantino trying to suggest divine inspiration? I doubt it. I really don't see any consistency for a religious parable. He seems to use it more for its rhetorical aesthetic. There is Marsellus Wallace's bandage (I have heard several "divine" interpretations for this) and the Briefcase. I have heard everything from gold, to Wallace's soul, to a light bulb in a brief case is in there. But I don't think the case is supposed to "be" a specific object. If anything, it's symbolic of symbols. I think Tarantino has said it's merely a Macguffin, so I doubt reading into its religious significance means anything. If the film is about anything, I think it may be the antithesis of symbols, meanings, or consequences to those symbols. Yet this line of reasoning leaves me in a bit of a pickle because how do you argue for meaninglessness without contradicting yourself even a little?


Another argument that Pulp Fiction is of at least some 'religious' significance is the argument concerning the divergent fates of Jules and Vincent. Jules believes God intervened in his life ("He came down from heaven and stopped those mothaf&*%in' bullets") and because he recognizes 'the touch of God' he lives. Vincent remains a spiritual oaf and dies. I don't believe this can be read any other way, although at the same time I don't believe spiritual development has been a motif Tarantino has taken seriously throughout his oeuvre.

#20 Duke Togo

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Posted 26 September 2009 - 09:59 AM

Well, I see the religious aspects of the stories as nothing more than byproducts of a bigger goal, which was the creation of characters that properly capture the spirit of, or perhaps summarize, the pulp novel. The crime, fantasy, romance, struggle, violence, and adult themes of pulp stories are all present here.

Just who is Marsellus Wallace? I cannot believe the fantasy elements surrounding the brief case are a mere macguffin, I mean why go to all the trouble? Too many things just fall into place here. For a crime boss to have such a tremendous reach that he can sell his soul to get where he is (it came from the bandage?), then re-obtain that soul is just the sort of outrageous character you might find in an overly nihilistic crime pulp story, taken a few Tarantino steps further of course. A terrific mix of noir and fantasy in my opinion. The glow of the brief case, the combination (666), and the miracle of Jules & Vincent (the carriers of a soul) being temporarily protected, all come together in a way that sets up a very adult theme, that being our mortality. Naturally one will contemplate their immortal soul while the other will ignore such ramblings. It is quite symbolic, it represents those two sides of humanity, and creating the split is the only way to explore this further. Jules survives because he gets out of the business, Vincent does not. It really has nothing more to do with religion at this point, but is more about choosing/tempting your fate, much in the vein of noir.

The narrative structure is a bit interesting, but not really all that cryptic or profound. The film is comprised of different episodes, all titled, and all focusing on different aspects and characters. If they happen to criss-cross in places, so be it. Sin City did the exact same thing, though it was much more obvious that it was mimicking the criss-crossing structure of the source novels. That is what this is though, a structure attempting to capture the feel of several pulp volumes which are based in the same universe, the same overall story. These volumes also explore slightly different genres, though nothing all that distinct. This structure combined with the corny comic dialogue and reality-bending nature of pulp comics, which do bend reality but can still be based in the more tragic corners of our reality, all manage to capture that unique feel of pulp fiction. It was quite a unique project when it first came out, and I still find it one of the more inspired ideas Tarantino has come up with. I mean honestly, how many films attempt something like this? All its apparent flaws almost work in its favor when you consider what it was trying to do. I will admit that it doesn't really have the same power it did years ago, but it still remains in my favorites.




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