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June 22, 2012

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Michael Dempsey

No matter how it's executed, the very concept of this movie is nothing but obscene, and I'm glad you cut through all the comic-book-postmodern-fun-whatever that stupidly tries to justify it.

This one's a definite never-see for me.

jbryant

Ever since the novel came out, this whole idea has struck me as something one might concoct as part of a parlor game. I'd expect it to inspire a funny fake movie poster rather than a full-length story. I'll give the author a back-handed compliment: it must have taken real perseverance to plow ahead with such a wrong-headed concept.

But I haven't read the book or seen the movie, so... grain of salt.

Brian Z

Thanks for this Glenn. I was seeing all of these reviews giving the film I pass and it was driving me nuts. It's an abhorrent and terribly made movie.

Tom Block

I didn't like "Inglorious Basterds" at all (for Tedious Bullshit Factor reasons, nothing to do with its treatment of Nazis), but I can see the distinction you're making here, even if "IG" has made it easier for directors to justify their rapes of history as pomo spins on it. And crappy looking as it is, at least this one's got "fantasy" stamped all over it--unlike, say, "They Died With Their Boots On" or "Mississippi Burning".

That Fuzzy Bastard

Almost any historical movie is about the era in which it's made, not the era that it's ostensibly about. IB was a fantasy about how kewl torture is when the right people do it, presented in the Cheney years, and as such, infinitely more abhorrent than AL:VH's loud "durrrrr".

bill

Boy oh boy. I've been thinking about INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS the last couple of days, and about some of the shit it got, and is apparently still getting, about the violence and torture and apparent or possible advocation of that torture, and even about how some people defend the baseball bat scene because the Nazi there is "noble" or "loyal" (and loyal to *what*? None of those people care to take their argument that far)...I guess I'm just surprised that people can get themselves so tied up into knots about how Nazis are physically treated on screen in a work of fiction. This depresses me far, far more than anyone getting a visceral or cathartic thrill from it.

And not incidentally, but 2009 was not "the Cheney years."

Glenn Kenny

Bill, your response to the assertion under scrutiny is far more politic than mine would have been. I myself was doing a Google image search for those "Screwball" and "bats in the belfry" flashcard rebuses Bugs Bunny used to hold up at crucial moments in certain Looney Tunes.

bill

Well, your impulse was more politic than I actually feel, so call it a push.

Colonelmortimer

A tangentially related story: I have a co-worker in her early 20s whose enjoyment of INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS was greatly heightened due to her not knowing how Hitler actually died.

Dan Coyle

Was her mind blown when you told her it was actually the Golden Age Human Torch that broke into the bunker in Berlin and burned him alive in self defense?

(Seriously, that's how it happened in Marvel Comics)

Oliver_C

Yeah, but then Hitler was cloned and became the Hate-Monger, not forgetting that Baron Zemo preserved the original Hitler's brain and wanted to transplant it into Captain America's body, and...

Peter Labuza

Also re: Bill/Glenn, few seem to comment that the entire Chapter 2 sequence leading up to and including the baseball bat is all about the Basterds trying to appear way more menacing and evil than they actuall are. Donny has to put on a show so the other soldier will reveal the location of the platoon. None of it is actually motivated to the thrill of violence (QT has to make it appear as such so the soldier thinks he will also die a horrible gruesome death)

Tom Carson

Thing is, the Basterds are *never* shown as being particularly good at what they do. They're a bunch of galoots, regularly mocked by the European characters for their intrusions into crap they don't understand. Pitt's idea of speaking Italian is the least of it.

bill

They do help kill Hitler, though, which is a pretty big deal. Morally reprehensible though it evidently is.

Tom Carson

Indeed they do, and it's their claim to glory. I'm not sure it's sufficiently appreciated that the movie is -- among many other things -- Tarantino's idea of defining (celebrating?) the national character of all the countries who fought Hitler, with the obvious and big exception of the Russians.

bill

No, it's not sufficiently appreciated, you're right. Even I tend to chalk up Shosanna as not even a representative of her country, but simply a person who has some vengeance deal out. But it's true: brute force power from the US, civilized quick-thinking from the UK, and surreptitious sabotage from the French.

That sounds like I'm slighting the US, but I'm not. Just form a movie stereotype approach, though...

Dan Coyle

Oliver C: there's also the story, written by the same writer, where Captain America and his pals are shown to have helped inspire the Warsaw Uprising through their heroism.

Frank McDevitt

A choice Rotten Tomatoes comment under your review:

"How is it a crime to say, "Hey, Abe Lincoln was a badass." Is it too hard to assume that, if vampires existed, and Lincoln knew about them, that he would kill them? Abraham Lincoln was almost as awesome as Teddy Roosevelt." - Noah Abraham G.

The "badassification" of U.S. Presidents is maybe the worst internet trend ever.

Thomas

"Morally reprehensible though it evidently is."

Ruthlessly killing Hitler and the other Nazi top brass is perfectly fine with me. It's the torturing and scalping of the "normal" German soldiers that I find more problematic (as evil as the Nazis were, they were still human.) It didn't ruin the film for me or anything, but I did find it a bit unpleasant at the time.

Of course, a lot of what I've read about the film since has helped me see that it's quite a bit more complex than I originally gave it credit for. Unfortunately, some of Tarantino's comments around the time the film was released didn't make me feel any better - I remember one comment to the extent that he couldn't stand it in movies where soldiers stood around debating the fate of an enemy soldier they had captured, because they should really just shoot him in the head (he cited "Red Dawn" as one film that does this right.) Because that's more "realistic" or "just" or something, apparently.

Not David Bordwell

"Abraham Lincoln was almost as awesome as Teddy Roosevelt."

From Dusk Til Dawn IV: Rough Riders' Revenge

Silly me, I thought INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS was actually a fantasy avenging real, historical Nazi crimes against cinema, not SHOAH, SCHINDLER'S LIST, or for that matter, THE BIG RED ONE.

You know, slaveholding plantation owners were human beings, too, so brace yourself for DJANGO UNCHAINED.

Who would have thought at the beginning of the week THIS would turn out to be the most depressing thread?

Dan Coyle

Man, I love the Big Red One. It's worth watching to scrub the screwiness of Inglorious Basterds out of your brain.

That Fuzzy Bastard

I guess I'm trying to figure out why people seem to find the Basterds carving up P.O.W.'s foreheads to be all in good fun, even though it resonates rather uncomfortably with very recent events, while having Abe Lincoln killing vampires, a much purer fantasy, is reprehensible. Is it strictly because Tarantino is a more entertaining director?

Tom Russell

Fuzzy: From Glenn's review, I think the point would be that ALVH, whether its creators are fully aware of it or not, frees human beings from culpability for the crime of slavery, which is extremely morally reprehensible. Tarantino's film doesn't make any such claims w/r/t WWII and the holocaust.

IIRC, here was a discussion in these parts a couple years back that compared JFK to BASTERDS. And the salient point in that discussion was that while both traffic in alternate history, JFK (1) thinks its alternate history is real, and (2) perpetuates a dangerous, harmful, and ignorant myth. Now, I'm not saying ALVH does either of these things-- I don't think anyone's going to come away from it convinced that vampires invented slavery-- but the idea behind the film is completely and unquestionably repugnant.

Keith Uhlich

TFB: I think it might very well be because "IB" resonates, whereas "ALVH" does not (it really is empty spectacle, though I was fairly amused by its ineptitude). Not to say that any movie resonates the same way from person to person—"IB" rubs you the wrong way because of its parallels to modern events; for me those parallels lead to something deeper, an emotional conflict very much at odds with the surface violence.

Tom Russell

Also: I don't really understand how you took away "torture is kewl when the right people do it" from BASTERDS. The carving in the film in my reading was horrific, and intentionally so. And at the very least, the underlying "message" of the carving is a moral one: that the Good German Who Had No Idea What Was Really Happening is a myth. It's a destructive myth that, like the alternate history in JFK, has become accepted as a truth by the ignorant.

bill

Tom - Why is it necessary that all films depicting Nazis in WWII should now go out of their way to acknowledge that not every single German was a Nazi? INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is specifically about Nazis. I don't believe the "message" of the carving is that there were no such Germans. The "message", if anything, is that it sucks that so many actual Nazis got away with it, and isn't it cathartic to see some getting back just a fraction of what they dealt out?

This is really maddening. Nazis are the next group that people are going to demand be treated fairly in movies? Because I can think of a few others that should be ahead of them in line.

Tom Russell

"Tom - Why is it necessary that all films depicting Nazis in WWII should now go out of their way to acknowledge that not every single German was a Nazi?"

I must've expressed myself very poorly, because what I meant was the opposite: I'm glad Tarantino *didn't* do that.

I think you're right about the "message"; and please note that I used quotes around message because I am generally very dubious about looking for messages in films. I was just trying to engage Mr. Bastard's argument.

bill

Oh. Oops! Sorry. I reread your comment just now and see my mistake.

Not David Bordwell

Let me try again:

BASTERDS is not a dissertation on the sufferings of Jews or other crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Nazis, so I think reading the treatment of the Nazis in that film as what the revenge fantasy is about misses much of the point. What BASTERDS comes damn close to being is a dissertation on the crimes of Joseph Goebbels against world cinema, as Tarantino's apparently encyclopedic knowledge of the German film industry on display in the movie makes clear. What a lot of the critics who dug BASTERDS really got off on was the way Tarantino uses film to exact his revenge on the top brass of the Third Reich—literally within the film itself, but also in his mastery of the various genres that are mother's milk to QT, all of which would have been deemed "degenerate" by the Nazis (if, of course, they had existed): Spaghetti Westerns, grindhouse exploitation, films by any number of directors clearly on QT's mind (Robert Aldrich, Sam Fuller, J. Lee Thompson, Brian DePalma), etc.

As if the casting of Eli Roth as the Bärenjude weren't enough of a clue, the nastiness of the scalpings, bludgeonings, swastika carvings, even the montage of Til Schweiger's Nazi executions, are all grindhouse Grand Guignol. The fact that QT had Eli Roth direct the propaganda film-within-the-film Stolz der Nation adds a tasty frisson to the proceedings.

This is "all in good fun" for fans of these various genres, as AL:VH will be for fans of Seth Grahame-Green, vampire slaying, and Timur Bekmambetov who don't care a whit about the implications of the backstory for "post-racial America."

But I also think there is more going on in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS than just Tarantino having a lark because watching Christoph Waltz get his forehead sliced open makes your stomach turn. There is something to be said for the way the revenge fantasy he lays out has degenerate people earning a posthumous victory through degenerate art.

Whereas, according to Glenn's review, the revision of history in AL:VH serves what purpose exactly? The "badassification" of a president who didn't really need it?

That Fuzzy Bastard

Some interesting thoughts on the history/fables behind AL:VH here (after wading through a couple paragraphs of "my wacky student"): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/w-scott-poole/abraham-lincoln-vampire-hunter_b_1609691.html

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