I am aware this post is not going to be for everybody, just like Quentin Tarantino is an acquired taste. I have not acquired it myself. Jackie Brown is alright, I found Pulp Fiction boring, and Kill Bill 1 was so violent and gross I swore the guy off forever.
That is, until my friend Jesse insisted there is a Tarantino movie that would be different: Inglourious Basterds.
I was hesitant. I told him I know this is exactly the kind of movie I do not like, but he really wanted me to give it a shot. So I did. And rather than try to express my larger issues with Mr. Tarantino and his cultural appropriations or his inability to construct a good narrative, I thought if I was going to dedicate two and a half hours of my life to a movie I was fairly certain was not my cup of tea, I might as well track my thoughts about it to keep me invested in the thing.
So, for those who are curious, here are my thoughts on everything about this movie from the good performances and camera framing to the lethargic opening scene to the extreme violence to the inexplicable fonts. All of it. And maybe those of you who don’t realize how much I read into movies when I watch them will get a glimpse at why I nitpick, how distracted I can be when reminded of other movies in a referential movie like this one, and, most importantly, what an obnoxious snob of a film student I can be. Here it is, feel free to criticize and debate. It is only fair if I take shots at the movie, fans of the movie can take their shots at me:
(Note: In this rare instance, I did not self-spoil the plot before watching, so these are all real time reactions to what I am watching, which explains why I walk back certain criticisms when they get explained later on)
0:00: I do always love a retro studio logo. They do have me there.
0:01: I will also give Tarentino this—though he rips off old movies and calls it homage when it is really just pastiche, I do appreciate anyone with reverence for opening credits. Though, these are a smidge boring compared to Feud on FX, which are the credits of the year imo
0:04: Waiting for these people on bikes to arrive at this French guy’s house is already boring me. Given the running time, I am concerned about this inauspicious start. Where is the suspense? The build? For a filmmaker who I will at least admit is energetic, this is such a muted beginning.
0:06: I am watching a dude drink milk. Send help.
0:08: Is it supposed to be ludicrous that he wants to switch from French to English after using the French word for inadequate? I am hoping this is part of the humor of this film and Tarantino just hasn’t tipped his hand as to tone yet.
0:12: The missing Jewish brother is named Bob? I am racking my brain on whether or not Bob is a common French nickname or not…Mostly because I am bored to tears and having nothing better to do.
0:13: I am also wondering what about the pipe is not a pipe. Is it a signal? Is it a bomb? Is it a mistake this guy made that Christoph Waltz is going to use to destroy him.
0:15: I understand this is supposed to be tense. Thing is, it isn’t. Tension requires me to be invested in the outcome and I don’t know or recognize these characters, so I am not particularly invested in the fact Waltz is inevitably going to catch and kill them. You can zoom in on him writing down that a 10 year old is involved, but the film hasn’t *earned* suspense yet. Sure, it is a kid, it helps, but I find it a little lazy. At least take Hitchcock’s cue and clue the audience in to something the participants don’t know. Thatis how suspense best works.
0:17: The comically large pipe tells me two things: 1. There is a sense of humor to this movie after all 2. The French guys pipe is not more than what it seems, it is an unnecessarily long set up to a cartoon joke.
0:19: Oh the French to English is a façade. That is a relief.
0:20: Um, these Jewish people in the floor don’t speak French, but they aren’t deaf. They can hear three soldiers marching in with boots on.
0:23: While it is not perfect, I applaud you Brad Pitt, for a reasonable Southern accent.
0:24: I can’t with all these monologues. None are particularly memorable so far and I can just feel my time being eaten minute by minute with unnecessary nonsense.
0:27: Oh God, he was not kidding about the scalps. Ew, gross. This is part of Tarantino I can live without, the violence just for violence’s sake. The redneck leader really needs to scalp people? Is it to tie it to the Western genre? Connect it with the heroic and violent for the era John Wayne war movies? Give me a better reason because these are all flimsy at best. He just wants to shock people and takes the easy way out.
0:29: This whole Hugo Blaxpoitation montage is the Tarantino I know and hate. Just derivative and violent because Tarantino thinks it is cool to insert this genre into a WW2 movie. Again, I just find it lazy.
0:30: I just want to go watch The Dirty Dozen instead so very badly right now.
0:35: After watching this poor Nazi get his brain bashed in with a bat, the “ew” count is up to three.
0:36: While Pitt interrogates the last Nazi the excessive panning from person to person to map to person is just one of my pet peeves. What about this camera move is adding anything to the story? It is not additive, it solely distracts.
0:38: Why do these intertitles look so cheap? Is there a reason? Given it is Tarantino I feel like there has to be, but I find it weird they look like I made them myself in Premiere.
0:39: And now Shoshanna’s title card is just a completely different, new font. The font inconsistency is also driving me crazy.
0:40: This shot of Shoshanna fixing the marquee is incredibly well composed though
0:42: These 180-degree rule violations while Shoshanna talks to the German soldiers are killing my soul. I want to believe there is a reason this is happening, but I think given the usual suspect, there is not one.
0:43: Not to sound wholly negative, the Orson Welles-esque low angle shooting is really lovely. The framing of shots in this movie is really nicely done. (See? I can say nice things too!)
0:57: Shoshanna’s reaction to having to wait for the cream to eat her strudel is how I feel about watching this movie. Silently rolling her eyes because she knows the cream won’t save this horrible experience.
1:00: I will also give Waltz and this blonde chick playing Shoshanna that their performances are quite good. I get why he was nominated. Looking at this remarkably weak and unmemorable field, I guess it makes sense he won, though I am Team Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones myself.
1:03: So another pet peeve of mine is inconsistent narration. We have not had voiceover in this movie for half an hour and when Samuel L. Jackson did pop off, it seemed to be part of the joke riff on Shaft, not a recurring thing. Then suddenly he reappears because we as the audience need to be clued in on a plot point and there is no more graceful way to do it? Boo. Boo I say.
1:07: Something I just typed to my boyfriend, who inexplicably wants to see Boss Baby:
“I would rather watch Boss Baby at this point. If I could tap out of the last 90 minutes of this movie and opt in to the Alec Baldwin talking baby cartoon, I would.”
1:09: Please tell me you are going to be around for more than one scene, Mike Myers. I need more of your weird smile.
1:19: Y’all I have completely zoned out I am so unbelievably bored. Even more characters I have effectively no interest in are playing some sort of guess the celebrity game in a bar. Shoshanna aside, there is not a character in this movie I give even the tiniest crap about and we are at the point where most films are entering their third act.
1:22: I am curious about this director Pabst now that he has come up three times Not a German director I am very familiar with and, looking at his filmography, I have neither seen nor heard of any of his stuff.
1:26: Pretty certain you can remove this entire section and the movie would be much the better for it. It is just a silly excuse for another discussion about pop culture for Tarantino to show off what a film nerd he claims to be. These scenes can be fun, I enjoy Gilmore Girls, but Jesus get on with it already, like nothing has happened in this movie and we still have an hour to go.
1:30: Sorry undercover British guys, that isn’t how Euros count on their fingers. Guessing the jig is up. Thumb first, dude. Thumb first.
1:31: I will admit this is a good plot point as to how he inadvertently tips off the German guy in terms of execution, concept, dialogue etc. I don’t know why we need twenty minutes to get to it, but this moment was well done.
1:36: Say Auf Wiedersehen to your Nazi balls? Ugh. I get that this is fun to people, juxtaposing a 90s action movie scene into a WW2 movie, but I just generally find it stupid. It is a preference thing, I am not right or wrong here, I just personally find it to be the furthest thing from entertaining.
1:42: I did like the delayed explanation of why this undercover op went to hell for those unfamiliar with how some Euro countries count.
1:48: I think there is a fly in my apartment. Or something is buzzing or maybe broken? Is it a fly? Is it a machine? These questions are more interesting than this movie.
1:49: Um, is this Davd Bowie? I am so bad at music sometimes. What is with the sudden introduction of the anachronistic music? Because I guess we are homaging the 80s now because, hell, why not? I know this is supposed to be fun, but the tone of this movie is so baffling to me. It is irreverent, but it is not quite out there enough to justify the random narration and abrupt genre homages. I know this is supposedly his niche, I just think the Cohens handle this screwball, irreverent tone so much better and I wish their deft hands could fix this.
1:55: All these Nazis in the theater have me hankering for one of my favorite movies featuring Hitler, To Be or Not To Be. The Lubitsch original is the real one to watch, but Mel Brooks’ version is really solid too.
1:57: I will give this movie this—I am impressed how many people watched this movie and seemed to like it that would generally be averse to watching foreign films. The majority of this movie is subtitled and he appealed to a base who normally can’t tolerate subtitles, so I guess there is something to be said there.
2:01: Guys, I am so excited. There is only half an hour left.
2:04: AS we seem to be bidding her character farewell, I will remark how stunning Diane Kruger looks in this movie and how obsessed I am with her blue sparkly dress.
2:21: It is moments like these where I think to myself, “Where is narrator Samuel L. Jackson?”
2:24: Sappy music? Not dead German. Girl, he is going to kill you, ru…oh, too late.
2:27: Is Shoshanna speaking in English in this movie within the movie? Why would she be talking in English to a theater full of Germans? I mean, I guess I can assume she is speaking French or German, but given that it is subtitled every other instance of the movie, this is a little weird. And we established in the intro that she does not speak English, so I am even more perplexed.
2:28: And now we are in a Jimmy Cagney movie. Oh what I would give to be able to watch Yankee Doodle Dandy right now.
2:29: This is a section of the movie in which my personal movie tastes really impact how things affect me, especially Tarantino. I do not find this tommy gun bonanza interesting or invigorating. I find excessive violence really unappealing and I just tune out completely, so this climactic moment totally works for most people and I am fully aware the only reason I am bored out of my mind while Eli Roth shoots Hitler for the 100th time is a matter purely of taste.
2:30: This scene in the woods is very Miller’s Crossing. Which again just makes me think about how much better the Cohens are at these kinds of movies and how good Brad Pitt is in Burn After Reading.
2:33: Well, I tried. I do think there are moments and pieces of this worth noting, like the Shoshanna girl, Waltz speaking four languages and stealing the show, and the general mis-en-scene, but so much more is a miss for me. Pacing is a disaster with no sense of urgency at any point throughout the movie, there is minimal character development, I for the life of me can’t really sum up the plot of this movie in any succinct way…I mean, to me these are pretty substantial issues that extend beyond my general distaste for the director’s ultraviolent style.
There is only so much pithy one-liners and a rather absurdist sense of humor can save. For me, cinema is a narrative-driven medium and I have yet to see a Tarantino movie where the narrative has done anything but inhibit the rest of the film. In that sense though, that is also a matter of taste. There are those who love formalism, privilege the visual component of cinema, and I get that, it just for me is not what makes a movie I enjoy. I respect Scorsese, but save for Hugo, I don’t really dig his movies because I cannot get into the story. Is he visually skilled? Sure.
Is Tarantino visually skilled? That I cannot answer so definitively. He is a masterful mimic, which is worth noting, but it is all just pastiche to me, throwing things together not to make a point, but just to make something look cool.