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Guest Post by Ron Wells on Oscar Nominee “Inglourious Basterds”: Not Funny, Quentin

February 26, 2010
With the Oscar race now officially on, and people debating each other on and off line about the various winning elements of different contenders, my friend Ron Wells weighs in on Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds” which, I admit, I have yet to see. However, I think Ron argues his point well and so I offer his guest blog post to my readers.

With all due respect to the millions of people who love “Inglourious Basterds,” I really had an intense dislike for this film.
Now, amidst all the Oscar hype for the movie, I ‘d like to present another viewpoint for consideration.

I’ve seen most (all?) of Quentin Tarantino’s films, something that I’m not especially proud of, but people keep telling me what a genius he is, so I seem to keep coming back hoping for something spectacular. “Pulp Fiction” had great dialogue, and “Jackie Brown” was ok, but I’ve always thought the latter owed more to Elmore Leonard than it did Tarantino.

But “Ingourious Basterds” has pushed me over the edge. For a filmmaker like Tarantino, who probably knows more about movies than anyone except Martin Scorsese, it now seems readily apparent that this man/child may know everything about films and absolutely nothing about life.

As we watch film after film of his, the body counts mount up in ways so grotesque, so dehumanizing, that desensitizing life and death doesn’t begin to state the obvious.  As Quentin says, “My fans know what’s funny.” Now, when Tarantino says funny, he’s got something completely different in mind, for what could be funnier in today’s culture than watching people suffer in horrific pain and then ultimately die. In fact, let’s have lots and lots of people die in really disgusting, bizarre ways. Pick one of his movies. Let the body count start. Ha, ha. I guess.

Now,  Sam Peckinpah made some really violent films, but he always had a point of view. He always knew that man was a violent creature, and he used his films to explore the rationality, or irrationality, of this.

Quentin Tarantino? Not so much. Violence is just a make-believe game to him. It’s violence because violence is funny, and who cares why people do what they do. It’s just a comic book brought to life with real people playing comic book characters. Now isn’t that a grand concept. And actors love him because he allows them to go over the top, speak really cool dialogue, and become caricatures.

And so he  moves on in Basterds to tackle the war genre. Now I ask you, what could be funnier than that. Audiences love war, don’t they? And let’s add some humor, just a little sugar to make the medicine go down and feed the human need to see death.

This is certainly not the same as Steven Spielberg’s graphic portrayal of the D-Day invasion. And God knows Quentin doesn’t mean funny as in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.

No, this is something completely different.

My father and uncles fought in World War II. I guess I missed all of their hilarious stories about their war experiences. I’ve lived through Vietnam, Iraq I and Iraq II, and now Afghanistan. When attending my high school reunion they now list KIV: Killed in Vietnam. It is a significant part of my graduating class. This country has been at war for 8 years now, so I can see why Tarantino would what want to show us the hilarity cloaked in suspense of what our men and women are going through.

“Hurt Locker” depicted two elements of today’s wars that are seldom mentioned: disarming bombs, and never knowing exactly who the enemy is. Not to mention the coming home of these men, who then cannot relate to anything or anyone in society. That is, if they’re lucky enough to get home. “The Messenger” shows what happens to those who don’t come home, and it is gut wrenching both for the messengers and the families they have to break the terrible news to.

Yet none of this registers with Tarantino, nor his audience evidently. After all, what could be more hilarious than using a man’s head as a batting tee with an American swinging a baseball bat. Now that’s comedy! Well, at least it was a Nazi getting bashed, so I guess that makes it ok. And what about that bar scene? Pointing pistols under a table at a persons private parts before everyone in the bar starts shooting each other! How great is that! Watch the bodies pile up. Oh Quentin, you old joker you.

And he got all of this from obscure B movies that few have seen, and even fewer remember? Fantastic. Nothing like seeking out quality material when being inspired for his art.

I’ll give him the first 20 minutes of the film. Intense. Suspenseful. Christoph Waltz is dynamic. But then, Quentin couldn’t help being Quentin. Bring on the guns and let’s shoot up some bodies! Well, except for the times when we’re privileged to watch soldiers actually scalping dead men. Wow, now that’s entertainment!

He says he wanted to remake “The Dirty Dozen?” Spaghetti westerns? Oh, I get it, it’s just a real life cartoon with cartoon violence. And what could be a better backdrop for a cartoon than World War II. Man oh man, is this laugh out loud or what? Just ask anyone who survived the Battle of the Bulge and I’m sure they’ll concur.

My friends, like possibly many here, say: Come on, it’s only a movie. ONLY a movie. Really? So that makes it ok. That doesn’t desensitize us? That doesn’t change our perceptions of the war we’re now fighting? It’s just a movie, and God knows that movies don’t have any effect on culture. Just look at “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Or “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Or “Lilies of the Field.” Or one of the best meditations on war ever made: “The Thin Red Line.” All JUST movies.

So, okay, it’s just a movie. Quentin deserves to be worshipped as a movie geek who made it big. Hooray. I’m glad everyone is so entertained by him and his most recent body count film. I can hardly wait for the time ten to fifteen years from now when Quentin tackles the Iraq war. Imagine the possibilities of what he can do with the torture that went on at Abu Ghraib. I’ll bet Mr. T is just salivating at the possibilities.

Me? I’ve had enough, thank you. Let Quentin make his little vampires in a Mexican bar movie. Who cares. But let him stay away from “war” films with little arrows pointing out where Himmler is. (Himmler, now there’s a ball of laughs, no?) Oh my, and lest we forget, the misspelling of the title: isn’t that cute?! Doesn’t that tell you that to him this is all one big joke?

Evidently this is what passes for “dramedy” in 21st Century America. War as an entertainment vehicle for the masses, with the artist feeling no shame, no guilt.

In every film that Quentin Tarantino makes, he yells “action”, and like a Roman Emperor he invents even more grotesque, sadistic ways of killing and being killed, and then he turns his thumb down, signifying death, while smiling as his audiences rejoice in the blood baths.

Today, as you read this, a family is being notified that either their father/mother/son/daughter has just been killed in Afghanistan or Iraq. And as I drive to work the Iraqi war vet with PTSD will be standing in his usual spot with a sign begging for food or money. Perhaps we can give these people a copy of “Inglourious Basterds” and tell them it’s just a movie….enjoy…..

for more posts by Ron Wells, search on this blog for his name…
3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jason permalink
    February 27, 2010 12:26 pm

    Equating “Bastards to” current wars or to war films in general is completely missing (and even attempting to redirect) the point. Wells seems to understand well enough that it was intended as a dark comedy and yet bemoans that it doesn’t compare to other serious and classic “war” films.
    I had no interest in seeing this film when it was released, primarily because I didn’t want to see another WWII movie (mock-u-drama or otherwise) and had heard so much about the over-the-top violence. But when I finally did watch it I came away surprised by the subtlety of the film and of how little violence there was compared to what was touted.
    Yes, dislike the movie for what it is, fine, but don’t critique, disparage, and compare it to what it is not.

  2. Tim Tipton permalink
    February 28, 2010 12:26 am

    Tarantino not my favorite perhaps because of his brand of violence.
    I’d rather see Clockwork Orange — a satire (once you pass the
    rape and voilent scenes in the beginning)– to, say, Kill Bill. And
    mark my words, either The Hurt Locker will get best picture or
    it’s director Kathryn Bigelow will win.

  3. Robbie permalink
    February 28, 2010 5:40 am

    I knew better than to even consider going to that movie, but as well, suspected it would be a big, big hit.
    The level of , dare I say it, stupidity in the average citizen of our wayward culture. As Bill said so well, “much to do About nothing” The myth of the educated prol is that, a myth.

    Example: there are people who support Palin because she’s “spunky”, Rumsfeld is not in Prison for war crimes, and huge fat people troll the aisles of Costco buying 15lb of porkchops because “it’s a good deal!”

    the battle is lost, you are expecting something from a population of people that spend more on cats and dogs than on feeding human chilren. It’s gullivers big Enders against little Enders.

    It’s a river of merde my friend, I suggest you turn over and do the backstroke and expect much less from the blocked Gene Pool of our fellow modern man.

    Reality has become psychotic, it’s best you don’t tell them you’ve noticed. With the new terrorist laws, you could experience an American gulag before your next birthday.

    Yahoo victory is immenient.

    Enough said

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