September 12, 2009

"['Inglourious Basterds'] is a movie that thinks cold-blooded brutality and torture are not necessary evils, or excesses spawned in the heat of battle, but the very epitome of cool."

"It's a celebration of the most bestial kind of toughness in the name of us-vs-them entitlement. You keep thinking you'll find Dick Cheney's name in the credits."

Ah, but why does Hollywood make such films? These people who are most ready to denounce what Dick Cheney would call "enhanced interrogation techniques" — aren't they the ones who make and consume popular entertainment that revels in torture and humiliation?

The theory could be that the people who are most sensitive to torture are the ones who find it titillating and are ashamed of themselves. They dare to take their pleasure in the movie theater and yet are horrified to see anything in real life that reminds them of their shameful feelings.

Dick Cheney, on the other hand, is pragmatic and cool (the epitome of cool?). I'll bet he doesn't sit around at Quentin Tarantino movies.

42 comments:

Joe said...

Tarantino movies are shit.

He and Mel Gibson aught to get together to make one huge masochistic blood fest.

J. R. said...

Violence and torture are part of human nature. But here you are talking about them being in the movies-- FICTION, Ann! Fiction!

Are you seriously arguing that those who oppose torture are complicit in its real-life use by the Dick Cheney and Company if they enjoy this movie?

Would you make the same argument if someone said they enjoyed the book 1984?

Throughout all of history, people have used fiction to get a handle on tough issues before them, and to understand these issues as much as possible before doing real damage in the real world.

LarsPorsena said...

JR:
"Throughout all of history, people have used fiction to get a handle on tough issues before them, and to understand these issues as much as possible before doing real damage in the real world."

List the 'serious issues' Tarantino has addressed

Stephen Snell said...

Tarantino: 1 good movie (Reservoir Dogs), 1 so-so movie (Pulp Fiction), and a LOT of garbage. His good stuff is entirely unoriginal and creepy. Next topic, please.

wv: gultin. guilty glutton?

The Drill SGT said...

Althouse,

you don't see any anti-semitic theme in a bunch of Jewish criminals, killing Americans, Torturing Germans, hacking heads off, and then becoming suicide martyrs?

I don't have a problem with violence in combat, but Tarantino's stuff is porno-war movies

J. R. said...

@LarsPorsena:

I'm not claiming Tarantino addressed any serious issues. I haven't even seen the movie.

Stephen Snell said...

Lars,

Come on now, without Tarantino you might still think some crappy Madonna song is about a sensitive girl who meets a nice fella.

blake said...

I reviewed it.

I'm not sure I'd agree with the characterization. And I'm not a QT guy.

He seems to studiously avoid handling tough issues, which is something I admire. Yet, still, kind of meh about his movies.

Fred4Pres said...

Andrew Sullivan likes goes off about Mel Gibson and 24 till the cows come home (and some of Sullivan's points regarding glorifying torture in the media are very valid), but I can't recall him getting too fired up about Tarantino. And of course, Sullivan likes to say that Althouse is a pro torture blog.

Could it be a double standard?

Perhaps he was at the beach getting high.

Fred4Pres said...

Pulp Fiction was a very good movie. It holds up well, even if it is cartoonish. Reservoir Dogs was okay, but not as good.

Everything else from him has definitely been down hill, although I have not seen IB yet (I thought it might not be appropriate for the kids).

Henry said...

I lack J.R.'s utilitarian aesthetic.

I'm surprised as well at the way Tarantino-style sadism and brutality garners critical appreciation. Gibson-style sadism and brutality gets tougher treatment. But then Gibson isn't as cool as Tarantino.

Even a cartoonish action film like Quantum of Solace (watched it last night) savages minor character with pointless enthusiasm.

This is the trivialization of violence, not its catharsis.

BJM said...

You give Hollywood too much credit Althouse; it's about the money. The most egregious example of capitalistic greed and political hubris resides in 90102.

Christopher said...

"you don't see any anti-semitic theme in a bunch of Jewish criminals, killing Americans, Torturing Germans, hacking heads off, and then becoming suicide martyrs?"

1.) They're not Jewish criminals, they're Jewish soldiers tapped for a special mission.

2.) Americans are killed in the film, but not by the Jewish soldiers.

3.) All of the talk about torture in the film is fairly overblown and comes down, really, to a single scene.

4.) Not a single head gets hacked off in the film. Not one. (Dead Nazis are scalped, however.)

5.) The concept of the 'suicide mission' where committed soldiers go into the hornet's nest with no expectation of return is a pretty old and well established one, both in real life and in film. (When I was at Fort Benning, we sang things like, "Airborne in the sky / All will jump and some will die". ) That's much closer to what happens in this film than, say, a terrorist blowing himself up on a bus or in a pizza shop.

I don't know where you got your information on this film, but it's flat out wrong.

Chip Ahoy said...

J.R., by what reading of this do you reach that conclusion? I mean, honestly, I've heard of straw men argument but to project that onto Althouse then argue with it is ridiculous.

While that's being explained, will someone please also explain what a "split card" is as applied to accessing cinema? Richard goes on to end his review by noting this film will reverberate with film cognoscenti. Eww, now I'm impressed, how exclusive. I don't much care for films like that. Apparently the review is written for cognoscenti too. They're like crosswords that are made up for the constructor's pleasure and not for the solvers in mind, NTTAWWT, they're still not all that much fun unless you enjoy spelunking the crevices of the mind of the constructor and get some kind of satisfaction from shining your little flashlight on the things that move within those dark little cracks.

(Ha ha. Spellchecker suggests I change "they're like crosswords" to "their")

Joe said...

90102 isn't a valid zip code. Insert a dollar and try again.

(Damn the internet and those pesky kids!)

Beth said...

Catharsis - we play out on the stage what we want to do, but have agreed not to, in life.

Dad Bones said...

I wonder if the torture moralists aren't more ashamed of their fear of jihadists.

Sorry, J.R. but I'd rather see our leaders studying books and talking to people who know something rather than sitting in movie theaters to "get a handle on tough issues". But if it works for you and you can afford that movie theater popcorn....

Meade said...

List the 'serious issues' Tarantino has addressed.

Successfully, you mean?

Btw: As a porny cartoon, I thought the movie was great.

Chip Ahoy said...

The soundtrack to Pulp Fiction is pretty good. Oh great. Now I've got Son of Preacher Man on recurring loop in my brain.

garage mahal said...

Ah, but why does Hollywood make such films? These people who are most ready to denounce what Dick Cheney would call "enhanced interrogation techniques" — aren't they the ones who make and consume popular entertainment that revels in torture and humiliation?

So it's "enhanced interrogation techniques" in real life, but torture and humiliation in the movies. Why not call armed robbery "coerced alternate payment method"?

John Thacker said...

Would you make the same argument if someone said they enjoyed the book 1984?

A reasonable point (cheering for something at the movie doesn't meant you'd cheer for it in real life) but a bad example. Unless you think people read 1984 and root for Big Brother.

J. R. said...

@Chip Ahoy-

Well, Althouse often leaves things up to interpretation, and my interpretation might not be correct.

I assumed that's what she was saying because she pointed out the political vs. entertainment inconsistency of anti-torture moviegoers, and then contrasted that with the awful consistency of Dick Cheney. To me, it seemed reasonable to interpret that she was speaking approvingly of Cheney in this regard, and thus that the moviegoers ought to support him more in his torture quest, or that they already implicitly support him by their attendance and/or enjoyment of the film.

ricpic said...

There's such a cartoon quality to Tarantino films that it's hard to take anything about them seriously.

ricpic said...

Ooh, I just read the comments and I see the inestimable Meade beat me to it: porny cartoon.

BTW, I don't know what inestimable means but it sounded right so I went with it. That's what it is to have genius.

edutcher said...

Joe:

He and Mel Gibson aught to get together to make one huge masochistic blood fest.

Add in Stephen Spielberg and you've got the market cornered.

Tarantino's just indulging his blood fetish; no more, no less.

FWIW The unit portrayed, The First Special Service Force, did have a larger than normal number of Jews, but it was not composed of criminals on the American side as the movie about it, "The Devil's Brigade", would have it. The men were the best of the Canadian army and a great many Americans who had been forest rangers, lumberjacks, etc. It was used as a Ranger unit. What's portrayed in the movie is a caricature of what the OSS did.

Jason (the commenter) said...

['Inglourious Basterds'] is a movie that thinks cold-blooded brutality and torture are not necessary evils, or excesses spawned in the heat of battle, but the very epitome of cool.

Didn't this reviewer notice the movie inside the movie?

The Nazis make a movie full of nothing but people getting shot. You see Hitler watching it, saying how it's one of the greatest movies ever made.

By doing this Tarantino is saying that all the people who decide to watch movies like Inglourious Basterds, share something in common with Hitler. He is saying that about his audience: me, Althouse, Meade, the reviewer, and everyone else.

I think this movie is a trap and I don't think many people noticed.

AllenS said...

Christopher said...
"(When I was at Fort Benning, we sang things like, "Airborne in the sky / All will jump and some will die". )"

Jesus H. Christ, you're talking about some kind of cadence, that's not a song. Blood on the Risers, is a song.

William said...

You can only make pornwar movies about the Nazis. Imagine a movie where our troops scalped jihadists or Commies. It could not be done. We can only unreflexively murder Nazis and flesh eating zombies.

TRO said...

The liberals of today would be outraged at any killing of Nazis, much less anything resembling Tarantino's take. In fact, I feel confident that America would have ignored the whole Nazi taking over Europe thing and apologized for whatever "evil" we did to make Japan attack Pearl Harbor if the current Administration and Congress was in power back then.

Susan said...

Wow. Flesh-eating zombies versus jihadis. Now THERE'S a blockbuster. Or a campaign platform.

WestVirginiaRebel said...

I think you can draw a line between enjoying "24" and recognizing it as entertainment-something Bush and Cheney apparently couldn't.

Beau said...

but why does Hollywood make such films?

Psychology 101.

Why do people love horror movies?

No one wants Tony Soprano for a father or a boss in real life but he's fun to watch when someone has pissed him off.

Not many people want to live the horror, but love to watch it happen in fantasy to someone else.

Cedarford said...

William said...
You can only make pornwar movies about the Nazis. Imagine a movie where our troops scalped jihadists or Commies. It could not be done. We can only unreflexively murder Nazis and flesh eating zombies.


Hollywood movies made about communist depredations, atrocities - the killing of 65 million and imprisonment of 50 million?

About 2 dozen.

Movies made about various aspects of Nazi evil and defeating it?

Thousands.

If you look at who owns Hollywood, mass media, the distribution channels - the disparity is not surprising.

Nor the recent timidity about dissing Muslims and evaporation of "Israelis as Superheroes" movies.
After 90 years of Jewish Bolshevik rhetoric about the oppressed and the oppressor, and translating that narrative from classic Marxist economically oppressed propaganda to being racially oppressed by evil whites beginning in the 50s - the Hollywood folks are trapped by their own narratives. It is unavoidable after all those propaganda flicks. Of evil white men oppressing noble Native Americans, hapless Africans, peasants toiling their lives away under the United Fruit company, snotty Brits in colonial offices, callous French settlers exploiting innocent noble brown Arabs and Ho Chi Minh's merry band of Freedom Lovers!!

They just can't break with global opinion that now holds that Israelis are the oppressors of noble brown peoples. Or that the only reason noble brown Arabs ever act ignobly is "root causes" the white oppressor in the Wst is guilty of.

No more "Miracle at Entebbe" movies. And after "Flight 93", movies about American soldiers or those fighting and capturing terrorists are right out of the Hollywood and MSM Owners Vietnam and Gestapo templates.

AST said...

I'm with Joe.

I've watched four Tarantino films and the only reason for seeing them is to get the references later on when you hear others talking about them. They're the essence of postmodernism, like that song from Kill Bill Vol. 1, called Woo Hoo performed by The 5.6.7.8's.

traditionalguy said...

The whole Torture Issue is 100% about the GUILT that it is designed to create and thereby weaken the US efforts to defeat monster murderers that should have already been eliminated were they not captured to get their information. War is not pretty police work.

miller said...

I don't think Dick Cheney sits around hoping people will like him or what he does.

So that's different than movies.

BJM said...

@Joe

Well excuuuuse me for a typo.

Should read: 90210

Joe said...

Hollywood isn't 90210 either; that's just where most the fat cats live.

Synova said...

We like a certain sort of brutality in entertainment because at some level we recognize that the ability to be brutal is a positive survival trait and may be again.

Tarantino is, of course, ridiculous, but that is entertainment and we know it's not real.

Ace of Spades has a video up of a news report of an Iranian convenience store clerk running off a thief with martial arts, a high kick or two and then a picture of his license plate. Not a movie or pretend violence but definitely FUN and "red meat" for the sort of anti-immigrant bigoted morons who hang out over there.

Because admiring someone who can kick-*ss and who has the presence of mind to do so and hold back the forces of chaos... it's a natural reaction to have.

Prosecutorial Indiscretion said...

I disagree with the pro-violence reading of the movie. Tarantino goes out of his way to make the most sympathetic victims in the movie Nazis - the officer who bravely refuses to reveal the location of his allies in the face of a horrible death, the new father joyously celebrating his heir, and (at least for most of his screen time) the shy sniper who awkwardly but sweetly pursues the girl. Granted, the setting is perhaps the noblest conflict in the last thousand years and those guys are on the wrong side, but . . .

I saw Schindler's List the other night, and was horrified by the brutality. But there's a lot of similarity between Fiennes taking shots at prisoners from his balcony and Eli Roth blasting away into the trapped crowd. The difference is the audience reaction; Tarantino shows people how brutal and awful they are by getting them to cheer for acts of wanton sadism that would in most circumstances define a great villain.

I think the point of this movie is that Hollywood glorifies violence, and that people like their violence glorified, not that violence is glorious (Tarantino's ode to violence was Kill Bill, which was of course awesome and beautiful). Consider Tarantino's take on the movie-within-a-movie: the entire thing, at least the entire portion that we see, consists of a man killing people. The premiere is swathed in glamour yet all we get is death porn.

Tarantino's justification for this violence, at the end of the movie, is twofold: first, he shows it to be fantasy when the Nazi high command gets smoked. Second, he shows that the violence destroys almost all its purveyors and loads of people they come into contact with. If Eli had just got the job done and walked away, he would have survived. (Granted, Pitt's forest scene somewhat rebuts this reading, but he had to survive to ensure that another reprehensible character did not escape unmarked).

PatCA said...

Critic: This movie celebrates brutality and torture! As if they were the very epitome of cool! I am terribly offended!

Cheney: So?

luagha said...

Just to comment:
It is stated that the movie within the movie has four reels. Most of the shooting is in the third reel.

We know from earlier that the real events upon which the movie within the movie are based took place over three days, with the German rifleman killing over three hundred out of a five hundred man battalion over three days from his sniper position.

The movie is apparently a real movie, in that it has build-up, a climax, and (presumably) denoument, and in that it also shows the vulnerability of its German hero for a few moments. The director of the movie within the movie is trying to make art as well as propaganda (it is debatable whether he intends its artistic qualities to make it stronger propaganda or not. That information is in the scene with Winston Churchill, but I don't know enough about cinema to decipher the clues).