Inglourious Basterds: Not So Glorious

One of my favorite scenes in movie history is when Vince and Jules kill those dudes in their own apartment, only after drinking all their Sprite, smoking cigarettes in their kitchen, and quoting scripture. What movie am I talking about? Pulp Fiction. OF COURSE. If you didn’t know that, you might as well stop reading, because the following review of Inglourious Basterds just ain’t gonna reach you.

I was one of the dorks who bought tickets for the opening night of Inglourious Basterds two days early, just to be sure I had a seat. I ran to the theater Friday night, and I was so pumped, I was curled into fetal position and grinning like a goose in my seat. I couldn’t wait for some vintage Quentin Tarantino extended dialogue. Expertly portrayed Nazi-killing violence sequences. Witty banter amidst clouds of cigar smoke and bat-wielding Jewish dudes. You get the idea. So what happened? Boo. Sara Dobie. Not happy.

Tarantino, I get it. You’re sooooo clever, and you love stretching dialogue to the point of irrelevance. However, you usually bring this irrelevance back, and there’s an Ah-ha moment for the viewer. There was no Ah-ha moment in Inglourious Basterds. The movie starts in French farm country. The “Jew Hunter” is out to find a Jewish family that’s gone missing. Spoiler: of course, he does. And they die. All but one—this Shosanna chick. So begins the theme of revenge, which follows us the rest of the flick.

Eli Roth is a Basterd. But only for about ten minutes.

Eli Roth is a Basterd. But only for about ten minutes.

Then, obviously, there are the “Basterds”—a group of Jewish American soldiers who, under the watchful eyes of Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), are gonna kill ‘em some Nazis. Now, I liked these guys. They were funny. Yeah, Brad Pitt was a little over the top, but it’s a Tarantino movie, so I got over it. My ultimate favorite character was Donny Donowitz, played by the beefed-up, baseball-bat-wielding Eli Roth. I loved loved loved Eli Roth. Imagine my disappointment when I only got to see him split one Nazi head with his baseball bat. Imagine my utter disappointment when I realized the “Basterds” are barely in the movie. “Basterds,” seemingly, was just a cool movie title, because these boys were mere background to all the other drawn-out, boring dialogue and lack of character development.

Did I mention LACK OF CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT? There was no one to care about in this movie. In Pulp Fiction, you don’t really want Vince Vega to die in a shower. In Reservoir Dogs, you hope Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth will one day walk down the street like father and son. I mean, even in Deathproof, I wanted those chicks to kick the crap out of Kurt Russell. But I didn’t care about Shosanna’s dead family. I didn’t care about the flakey movie actress who gets shot in a bar basement. The “Basterds” were funny, but I didn’t feel for them. I mean, sure, we all wish Hitler had gone down at the hands of a bunch of crazy Jewish soldiers. But the movie was so dang shallow, why care? Why get involved with characters deep as a baby pool?

One more thing. Tarantino. Where was the soundtrack? Since when do we not have amazing music in your films? Since when are we lacking in the random, wide-angle, slow-motion shot, backed by Al Green or, perhaps, Marvin Gaye? Since when have you given up on MUSIC and FILM-MAKING, in exchange for a massive media blitz and press propaganda?

(Sigh.)

He's thinking, "HELP. I forget how to direct..."

He's thinking, "HELP. I forget how to direct..."

Okay. I’ll admit, maybe I’m biased. Quentin Tarantino’s films have been important to me over the years, so maybe I was expecting a lot. Point of fact: my companion for the viewing of Inglourious Basterds liked the movie. He said it was good and that maybe I was being a little harsh on dear old Quentin. Well. Maybe. HOWEVER, why should I not be harsh on Quentin? The man has made some amazing flicks. Yes, I would hate to be trapped in an elevator with him, but his talent as a director cannot be denied. So I think I deserve to be annoyed. I deserve to be harsh, because Inglourious Basterds makes me think Tarantino is getting soft in his old age. This film makes me think he’s losing his touch, and oh, the terror! Will there never be another Pulp Fiction? Or is it because of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs that I was so let down by Basterds? Did Tarantino set the bar so high with his early films that their height will never be reached again? Guess we’ll have to wait and see. Guess we’ll have to find out if Tarantino will someday man up again and give me some real gore and dialogue I can quote over beers with my buddies.

“Garcon! Cofffee!”

“Garcon means boy.”

Well. Seemingly, Quentin Tarantino no longer means “bad ass.” Quentin Tarantino now means, “My ego has gotten so big, I can’t write quality dialogue.”

8 thoughts on “Inglourious Basterds: Not So Glorious

  1. Good review. You’re right. The movie probably, or should i say definitely, didn’t live up to the expectations of a true Tarantino fan. However, it was entertaining for the average joe and worth my $10. Maybe I’m just biased because I got to watch it with some cute girl, I don’t know. And almost of all of Brad Pitt’s dialogue was quotable worthy, except repeating lines about “bein’ in the Nazi killin’ business” doesn’t really fit into any of today’s typical conversations 🙂

  2. I hate it when people review this movie only as a Tarantino movie. I hadn’t seen Pulp Fiction – should I not have gone to see Basterds, because I woulnd’t understand it? I did understand the movie, some scenes did irritae me, but as a non-Tarantino-fan, I have an opinion about a MOVIE, not about a DIRECTOR’S WORK. People should try to separate those things a bit. Just a little bit.

    But I couldn’t agree with you more about Eli Roth – he was just great and I was also very much disappointed, when I realized he was so rarely seen on the screen.

    • Hey, Dee 🙂 Thanks for stopping by the blog! Okay, you’re right, I’m sorry I took this as a “Tarantino movie,” as opposed to just a “movie.” I’m biased…er, brainwashed. It’s just that Tarantino uses such repetitive film tactics, it’s hard to ignore the similarities. It may be a fail on his part; or like I said, I may just be brainwashed. You should see Pulp Fiction. Definitely. A much better movie, regardless of the Tarantino connection. And I love Eli Roth. LOVE HIM.

  3. I don’t know why people assume that EVERY movie has to have the audience rooting for a character. Tarantino is one who doesn’t have to devise a film driven by such means. However, all of his films- although unorthodox- have a characters you root for. Basterds surpasses the rest in obviousness: anyone against the Nazis!

    Now in lackluster films- put forth by shabby directors who aren’t the following (contemporary): Quentin, Coen Bros, Fincher, Lynch, Kubrick, etc – one can always agree that it’s a battle between good and evil with little to no shades of grey. The worst of them being romantic comedies (pathetic viewers with pathetic lives and horrible deduction skills wondering if and when the 2 will fuse. [duh-yes and about an hour and forty minutes after the opening credits])

    Although we would like to have seen Eli’s bat bash more brains in, we’ll just have to settle for that one scene which most would agree was vivid enough. We all know – or should know by now- Tarantino’s about lesser action and more buildup (cuz ultimately that’s what seems real). Buy the special edition DVD cuz not only does it include the full version of Nation’s Pride – directed by Roth- but there’s a mock making-of which features Roth, rather eccentricly.

    Also featured is a discussion of the film (citing among other things background stories of characters) with Pitt and Tarantino.

    And as for the music… are we forgetting about the Bowie song?
    Personally I hate when the idiots i’m surrounded by each day suddenly know and respect obscure but great piece of music just cuz of some soundtrack they bought (see Garden State, Romeo + Juliet, Pulp Fiction, et al). A lot of the soundtrack I feel was reminiscent of Jonny Greenwood’s approach to the tense scenes throughout There Will Be Blood.

    Needless to say I enjoyed this film immensely and continue to enjoy my DVD!

    • Your description of most romantic comedies is divine. Too true.
      I suppose I’m a sap, but I do like having a character to ROOT for, and I felt no affinity to anyone in this movie…except maybe my beloved Eli Roth, but that may have been because of his biceps and bat-wielding more than anything else.
      I will definitely check out the DVD. Sounds like it has some good features. Thanks for pointing me to it.
      I’m glad you stopped by the blog. I like hearing other people’s opinions on this flick. The mixtures of responses is amazing. I didn’t enjoy it, honestly, and next thing I knew after writing my review, I got a call from my father saying YOU’RE JUST NUTS! Who knows? Maybe that’s the genius of Tarantino–he’s a love/hate sort of dude, and yet, his movies always manage to make millions.
      Best to you!

  4. I liked the characters, especially since it felt like he was gonna go on with something, and then the spotlight’s on someone else. I have some trouble with the lack of Idina Menzel, Tracie Thoms, Fran Kranz, Summer Glau, James Marsters, Harry Lennix or Olivia Williams. But that’s just a personal thing, and maybe they had other stuff going on.
    I also don’t think much of Brad Pitt as an actor. And everyone should’ve died in the end, not just most of them.

    • Oooo…I like the EVERYONE DEAD idea. Interesting….
      Yeah, a lot of people liked Brad Pitt in this movie. I felt he was sort of miss-cast. He belonged in a Coen Bros. flick; not one with so much violence. It felt forced.

  5. see at first i would agree w/ you that Pitt was out of place.
    Most have said Clooney would’ve fit.. but i think we can go broader w/ our imaginations when it comes to who Aldo could’ve been portrayed by. But alas most people only know five or six actors – and those are the actors who they’ve most recently seen in something, or it’s their bias towards someone.

    But upon further viewing, nay, further contemplation after the theater viewing, i came to realize that Pitt was truly a caricature; but a necessary one that Tarantino purposely cast, with his roles lfrom Snatch, True Romance, Burn After Reading in mind. Hell, Tarantino goes so far as to say in an interview that even Pitt’s portrayal of Jesse James was a caricature- albeit virtually silent.

    The point is, Pitt perseveres as an actor because he is able to resonate. Yes, Pitt played a very Coen-friendly stereotype. But he fit right in w/ whatever Bah-ston thing Eli was doing, or for that matter- Mike Myers?

    Even the Jew Hunter was very stereotypical, in a particularly peculiar is-he-gay-or-not? kinda way. Pitt fits. More and more you watch it, you’ll see… you wait to see him again. A lot like the Joker.

    PS: i’m excited that Roth is extrapolating his Thanksgiving trailer into a feature-length film. If it’s half has good as the Hostels or Cabin Fever, we’re in for a treat!

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