Sunday, August 23, 2009

Inglorious Basterds Review - Stephen Whitty: Film Critic or Nazi Sympathizer?

The following blog entry is a rebuttal to Stephen Whitty's critical review of Quentin Tarantino's latest film, Inglorious Basterds, which can be read here in its entirety.

Once again, Mr. Whitty, you deliver a review that is obviously a thinly-veiled attempt to justify your personal dislike of a film, for whatever reasons that may be.

While your review isn't studded with the several inaccuracies that sometimes grace them, it does feature one: you state "if [Quentin Tarintino] wanted a Morricone score, he could have actually hired the man to write a new one, rather than using old excerpts from other films." Of course, he did try to hire him to do the score, but a conflict in business schedules forced Morricone to decline.

Beyond that misinformation meant to slander the film maker's intentions, your review simply makes some pretty outlandish accusations. Like insisting that Brad Pitt is allowed to hog the film, when his character is not present for at least half of the movie. Why you would imply that using a big-name actor that manages to turn out a great performance is some kind of tragic mistake on the filmmaker's part is beyond me.

Your argument that Tarintino should have bypassed Pitt for "an actor who might have added just a dash of something -- regret, pain, doubt, madness -- to the sadism" defeats the point of the character. The character of Aldo Raine is indeed sadistic and bloodthirsty. In fact, heroes and villains alike in this film are cold and dispassionate in their violent acts and intentions. Aldo Raine is sadistic, yes. That is we he and his Basterds are the perfect foil to the Nazi Commanders and Soldiers whom we watch dispassionately and even casual discuss the inferiority of Jews and "Negroes". The power of the Basterds is that they are more bloodthirsty than the monsters they hunt. Considering that one of the theme's of the film is both the symbolic and literal act of Fighting Fire with Fire, I would think this would have been more apparent.

You also complain that the movie "is simply an action film" and "is almost insultingly

Cover of Cover via Amazon

unconcerned with the real war." Not being able to look past the entertainment value of Tarantino's work is no excuse for ignoring the thematic structure, and dismissing the film as not having any serious themes because of the historical revisionist ending (because everything in Saving Private Ryan was 100% fact, right?) is rather a simple and dishonest way of deconstructing the film into segments to bash and trivialize, instead of considering the work as a whole and praising it.

Most outrageous, however, is your distaste for Tarantino's "...arrogant -- perhaps even dangerous -- lack of concern with the story's moral dimensions." This honestly leads me to believe that you were not paying attention to the film during your screening, but merely jotting down notes for your pending critical review. Lack of concern for the story's moral dimensions? I hesitate to list scenes that debunk this assertion, as I am afraid there are too many to tackle without the risk of spoiling the film for those who have not yet seen it. I will try one, however; how you could view a scene featuring a Nazi audience joyously watching a war propaganda film glorifying the slaughter of enemy soldiers for national pride, displayed in a film that the real audience has been joylessly cheering similar acts of violence during, and not see the statement the film maker is making about the subjective nature of human morality and how easily the lines can be blurred? Every other scene in this film is layered in revealing displays of morality and how easily the thin veil of humanity can be pulled aside to reveal the true nature of the beast that is man (most probably better than Peckinpah ever managed to do), yet you dismiss the existence of such complexity because Tarantino enjoys mixing scenes of dark humor and stylized violence into the mix.

You claim that Tarantino's stylish touches (like David Bowie appearing in the soundtrack, for

Quentin TarantinoQuentin Tarantino via

heavens sake!) and layered, non-linear style was in danger of being confusing and disorienting. I sat in a packed theater full of moviegoers, and no one looked confused or disoriented. They looked happy and entertained. Yeah, I hate it when that happens, too.

And as for your complaint that "the illiterate spelling [of Basterds] is never really justified..." Do you really need everything explained for you?

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