Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Inglourious Basterds
Directed by Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth (uncredited)
Written by QT
(number 381)

I remember going to see this at the movies, and being somewhat excited about it, and my companion for the movie was maybe dreading it a little. Because if nothing else, you have to be in the right mind for a Quentin Tarantino movie and when there’s a new one you just don’t know how far things will go on screen and how uncomfortable you will be. (Kill Bill vol 2’s buried alive sequence comes to mind as a harrowing bit of cinema.) The way I helped bolster my companion was by saying ‘look, it’s a Tarantino, and you have to know going in that we’re gonna watch him get himself off.’ (metaphorically speaking). ‘And sometimes it takes him a while to get there, he has to take his time, and it may be a slow watch but he’ll get there in the end. He’ll show us the stuff he gets excited about, like women’s feet, and people being terribly smart and clever, and gratuitous violence with lots of spurting blood. And ultimately it’ll be worth it because he knows what he’s doing making movies and it will be entertaining.”

So, with that in mind, I have to be in the right frame of mind for watching QT. The movie’s are filmed beautifully and acted well, these things are a given. The movie is put together in a series of excellent vignettes which ends in a ridiculous orgy of violence and fire where history is rewritten and an American Jew shoots Hitler. I guess we’re not meant to think too hard about that. The movie isn’t about historical accuracy, it’s about looking cool and having an awesome time.

I’ve watched this film a few times. I’m inclined to say it gets more boring and shallow each time I watch it. My favourite part of the film is the underground bar sequence, where spies and Germans are thrown together for drinks, a guessing game and proving how German they are. It’s a beautifully acted piece with slowly escalating

Does it make me love the people? I love Shoshanna, first and foremost. She’s emotional, vulnerable, but hard as nails. Unashamed of her black lover, willing to take on a hugely dangerous and dramatic plot to take out the nazis. She’s bad ass and awesome. I also love Brad Pitt’s Aldo, in part because he’s clearly having so much fun in the role. That broad accent is hilarious, especially when he’s pretending to be Italian.

Bechdel test: Complicated. Francesca talks directly to Shoshanna, but only as a translator for Goebbels, so although they are in conversation about Shoshanna’s cinema and the details of it, she’s just repeating what each of them are saying in another language. I’d have to say that’s a no.

Best line:

Shoshanna: I’m going to burn own the cinema on Nazi night.

State of Mind: For the most part, this is a fine movie. In my mind Quentin Tarantino’s best which is probably why I haven’t bothered to see any of his newer ones than this. But having said that, it’s not very rewatchable to me. Yeah, there are some great set pieces, some great sequences, but ultimately he glorifies death and cruelty in a way I don’t enjoy much. It’s like I said. Quentin has a very specific list of things he gets off on, and they’re all on display here, and I’m sorta over the whole thing. Loved it when I saw it, rate it highly, but I can’t be bothered watching it again any time soon.

Watched movie count

Natural Born Killers (1994)

Natural Born Killers
Directed by Oliver Stone
Written by David Veloz, Richard Rutowski & Oliver Stone based on a story by Quentin Tarantino
(number 372)

Okay well this movie opened with ‘waiting for the miracle’ by Leonard Cohen so I was instantly hooked, I freaking love that song.

The last film I saw Juliette Lewis in was Whip It, and I have to say, it’s not a hugely different character for her. Woody Harrelson is always a good time, I think this was the first ‘out there’ character that he played, though. These days it’s easy to associate him with True Detective or The Hunger Games, or his whacked out character in 2012 or Tallahassee in Zombieland. I suspect this movie opened him up to those roles.

It’s filmed like a psychedelic Tarantino fever dream, with scenes flicking between colour and black and white when violence happens, showing visions and going to a fucked up sitcom sequence for a flashback. That sequence is very messed up, lots of sexual abuse and incest and grossness. Looking at how it’s told and knowing that it’s told from the point of view of two characters who do not care about human life, it’s hard to know how much is ‘true’ and how much is psychosis.

There’s a huge amount of Tarantino in this movie, from the 70s filter its to the random anime, to the casual use of rape and violence. The message is unsubtle ‘too much TV = serial killer’, and it’s hard to take seriously, but at the same time it is pretty disturbing. I’m not sure exactly what the purpose of this movie is, because it’s drenched in style for the sake of it, not to aid the story telling or the exploration of the characters.

Robert Downey Jr plays the TV journalist who is obsessed with the two killers and runs the whole gamut of emotion while talking to Mickey, therefore making Mickey look like the reasonable one. It’s a great performance from RDJ but there’s no sympathy to be had for that character, at all.

Does it make me love the people? Nope. This movie isn’t about understanding humans, or furthering the empathy that the viewer has for the people around them. Instead it’s a confused mish mash of images, talk and music set to extreme Americana, which it both celebrates and derides.

Bechdel test: Straight away Mallory talks to Rosie about pie, so yes, it’s passes. But I don’t think it passes again at any point, for the most part Mallory talks to Mickey and he does the talking for both of them to others.

Best line:
Mickey: You know, the only thing that kills the demon… is love.

State of Mind: Urgh. That was pretty dumb. I just didn’t really see the point in it. That said, putting ‘the future’ by Leonard Cohen over the end credits was all kinds of perfect. But meh, not watching that again. By the time the prison riot started up I was so sick of all the violence and death, the casual background torture was just gross to me. I was totally over it, and ready for the film to end.

Watched movie count

Kill Bill: Volume two (2004)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Written by Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman
(number 426)

A little bummed about this one being lower in the list than the first, on account of I actually prefer it. I find the sequences more fun and less bloody, which are a bonus to me. The second Kill Bill came out a year after the first one and I remember there being some drama around that – like Tarantino actually wanted it released quite soon after the first one, but the studios fought him over it. I don’t know how much of that is true though.

I adore the Pai Mei sequence the most – it makes me want to watch old kung fu movies and newer ones starring Jet Li. The filter used makes it look older than the rest of the film and instead of being jarring it’s actually quite comforting. Anna loved this sequence too, she laughed every time he stroked his beard. I love the crash zooms used in this part and the landscape it’s filmed in is very beautiful as well.

So much of this film, and the last one had the ‘wiggle your toe’ sequence in the last film, is demonstrating the incredible force of will the Bride has. That she can expend so much time and energy honing her body to do what she wants, even when it feels impossible is the testament to why she can do what she does. It’s also a nice bit of characterisation which makes you care about her more.

Great use of Chekhov’s gun in this film, in the five point open palm exploding heart technique. Which is just gloriously over the top and dramatic when it is used in the final conversation between Bill and Beatrix.

Does it make me love the people? In this film, yes. The tender scenes at the start with her friends and fiance, talking to and trusting Bill set up her human side, which I found utterly lacking from the first volume.

The buried alive sequence with Bud is really upsetting, I warned Anna that it was coming up because I remember being fairly badly traumatised by it when I saw this film at the Reading cinema when it first came out. Remembering that we know she gets out of it helps, and it leads into the gloriousness that is Pai Mei so it’s a bit easier to watch now. Not something I would ever choose to have included in a film myself but then… I’m not Tarantino.

Bechdel test: Early on we see the Bride talking to a number of girlfriends and the pastor’s wife at the church, however I don’t think any of those women are named (oh it turns out they are named in the end credits, so this counts). She fights extensively with Elle Driver and there’s numerous grunts and groans during the traded blows but they don’t talk until they speak about the swords, which is mostly about Bill and Pai Mei.
Elle: That’s right, I killed your master, and now I’m going to kill you with your own sword no less. Which, in the very near future will become my sword.
Beatrix: Bitch
Elle: You don’t have a future.

That’s probably a pass, yeah? The Bride spends a lot less time talking to women in this film. Oh wait, she definitely talks to BB about not-a-man so it definitely passes the Bechdel a few times. Nice one QT.

Best line:
Pai Mei: It’s the wood that should fear your hand, not the other way around!

State of Mind: Yeah, it’s great fun and aside from the buried alive creepiness I definitely enjoy this one more than the first volume. Anna nodded and agreed that it was a good double feature. You just have to come into Tarantino films *knowing* that they’re Tarantino films, and forgive him a bunch of weird stylistic choices and over the top scenes.

Watched movie count

Kill Bill: volume one (2003)

Kill Bill: Volume one
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Written by Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman
(number 333)

Bloody, retro, exploitative, violence, ridiculous. All the things you expect from a QT blockbuster double feature which was surrounded by hype when it came out. There are a number of huge stars attached to these films and Tarantino uses all his video store know how, using the tropes from Kung Fu movies, Westerns, revenge actioners and mashed them all up together to bring us the story of one woman tracking down the assassins who ruined her wedding rehearsal.

There’s a lot of mash up of genres not just in the script but also in the filming style. We have the Grindhouse style opening credits, the anime sequence for O-Ren’s origin story (far too bloody and violent to actually film with a child) and I think changes of filter. That, changes of language used and the chopped up mix and match time line makes it quite compelling watching – you don’t settle in at any point, your attention is continually brought back to the movie to see what it’s doing now. It’s not a movie you can look away from for any length of time and expect to keep up with.

The fight sequences also manage to be different each time, which is refreshing when I’m used to seeing big blockbusters with endless cuts between stuff that looks the same. The fight between O-Ren and The Bride is particularly gorgeous, set in the Japanese garden with snow falling, Lucy Liu in her white silk kimono and Uma Thurman in her bloodied yellow tracksuit. It’s iconic for this movie and for QT’s work in general.

I do wish that there wasn’t so much rape and implied rape in this film though. It’s such lazy story telling. Oh there’s a woman character, what’s the worst thing that could happen to her? There are other things in this world than rape, and there’s other ways to motivate a character. Why bring it back to that? In the case of the hospital orderly it’s possible that it’s so that you feel justified when the newly awoken Bride kills two men… but I do have to wonder what the real motivation for including it is. It’s like, I adore the Decemberists’ music but I really don’t think it needs to keep being about rape, you know? There are other storylines, other ways to show men being awful to women.

Does it make me love the people? You’re definitely rooting for the Bride. You’re given a lot of reasons why it’s justified, her hunting down and killing these people – but there’s almost no actual characterisation. She’s not a person so much as she’s a focused, quipping revenge seeking machine in cool ass clothing. In terms of human connection there isn’t much here, because it’s just not the point of this movie.

Bechdel test:
In the first post credits sequence The Bride (who is named although it’s bleeped out, and we know her name from the second movie) talks to Vernita Green and her daughter Nicky. In fact it feels like it would be very hard for this movie to fail the Bechdel test told as it is through The Bride’s eyes.

Best line:

The Bride: You can relax for now. I’m not going to murder you in front of your child, okay?
Copperhead: That’s being more rational than Bill led me to believe you were capable of.
The Bride: It’s mercy, compassion, and forgiveness I lack. Not rationality.

The Bride: It was not my intention to do this in front of you. For that I’m sorry. But you can take my word for it, your mother had it comin’. When you grow up, if you still feel raw about it, I’ll be waiting.

The Bride: [spanking a young member of the Crazy 88s with her sword] This is what you get for fucking around with Yakuzas!
[with a last spank, lets him go]
The Bride: Go home to your mother!

State of Mind: This movie is totally ridiculous to be honest. But I do enjoy it. Say what you will about QT he knows how to film a cool movie. A movie so cool it oozes style. That’s what he was aiming to do with this series and that’s what he achieved. Anna enjoyed it enough to say yes to watching the second one right away, so wins all round.

Watched movie count