Perhaps the first time that a major comic actor (i.e., Peter Sellers) improvised his way through a scene to this degree. And in a tragic sexual melodrama yet. I’m trying to think of another film over the last 30 or 40 years, one with this kind of dark shading, which took occasional time-outs for diseased loony improv from a skilled comedian.
I’ve finished 80-something pages of Quentin Tarantino‘s Inglorious Bastards script and while it’s easy to see why others have called it Kill Bill meets The Guns of Navarone meets The Dirty Dozen meets Cinema Paradiso, I have to say that I’m mainly enjoying it as a violent, vaguely art-filmy World War II attitude comedy — a deliberate exploitation piece full of war cliches turned on their ear, and a general theme of Jewish payback upon Nazi swine for the Holocaust.
It is absolutely the most inauthetic, bullshit-spewing World War II movie that anyone’s ever written. And I love it, love it, love it for that. Every other line is a howl or a chortle. It almost could have been written by some 15 year-old suburban kid who used to play pretend WWII games with his friends when they were 10 or 11. Four or five times I literally laughed out loud, and that’s rare for me. And every scene is pure popcorn, pure shit-kickin’ Quentin, pure movie poontang.
When I read the character name of “Pvt. Butz,” a German combat soldier, I almost fell out of my chair. This is straight out of the mind of Stanley Kubrick when he called two hotel-clerk characters in Lolita “Mr. Swine” and “Mr. Putz.”
Chris McQuarrie‘s Valkyrie script plays it straight and authentic, and is what it is, love it or not. But the Inglorious Bastards script flaunts its fakery and movie ‘tude to such a degree that it’s pure adolescent (i.e., teenage boy) pleasure. The Europe it depicts doesn’t exist and never will exist, and that’s totally fine. The German and French characters are so idiotically cliched they almost sound like the kind of material that a John Candy SCTV skit would use. But not quite. It’s actually kind of perfect that way. The balance, I mean.
The script of Inglorious Bastards seems twice as fake as the Italian villlage in Blake Edwards‘ What Did You Do in the Warm, Daddy?, and that was pure mid ’60s Hollywood bullshit. It’s faker than Hogan’s Heroes, even. If Tarantino has done any research about France, Germany or any World War II particulars other than watch World War II movies, I’ll eat my motorcycle tool kit.
He doesn’t care, of course, and that’s why he’s Quentin Tarantino You can feel him in his element, living in his head and flaunting a clever, dumb-ass yarn that entertains every step of the way, and — this is the cool part — in a kind of oddly sophisticated fashion. Which is what he’s been doing since Pulp Fiction.
The spelling errors, I have to say, are a complete howl. Something in me refused to believe that Tarantino is just a spelling moron. He’s either an idiot movie savant of some kind, or he sat down and decided to deliberately misspell stuff in order to give the people reading it a little tickle. Toying with them, flaunting his supposed illiteracy, but doing it to a degree that it almost seems a wee bit insincere. That said, the errors may be dead real, and if so it’s almost impressive on a certain level. Tarantino could have easily told a freelance editor to clean up the mistakes. The fact that he didn’t spells confidence.
Over and over he writes “heer” rather than “Herr,” the German name for mister. He writes “merci be coupe” when he means “merci beaucoup.” There’s a line that goes “the Feuhrer himself couldn’t of said it better ” when he means “couldn’t have said it better.” He tries to pluralize the French-Jewish family name Dreyfuss to great comic effect. We are told that the Dreyfuss family includes a mother named “Miram” and a brother named “Bob.” (“Hey, Bob, get me one of them there quawssaunts, would ya?”)
He spells Dr. Goebbels as Dr. Gobbles….gobble, gobble! (And then he spells it “Geobbels” later on.) Tarantino seems constitutionally incapable of typing the word “you’re” — he has to write “your” every time. We’re told at one point that “there gonna die” instead of “they’re gonna die.” Adolf Hitler is described as a “manic” instead of a maniac. Time and again people in Hitler’s company address him as “mine Feuhrer” instead of “mein Feuhrer.” We are told that German soldiers have “brought the world to there knee’s” instead of “brought the world to its knees.” Not long after this QT uses the word “wennersitnitzell,” by which he means “weinerschnitzel.” (I think.)
This is too dumb, too hayseed. It has to be a put-on.
And then comes an American GI character from Boston named Donny who carries a baseball bat and has come to be known as…I won’t say it, but it’s genius-level. (And I’m not being snide.) The nickname for Brad Pitt‘s Lieutenant Aldo is Aldo the Apache. (Because of his penchant for scalping Nazis.) There’s a great scene with a German Sgt. Rachtman being interrogated by Aldo and his men, each one of the Hebrew persuasion, and Rachtman being asked where some nearby German troops are holed up, and he answers….I can’t say this either, but it’s brilliant. Okay, I’ll say it — “fuck you and your jew dogs!”
We’re introduced to Jewish characters named “Mr. Goorowtiz” and “Mrs. Himmelstein”? These are names from a ’50s comedy skit on Your Show of Shows or The Jackie Gleason Show. Over and over it’s “Basterds” this and “Basterds” that — why is the “b” capitalized? At one point a character is asked, “How did you survived the ordel?” (This is an exact transcription.) Tarantino even spells “gimme” wrong — “gimmie.”
I could go on and on, but this script — again — is pure relish, pure pleasure and pure money. Everybody and his uncle will get the humor, and it’ll generate serious dough all around. It’s too bad Harvey Weinstein‘s company can’t afford to fund the film on its own (as Nikki Finke has reported). If the budget doesn’t go too high Bastards will almost definitely turn a profit, with which the Weinstein Co. could help to pull itself out of a financial hole. Considering that Tarantino’s Grindhouse help out the company in that hole, wouldn’t that be the decent symmetrical thing?
Generation Kill, an HBO seven-part mini-series about the invasion of Iraq that begins on Sunday, “is bold, uncompromising and oddly diffident,” writes the N.Y. Times‘ Alessandra Stanley. “It maintains impeccable dignity even as it tracks a group of shamelessly and engagingly profane, coarse and irreverent marines, members of an elite reconnaissance battalion that spearheaded the invasion.
“[Though] a true story of combat and male bonding, Generation Kill is told disjointedly and atonally, perhaps because it pursues clashing goals. It tries to honor the ordeal — and the humanity — of its heroes while exposing the futility of their quest.
“It was written by David Simon and Ed Burns, the team behind The Wire, and was adapted from the prizewinning book by Evan Wright, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone who was embedded with Bravo Company for the duration of the assault.
“The script is faithful to Mr. Wright√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s account, respectful of the soldiers he befriended and as opaque and ascetic as The Wire, an opus that forced viewers to parse multiple plots and a huge cast of characters without directions or subtitles.
“The odyssey of these men from training tents in Kuwait to occupied Baghdad is laid out with brutal candor and without the aid of maudlin cinematography or emotive music. The closest thing to a thematic score is the starched, staticky clatter of radio traffic: ‘Roger that’ and ‘This is Hit Man II, over.’
“Restraint can be as important to a serious television drama as it is to art collecting or the dinner table. Particularly when the subject is as raw as war, sentimentality or florid emotionalism can offend and even repel viewers. Its exercise can be a sign of respect and sensitivity, but it can also seem smug, a veiled form of one-upmanship.
√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√Ö‚ÄúWith its superb cast and script, Generation Kill provides a searingly intense, clear-eyed look at the first stage of the war, and it is often gripping. But like a beautiful woman who swathes herself in concealing clothes and distracting hats, the series fights its own intrinsic allure.”
What’s wrong with atonal, disjointed, distracting, smug, etc.? I could go for that.
I had heard during the Cannes Film Festival that jury president Sean Penn was a big fan of Steven Soderbergh‘s Che. Now there’s a transcription of a Penn quote about the film on Kris Tapley‘s In Contention, taken from a new issue of Sight & Sound and provided by Guy Lodge:
“Right through the festival I had no awareness of what the `buzz’ was, and I shut people down if they tried to talk about movies in front of me. But when I did a little bit of catch-up browsing afterward I read some of the stupidest, ugliest, most cynical responses to what had gone on, and I had the front-seat to be aware of their inconsistencies.
“Che is a great example. I pray it finds distribution in the four-hour-plus form I saw, because otherwise people will be missing out. The filmmaking is stellar: there are so many details in the execution of that huge story. Every sentiment about Guevara I’ve heard passionately expressed when I’ve travelled in Cuba and South America was not only dramatized, but without exposition, seamlessly, fulfilling the narrative.
“Then you have one of the first tour de force performances in film history [i.e., Benicio Del Toro‘s] that doesn’t rely on the close-up.
Che director Steven Soderbergh during filming of 1956 Mexico-to-Cuba sea voyage.
“This was a film, I later found out, that had some negative responses. [But] I was in a jury room of nine people with more expertise in their big toenails than any of the people writing in these papers, and nine out of nine wanted to go out and change the world afterwards.”
It has been sad and frustrating on my end to see what has happened with Che since Cannes — next to nothing — and to hear how so many distributors are saying “no effin way” to releasing it into U.S. theatres. I have heard that Wild Bunch is now asking for a lot less than their earlier $10 million demand for U.S. distrib rights.
Saying it again: the two Che films — The Argentine and Guerilla — have to be released in some limited but highly visible and vigorous way by someone in the fall or the holiday season so they can have their shot at awards season. And as sad a comment as this may be about American viewing appetites, they probably have to go straight to HBO right after this as this seems like the only viable option. The films will be be seen by many millions of viewers this way. Whereas in theatres alone, let’s face it, the customer count would probably be in the hundreds of thousands, if that.
Travel outside of educated blue territory and it’s a cultural wasteland out there. The WALL*E tele-tubbies will allmost certainly flip the channel if Che turns up their personal video screen.
I arrived at the AT&T store at Beverly and La Cienega at 7:45 am, looking for that iPhone 3G, presuming the crowds might not be as heavy as they were last summer. Wrong — I was either the 112th or 113th person in line. At about 7:50 a shlubby-looking AT&T guy with a black 3G T-shirt came out to explain they only had 110 phones, so 35 or 40 of us might have to come back tomorrow when new phones will arrive. But…you know, we could stick around regardless and hope for the best.
AT&T store as Beverly and La Cienega — 7.11.08, 8:20 am.
Right away my forehead was dark and furrowed. All these weeks and weeks of prep and advance hype and all the WeHo AT&T store guys ordered (or all the Apple guys were able to ship) was a lousy 110 units? For a major West Hollywood location that services almost nothing but dinks (double income no kids) and yuppies?
Fine, I said to the guy, but of the 110 phones you have how many are 8 gig (selling for $200) and how many are 16 gig ($300)? “We’re working on that,” he said, grinning slightly. “You’re working on it?,” I asked. “You don’t know what you have in your own inventory?” His smile tightened. “We’re finding that out now,” he said.
I then suggested the obvious to the guy, which would be to go down the line with a clipboard and ask each person if they intend to purchase only the 8 gig or only the 16 gig, or if they’re determined to buy one or the other no matter what. That way the store guys could calculate more accurately how many customers they can service, and then they could tell those customers with a low likelihood of purchase they can…whatever, scoot home and come back later.
On the other hand I understood where the smiling T-shirt guy was coming from. It takes focus and concentration to ask questions and write down figures, and he was dealing with enough aggravation as it was. If you’ve ever tried to hire people for a relatively low-paying job (as I have), you learn soon enough that 80% or 90% of the applicants are dumb as fenceposts or have sluggish attitudes or both. It’s very hard to find someone who might be competent, much less someone who might be exceptional.
7.11.08, 8:17 am.
Can’t say I much care for the girly song playing over Matt Harding‘s “Dancing” video. And the vigor of his dancing argues on some level with the Pillsbury doughboy bod. The 31 year-old is well on his way to being a major moose by the time he’s 40. Over four million viewers have seen Harding’s four and 1/2 minute video, which has been running since…what, early June? Charles McGrath‘s 7.8 NY. Times article may have been the first MSM report.
Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.