Rainy days, matinees, Nazi-extermination squads, etc.

It’s very wet and unpleasant outside on this, one of the final Fridays before the start of the Fall semester. What’s your excuse for not heading to movies today? Work? Yeah, whatever.

Thankfully, I’ve made it my “work” to go to movies on days like this (and on every other type of day, for that matter). I’ll be heading to the Marcus Point/Star/UltraScreen Cinema (the theater of a thousand names) to catch a matinee of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds on a gigantic screen. Basterds is far and away the most discussed release of the weekend, though it’s 2-and-a-half-hour length is upsetting some critics, like the A.V. Club’s Keith Phipps, who thinks the film is good at 152 minutes but could’ve been great at 90. Ebert thought the film was a bit confounding yet good enough the first time and excellent and tremendously rewarding the second time, so if you’ve got 5 hours to spare this weekend, feel free to go ahead and test his hypothesis.

Regarding the supposed tastelessness and moral reprehensibility of Inglourious Basterds, the NY Times’ Manohla Dargis reminds us that the film was written by “a man who has an Oscar for a movie with a monologue about a watch stashed in a rectum.” The best line in Dargis’s review: “He’s not making a documentary or trying to be Steven Spielberg: Mr. Tarantino is really only serious about his own films, not history.”

My favorite active film critic, the Village Voice’s J. Hoberman, marvels at the way that the film translates historical tragedy into cinematic fantasy without cynically omitting the “cold-blooded massacres and mass incineration”, something which he says Spielberg’s Schindler’s List is guilty of. I haven’t bothered to read Armond White’s review, which I’m sure contains an implicit rebuttal of some sort, because, well, I never read White’s reviews. Why would I? If Glenn Kenny’s “Topics/Questions/Exercises of the Week” over at the Auteurs is any indication, White has been going straight-up algorithmic on us for a while now.

Time’s Richard Corliss offers perhaps the boldest of all the testaments to the supposed greatness of Basterds:

It’s just possible that Tarantino, having played a trick on history, is also fooling his fans. They think they’re in for a Hollywood-style war movie starring Brad Pitt. What they’re really getting is the cagiest, craziest, grandest European film of the year.

My own review of Inglourious Basterds will be up on the Cardinal’s website at the beginning of next week, that is, if the film doesn’t inflame my latent traces of Jewish cultural identity and drive me to unsuccessfully hunt Nazis in Madison all weekend long. The first time I visited Madison the summer following my senior year of high school, I recall there being an Associated Neo-Nazi/Skinhead Assholes of Wisconsin (ANSAW) rally at the Capitol building; the rally was confronted by a small army of liberal protesters, none of whom wielded baseball bats or combustible film reels (no Brad Pitt, either). Will seeing Basterds bring my tenure here in Madison full-circle, from that initial oy vey moment to today’s potential oy gevalt moment?

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