Can a movie which moves one to tears, make one laugh, and be the most important movie to see in a theatre
in years be ‘not good’? 
Yes. If that movie is Not a Movie and Not to Be Enjoyed. 

First, let me say why Inglourious Basterds is Not to Be Enjoyed.
It is a condemnation of humanity, a statement that we are blind to the shifting sands of public imagination and the re-writing of ‘history’, and moreover want to be fed propaganda that supports us.
As I walked from the theatre and heard people laughing, I was overcome with sadness. I felt like people were walking from an important statement about the corruption of the world, a self-knowing argument that cinema is the contemporary weapon of choice and that there will always be a vicious circle of destruction. 
This movie plays with the idea that ‘history’ is a created narrative, not a firm science. We grab unto myths, easy tellings that placate us, support our immediate agendas, and mythologize the hero and the villian.
Revenge movies are no different from our status quo hegemonic national identity. But that’s a hard pill to swallow.
What is the United States if not the world’s unblemished liberator and knight in shining democratic armor? 
Our approved history becomes seamlessly woven with popular consciousness largely through the cinema house. 
In the film, the question is posed, “What will the history books say of us?” and the next shot is of the cinema house.
Again, in the basement scene when they are playing ‘Who Am I?’ the nosy German decides through his questions that he must either be “The African American Slave Narrative” or “King Kong”. 
How can popular consciousness decide the difference between ‘what happened’ and the ‘the way mass media is portraying the story at the moment’?   

Inglourious Basterds is one of the most preachy movies I’ve seen in a while. I usually don’t like when a movie is telling me so plainly the ‘concept’ of the production. I like it when a movie hides, obscures, and artfully discloses truths to me rather than smashing an idea over my head with a baseball bat. But, I do give credit to the film for conveying a hard truth, one that is unenjoyable, one that condemns.

We, the audience are made out to be no different from the Nazis portrayed in the film. The two times that we see through the camera’s eye is when it is the view of dying or tortured Nazis. Our lust for power, our desire for revenge, and our willingness to throw others aside as we rewrite history to our liking makes us all guilty and deserving of vengeance.
(The issues of revenge and grace permeate Tarantino’s films and they are perhaps most plainly stated here.)
If only we all could have swatikas branded into our foreheads! If only our hates, our delight in the privilege handed us whether through class, race, ‘gender’, ‘sexual orientation’, our bigotry could be cast into the light! Rather, we duck and hide behind the current myths of ‘American equality’ and ‘post racial America’.
This is not a movie to be enjoyed, but one that is meant to shock, hurt, prophesy.

This movie is Not a Movie. It jumps into a meta level of being about itself and the role of cinema so much that it becomes a cobbled together message-movie. Tarantino has said that after viewing “There Will Be Blood” he wanted to ‘up his game’–if by this he meant that he wanted to create a great movie, he has failed. The characters herein are fun, playful, larger than life, and memorable no doubt. However, there is so much winking and reference that no one can be taken seriously (even the stunning performance of Christoph Waltz). Yes, as many have already written there are a lot of filmic references in the film–and I would ask where is the line between film-loving homage and spoof?

Is the movie powerful? Yes.
Is it worth seeing in the theatre? Yes. It is a powerful experience to see with others in the public square.
Is it worth seeing at home? Shrug. Waltz gives a good performance and the Basement Who Am I Scene is a textbook exposition on how to create tension in film.

As for Tarantino, I’m interested to see him make another film along the lines of Jackie Brown. If he truly wants to “up his game” he will be required to go in this direction rather than an overly preachy film that will only delight Freshman Level Film Class students.

Bottom Line: History is myth, cinema is myth production, the film strip is more powerful than the sword, everyone is equally deserving of vengeance….oh and two other things:

1) The cinema remains the most important role in American myth creation and yet the cinema is dying. The theatre house is threatened by personal media delivery and its continued existence is like that of the Personal Automobile–not supported by anything other than habit. Yet, unlike American Car Culture there is a need for some public arena to experience myth, ritual, and community narrative and memory.

2) NO ONE CAN MEANINGFULLY CALL ANYONE A NAZI ANYMORE. This is perfect timing for this movie. Though people are throwing out the accusation of “This person’s a Nazi!” as easily as ordering a milkshake, it is absolutely meaningless. I saw a young person the other week wearing a backpack with the image of a Confederate Flag. His obviously hipster chic ensemble said to me that he had no idea that it was associated with anything other than The Dukes of Hazard. The real threat that racism and white privilege poses to America, I feel, is no longer tied to the images of the Civil War, Segregation, the South, etc. Whether this is good or bad needs to be decided by America’s families, faith communities and education system. How did we get here? What happened to the world that allowed over 6 million Jews to be murdered? Can we allow the swastika to become just another symbol that eventually will be worn ironically by the future iterations of hipsters with images of Inglorious Basterds in their minds?
Our villians will change. Our cinematic bad guys may not always wear black and our real life oppressors and criminals do not have swastikas carved in their heads. How do we express our desires, values, and strive for justice without ourselves falling prey to the bloodlust of vengeance and speaking in such hyperbole and bombast that those we oppose become caricatures of villians that never were?

Ryan McGivern

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