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What “Inglourious Basterds” Owes to History

What “Inglourious Basterds” Owes to History (photo)

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[Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen “Inglourious Basterds.”]

There have been two moments in film this year that have moved me to my cine-loving core. Both involved individuals stirred by the power of image, art and mythology. And both illustrated a personal investment for each character (some, real-life characters), revealing a potent significance and identification — something that ascended beyond mere fandom. Simple and yet complex, these moments were meaningful to these people.

One, occurred in Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies.” Watching John Dillinger (played by Johnny Depp) fatefully sitting inside the Biograph watching Clark Gable as Blackie, essentially playing a version of Johnny (John Dillinger) in “Manhattan Melodrama,” the look on J.D.’s face was gripping. And not only because we know what’s going to happen to the legendary gangster once he steps out of that theater, but for all of the imagined ideas going through Dillinger’s head at that moment. How could he not think of his girl (or any girl he’d like to sleep with that night) while basking in the gorgeousness of Myrna Loy? How could he not ponder the picture’s ending? And how could he not get a kick out of the very idea, that he, the most popular American criminal at that time, was watching the most beloved Hollywood movie star at that moment? An Icon for an icon. And then, as he exists the theater, a cowardly tooth for a tooth.

And then there’s the moment in the movie of discussion here, Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” a moment that, given all of the controversy surrounding the picture’s violence, is one filled with human empathy and, as Tarantino said, tragedy that’s closer to “Romeo and Juliet.” It’s when theater owner Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), a French Jew seeking vengeance for the execution of her family, agrees to hold the premiere of war hero Fredrick Zoller’s (Daniel Brühl) picture “Nation’s Pride.” Readying for her spectacular final act, in which the movie will cut to her giant, beautiful face declaring that all of the Nazis in attendance (including Goebbels and Hitler) are going to die (“look deep in the face of the Jew who’s going to do it”), Shosanna is abruptly interrupted by Zoller himself. Ducking out of his own movie because he doesn’t like watching violence, the young, smitten man comes on strong, and in order to defend herself and complete her mission, she shoots him.

But then… she glances at his movie from the projection booth. While all of the Nazi top brass have been gleefully enjoying the blood-soaked antics of Zoller, Shosanna responds to an intimate moment. Her face softens as Zoller, in beautiful black and white, takes a breather from the carnage and appears quite emotional and even, a bit tortured. Acting? Perhaps. But ever the cinema lover, it’s upon watching his face on screen (not writhing on the floor) that she walks towards his half-dead body, emotional about what she’s done. And like John Dillinger, just that act of taking in a movie facilitates her own demise. Zoller shoots her.

But unlike John Dillinger, she gets the final payback — and through her own movie. With help from her black lover Marcel (Jacky Ido), she takes down the “despicable German swine” Bill Epton-style: “Burn, baby, burn.”

09012009_Inglourious4.jpgIs Tarantino glamorizing violence here? To be blunt about it, hell, yes, he is. Should we feel guilty about it? To be even blunter, fuck no.

And I’m not simply being flip with this declaration. I’m not trying to trivialize the real-life atrocities that occurred under Hitler during World War II (or under President Truman for that matter, let’s not forget Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Japanese internment camps). And neither is Tarantino, who though never shy about expressing pro-vigilance in real life (and that’s his own business, frankly), crafts a movie that delivers both pulpy satisfaction and a complicated look at how we process violence — historical, personal or otherwise. All of his pictures, from “Reservoir Dogs” to “Jackie Brown” to “Kill Bill” to “Basterds,” have revealed the filmmaker’s interest in the grandeur and meaning of violence, aesthetically and thematically. And many filmmakers, from Cecil B. DeMille to Samuel Fuller to Sam Peckinpah to Stanley Kubrick have crafted works of violent beauty. But that was the past, and as controversial as “The Wild Bunch” or “A Clockwork Orange” were in their day, most critics find these pictures acceptable — classics — working on a different level. Enough has been written. Not so with Tarantino. And so the reaction? Outrage!

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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