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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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Thank Azaria

Best. Characters. Ever.

Our favorite Hank Azaria characters.

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GIFs via Giphy

Hank Azaria may well be the most prolific voice and character actor of our time. The work he’s done for The Simpsons alone has earned him a permanent place in the pop culture zeitgeist. And now he’s bringing another character to the mainstream: a washed-up sports announcer named Jim Brockmire, in the aptly titled new series Brockmire.

We’re looking forward to it. So much so that we want to look backward, too, with a short-but-sweet retrospective of some of Azaria’s important characters. Shall we begin?

Half The Recurring Simpsons Characters

He’s Comic Book Guy. He’s Chief Wiggum. He’s Apu. He’s Cletus. He’s Snake. He’s Superintendent Chalmers. He’s the Sea Captain. He’s Kurt “Can I Borrow A Feeling” Van Houten. He’s Professor Frink. He’s Carl. And he’s many more. But most importantly he’s Moe Szyslak, the staple character Azaria has voiced since his very first audition for The Simpsons.

Oh, and He’s Frank Grimes

For all the regular Simpsons characters Azaria has played over the years, his most brilliant performance may have been a one-off: Frank Grimes, the scrappy bootstrapper who worked tirelessly all his life for honest, incremental, and easily-undermined success. Azaria’s portrayal of this character was nuanced, emotional, and simply magical.

Patches O’Houlihan

Dodgeball is a “sport of violence, exclusion and degradation.” as Hank Azaria generously points out in his brief but crucial cameo in Dodgeball. That’s sage wisdom. Try applying his “five D’s” to your life on and off the court and enjoy the results.

Harold Zoid

Of Futurama fame. The crazy uncle of Dr. Zoidberg, Harold Zoid was once a lion (or lobster) of the silver screen until Smell-o-vision forced him into retirement.

Agador

The Birdcage was significant for many reasons, and the comic genius of Hank Azaria’s character “Agador” sits somewhere towards the top of that list. If you haven’t seen this movie, shame on you.

Gargamel

Nobody else could make a live-action Gargamel possible.

Ed Cochran

From Ray Donovan. Great character, great last name [editorial note: the author of this article may be bias].

Kahmunra, The Thinker, Abe Lincoln

All in the Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian, a file that let Azaria flex his voice acting and live-action muscles in one fell swoop.

The Blue Raja

Mystery Men has everything, including a fatal case of Smash Mouth. Azaria’s iconic superhero makes the shortlist of redeemable qualities, though.

Dr. Huff

Huff put Azaria in a leading role, and it was good. So good that there is no good gif of it. Internet? More like Inter-not.

Learn more about Hank Azaria’s newest claim to fame right here, and don’t miss the premiere of Brockmire April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Flame Out

Brockmire and Other Public Implosions

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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There’s less than a month until the Brockmire premiere, and to say we’re excited would be an insulting understatement. It’s not just that it stars Hank Azaria, who can do no wrong (and yes, that’s including Mystery Men, which is only cringeworthy because of Smash Mouth). It’s that the whole backstory of the titular character, Jim Brockmire, is the stuff of legends. A one-time iconic sportscaster who won the hearts of fans and players alike, he fell from grace after an unfortunate personal event triggered a seriously public meltdown. See for yourself in the NSFW Funny or Die digital short that spawned the IFC series:

See? NSFW and spectacularly catastrophic in a way that could almost be real. Which got us thinking: What are some real-life sports fails that have nothing to do with botched athletics and everything to do with going tragically off script? The internet is a dark and dirty place, friends, but these three examples are pretty special and mostly safe for work…

Disgruntled Sports Reporter

His co-anchor went offsides and he called it like he saw it.

Jim Rome vs Jim “Not Chris” Everett

You just don’t heckle a professional athlete when you’re within striking distance. Common sense.

Carl Lewis’s National Anthem

He killed it! As in murdered. It’s dead.

To see more moments just like these, we recommend spending a day in your pajamas combing through the muckiness of the internet. But to see something that’s Brockmire-level funny without having to clear your browser history, check out the sneak peeks and extras here.

Don’t miss the premiere of Brockmire April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Mirror, Mirror

Portlandia Season 7 In Hindsight

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available Online and on the IFC App.

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Another season of Portlandia is behind us, and oh what a season it was. We laughed. We cried. And we chuckled uncomfortably while glancing nervously around the room. Like every season before it, the latest Portlandia has held a mirror up to ridiculousness of modern American life, but more than ever that same mirror has reflected our social reality in ways that are at once hysterical and sneakily thought-provoking. Here are just a few of the issues they tackled:

Nationalism

So long, America, Portland is out! And yes, the idea of Portland seceding is still less ludicrous than building a wall.

Men’s Rights

We all saw this coming. Exit gracefully, dudes.

Protests

Whatever you stand for, stand for it together. Or with at least one other person.

Free Love

No matter who we are or how we love, deep down we all have the ability to get stalky.

Social Status

Modern self-esteem basically hinges on likes, so this isn’t really a stretch at all.

These moments are just the tip of the iceberg, and much more can be found in the full seventh season of #Portlandia, available right now #online and on the #IFC app.

via GIPHY

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