And the Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris By Alan Riding (Alfred A. Knopf, 399 pp., $28.95) By the ghastly standards of World War II, the history of France from 1939 to 1944 was a sideshow. Poland, with a smaller pre-war population, suffered at least ten times as many wartime deaths. The Soviet Union, four times larger in 1939, had fully forty times more losses. French cities, in comparison with Polish or Soviet or German cities, survived the war relatively unscathed.
Leave it to the Oscars to frustrate me even when they’re properly awarded. On Friday, I loudly declared my belief in inavataribility, arguing that, given the Academy's lifelong emphasis on movies' commercial success, there was no way it would give Best Picture to a $12.6 million-grossing indie (The Hurt Locker) over a well-reviewed juggernaut that made 50 times as much (Avatar). On Sunday, it gave Best Picture to a $12.6 million-grossing, etc., etc. How did this act of cinematic sanity come about?
What does it say that three of the top five films on my list this year--and another that could easily have made the top ten, Coraline--are “kid’s movies”? In the end not much, I think. Two of the three, Where the Wild Things Are and Fantastic Mr. Fox, were directed by talented indie auteurs (Spike Jonze and Wes Andersen, respectively) who merely happened to adapt children’s books in the same year.
Forget Inglourious Basterds. Quentin Tarantino's most mind-bending onscreen offering of the year has to be this Japanese ad for what appears to be a dog-shaped cell-phone speaker, in which the director converses with an (actual) talking dog, declares "I am Tara!" in what even my ear can detect is atrocious Japanese, and busts out some non-Kill-Bill-worthy kung fu moves.
A small TNR contigent spent Friday night at the movies. Specifically, we went to see the new Quentin Tarantino flick, Inglorious Basterds. I think I can speak for my colleagues when I say that despite some good writing and fine acting, the film is one of the most morally repulsive movies of the past decade. While that debate can wait for another day, I did want to comment on Quentin Tarantino's appearance on Charlie Rose the same evening. To say that Tarantino is one of the more conceited and arrogant people alive would count--after watching this interview--as a considerable understatement.
There is a moment in the first scene of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds that is not what it appears to be. A Nazi colonel named Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) is interviewing a French farmer (Denis Menochet) he believes to be sheltering Jews. Landa is conducting the inquiry in more than passable French (yes, with subtitles and everything), when he pauses. He's come to the limits of his francais, he claims. Does the farmer speak English and, if so, might they continue in that tongue?
From Quentin Tarantino's interview with Jeffrey Goldberg: “Holocaust movies always have Jews as victims,” he said, plainly exasperated by Hollywood’s lack of imagination. “We’ve seen that story before. I want to see something different. Let’s see Germans that are scared of Jews. Let’s not have everything build up to a big misery, let’s actually take the fun of action-movie cinema and apply it to this situation.” --Isaac Chotiner
Or: The Lies We Tell Ourselves. From Deborah Solomon's New York Times Magazine interview with Buddhist Studies professor Robert Thurman: As a Buddhist, how do you reconcile your pacifism with the roles your daughter Uma has played in films like Quentin Tarantino’s bloody “Kill Bill”? Quentin is kind of obsessed, he’s a wild guy. But he is very brilliant. We trust that his motive is to show people the foolishness of violence rather than to glorify it. I hope that’s true. [Italics Mine] --Isaac Chotiner
...always have, always will. I saw the Tarantino-scripted, Tony-Scott-directed True Romance twice in theatres, but was one of the few to do so, as the movie made a paltry $11.5 million during its initial release. But it became a cult success on video, especially once Pulp Fiction made Tarantino a household name, and Maxim has gathered the cast and filmmakers for a 15th anniversary testimonial. As is usually the case with such exercises, half of it makes you like the movie less. But there are a handful of pretty entertaining anecdotes.