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August 21, 2009

'Wickedly Entertaining'

A 'Basterds' screening at the Museum of Jewish Heritage prompts mostly positive reactions

When Harvey Weinstein and Quentin Tarantino showed Inglorious Basterds--a fictional film about Jews enacting brutal revenge on the Nazis--to a group that included children of Holocaust survivors, the reaction was mostly positive.

The Wall Street Journal was there when Miramax chief Weinstein and director Tarantino screened the film at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Audience reactions included such sentiments as "wickedly entertaining" (from a rabbi!) and "I felt like Tarantino was a fellow Jew, just the way he made me feel so proud of the Basterds and the revenge against the Nazis."

The rabbi, Jonathan Blake of Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, N.Y., likened the film's themes of blood-soaked vengeance to the Old Testament story of the Jews' long-running conflict with the Amalekites. According to the WSJ, "rabbinic tradition extends Amalek's descendants to some of the Jewish people's most-loathed oppressors, including the Roman emperors and Hitler."

Writer Jordana Horn noted that all of the audience members weren't so happy: "One young man noted that watching Nazis beg for their lives provided him with little satisfaction.

"The film does not pretend to be history and certainly does not make any attempt to be in sync with Jewish teachings. But it raises questions about the propriety of acts of retribution under Jewish law." It makes for a fascinating read.


This article reminds me of 2007's Shooter, an interesting revenge film that wasn't, whose final scene surprised me greatly as it seemed out of step with the rest of the movie. Re-watching the ending with director Antoine Fuqua's commentary, he said that he never intended or wanted the main character to kill the villains at the end, but that the test audiences for Shooter were quite unhappy with this outcome, and cried for blood, so the studio asked Fuqua to give the people what they wanted. That story makes me wonder just how many revenge films didn't start out as revenge films, but were made so by test audiences. I think I'm starting to understand the deeper meaning of old-fashioned duellists demanding "satisfaction".

I'd like to write a blog on why we love movies like this. It's obviously because we love seeing bad guys get it. However, why is it that the enemy has to forever be the Nazis? Like there are not and will never be any other "enemies" (other than the perennialy immortalize3d Nazis) worthy of annihilation?? ie what about Muslim jihadists??? Lets see Quentin take them on

if the comment by "annie" is the same person who wrote the CT review of this film, then i hope she is being sarcastic, because otherwise she has no place writing "Christian" perspectives on film. if only Jeffrey Overstreet were still around, he would put some sense into this ridiculous conversation.

Annie here, what are you talking about? Please be more specific about how unChristian I am being. I'm merely noting that human beings long for bad guys to come to justice, hence our system of legal justice. Then I state that surely, as bad as Nazis were, there are many bad guys out there, how come Hollywood only feels free to excoriate Nazis and no other "bad guys" who need to be dealt with as well. "Inglourious Basterds" is certainly no Christian movie, perhaps we shouldn't even be allowed to discuss it?

Thanks for your information..!!

Annie, I think that Jesse probably spoke for a few people reading when they felt offended by your desire to see certain groups of people "worthy of annihilation". Jesus came to bring justice, yes but only in love. I do not believe that asking to see the annihilation of any people is a Christian viewpoint and in fact, is the kind of thinking in the church that turns so many unchurched people away from God.

I thought it was ironic (surely it had to be intentional) that we as the audience scoffed at Hitler & his Nazi cronies cheering on the film within the film about the Nazi sharpshooter hero picking off Allied soldiers, then we are seemingly expected to relish seeing all of the Nazi filmgoers being shot & burned to death like fish in a barrel (along with the fetish-like depiction of Hitler's face being filled with holes).

I personally saw a possibility to interpret Quentin Tarantino as a sort of Joseph Goebbels figure of populist cinema (depicting simplistic good/evil characters, giving an audience what it wants, using techniques--such as the score, b-movie conventions, etc.--to tap into the collective audience subconscious and manipulate them to the filmmaker's ends), which oddly, would make Harvey Weinstein the Hitler figure...The film had a number of role reversals of Nazi for Jew (Aldo referring to Nazi's as not human, the brutal beatings/casual executions, all of the Nazi's being burned to death similar to the crematoriums), which made me feel like I was being set up/propogandized to applaud the same thing for the Nazis which I lamented for the Jews. I may be wrong, but it seems like to take this film simply as a "revenge film" lacks a certain amount of incredulity that a savvy director such as QT would expect.

Anyhow, I would recommend for anyone who "enjoyed" watching all of the Nazis get killed as inhuman representations of pure evil to watch a film like "Stalingrad" where you follow young German soldiers heading to the Russian front. They were on the wrong side, for sure, but they were still humans...