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Inglourious Basterds (#110 of 18)

Review: Adilifu Nama’s Race on the QT: Blackness and the Films of Quentin Tarantino

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Review: Adilifu Nama’s Race on the QT: Blackness and the Films of Quentin Tarantino
Review: Adilifu Nama’s Race on the QT: Blackness and the Films of Quentin Tarantino

Aiming to confront “the racial frankness in [Quentin] Tarantino’s films and not the man himself,” Adilifu Nama’s new book offers close readings of the writer-director’s eight feature films (and additionally, True Romance) in order to unveil the complexities of racial interest and formation as they occur within the Tarantino oeuvre. Nama takes this charge as a corrective to critics like Armond White who view Tarantino’s films as “pop sleaze without the politics,” or Stanley Crouch, who’s compared Tarantino’s interest in race with novelist Ralph Ellison’s. Nama falls somewhere in the middle, wishing to lift the “hackneyed claims that Tarantino is a racist,” while stopping well short of hagiography, stating “at most [Tarantino’s films] serve as catalysts for discussions around black racial formation across the public sphere.” The latter assertion is well taken, since the totality of Race on the QT provides ample, perceptive examinations, but almost exclusively along narrative and character lines, with little attention paid to form or aesthetics, rendering several of these readings useful, but only up to a point.

Nama’s best insights come in the book’s first chapter with analyses of Reservoir Dogs and True Romance, where clever approaches to dialogue and each film’s implicit critiques will make even the most ardent viewer want to revisit them. Nama is particularly on point with Reservoir Dogs, which he deems “a visual analogue of the type of hypermasculinity and extravagant violence rapped about on top of 1970s funk samples.” That is, Nama meticulously mines each of the film’s white characters’ racist views on blackness (of which there are plenty) and positions them in relation to Holdaway (Randy Brooks), the film’s sole black character, since he’s “a formidable tactician and the principle architect for bringing down [the] crime organization.” By recasting Reservoir Dogs as a “racial revenge narrative,” Nama acutely displays the film’s ties with Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, films that utilize this kind of narrative far more explicitly. However, Nama’s discussion of these films proves largely unsatisfactory, since here he’s adamant and repetitive in his assertions that Inglourious Basterds is a “science-fiction fantasy” and Django Unchained a “Gothic horror film.” These categorical imperatives detract from Nama’s stated interests in reading for blackness.

Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Original Screenplay

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Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Original Screenplay
Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Original Screenplay

Thanks to Mark Boal’s second consecutive slam-dunk teaming with Kathryn Bigelow, the one certainty of this year’s Original Screenplay field is a bit of 2010 déjà vu. Boal picked up a statuette that year for penning Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, and he’s poised to do the same for his work on Zero Dark Thirty, his collaborator’s high-stakes, buzz-heavy follow-up. There are ample fine points to Boal’s script that fall in his favor, like the shaping of a classic hoo-ra heroine and the refusal to shy away from divisive torture scenes, which have surely provided the most popular angle for journalists covering the film. But the greatest asset should prove to be the movie’s all-access fascination, which only grows as this epic manhunt soldiers toward its killshot.

Next in line as a likely candidate is Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, a pint-sized love story beautifully suited to the offbeat auteur’s whimsy, and his most well-scripted effort since The Royal Tenenbaums. Currently teetering as a will-it-or-won’t-it Best Picture hopeful, Moonrise Kingdom has performed surprisingly well in the precursors, landing a Golden Globe nod for Best Picture—Comedy, getting shortlisted by the AFI, and clinching a heap of Indie Spirit nominations. If there’s one achievement for which the film is primed to advance, it’s Anderson’s markedly humane, yet still characteristically ironic, screenplay.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Matt Maul’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Matt Maul’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Matt Maul’s Top 10 Films of All Time

In compiling my Top 10 film list, I tried to avoid obvious choices based on general consensus. Movies like Modern Times, It’s a Wonderful Life, and The Searchers are great, and I respect them for what they are, but I almost never stop what I’m doing to watch them. The list below includes 10 films I must make a pilgrimage to at least once a year.

Inglourious Basterds: Quentin Tarantino’s Masterpiece and the End of the WWII Movie

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<em>Inglourious Basterds</em>: Quentin Tarantino’s Masterpiece and the End of the WWII Movie
<em>Inglourious Basterds</em>: Quentin Tarantino’s Masterpiece and the End of the WWII Movie

Quentin Tarantino is one of those directors that thoroughly divides people: You either love to hate him, or hate to love him. As an artist, this might be the best place to find yourself because no matter what you create you are guaranteed a high level of critical attention. The problem for artists lucky enough to find themselves in this predicament is that when they do create something truly wonderful, when their genius comes into full flower, the critical community lacks the vocabulary to adequately celebrate the work. Everyone resorts to talking about the work in the ways they are most comfortable. Inglourious Basterds is Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece and my job here will be to introduce a glossary of sorts with which to discuss the director’s most important work.

I know the usual criticisms. His work is too violent. He steals from his predecessors. His films are morally suspect. Easily the most enduring and perceptive criticism of Tarantino’s work is that he makes the films that he wants to see. Lucky for us, as Tarantino edges closer to 50, his taste has matured along with his crow’s feet.

2010 Academy Award Winners

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2010 Academy Award Winners
2010 Academy Award Winners

Below are the winners at the 82nd Academy Awards:

Picture: The Hurt Locker
Directing: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Actor: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Actress: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Actor in a Supporting Role: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Actress in a Supporting Role: Mo’Nique, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Original Screenplay: The Hurt Locker
Adapted Screenplay: Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Foreign Language Film: The Secret in Their Eyes
Documentary Feature: The Cove
Animated Feature Film: Up
Documentary Short: Music by Prudence
Animated Short: Logorama
Live Action Short: The New Tenants
Film Editing: The Hurt Locker
Art Direction: Avatar
Cinematography: Avatar
Costume Design: The Young Victoria
Makeup: Star Trek
Score: Up
Song: “The Weary Kind,” Crazy Heart
Sound Editing: The Hurt Locker
Sound Mixing: The Hurt Locker
Visual Effects: Avatar

Oscar 2010 Composite Winner Predictions

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Oscar 2010 Composite Winner Predictions
Oscar 2010 Composite Winner Predictions

Below is a complete list of our predicted winners at the 2010 Academy Awards.

Picture: The Hurt Locker
Directing: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Actor: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Actress: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Actor in a Supporting Role: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Actress in a Supporting Role: Mo’Nique, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Original Screenplay: Inglourious Basterds
Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air
Foreign Language Film: The Secret in Their Eyes
Documentary Feature: The Cove
Animated Feature Film: Up
Documentary Short: China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province
Animated Short: A Matter of Loaf and Death
Live Action Short: Instead of Abracadabra
Film Editing: The Hurt Locker
Art Direction: Sherlock Holmes
Cinematography: The Hurt Locker
Costume Design: The Young Victoria
Makeup: Star Trek
Score: Up
Song: “The Weary Kind,” Crazy Heart
Sound Editing: Avatar
Sound Mixing: Avatar
Visual Effects: Avatar

Oscar 2010 Winner Predictions: Picture

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Oscar 2010 Winner Predictions: Picture
Oscar 2010 Winner Predictions: Picture

The academy may have doubled the number of nominations, made room for more critics’ faves and box-office juggernauts, and completely overhauled how ballots are going to be tabulated for the Best Picture contest this year, but to hear everyone tell it, it’s all still going to boil down to a grudge match between Contender #1 and Contender #2, the same as it usually is. And likely the same as it always shall be until the academy’s board of directors can jerry-rig a system that will automatically favor the movie that is not only seen by the fewest number of voters, but also represents that perfect middle ground between fiercely loved and fiercely loathed.

Oscar 2010 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing

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Oscar 2010 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing
Oscar 2010 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing

The sound category that more often rewards nuance probably deserves a little bit more consideration than I gave to sound editing (by my estimation an Avatar free spot) a few days ago. That said, scratch everything that isn’t a Best Picture nominee here right from the get-go. Too many scores to settle with this Avatar/Hurt Locker/Basterds three-way dominating all sorts of subheads down-ballot, and neither the Starship reboot nor the Optimus rehash even remotely flipped the template to the extent they’d have needed to in order to register among the three-headed Best Picture hydra. Of those three, Basterds is probably in the most precarious position, despite the roaring majesty of Mélanie Laurent playing a cinematic Carrie to the Nazi Party’s prom night. Ultimately, you have to dock Tarantino’s film a few ballots to take into account the voting demographic that thinks David Bowie ended up on the soundtrack by mistake.

Oscar 2010 Winner Predictions: Cinematography

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Oscar 2010 Winner Predictions: Cinematography
Oscar 2010 Winner Predictions: Cinematography

We’re down to the wire, folks, and we’ve been saving some of the more contentious races for last, including this one, a category where as much as four films stand a reasonable chance at winning. Though The Hurt Locker has practically matched No Country for Old Men and Slumdog Millionaire in guilds-hogging mileage, in something of an upset, the American Society of Cinematographers opted for The White Ribbon’s fascist black-and-white textures instead. This is no game changer, as Oscar has shown no particular fondness for grayscale since the color and black-and-white cinematography categories merged in 1967 (Schindler’s List is the only black-and-white film to have won since then, and even that one has a little red in it), only a confirmation that the race here (and elsewhere) remains a nail-biter between The Hurt Locker, Avatar, and Inglourious Basterds.

Oscar 2010 Winner Predictions: Sound Editing

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Oscar 2010 Winner Predictions: Sound Editing
Oscar 2010 Winner Predictions: Sound Editing

We could come up with a lot of complicated reasons that this, that, or the other film might have a shot at winning against the technological blue elephant in the room, but let’s not pretend. Of the two sound categories, this is the one that favors artificially invented environments and sonic fabrications. Though the movie’s headlines belong to its heady 3-D splendor, the fully engulfed aural environment of Avatar is every bit the triumph. It couldn’t have been easy to invent a sound earth-shattering enough to suggest the destruction of a million-year-old tree. We’ll wrestle a little bit more with the alternate nominees when we get to the more finicky sound mixing category, but until then, everything should be coming up Na’vi.

Will Win: Avatar

Should Win: Avatar