Sean O’Hagan on the mess that is Tarantino and his latest movie
Given Tarantino’s recent uneven form, and his seemingly undimmed self-belief, it is perhaps unsurprising that Inglourious Basterds is such an epic mess of a movie. It sprawls to over two and a half hours and is propelled – though that is perhaps too strong a word – by two implausible plots [...] The problem here, though, is not so much the sliver of plausibility that the plot rests on, but the whole tone of the movie. It never seems to have entered Tarantino’s mind that the notion of a bunch of psychopathic American Jews who set out to maim, mutilate and kill German soldiers might, in itself, be offensive, not least to Jewish-American soldiers and the entire French Resistance [...] Nothing Tarantino has done since [Jackie Brown], with the possible exception of Kill Bill Vol 1, has come close to the stylistic brilliance of those first three films. And, as Inglourious Basterds illustrates, what once was fast, furious and surprising has become slow, laborious and oddly formulaic.
… Tarantino says things that most certainly do not lead us to believe he is a giant prick :/
One of the qualities that puts me in a different category to other screenwriters is that I don’t want to lead the story. I let the characters lead and I follow. But, when you’re heading down some scenario highway, there are certain roadblocks you come up against when you follow your characters, and, in this instance, one of the big roadblocks was history itself. At first I was prepared to honour that roadblock, then I said, ‘Why?’ It’s just not what I do [...] Well, if people are offended by it, I don’t care. I’m going to do what I do [...] I’ve never played by the rules, but I also don’t break the rules just to break the rules. I’m a conscientious writer. I don’t do things for cheesy effect. I’ve got to be able to back it up. And, I think I can [...] For me, it’s all about the filmography. That’s what you live and die by. The problem with most directors is that they don’t get out when it’s time to get out. I don’t want to do those old man movies [...] I never know what I’m going to do next, but I can tell you one thing, I don’t intend to be away for a long time any more, especially when I’m thinking that I want to stop making movies when I reach 60. But I’m not ever going to make a film a year either, like Woody Allen does. And I’m not going to adapt anything ever again. I like the idea that it’s all by me, that it starts with me and a blank piece of paper, and it ends with me and a movie. It didn’t exist before me and it’s all created by me, and it’s all completely a product of my imagination.
All of my scorn aside, I do feel sorry for him. Pulp Fiction is one of my favourite movies. I loved it way back when I didn’t care to take an interest in cinema, and it’s one of the few films I love even after exploring some of the great work that has been done in this field. It is no doubt a masterpiece. He might have been baited a little in this interview, I feel. I also think the media have helped make him what he is. At the same time, it’s ironic that he says directors should know when to stop — he doesn’t seem to know himself. — A
Gists and Piths critique Duffy‘s micro-anthology of war poems, Exit Wounds
1. An absence of critical depth in Duffy’s introductory remarks, in which a blindness to the distinction between combatant and non-combatant poetry was apparent. The list was rather Brit-centric, to put it politely, and none of the poets have any connection whatsoever to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which they are ‘responding’ to. When we have the work of Brian Turner or Dunya Mikhail to look to, these poems are a total irrelevance.
2. The rather poor quality of most of the poems. The vast majority of these poems seem to fall back on the ready-made language of cliche to get their points across. Compare this with the brute specificity of soldier-poets such as Wilfred Owen, Keith Douglas or Bruce Weigl, and their shortcomings become painfully apparent.
3. The sense of cultural authority that seems to cling to this collection, as though this were a definitive poetic approach to modern combat. Even if we restrict the field to non-combatant poetry, anyone who has read recent work by Robert Sheppard (Warrant Error), Chris McCabe (Zeppelins) or Eliot Weinberger (What I Heard About Iraq) will know that this is not true.
Daniel Silliman reappraises David Foster Wallace (via Ron Silliman)
The footnotes, the language games, the huge novel, the comparison to Pynchon, the titles — all of it added up trick writer. A smart guy doing stunts to prove how smart, how sophisticated and hyperconscious he was. I don’t normally hate things just because they’re popular, but even his tripartite name seemed like a trick, another demonstration of how cool he was [...]
So I avoided David Foster Wallace until, sometime around his death, I happened upon the commencement address he gave to Kenyon College. Right from the opening, “If anybody feels like perspiring [cough], I’d advise you to go ahead, because I’m sure going to. In fact I’m gonna [mumbles while pulling up his gown and taking out a handkerchief from his pocket],” it was uncool. It was the opposite of the McSweeney-Mailer model. It was the opposite of my initial impression and of his reputation too, except that he would use this hyperconsciousness, but he used it against itself. He would use it, but not as a stunt, but as a strategy to break down the distance of the hyperconsciousness, being honest and sharing uncoolness. He takes recourse to the distance, acknowledging it, as we all were already there, if we’d admit it, and then he makes it vanish, connecting with us. In the second paragraph of the speech, right after the opening joke, he says:
“This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories…
Mark Tarver on why he isn’t a professor (via Saroja)
Now parallel with all this [i.e., lower standards of student performance] was an enormous paper trail of teaching audits called Teaching Quality Assessment. These audits were designed to fulfil the accountability of the lecturers by providing a visible proof that they were doing their job in the areas of teaching and (in another review) research. In view of the scenario described, you might well wonder how it is possible for such a calamitous decline in standards to go unremarked. The short answer is that, the external auditors, being lecturers, knew full well the pressures that we were facing because they were facing the same pressures. They rarely looked beyond the paperwork and the trick was to give them plenty of it. The important thing was that the paperwork had to be filled out properly and the ostensible measures had to be met. Students of the old Stalinist Russian system will know the techniques. Figures record yet a another triumphant over-fulfilment of the five-year plan while the peasants drop dead of starvation in the fields.
Teaching was not the only criterion of assessment. Research was another and, from the point of view of getting promotion, more important. Teaching being increasingly dreadful, research was both an escape ladder away from the coal face and a means of securing a raise. The mandarins in charge of education decreed that research was to be assessed, and that meant counting things. Quite what things and how wasn’t too clear, but the general answer was that the more you wrote, the better you were. So lecturers began scribbling with the frenetic intensity of battery hens on overtime, producing paper after paper, challenging increasingly harassed librarians to find the space for them. New journals and conferences blossomed and conference hopping became a means to self-promotion. Little matter if your effort was read only by you and your mates. It was there and it counted.
Furry Girl on a too-familiar way of psychoanalysing sex workers (blog link via Claire)
Sex workers and sluts are catnip for those who fancy themselves amateur psychologists. “What awful things happened to her to make her turn out like that?”, they wonder, disgustedly and excitedly, scratching their heads and seeking to unravel what titillating damage has been inflicted upon the presumed victim. Apparently, one must have been raped by their father and beaten by their partners to turn out so deeply fucked up that they would be like me and happily embrace many facets of their sexuality and body.
Well, fuck you to anyone who thinks that accusing sex workers of being rape/violence survivors is a clever zinger of a debate point. I have seen self-proclaimed feminists do this more times than I care to count. They paternalize up their argument a bit, but at the core is a self-satisfied, “Haha! I bet you’ve been raped! You’re a victim with no power to make your own decisions, ever! I totally win the porn debate!”
[...] Before I ever got naked on the internet, I had two partners hit me, and another choke me. Do their violent actions, then, define me for the rest of my life? Should “we” give abusers that power? Must I now wear the scarlet V for “victim” around my neck so that others know to treat me delicately and make “good” decisions for me? Am I a perfectly-packaged imaginary cliche of a helpless battered woman who “turned to porn”?
Disclaimer: As always, I do not necessarily endorse these opinions, but I must say that Furry Girl (who describes herself as ‘a pornographer, sex worker, atheist, and former “sex-positive feminist” who grew tired of trying to shoehorn my life into a feminist analysis’) has a great blog, with some excellent arguments against harmful stereotypes of sex workers. She also lays bare the double standards of many feminists today. So thank you to Claire for sending me the link to FG’s blog. — A
Tarantino photoshopped (from sneakpeaks.blogspot.com)