Friday, August 28, 2009

Hood Pass Intact

There are only two categories of people it is 100% ok to hate in America anymore: pedophiles and nazis.

When I say "ok to hate," I mean nobody will stand up and defend the idea of pedophilia or the idea of nazi Germany. There are a lot of people worth hating in America -- republican senators, pyramid schemers, Tom Brady -- but you will have no problem finding assholes to defend anyone in those categories (including myself, sorry Olympia Snow and Susan Collins, etc). Most pedophiles, taken case by case, are sympathetic figures struggling tragically against mental illness. Even most white supremacists are sociable enough to give interviews in Vice and see their accumulation of guns and their belief in the superiority of the white man as more political than revolutionary. I highly recommend everyone check out the article on their music scene in Heeb a few months back, it was pretty good.

Anyways, I digress. Nobody likes Nazis. Even the German army didn't like Nazis and they tried to kill Hitler a few times. And there is no other group of people so unsympathetic that you could showcase so many of them dying, often graphically, in a movie without causing an uproar. Which is exactly what happens in Inglorious Basterds -- a lot of Nazis die graphically, and you chalk it up mostly to Tarantino's signature gore.

But as Jew, good lord did I love seeing Nazis die.

Here's a mega understatement: there have been a lot of movies telling the sad tale of Jews in World War II, either in camps or escaping from them, or hiding silently to avoid capture. It's heavy shit. Very few of the stories have happy endings and the ones that do still leave a lot of trauma in their wake. There haven't been very many movies which consist of a revisionist history where World War II ends with the US sending in a bunch of Jewish killers to terrorize the German infantry and hack the third reich to pieces.

So while as Americans, we still unconditionally hate Nazis, I don't think you can really appreciate Basterds as anything but an entertainingly ridiculous B+ of a Tarantino flick. But as a Jew, this was pure catharsis.

See, in the short hand of public school history books, Jews got caught out there by a bunch of Euros who were more or less indifferent to them, if not outwardly hostile (as they had been since, like, the beginning of time), and when Hitler came through, we were all sitting ducks. So GI Joe stepped in and blew up Auschwitz with blue lasers, victory gardens and Rosie the Riveter, and us Jews got freed. There's something emasculating about that.

There's no shame in being saved by the American military, but still, we needed saving. Several decades later, we get this guy. You know what's much better for my self-esteem? Seeing a lot of Nazis get their really nasty come-uppance. A movie in which we get to see a sweaty, anxious Fuhrer wondering what the hell he's going to do about "The Bear Jew," whose love of bashing in the faces of German soldiers with a goddamn baseball bat is crippling the once-great Nazi army.

(An aside: Donny's entrance was my favorite scene in the movie. Starts ominous, with the sound of him clanking the bat against the tunnel wall, seen but not heard while Aldo interrogates a soldier. But when he finally enters, it's entirely blase. In most movies, the guy with the rep for being especially violent in a crew of dudes running around taking fucking scalps would have some mystique, if only from juxtaposition. Nah, he's just a dude from Brooklyn (?) who likes baseball. The only reason he's even scary is because Eli Roth looks like Sylar from Heroes, who is both psychotic and terrifying.)

On the whole? Pretty good. Thoroughly entertaining, lots of crazy dialogue and a heroine who looks like a younger, sexier version of Juliet from Lost. Also, Ryan from The Office killing people (though more or less playing Ryan from The Office before his plot arc really took off). Brad Pitt's character was great, even with the terrible accent. But it could have lost a half hour or more and still been intact.

But if you are a Jewish kid who spent the better part of his youth constantly being reminded about The Holocaust, you really need to see this.

Live Coda from Twitter, re: the joys of killing Nazis
Balagan: play Wolfenstein.

Touche, Sam.