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August 24, 2009


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Not to get...well, persnickety, and you will probably go into this at length at your own blog, but you're going to need to explain how a film director contributes to a national dialogue when he doesn't direct or produce any films for five years, five key years in your timeline: 1998-2003. He was largely absent from the public eye during those years. It's worth noting that Saw, the movie that really started the whole torture-porn thing, opened in 2004. Post Kill Bill, which features a staggeringly violent scene and an incredibly brutal (though off-screen) torture. Just for the record.


Oy. I'm exhausted.

I didn't mean to send the debate off on a tangent, and it's obvious that I have no way of knowing whether the characters in "Pulp Fiction" are gay or not. I was only pointing out that I, as somebody with a hare trigger reaction to homophobia and has somebody who has spent my entire adult life crusading for gay rights, didn't even think that Tarantino's work might be homophobic. (I can't speak for "Reservoir Dogs" because I haven't seen it since it came out and I was in, like, 7th grade.) Contrary to what some on this forum might say, I am not an unsophisticated movie goer either.



Whoops. That's me above. I should try to be consistent with what name I'm signed in under. I'm not a troll, I swear!

jennifer gordon thomas

This argument is the very definition of tedium. I've had more fun watching root canals.

jennifer gordon thomas

...perhaps I'm a sadist. :)


As a lady, and a fag hag at that, I love Tarantino AND Eli Roth movies. I think QT is one of the best feminist filmmakers working today, and appreciate the effort he puts into writing solid, independent, and intelligent women. Is he homophobic? I've never suspected as much, but to be fair I haven't seen PF or RD in a long, long time. But I can say this: having seen countless rape scenes on film, I was delighted to see a man get rammed against his will in Pulp Fiction. Women aren't the only ones with holes, you know and it's really fucking tiring to see my gender play the victim all the time. And why do people always shit on Eli Roth? I would never in a million years put "Hostel" in the same class of film as "Saw." His movies are clever and hilarious. Again, I was refreshed to see men as the primary victims of a horror film (note: I have yet to see the second Hostel, but I stand by my love of the first one). A director can't control audience reaction so oftentimes, yes, you're going to be stuck in a theater full of douchebags who don't get that you're not supposed to like the characters on screen, or agree with what they're saying. Just because certain characters are homophobic, or racist, or any other shade of prejudiced, does not mean the director is promoting those views. Just look at every character in Cabin Fever (spoilers ahead)- they are all self-absorbed, preppy assholes and they all die and it's a happy ending when they do. You're not supposed to like them, relate to them, or care about them. They're dicks.

Another example: I went to a screening of Crispin Glovers' "What is it?" which stars a cast of performers with Down Syndrome. Was his intent to mock the disabled? No, not in any way, shape, or form. Were there certain fuckheads in the audience that only showed up for George McFly's autograph and laughed and laughed at the "retards" in the movie? Yes. Because we live in a society of assholes with little to no tact, common sense, or analytical capabilities, and I sincerely doubt that can be blamed on Quentin Tarantino.
Oh, and for the record, leather gear and bondage doesn't equal gay, it equals kink- something heteros take part in as well. You might be surprised how many hetero guys like a toy up the bum now and then.

Thomas Garvey

To 99: What I mean by "mainstreaming" torture is "mainstreaming torture." Movies like "Last House on the Left" and "I Spit on Your Grave" were hardly considered mainstream at the time of their release (a time I remember). They were a small step above porn (which of course has also been largely mainstreamed). And the comparison to the fantasy-horror "Elm Street" movies seems to me completely misplaced. And I disagree with you that "depictions of torture weren't new in 1992." The depiction of torture in "Reservoir Dogs" was universally seen as something new, and was widely discussed as such. As for this "kind of humanity" idea - it's true that there's A-list method acting in most, if not all, of Tarantino's films. The actors make the material seem like much more than it really is. But this is basically like claiming an exploitation flick isn't an exploitation flick because it has a wonderfully expressive set. And Tarantino isn't really interested in anything beyond sensationalism, whatever the actors bring to the proceedings. Indeed, he grows MORE sensationalistic, rather than less, as he ages; the sensationalism simply becomes more conceptual. This time out, it actually swallows the Holocaust and World War II whole. What's next, the history of the world?

As for the "hillbillies" in "Deliverance" - well, they may be gay, or they may just be into bestiality (at least with pigs) but they are also undeniably actual hillbillies. They come out of the woods, live along the river, hunt possum, etc. Hence, hillbillies. But beyond the semantics of "gay" vs. "hillbilly," the key difference between an artistic success like "Deliverance" and a trash epic like "Pulp Fiction" is that the revenge killing even of the people who have raped you is considered, and reconsidered, in its moral context. It's somehow telling that Tarantino misses that point - he seems to imagine that in citing "Deliverance" he has found a cover for his revenge fantasy, when nothing could be further from the truth. And ponder for a moment Tarantino's racism in this sequence - he admires the black gangster Marsellus for his "savagery," and so leans on him to torture the (castrated) Zed. To be blunt, the white man (Willis) can restrain himself; the black man can't - and this is somehow considered "authentic." It really couldn't be creepier.

You have half an argument in your claims that the passage of time, etc., dilutes Tarantino's culpability in our cultural decline. The problem is said cultural decline largely depends on the very critical and cultural assumptions on which QT himself depends for his "significance." Like it or not, he is torture's cultural avatar. I understand, of course, that you may not like that - it rips you out of your "it's just a movie" empowerment; but maybe it wasn't "just a movie" after all, at least not to everyone.


You're not actually engaging in my point. I'm not letting Tarantino slide on his depiction of violence and brutality, or saying there aren't undertones (and some overtones) of racism and homophobia. I'm in agreement with you on that. What I'm saying is that there's more than that. And it's more than A-level acting. He writes excellent dialogue and makes smart, compelling movies. Sensational, yes. But the thing I remember most about Reservoir Dogs isn't the torture scene (which was talked about because of its reality and brutality), but the time and genre-bending techniques he does (the section about the commode story is bravura filmmaking and screenwriting, period). Fine, if you disagree. Then this conversation is, indeed, pointless. But to just remind me that he's quite possibly a racist homophobe, well, yeah, duh. And?

That's the real crux of this. I see more in Tarantino's work than sensationalism, particularly his work leading up to Kill Bill. Since then...yeah, it's not been of the same caliber.

As for the film history stuff...no surprise, but I disagree. Reservoir Dogs was a low-budget, indie movie that, if it had come out in 1973, would have played grindhouses and wound up on late night cable. I'm not saying that as a matter of quality; I'm saying as a matter of budget and scope. Because it came out near the zenith of the indie movement, it got a lot more acclaim. But it's that tradition. And, yeah, the Freddie movies are slasher flicks of a kind, and fantasy, but they feature some pretty gory events and some things that rise to the point of torture. But it's also done with jokes and a wink to the audience. Jokes that are honestly no better than the pan to the graffiti in Reservoir Dogs. Movies featured torture and gore before Tarantino and they featured it after him, but there was something else at work, too, in the early 2000s that led to torture porn and to the excesses of the Bush Administration.

Thomas Garvey

Well, I suppose this discussion is indeed pointless. Because although we agree that Tarantino is racist and homophobic and obsessed with torture, those points don't matter to you. That's of little interest to me in the end, however, as my thesis is not "Quentin Tarantino's mainstreaming of torture is of import to the anonymous writer of '99 Seats'."


Is the Quentin Tarantino of Resevoir Dogs more mainstream, more talked-about than, say, the Sam Peckinpah of Straw Dogs?

Anyway, if we're going to blame a specific film for enabling the Bush administration, I nominate Forrest Gump.

Malachy Walsh

Thomas, you lost your point long, long, long ago when you discovered that it is actually impossible to say that QT films were the reason the Bush administration got into the torture business. So you went off on tangents about homophobia and torture-porn with a poorly researched understanding of film history instead of dealing with the substance of the comment that 9/11 and the larger fears that the Bush administration fanned were a more direct source of.... oh, nevermind. This is pointless.


But, you know what? It shouldn't be pointless. We're all smart, apparently educated people. We should be able to discuss this and go back and forth and even if no one's mind is changed, we should be able to enjoy the discussion. If Thomas' thesis is "Quentin Tarantino mainstreamed torture," he should be able to argue that. If I (or anyone else disagrees), we should argue that. If we hit a "we agree to disagree" point, fine. And maybe we have. But can't the conversation be the point?

And, personally, I do think that a discussion of the unintended consequences and the intentions of artists is a good thing and worthy of discussion.

Thomas Garvey

Dream on, Malachy. Move on, 99. I'll be developing my points more thoroughly on www.hubreview.blogspot.com.


Thomas says:

"And ponder, please, for a moment, the milieu into which Tarantino released this little fable."

Pulp Fiction was released in 1994.

From wikipedia:

"Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer (May 21, 1960 – November 28, 1994) was an American serial killer and sex offender. Dahmer murdered 17 men and boys – most of whom were of African or Asian descent – between 1978 and 1991, with the majority of the murders occurring between 1987 and 1991. His murders were particularly gruesome, involving rape, torture, dismemberment, necrophilia and cannibalism."

Brian Silliman

Hey Thomas...judge Tarantino all you want, but lay off Jar Jar Binks you tough guy you!



I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the discussion over this fascinating film, which the conversation has veered away from a bit. I just saw "Inglourious Basterds" last night, and I find it interesting that my initial reaction seems to be quite different from many others.

Perhaps I should preface my comments by stating that I am not a big fan of Tarantino's previous films. Yes, they are fascinating, visceral collage-romps through various styles, entertaining and stylistically provocative, but I have never felt like I could really sink my teeth into a Tarantino film. Until now.

With "Inglourious Basterds", Tarantino has stepped onto the stage as a historically and politically relevant, as well as ethically responsible, filmmaker. I view this movie as his great shifting of the WWII battlefield from the military to the aesthetic, declaring that it was cinema where the war was won. Tarantino is not "re-writing" history so much as re-positioning our view of it. Hitler, Goebbels, Goering all died in the movie theater, laughing and crying at a tired, stagnant heroic propaganda flick--two hours of a guy sitting in a tower shooting oncoming soldiers! They had trapped themselves within that theater, reproducing the same aesthetic that had captured the imagination of the German people in the 20s and 30s, never innovating. Against this, artistic experiment, French resistant art, knowledge of German film (the brief-but-significant appearance of the British critic) all were powerful weapons used in fighting the Nazis and ending the war.

Certainly this reading of the film is far from complete, but I think it can serve as a productive and provocative entry point in discussing "Inglourious Basterds" in a more complex, nuanced way than simply "revenge fantasy". I would be very interested to see what others think.

malachy walsh


Yes. Makes a lot more sense - and is more interesting - to me than the direction this rambling thread took.

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