* Somewhere between a rumor an an actual story, the ‘net geek movie item of today has to have been the flurry of speculation around the notion of Harry Potter director David Yates taking on the two-film directing gig on “The Hobbit” recently vacated by Guillermo del Toro. The Playlist claims to know that Yates has actually been offered the position though, even if true, in Hollywood there are a millions slips twixt cup and lip, so to speak, and the fun debates over who would be available and appropriate for the job continue. My first response was that Yates, a highly competent craftsman, wasn’t really enough of a visionary for the gig but, considering that del Toro and Peter Jackson remain pretty deeply involved, perhaps they’ve got visionaries enough on that project.
* On a somewhat similar note, Robert Rodriguez has possibly been offered a shot at directing a Deadpool movie. Since I missed the Wolverine movie and haven’t read Marvel Comics in a very long time, I have no idea what this actually means. I’ll learn.
So, while I was procrastinating conducting in-depth research for this post, covering a promotional screening for the rather glorious “Inglourious Basterds,” I found myself going over numerous reviews and think pieces. One piece for a very respectable and staid looking website started out normally enough but, while praising “Pulp Fiction” and other older films in the Quentin Tarantino catalogue, it quickly became unusually vicious. Tarantino is a filmmaker who has a special gift for generating a certain degree of critical anger, the cinephile hubbub kicked up by critic and film historian Jonathan Rosenbaum over the film’s non-portrayal of the Holocaust being one prominent example, but this was different.
As I noted the attention this particular review seemed to be paying to the ancestry of the cast, crew, and characters, I realized that the hate was not over anything so conventional as concerns that “Basterds” might be trivializing the Holocaust or World War II. I was reading a “white nationalist” web site. Yes, even more than some overly sensitive liberals, Nazis hate “Inglourious Basterds.” Considering it’s a movie in which a bunch of Jews, a part Cherokee good ol’ boy lieutenant, an African-French projectionist, a traitorous movie star, and a few odd others defeat the Third Reich in a painful and fiery manner, displeasing Nazis is kind of the whole idea.
Certainly, no one was feeling conciliatory towards facists or racists of any stripe as a good portion of the “Basterds” cast and crew turned up at the last of L.A.’s revival houses, the legendary New Beverly Cinema, to celebrate the DVD/Blu-Ray release of the the award-winning, genre-blending war flick. Indeed, as neighbors from the heavily Hasidic West Hollywood-adjacent neighborhood ignored the commotion, a few of us less observant entertainment scribes got the chance to talk to a select group of not-quite superstar basterds, including players in two of the more acclaimed sitcoms of all time, a personable musician and Tarantino-buddy turned actor, and a passionate producer who is not about to let any conservative climate deniers take away his Oscar…but that’s all ahead.
I’ve been referring to the controversies swirling around “Inglourious Basterds” since this post from nearly one month back. And if you really want to dig in to all the pro-and-con back among the cinephile crowd, I refer you to the endlessly lengthy, endlessly intriguing discussions conducted by Dennis Cozzalio and Jim Emerson among others. And now, there’s more.
In fact, Dennis scooped me slightly on the video below without even watching it — correctly guessing that it would be worthwhile. It brings home, in a very direct way, the whole issue of whether or not Tarantino’s flirtations with black comedy and playful way with history is appropriate in light of the Holocaust. A big chunk of Israel’s population are descended from European refugees and survivors of Nazi persecution. Some of them actually are those refugees and survivors. If they can take this movie, the rest of us should have no problem.
This 34 minute video is literally shaky. (The person who posted it on Vimeo confessed to typing with one hand and holding the camera with the other.) But it’s riveting and entertaining stuff with, naturally, spoilers galore. Featured are Quentin Tarantino, polylingual newborn international star Christoph Waltz, and Tarantino’s longtime producer, Lawrence Bender. Guess who does most of the talking.