The title to this post is not an exaggeration. I went to see Inglourious Basterds today after a good practice session this afternoon with my improv troupe Long Division. I’m not writing to rail (much) against Quentin Tarantino’s latest film. Instead, I want to take a moment to dissect a strange tendency of mine. I tend to see movies I am certain are not of the highest quality.
Considering how much it costs to see a movie these days, why don’t I seek out film art of the highest possible caliber instead of dragging myself unhappily to see shit? It’s not that I always avoid films of quality. It’s just that there are days when I am in a shitty mood and I subsequently put myself into a theater to see a particular kind of bad movie.
Listen, it doesn’t take a super genius to guess that a Tarantino WWII film might suck. He is such a film geek that his movies tend to be about movies even if he doesn’t intend it. So since most of modern US impressions about WWII are based on the info given to us from the movies–even those made during that war–what sort of bizarre bastard child of a story should we expect from a filmmaker who is obsessed with film?
Yuppers. Inglourious Basterds.
I won’t explore in detail what I loathed about the movie, especially since it would involve plot details. I will say that Tarantino often times chooses to display a tasteless and perverse fascination with violence and gore. This is cinema, dude. Try to suggest what you don’t ever need to show and you’ll find that the impact is much greater than the graphic and perhaps even anatomically accurate portrayal of the destruction that might be wrought with a knife’s edge.
Why do I do this? I think I know now. I never looked carefully at this trait of mine to seek solace in a theater while garbage flickers at me in the dark, not until a dear friend asked the simple question, “WHY?” There might be the twisted and indulgent need to feel superior to the material presented. This is a minor thing, almost an afterthought really, because the egotistical gratification from that cannot last very long. [In fact, I reject this as an explanation. I leave it here because it’s always possible, but upon reviewing this essay, I think it’s not accurate.] I suspect the main reason is the very common reason why films are such a popular form of entertainment: to disappear in the dark. When I’m feeling lonely, I can feel less lonely in a movie theater, because even though others are there with me, and quite often couples and groups of friends, there is anonymity and an acceptable solitude that one can find in the cinema.
I suppose that doesn’t make sense to me now as I just re-read what I wrote. I can do the same thing in the park, right? Perhaps not. I mean, sitting on a park bench with a forlorn look on my face is not private. Sitting in a movie allows one to feel alone and not-alone, because we are all engaged in the same activity, at least while the film plays.
When I leave the theater after seeing a bad film alone, the walk out of the theater feels particularly awful. Because not only did I waste money on garbage, I am still feeling like shit. I do not recall one time when I saw what I suspected would be a shitty movie where I felt uplifted, surprised, elevated, or even mildly entertained. Maybe my mood always damns the entertainment value before the first frame plays. I doubt this, because most US movies are of low quality, and when I have revisited a movie later to give it another chance, or seen it again in the company of friends, I don’t recall the verdict being overturned. I think it’s easy enough to judge in advance the merits of a film based on the marketing campaign. It’s easy enough to smell a heap of dung before one plunges one’s shoe into it.
So…I do this to make myself feel worse? I do this to make myself feel worse.
That’s probably the best and truest answer I can come up with as of this writing. I see shitty art to make myself feel more like crap than I did before seating myself in the dark. So when I say I have been tortured by Tarantino, it’s Timmy who’s doing the torture. Quentin Tarantino is a fall guy. It’s my decision to subject myself to potential crap, and sitting through it invariably makes me feel worse than if I had not gone at all.
For the record, I do see good things. This morning I went to a gallery in Brooklyn down by the anchorage of the Manhattan Bridge. A friend has a piece in this show of women artists called tART. The exhibit was good and my friend’s piece was really fucking great. When I sent her a text message today to tell her how much I loved it, I told her it was both epic and sweet, and that’s not an easy pairing to pull off. My friend is Carrie Rubinstein, and even though a picture cannot possibly do the impact of her art justice, elements of it suspended in mid-air, this is a photograph of her piece:
See, I expose myself to good things, too. I’m just terribly erratic. It’s very frustrating!
I suppose this entry is my attempt to end one of my frustrating and silly behaviors by dragging it out from under the rock where it has been hiding.
Now if I can figure out why a man who is as much-loved as I am can feel as lonesome as he does…
Well, that’s nonsense. I know why. But that’s a story for another entry in this on-line journal.