I have a very specific routine in place for watching movies I get on DVD from Netflix. I get off work in the mid-afternoon and my first order of business is generally a little bit of goofing off (like, say, taking a short nap or playing some computer games). Then around 5ish I pop whatever disc I have on hand into the DVD player because if I start watching a regular length movie around that time then it'll wrap up just as I'm starting to get hungry for dinner. After the credits roll I'll go for a short walk to the post office to put my little red envelope back in the mail, then I'll grab a bite to eat while I'm out, and finally I'll return home with enough time to write before bedtime.
Now, the most important part of this process is not the film watching or the writing, it's actually the walk in between those two steps. My evening constitutional clears my head and it gives me a little space to think about what I want to talk about today. That little break provides me with whatever clarity I have, and I'm telling you all of this because last night's walk made one thing abundantly clear to me.
True to form, yesterday I started watching Inglorious Bastards in the early evening and it wrapped up just in time for dinner. As I was walking towards the post office I was trying to figure out what the main thrust of my review was going to be. I had a lot of options, but none of them were super compelling. I could compare it to Quentin Tarantino's 2009 war movie Inglorious Basterds (which explicitly took it's title from this 1978 exploitation film)... But that seemed too facile since the two films don't really have much in common besides their "ragtag bunch of misfit soldiers goes on a suicide mission against the Nazis" plots. Bastards is a straight ahead war film where generic bad-ass types try to hijack a Nazi train while Basterds is far more Tarantinoesque, in that it features characters who actually have personalities and multiple overlapping plots. What could I possibly say about two movies that are so dissimilar in tone and execution that would seem worthwhile?
My next train of thought: I could talk about how digital media is changing our interaction with culture. You see, I put Bastards into my Netflix queue around the time that Basterds came out because I was curious about the forgotten gem that had inspired Tarantino. Then I kind of forgot about it for six years... Until earlier this week when I saw it in the middle of my queue and thought "oh yeah, that might be fun." On the one hand it's kind of nice to have access to a service that remembers all the movies that you kind of sort of decided that you should check out; there's a certain comfort inherent in the thought that Netflix will keep track of all your brainfarts for you. On the other hand I might have been better off just forgetting that this movie existed, because Inglorious Bastards is pretty cheesy and my life would have been totally fine if I'd never seen it. I knew that I could probably wring a thousand lukewarm words out of my ambivalence towards the way that our new digital age refuses to let us forget imminently forgettable artifacts... But then again, so could anyone who has ever been on YouTube.
My final train of thought: I could just do a straight up review and talk about the film itself. (An original concept, I know.) Specifically, I could talk about the thing that bothered me the most about Inglorious Bastards - namely how cheesy it's many fights were. Whoever choreographed this film's combat scenes understood actual combat about as well as prepubescent kids who are playing "doctor" understand sex - they seemws to get that shoot outs require people to carry guns, and that guns sometimes cause people to stop moving, and that sometimes people get sad when their friends stop moving, but the filmmakers did a bad job of conveying the look, the feel, or the emotion of real battle. Most of the Bastards Vs. Nazis sequences involved the Bastards shooting wildly in the air while costumed extras would all "die" by exaggeratedly falling over. Maybe I'm just spoiled because I've seen too many war dramas like Saving Private Ryan which aim for realism, but I don't really have much of a taste for this sort of constantly-violent-but-never-bloody film anymore, because there's not much you can get out of a death scene if the film isn't actually going to engage with what mortality really means.
At this point in my walk I was at a cross roads, trying to figure out some way to take three mediocre ideas and turn them into one good idea. However, I wasn't thinking about that too hard because I kept getting distracted by thoughts of dinner. Fortunately, the instant that the disc was safely back in the USPS' loving bosom the answer to my food problem became apparent, because as soon as I looked up from my beloved blue metal box I saw that the Burrito Bar was still open. Now, I don't generally go to the Burrito Bar because their cuisine isn't nearly as good as the food at other nearby burrito places like Chipotle or Laughing Planet or Cha Cha Cha or Pepinos (... As you might be able to tell, I do this walk a lot.) However, the Burrito Bar does have cheese dip and I was in the mood of nachos with queso.
As I was eating my chips I started thinking about how much I love cheese dip. I mean, I was really thinking about how much I really love cheese dip. Specifically, I was contemplating how I always choose cheese dip when cheese dip is a choice I can make. And then realized that if I was God, I would never have chosen Moses to lead the chosen people, I would have chosen cheese dip, because double-choosing cheese dip is twice as nice. Which then lead me to a follow up thought: the sequence of events in Genesis is messed up, because Genesis says that God created Man, and then years and years later Man created cheese dip on his own. But that's dumb because God should have created cheese dip first on like Day Two and then created man second closer to the end of His work week. This is not just because cheese dip is more important than Man (although I would make that argument) - this is because I think Adam would have been pretty stoked if he had entered into an Eden that was already pre-supplied with cheese dip in addition to figs and apples and whatnot.
I couldn't shake this cheese-centric train of thought. The entire time I was walking back to my house I was still thinking about the Old Testament's unsatisfactory relationship to liquid queso. After I had been obsessing about it for a half hour or so I came up a joke that my friend Billy would have loved: "'Are You There God? It's Me, Moses, and I'm Wondering Why You Have Forsaken Me For Cheese Dip" - A Judy Blume Biblical Mystery". That started another cascading series of digressions, specifically about how Judy Blume missed her chance by not making a series of bumper stickers that just said "Are you there God? It's me [insert your name here]." That phrase is religiously ambiguous enough that I think she could have really cashed in by playing both sides on the whole fish vs Darwin-fish bumper sticker wars. But alas, she failed to completely monetize one of her most famous book titles.
When I arrived back at my house and sat down to write I realized that I had spent so much time thinking about cheese dip that I hadn't actually bothered to come up with a solid argument for or against Inglorious Bastards. Even worse: I was now full of dairy-ish products and tired. Was I going to fight the sleepiness to write a half assed piece about a half assed movie, or was I going to call it a night and worry about it later? I fretted about it for a second, but then I had my epiphany: if I spend ninety plus minutes watching your movie and can't even think about it for more then ten minutes without getting distracted by thoughts of dinner then clearly I don't care about your movie, and if I don't care about it why worry about what I'm going to say about it? I decided that my best course of action was to forget that Inglorious Bastards ever existed, then to go to bed and hope that I would dream about a heaven where every new angel carries around a fondue pot in addition to their harp. And that's exactly what I did.
Winner: Enh who cares