Is This Appealing?

WARNING: This trailer pertains to a Quentin Tarantino film. That is to say, it’s not for the squeamish.

It is a marketer’s job to make a product appealing, to cultivate an appetite for what they’re selling.

This leads me to some questions…

  1. What appetite is this trailer cultivating?
  2. If they want you to want this movie, what is it they are hoping you will want at the end of this preview?
  3. Does the preview achieve their objective? Do you want to see more?
  4. Or does this preview make you less likely to buy a ticket?

Now of course, all of these questions are about the trailer… not the finished film. That raises other questions:

  1. Do you suppose there is a chance that the film itself will be meaningful? Admirable? Honorable?
  2. If it is those things, does that mean this trailer was false advertising?
  3. Is it possible that a film can be honorable while its marketing isn’t?

Discuss.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TadvFY3rA8

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • Caleb Dirks

    I find myself agreeing with a lot of the “tongue in cheek” comments. I also can’t help but recall some of the intensely grotesque scenes described in the book “Blood Meridian”. I’m not sure, however, if Tarantino will bring around the horrifying and great morals that McCarthy was capable of in his horrifying book. If Inglorious Bastards is capable of showing how meaningless, despicable, and self-mutilating this sort of hate filled revenge creates, I’d love it.

    I greatly appreciated Chattaway’s comments as well. Thanks for the discussion Overstreet. Tarantino…

  • Rick

    This trailer had me depressed for awhile, just like the trailer for Hostel (“Tarantino presents”) did a few years back. Just the pointless sickness of it. I think Tarantino gets too much credit because he made some good (twisted, but well-made) films in the past. I thought he was getting more mature with Jackie Brown (more drama, less violence), but his movies since then have proven otherwise. I think movies like Hostel, which he produced, demonstrate his tastes. Discussions about Jews, Nazis, war, politics, satire, supposed misleading marketing etc. seem quite pointless to me; obviously QT wanted to make a war movie because the possibilities for over the top bloodshed are endless. And if it’s the Jews who do the killing, that will make the audience accept even more. That’s the impression I already got from what he’s been saying about this project in interviews over the years.

    By the way, the comment by James got me confused…

    “I don’t necessarily think a film has to be admirable or honorable to be good. Sometimes the best we can expect from a secular filmmaker is at least acknowledgment of their own depravity.”

    Did you mean to put in the words “we” and “their”? That’s especially alarming in the light of your other comment: “As for me, I’ll be there opening day.”

  • http://mediaengage@blogspot.com Joseph Hollies

    Either it is Tarantino being deliberately tongue-in-cheek or thinking he’s achieving a great epic. That said, I haven’t seen every war movie.

    However, my favourite film critic Mark Kermode trashed Death Proof, talking about how Tarantino decided to “go back to that infantile, adolescent claptrap” after Jackie Brown didn’t do too well at the box office. And he liked Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and thought Jackie Brown was the best.

    ‘Infantile, adolescent claptrap’ may summarise this next film or not. Like with Star Wars, I’ve gone a bit agnostic.

  • Adam Walter

    I will see this movie, and it will likely be the most unrestrained viloence I’ve viewed since “The Two Towers.”

  • http://zheist.blogspot.com wngl

    i think this like all things Tarantino is about one thing: Tarantino.

  • James

    This trailer pretty much tells you all you need to know. It’s got Brad Pitt, Tarantino’s signature dialogue and lots of stylized violence. If you are offended by any of the three you aren’t going to like it. As for me, I’ll be there opening day.

    And I don’t necessarily think a film has to be admirable or honorable to be good. Sometimes the best we can expect from a secular filmmaker is at least acknowledgment of their own depravity.

  • AzhiaShalott

    On a completely different note: I would never call Ryan (from The Office) loveable.

  • AzhiaShalott

    “. . .were German soldiers necessarily “Nazis”, i.e. members of the Nazi party who subscribed to its ideology etc.? To what extent might some of them simply have been fighting for their country?”

    I found this trailer disturbing — it is obviously intentionally so in many respects. However, one of the main reasons I found it so disturbing was because my grandfather was German. He fought in the war, and he fought on the side of the Nazis. He did not do so because he bought into Nazi ideology, he did not do so because he was fighting for his country because he believed they were fighting for the wrong reasons, he did so because, after attempting to run away on more than one occasion, he was forced to join the forces and fight.

    I realise that this movie could very well be a satire. If so, it seems like it will join the throngs of contemporary satires that become so focused on entertainment that they fail to really make the point they are [ostensibly] making.

    One definition of the word “pornography” that I have found is: “Lurid or sensational material.” This movie appears like it will fit that description.

  • http://liffondork.blogspot.com Melissa B

    Um…that’s disturbing. But I don’t like bloody killing action movies, so I’m biased. Maybe someone else could see something in that movie that I couldn’t.

  • http://www.bodycreativenetwork.com Dave Von Bieker

    Well, I don’t think this movie is about the events as much as those events “through the eyes of Quentin Tarantino”. From my experience, those are eyes that look to style over substance, and certainly eyes that glorify violence. Knowing a little bit about those eyes, this film scares me. Seeing how it is marketed as one to line up on your shelf beside Resevior Dogs and Kill Bill, it scares me more.

    BUT, in the right hands, this type of story could be about the emptiness of revenge and the ability for war to make monsters of us all. “You become the monster” as U2 put it in “Peace on Earth”. But there is a very fine line in my books between exposing the excesses of violence and reveling in them. And I don’t have a lot of faith in Tarantino to do the former.

    The trailer sort of does make me want to see the movie though. And that is why I won’t. When I am drawn to this sort of thing for these sorts of reasons, I see a piece of my heart that I don’t like. I’d rather not grow it.

  • Adrienne

    Well, that certainly made me curious to see what the film itself has to offer. It looks to me as if Tarantino’s going for the same over-the-top splash of violence he used in Kill Bill, which I think ended up pointing out how truly awful war can get–whether it’s WWII or a personal vendetta. I’ll watch it.

  • http://nateshorb.blogspot.com nate

    I’m mostly disturbed by the fact that BJ Novak — the loveable temp — is gonna be joining in on the bloodthirsty killing. What will Kelly think??

  • Timothy Grant

    I find Tarantino to be quite hit or miss. I liked Pulp Fiction, loved Kill Bill I & II, was repulsed but strangely compelled by Reservoir Dogs. I’ve been working my way through Grindhouse (streaming it from Netflix to my 360 when the wife and kids aren’t home) and find it vastly entertaining, and little understood by the critics.

    I liked the trailer. I’m a huge fan of The Greatest Generation, yet I have no doubt that there were those on the side of the good-guys who were not necessarily good guys. Someone once said “War is hell.” I think anything that depicts that and makes the viewer see and understand that does those of us who weren’t there a service.

  • http://thewesternworld.blogspot.com Ryan H.

    To answer your questions:

    1. What appetite is this trailer cultivating?

    An appetite for a cartoonish, bloody violent gratification.

    2. If they want you to want this movie, what is it they are hoping you will want at the end of this preview?

    A violent, silly war flick that merges zany humor and gore.

    3. Does the preview achieve their objective? Do you want to see more?

    Nope.

    4. Or does this preview make you less likely to buy a ticket?

    I’m less likely to buy a ticket. Not only does it seem to be marketed to a very particular group of gore-hounds out there, it has no sense of substance, or even of Tarantino’s usual flair for style. The aesthetic is pretty darn dull.

    And now for the second set:

    1. Do you suppose there is a chance that the film itself will be meaningful? Admirable? Honorable?

    Nope. I’ve actually read the screenplay for INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. It’s just a goofy, violent, almost crazy take on WWII history. Don’t expect a whole lot of depth.

    2. If it is those things, does that mean this trailer was false advertising?

    See above.

    3. Is it possible that a film can be honorable while its marketing isn’t?

    Yes, but this is not one of those instances.

  • http://filmchatblog.blogspot.com Peter T Chattaway

    Three thoughts:

    One, how does this trailer compare to the ones for Kill Bill? Did those trailers give any hint of the arguably redemptive elements in those films? Or did they simply play up the badass stuff?

    Two, were German soldiers necessarily “Nazis”, i.e. members of the Nazi party who subscribed to its ideology etc.? To what extent might some of them simply have been fighting for their country?

    Three, the Old Testament is a little mixed in its approach to the non-Israelites, but I think it’s safe to say that the Israelites who killed their non-Israelite counterparts didn’t do so in the most rational, merciful, passionless way. They were only human, after all.

    In fact, passages like Psalm 137 fairly cry out for revenge against Israel’s enemies — revenge enacted by humans who are as cruel to those enemies as those enemies were to the Israelites. God himself does not “explain the job description” there, as it were, but the Bible does allow, in a sense, for fantasies of revenge — and an action-comedy about Jews killing Nazis with gusto could, in theory, be just that sort of revenge fantasy.

  • http://www.xanga.com/thedubbs Chris

    I have to admit that I’m a Tarantino fan…I think Jackie Brown is an underrated classic and Kill Bill is one of the most gleefully bizarre trips I’ve ever taken–after seeing Part 1 I never thought that Part 2 would deliver such an emotional sucker-punch. I have a feeling that Tarantino could have the same thing in store for IB. To be honest, I don’t know that the marketing’s any different than what we’d see for a horror film like ‘Friday the 13th”–and while I don’t think a Jason Movie qualifies as “art,” I have to admit that they are guilty pleasures.

    I don’t know–the marketing makes me want to see an awesome action flick without feeling guilty about bad guys dying because, after all, they’re Nazis. Then again, I have to ask questions about myself if that’s the case.

  • http://opuszine.com/ Jason

    Well, this *is* Tarantino we’re talking about. So while it does seem that the trailer does encourage one line of reasoning, what with all of the talk about scalps and whatnot, the entire tone of the trailer struck me as somewhat “tongue in cheek”, with almost a Coen-esque vibe. Which means that, while there’s bound to be plenty of violence and bloodshed — again, this *is* Tarantino we’re talking about — I can’t really get any sense that such things are going to employed in ways that raise moral/ethical questions about the evils of Nazism, celebrating their (violent) destruction, etc. Tarantino is a stylist, first and foremost.

    In other words, I suppose that my answer to your first question is that the appetite this trailer is cultivating is the appetite to see Taraninto’s latest film, and not much else.

  • http://exploration.typepad.com will

    Jeffrey, this is just another instance of what I like to call “terrorism porn”.

    And I like Tarantino’s films, too – most of them anyway. Ah well.

  • http://facesunveiled.wordpress.com Tyler

    It seems like it has the potential to turn into a commentary on the ethics of retribution ala Munich, but that seems like something Tarantino would have been more likely to do earlier in his career. His interests lately seem to be more geared toward frenetic shock value.

  • http://filmatical.wordpress.com/ Nathan

    My initial reaction was excitement at seeing Tarantino do a war film. The glee was then tempered by the realization that this being Tarantino, there will be plenty of graphic, indulgent bloodletting along the way to some well-buried truths or meaning. After my second viewing, though, I suddenly wondered how this film will be viewed in the future, especially by generations who will have no personal connection to WWII, such as living relatives who fought. The line “We will be cruel to the German,” bothers me because while no doubt cruelty was perpetrated by the Allied side, isn’t that one of the reasons that our ancestors fought the war? To prevent an empire of cruelty under Nazism? What I wonder is, by explicitly setting up a mission for the perpetration of cruelty, is Tarantino looking to show the dark deeds that some have to do in support of the greater effort and explore the meaning/impact of that, or is he using it as an excuse to indulge in the usual splatter ‘n mayhem that he’s so fond of? I think of the tag line “You’ve never seen war until you’ve seen it through the eyes of Quentin Tarantino.” Maybe there’s a good reason for that.

  • http://ChristandPopCulture.com Alan Noble

    First off, if the preview is to be trusted, Tarantino appears to be exposing the bloodthirsty, American cowboy, violence-as-entertainment ideology found in many of the ways (films, books, tv shows, etc) we look back on WWII (and maybe he’s intending this to be an extended commentary on Iraq?). Dr. Stranglelove with more violence and less clever dialogue. Pitt’s absurd accent and dialogue, the hard-rock music in the background, and the ridiculous action scenes near the end of the preview all refer to aspects of American’s love of the macho, violent, arrogant, cowboy who is always justified in his violence.

    That’s all fine and good. I think we need to be more aware of the way we glorify violence and dehumanize others, but this film seems to be the same ol’ shtick for Tarantino. I mean, didn’t he make this same point (albeit, not on the subject of war) in just about EVERY other film he’s made?

    I’m also concerned that at this point in our culture, satire is no longer understood as commentary because it is so pervasive. If everything is satire and cynicism, how do we still retain the ability to differentiate between sincerity and insincerity? Daily Show, Family Guy, South Park, Kung Fu Panda are examples of shows or movies that set out to be satirical, and perhaps even for the purpose of commenting on society’s flaws, but the humor of the satire (more often than not) overwhelms whatever commentary is to be had. In a similar way, this film seems like it will do the same thing with violence. Tarantino might want us to reconsider the way we view war, but the action looks so fun that I can’t imagine that anyone, or most people, will get this as satire. But maybe that’s just me.

    It also seems, if my assumption about the theme of the movie is accurate, that Tarantino is reducing our cultural understanding of WWII considerably so that he can expose it as a misconception. For example, how do the recent Clint Eastwood films and films like Thin Red Line fit into this myth that he satirizes?

    Perhaps I’m totally missing the point here, and I’m not sure if I addressed your questions, but those are my thoughts.

    -Alan

  • http://stillsearching.wordpress.com Brett M

    I don’t think this trailer was any more or less offensive than any other recent Tarantino film trailers. It reminded me a lot of the early Kill Bill trailers, actually. And I absolutely adored Kill Bill. Can a film be honorable if its marketing isn’t? Of course. What marketing is honorable?

  • Doug

    Well, this is a difficult one for me, honestly. The Nazis were evil – killing many Jews in the evil of the Holocaust. So, my situational ethics make me want to see them snuffed out for that evil. But that isn’t very Christlike, per se – unless one views the Americans as some type of holy force, like the people of God being instructed to wipe out the Canaanites in the Old Testament when going in to take over the Promised Land. And God wasn’t instructing His people in the way that Brad Pitt’s character is explaining the job description to these potential candidates. (Bad analogy, I guess.) I am just wondering what a film of that particular war/set of battles from Joshua might look like as a film. Perhaps quite violent/gory. Anyhoo…


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