When Jews Attack: Inglourious Basterds Review

August 31, 2009


The opening chapter of Inglourious Basterds is titled “Once Upon a Time in Nazi Occupied France” – and it’s a title you can read a lot into right from the outset. Just as Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time in America re-imagines America’s Wild West as a storybook fable of mythic grandeur, Quentin Tarantino’s latest cinematic extravaganza re-imagines World War II as a loving homage to spaghetti westerns, a delirious revenge fantasy, and a celebration of cinema’s power to rewrite history as an epic fever dream. In the fantastical alternate movie-verse of Tarantino’s oeuvre, World War II ends in 1944, with Jews exacting bloody revenge on Adolf Hitler in a hecatomb of terrorist atrocity. It’s probably the boldest, most irreverent and gleefully unrighteous take on World War II that’s ever been committed to film. And thank God for that. If I had to sit through another of the portentous odes to self sacrifice and salutin’ the flag that have cluttered up the war movie genre for the last couple of decades, I think I’d suffer a spontaneous attack of narcolepsy.

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The Man Who Stopped the Doomsday Clock

August 28, 2009

Nuclear Explosion

Over here at The Grand Inquisitor towers we tend to have a rather sardonic take on world affairs. Human history is essentially the history of manipulation, exploitation and violence. Amid the cast of murderers, bandits, despots and slaves who have thus far constituted much of the human race, there hasn’t been a hell of a lot of people who’ve really been worth celebrating. If you had to divide humanity into two, broad categories, the only honest labels you could apply would be “evil” or “mediocre”. Or bullies and their victims, if you prefer. Genuine heroes are about as commonplace as Methodist Christians in South Waziristan. Every now and then, however, you stumble across a figure who really is quite commendable. The handful who actually wrote a decent book or produced some worthwhile music, maybe. Or take the subject of today’s article, Vasiliy Alexandrovich Arkhipov, who pretty much saved the entire planet from apocalyptic destruction, Superman style. Normally, world saving scenarios just don’t take place outside of comic books. But back in October 1962, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis,  with the doomsday clock just seconds to midnight, something like a comic book scenario actually did take place. The funny thing is, very few people appreciate just how close us human beings came to wiping ourselves out, or that a guy called Vasiliy Andropov saved the world.

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Despot of the Week #5 – Kim Jong II

August 26, 2009

Kim Jong II

In a world that has become increasingly uniform along the lines of democracy and free market economics (or at least the pretence of those ideals) it’s somehow comforting to know that there’s one little country out there that just refuses to toe the line. A country that adopts a policy of utter defiance towards the outside world as its number one guiding ideology. A country ruled by a gang of paranoid crazoids who’d sooner let their own people starve to death than accept any kind of assistance from foreign powers. North Korea, which uses the threat of nuclear weapons like Tony Soprano uses the threat of physical violence – to extort cash and resources from terrified foreign states.

Remember those old Asterix books that always started off with a picture of a magnifying glass highlighting a little Gaulish village, surrounded by fortified Roman camps? Y’know, the story about that one village of  indomitable Gauls that still holds out against the Roman invaders? Well that little Gaulish village is North Korea, the last outpost holding out against the evil forces of foreign capitalist imperialism. At least, that’s how the North Koreans see things. Pretty much everybody else just hates North Korea. And the reason they hate North Korea, is because it’s one of the few countries left on the planet that is genuinely scary, Freddy Krueger style. Forget the phony dangers Saddam Hussein or the Taliban were supposed to pose to Western civilisation. These guys are the real deal. Welcome to the bizarrely insular world of North Korea, where school children are taught that the Dear Leader, Kim Jong II, came down from a magic mountain to bring paradise to the people.

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Afghan Elections: Your Guide to the Cast of Villains

August 19, 2009

Afghan Election

Afghanistan’s second “democratic” election is scheduled to take place tomorrow (20 August, 2009).  It’s largely a sham, however, when you consider that the elected government will have little genuine jurisdiction outside the capital of Kabul. Out in the provinces – the vast majority of the country in other words – the rule of the Taliban still holds sway. Within the narrow confines of the capital,  the government will have little room to institute any kind of meaningful reform. Afghanistan has long since become a bloody battleground, contested between the US led Coalition forces and the Taliban insurgency, with the Kabul based government shunted off to the side in a position of powerless irrelevance. The Afghan government has become little more than a front for wholesale corruption, while various former Warlords, gangsters and other bandits pick over the bones of the ravaged nation.

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Despot of the Week #4 – Genghis Khan

August 18, 2009

Genghis Khan

“The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see those dear to them bathed in tears, to clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.”

   – Genghis Khan

Some 750 odd years later, those same words would be paraphrased by Hollywood scriptwriter John Milius and recited by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian. Only in Schwarzenegger’s heavily mangled Austrian accent it comes out something like this: “Crush yoah enemies, see dem driven befoah you, and hear de lammentation of de vimmin!” Still, if Conan is lifting your lines, you know you must have been one seriously hard bastard. Through sheer force of bloody minded will, Genghis Khan united a rag tag bunch of savage, perpetually feuding tribes under the Mongol banner and turned them into the fiercest fighting machine the world has ever seen. The Mongols swept out of the Asian Steppes and across the length and breadth of the continent, vanquishing everything in their path with a ruthless abandon. Through the devices of pillage, rape and wholesale slaughter, Genghis Khan subjugated most of the known world. For their unfortunate victims, the coming of the Mongols was if the apocalypse itself was visited upon them.

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Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad BNP?

August 14, 2009
Billy Brit

Billy Brit is here to make the world safe for white children.

The British National Party are all set for their annual “Red, White and Blue” festival in Derbyshire this weekend, where bigoted xenophobes from across the UK will gather to celebrate such vibrant and significant aspects of traditional British culture as Morris dancing. Who’s up for it then? No? Doesn’t tickle your fancy? But you’ve got to admit, it must be difficult to figure out what to do on the weekend, knowing that you’re a spiteful bigot and will never be invited to any of the really good parties.

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Prominent Nitwit Says “Send More Troops Australia”

August 13, 2009
Michael O'Hanlon wants to advise Australians on the Afghan War

Michael O'Hanlon wants to advise Australians on the Afghan War

In an article reported in the New Zealand Herald, prominent American foreign policy analyst Michael O’Hanlon has advised Australia to step up its military presence in Afghanistan. According to O’Hanlon: “If America can muster 200,000 troops for two wars, a country of Australia’s size should proportionately be able to find 5,000 troops.” Apparently, O’Hanlon has totally missed an issue that many Australians appear to find much more pertinent: just what the hell are Australian troops doing in Afghanistan in the first place?

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Despot of the Week #3 – Mohammad Reza Pahlavi

August 12, 2009


In this edition of the Despot of the Week, The Grand Inquisitor examines one of the favourite foreign policy tactics of powerful Western democratic states: conspiring to establish vicious dictatorships in third world nations for fun and profit. The Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, was on the point of being ousted by Mohammed Moseddeq’s emerging parliamentarian government, before the CIA, in collusion with British Intelligence, acted to incite a military coup, restoring Pahlavi to power. Once he was back in the driving seat, Pahlavi established the sinister SAVAK agency of secret police as his instrument of control, terrorising the Iranian population with brutal methods of repression for the next quarter of a century. The lion’s share of Iran’s rich oil reserves were divided among British and US corporations, while Pahlavi propped up his regime with a steady flow of Western support, effectively becoming a puppet ruler for his imperial masters.

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Narcissistic Rebellion: Breathless Review

August 10, 2009


Widely cited as one of the most influential movies of all time, Jean-Luc Goddard’s À bout de soufflé (Breathless) dropped a revolutionary bombshell on the cinematic landscape upon its 1960 release. Informed as much by the kinetic pace and pulp thrills of Hollywood gangster flicks as he was by the improvised non-linearity of the burgeoning French New Wave movement, Goddard tore up the rulebook and invented a new cinematic language characterised by spontaneity, radically unconventional cinematography and a self conscious emphasis on style and attitude over narrative cohesion. Yet À bout de soufflé is also a rebellion against conventional morality, with its iconoclastic young leads exhibiting an adolescent rejection of responsibility. They are interested in nothing outside of their own obsessive self images, careening impulsively from one haphazard circumstance to the next.

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US Ignores Hamas Olive Branch

August 4, 2009


As reported in the Wall Street Journal, Hamas Chief Khaled Meshaal has stated his willingness to co-operate with the US in achieving a peaceful resolution to the ongoing Palestine-Israel conflict. If the US can convince Israel to freeze its settlement expansion into occupied territory and repeal the economic and military blockade of the Gaza Strip, then Hamas will be willing to come to the table and accept a peace agreement. All too predictably, however, the official White House response was to restate its refusal to engage with Hamas in diplomatic negotiations, which it views as a terrorist organisation.

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