BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: Inglourious Basterds

Image courtesy of IMDB

Inglourious Basterds
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino (screenplay)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Mélanie Laurent, Eli Roth, and Diane Kruger

I consider myself to be a rather big fan of Quentin TarantinoPulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and Jackie Brown all have their place on my list of favorite movies.  I am disheartened to announce, then, that Inglourious Basterds is without a doubt Mr. Tarantino’s worst film.

By no means does this mean it’s a bad film, it just lacks that all-important vibe of urgency and humanity that brings his other genre pieces to such vivid, unmistakable life.  Is it cool?  Sure.  Is it entertaining?  You bet your ass it is.  But it just doesn’t resonate.  I watched it in the theater and then kind of forgot about it until it was coming out on DVD.  It’s like Avatar in that way.  I liked it, but I won’t remember it.

Where does this movie succeed?  For one, it’s a Tarantino film, so the dialogue is better than pretty much anything written this year besides A Serious Man.  He’s most likely going to take home the Best Original Screenplay Oscar, and he deserves it.  Every one of his screenplays has deserved a nomination, but Pulp Fiction is the only one to take home the trophy.

This is the most successful Tarantino film any way you look at it, with eight Academy Award nominations and a 120 million dollar box office gross.  This was the Tarantino movie for people who don’t like any of his other movies.

What’s the reason for that?  Well, I could say any number of things, from the brutal action sequences to the charming humor, but Kill Bill had both of those.  What that movie didn’t have was Brad Pitt.  If this movie didn’t have him wearing a mustache and talking in some weird Southern accent, all the average Joes who relate to him would’ve stayed away.

Pitt isn’t bad in the movie, it’s just he is to it what Sandra Bullock is to The Blind Side. For real acting of a scarily good caliber, look no further than the Oscar nominated performance of Christoph Waltz.  As Colonel Hans Landa, nicknamed “The Jew Hunter,” Waltz brings one of the deepest, most unique Tarantino characters to life.

The opening scene alone, with Landa entering the home of someone suspected of hiding Jews and interrogating them, sums up not only his great acting talent, but the success of the movie as a whole.  Tarantino’s writing and directing perfectly mesh with Waltz’s calm, yet vicious characterization, weaving in and out of language with the camera tightening around the two as if air was being forced out of the room.  It walks the high-wire of suspense-via-dialogue and succeeds admirably, thanks to Waltz.  He’ll win the Best Supporting Actor trophy, and he should.

The rest of the cast is a mixed bag.  Mélanie Laurent succeeds as Shoshanna Dreyfus, a Jewish woman who plans to lure all of the Nazis into her theater for a big premiere and burn it down with them in it.  Laurent gives the movie a much-needed dose of humanity.

Diane Kruger also scores a knockout as undercover actress Bridget von Hammersmark.  The 30-minute scene in the pub is a great showcase for her talents, as is her scene with Landa at the big movie premiere.

Eli Roth gives the worst performance of the movie as The Bear Jew.  He delivers his lines with a whiny tone and amateurism that renders his character totally unbelievable. He was so unbearable that he took away from every scene he was in.  Saying he should stay behind the camera would be an understatement, but he’s not really that great at that either.

In all, I would count this film as a success.  A flawed, overwrought success with too many characters and not enough good ones.  However, Tarantino knows how to direct a movie with style and substance, and with the help of the great Christoph Waltz his movie entertains and comes to life.

Grade: C+

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5 thoughts on “BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: Inglourious Basterds

  1. Waltz has this in the bag, and that is totally awesome. Would love to see it at least win Original Screenplay, too. Who am I kidding, I’d love to see it sweep the whole damn show, but such is life. One day Tarantino will get his due, great to see him back as a writer.

    • Yeah I’d like to see Waltz win, and I wouldn’t mind an Original Screenplay win for Tarantino. I just feel like he should’ve won Best Picture for any of his other movies, but I guess if they want to pull a Kate Winslet and give him Best Picture I wouldn’t be that against it.

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  3. Tarantino has done way worse than this in my opinion. “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” still top my list, but “Inglourious Basterds” is duking it out with “Kill Bill, Vol. 1” for third place. “Basterds” was crazy and overlong and messy, but I found it to be a beautiful mess. Plus, the movie contains the best character I believe Tarantino has EVER written, Col. Hans Landa.

    Like Aiden, I was decidedly pissed when it didn’t win Best Screenplay. The Academy continues its long and studied career of Tarantino hating. Grr.

  4. Pingback: 10 Movies I Changed My Mind About | CyniCritics

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