once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France…

so after some delays thanks to various promised off-day favors and medical appointments and ulcer-related traumas (ugh), i can finally say that i managed to get out to the local cinema and watch Quentin Tarantino’s latest offering: Inglourious Basterds, the film what with all the Nazi-killing and poor spelling as part of the title. and thus, we can now talk about it a little. this is where i would give a SPOILER ALERT for people who haven’t seen it, but intend to one day, but then again the readership of this site (J.Miles) has seen the film. so we’ll talk freely!

but what’s interesting (perhaps only to me) is that every time Tarantino makes a film, i’m always afraid i’ll be disappointed or the film will be a failure; the former is never true (the latter, eh, maybe), and yet it still happens to me every time he releases something. this is perhaps best illustrated with a brief timeline?

Inglourious Basterds
generally, when these Tarantino films are in the production phase, i have no idea how to feel about them; Inglourious Basterds was no exception

A BRIEF HISTORY OF TARANTINO’S FAILURE TO DISAPPOINT JANKLOW

Reservoir Dogs (1992): in fairness, i couldn’t have been disappointed because i had nothing to go on, but in the end i wouldn’t have been; Reservoir Dogs is an excellent crime caper with snappy dialogue and a solid cast that includes the awesome Lawrence Tierney and only suffers due to the inclusion of one Tim Roth. it pretty much gives us the diagram for all the films that will follow in terms of dialogue and soundtrack. i should probably watch this again, as it’s been a while.

Pulp Fiction (1994): if you needed any proof of how good this film is, it makes John Travolta look like a competent actor with screen presence. oh, i NEVER get tired of bashing Travolta! still, to some extent it’s just a fancier version of Reservoir Dogs: good cast, plot unstuck from time, lots of snappy dialogue that’s not really related to any of the matters at hand; you can even see some of the replaceable parts being changed: the excellent supporting actor (Jackson for Buscemi), the gruff voice of doom (Rhames for Tierney), the douchebag (Travolta for Roth). it’s also the start of a mild Uma Thurman obsession for Tarantino, but this is a mild transgression.

Jackie Brown (1997): this is the most nondescript of all Tarantino’s films; it’s not bad at all, it just fails to capture people like the previous films. yet i wasn’t disappointed because i don’t think i was expecting too much from it and, frankly, it’s not a bad film at all, it’s just kind of there. THIS is actually the film i need to watch again. and it’s still got a great cast and good dialogue and that’s what Tarantino’s really about, right? honestly, the only thing about this film i can call outright disappointing is that he got De Niro in this film and didn’t seem to fully capitalize on him.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 & 2 (2003-2004): so this is where i started to worry for Tarantino, as things got more experimental. a martial arts epic slash Western starring Uma Thurman? and one that’s going to be broken into two parts intentionally? this isn’t Lord of the Rings, Quentin? still, the film’s still got our hallmarks (good cast, even with all that Madsen, and good dialogue) and it’s crazy enough that it works: limbs get chopped off left and right, Shogun Assassin gets some screen time, Carradine is somehow involved.

Death Proof (2007): i alluded to economic failure earlier because we all know that Grindhouse didn’t do that well, and probably for the same reasons i was concerned that i would be disappointed here. except that the fake trailers were awesome and Planet Terror was awesome (it’s packed with zombies AND it’s hilarious? Rodriguez at his best) and those two things alone tell us that the economic failure was just a tragic failure on the part of the movie-going public. but more to the point: Death Proof itself is a good film… it’s just not as good as Planet Terror. it’s not as good as previous Tarantino films either, to be frank, but given the degree of shit i heard about it… i was not disappointed in the end. every film should end with Rosario Dawson beating someone to death before “Chick Habit” comes blaring out of the screen. no, seriously, EVERY film.

which brings us to…

Inglourious Basterds
i love it when a plan comes together!

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009)

see, in the run-up to this film, i heard many things that sounded a little bad; this was perhaps to be expected, because it’s a Tarantino film and the man is clearly talented but INSANE, but i suppose you’d say that these criticisms sounded more “legitimate.” the word on the streets internet was that the script seemed exceptionally weak, that Pitt seemed like poor casting, that the Weinsteins were having such money trouble as to doom the production, and so on. hell, even the intentionally-misspelled title had us all nervous. and your humble narrator was, in short, wary of being disappointed; after all, EVERY director seems to eventually drop the ball a little. case(s) in point: i adore Scorsese and Kurosawa, but i’ll bet you we could agree on at least one film in their respective filmographies that we see as sub-par.

but i digress, because it turns out that i was completely wrong. Inglourious Basterds was awesome. i shall now elaborate to some extent:

plot: you really need spoiler alerts for this, but the face that Hitler (and Goebbels) were repeatedly shot in the face was ruined for me without remorse. and the plot of the film is sort of an expanded version of that: it seems like a bad idea (what with this having no sound historical basis), but it works completely for the kind of crazy, bloodthirsty, spaghetti-Western-in-WW2 film this is. plot is a loose construction, because we’re back to the same old “caper goes haywire” concept that powered every film but Kill Bill; as long as we have crazy scenarios and snappy dialogue, it doesn’t matter.

snappy dialogue: if you don’t like Tarantino’s constant pop-culture tangents, then this film will work better for you; if you like Tarantino’s ridiculous nature, then this film will work for you. “i don’t speak any Italian.” “right, that’s why i said third-best.” again, you don’t have the big, wordy discussions that are often very funny but, in fairness, can drag his films down (Death Proof is probably the best example of this, as we have to wait too long for Rosario Dawson to be- well, we have to wait too long to get Rosario Dawson in the film, period).

Inglourious Basterds
yes, it’s a Tarantino film, so you KNOW some ridiculous nonsense is going to constantly be occurring

cast: so Pitt does a good job, but i should have suspected that, because he’s a good actor. as some have said, Christoph Waltz is awesome as Col. Landa, but he’ll never really get acknowledged for it because he’s playing a despicable Nazi villain… but he really is phenomenal. Eli Roth was such a weird choice to be cast, but he really makes this work (and i don’t know if that’s on Roth or Tarantino). the rest of the cast is equally good, but of less consequence, though i will make three notes:
01. it’s awesome that Samuel L. Jackson and Harvey Keitel snuck in for uncredited voice-overs;
02. Mike Myers out of nowhere as General Fenech was excellent, and i would add that the scene in question (he and Hicox being super-British) had me cracking up, and yet NO ONE even hinted at it occurring;
03. Til Schweiger is this dude that plays Hugo Stiglitz (who’s awesome just for his little title shot alone) and i always like seeing him in films whenever it happens. i like to refer to him as “the guy that makes watching SLC Punk not be a waste of my time.”

miscellaneous: because some things escape my ability to categorize:
–there’s a lot of seen but unmentioned back story in this film: Aldo Raine’s neck scar and the names on Donowitz’s baseball bat are the best examples. showing this stuff while NOT feeling compelled to tell it is something i like in films.
–one thing i realized was how much of the trailer’s shots were from earlier in the film. while this wasn’t the case 100% of the time, considering how much modern trailers give away, i had to make a mention of this, even if it’s just an erroneous notion of mine.
–having Ennio Morricone do so much of the soundtrack is a) awesome and b) a good indication of that “spaghetti-Western-in-WW2” thing again, even if b doesn’t matter so much because of a. plus, all the non-Morricone stuff that has no place in a period film is completely worth it. how appropriate is the usage of David Bowie’s “Cat People?” only the most appropriate! seriously, though, “Cat People” rocks, so much that i bet my audience (again, J.Miles) has no idea what i’m talking about.
–so i really liked the sequence where Zoller acts like a dickhead and Shoshanna shoots him, because i was afraid he’d be a humanized Nazi (which happens all the time)… and Tarantino didn’t do that and it was great. whereas Shoshanna being a little oddly concerned for his demise (especially since she shot him) is a nice touch to make HER craziness seem like appropriate revenge. and her getting shot was just a crazy “what the fuck” moment that worked.
–also, i am pretty sure that Shoshanna was packing a Colt or FN M1908 Vest Pocket, which a) i love to spot in films (see also: Heist) and b) i own one of. and we all know i love to spot crazy guns in movies.

Inglourious Basterds
alright, Diane Kruger, i forgive you for appearing in Troy. now just get the Weinsteins to straighten out this DVD nonsense

in short, i summed this viewing up by telling someone, as i walked out of the theater, that i wished i could walk right back in and watch it again. it’s good and it’s fun. in the end, i don’t know why i expect to be disappointed by Tarantino… except…

01. there’s this shady DVD issue with his films that keeps me from owning a complete collection of them. i never bought Kill Bill on DVD because i refused to be made to double-dip, only for the two Kill Bills to STILL not be released as one film; i am still resisting buying Grindhouse as two separate DVDs for the same reason. i don’t blame Tarantino for this… but it’s disappointing.

02. you know what i think Tarantino will never do? make a good, SERIOUS film. it doesn’t matter if he does or not, but the thing is, i know he’s a raging film nerd, so you have to suspect that he’d like to as some point. he’s not that old and he’s got much more film to make, so, you know, it might yet happen.

in closing, so see Inglourious Basterds. there it is.

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