Sunday, August 23, 2009

Basterds, plus Tarantino in General

It's taken me until right now to discover something that presumably the rest of the free moviegoing world has known for over a decade now: the only way to enjoy a Quentin Tarantino movie is not to take it seriously. I think that's why I didn't like Pulp Fiction that much--I was trying to make it make too much sense. (Alternately, maybe it wasn't actually a good movie at all, but here again, the rest of the free moviegoing world disagrees with me.)

But that's exactly why Inglourious Basterds was amazing--as long as you don't expect anything serious out of it, it's a masterpiece of ridiculousness. Sure, depending on personal taste, there might be a number of reasons you wouldn't want to see this movie. If the over-the-top needless violence in, say, Kill Bill wasn't your thing, you probably won't do well with the over-the-top needless violence in this movie. If you're expecting a thoughtful film about the sensitive issues that World War II raised, you're not going to get it here. And if you want any historical accuracy, forget it.

What you will get is a bunch of dead "Nat-zees", as Brad Pitt's character puts it. And Pitt's Aldo Raine is by far the best part of this film. His barely-literate Appalachian zeal for Nazi killing is incredibly entertaining. It's roles like this that make me actually respect the guy despite all the tabloid nonsense he spawns. Christoph Waltz is equally excellent as the primary antagonist Hans Landa. In fact, he makes a much better antagonist than, say, the Joker from The Dark Knight, because he's believable. Nobody is as deranged as the Joker, but plenty of Nazis were as deranged as Landa, and Waltz plays that derangement with such utter contemptibility and sliminess that you want nothing more than for him to lose.

So really, the movie only suffers when neither Pitt nor Waltz are involved in a scene. Nothing against Mélanie Laurent, but the scenes with Pitt and Waltz are so good that the story of her Shoshanna seems more like a subplot than an integral part of the film. Maybe her story seems weak because the backstory is still a mystery: we have no idea how she got to Paris and became successful following the death of her family. Also, I would have like to have seen the British film critic turned soldier have a bigger part in the movie.

But those flaws don't do much to reduce the awesomeness and absurdity that is Inglourious Basterds. Definitely recommended.

Currently listening: "Turn on Me", the Shins

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