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Thoughts on 'Inglorious Basterds' . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Monday, August 24, 2009

Worth Full-Price, Matinee or Rental: Matinee. I'm a big Quentin Tarantino fan, however, despite 5 chapters and 2 1/2 hours of film, I'd still recommend a matinee based on quality even though you could argue that you get an extended running time if you opt for a full-price ticket.

Will I Own It On DVD: Maybe. The movie might grow on me with some time and distance, but right now, I wouldn't buy it on the initial release price, but might grab it later at a discount or if I wanted to keep my Tarantino DVD library complete.

Overrall Grade: B-

1) 'Inglorious Basterds' treads a different path than the one the trailers led you to believe. Of course it concerns itself with the Basterds, a group of Jewish soliders in WWII who are led by Brad Pitt and commanded by him to scalp 100 Nazis a piece so the Germans "will fear us." But they are actually only a relatively small part of the film (appear for roughly 1/2 the screen time). The other chapters focus on an opportunistic and brutal German commander (Christoph Waltz), a Jewish escapee who assumes a different identity and runs a movie house in France, a secret British operation to infilitrate the Nazis and these threads all conclude during an explosive finale at a German propoganda movie screening.

2) The chapters vary in both length, and quality yet a common theme is that many of them feature extended conversations with characters sitting around tables. A lot of them. And they are mainly carried out in the character's native language, which is usually German or French. I can appreciate the authencity of the decision, however, it also makes it difficult to fully enjoy the performances when you are staring at the subtitles versus their facial expressions and delivery. Tarantino has been steadily falling in love with these long conversation pieces that typically involve a mounting tension which may ultimately lead to violence, and before that, a Mexican stand-off. He has used this device effectively in the past, but this is also starting to produce mixed results as he has begun to really take his sweet time in reaching the end of the conversation. The first chapter in 'Basterds' utilizes this device extremely well. Chapters 3 and 4 are a different matter, however, as that is where the film bogs down and loses some of its momentum.

3) Brad Pitt does an excellent job as Lt. Aldo "The Apache" Raines, a clever and violent hillbilly commander of the Basterds. With a thick backwoods accent and porn-star mustache, Pitt underplays the role, which makes it even funnier and more rewarding as the part was written in such a way that it could have invited overacting. But unlike his recent turn in 'Burn After Reading' (where he went over-the-top), Pitt utlitizes a less is more attitude and the movie is much better off for his choice.

Tarantino has always had an eye for casting, and 'Basterds' is no exception. The supporting and minor roles are all fleshed out extremely well by the actors with Waltz's German enforcer leading the way in terms of quality. He is outstanding, and a possible dark horse candidate for a best supporting Oscar nomination. Eli Roth as "the Bear Jew" who decapitates Germans with a baseball bat is also quite good.

4) If there's one group of people who directors can take violent aim at while not losing their audience sympathy it's the Nazis. The only other group that comes close is pedophiles.

5) Overrall, I was slightly disappointed with 'Basterds.' You can't expect a director to repeat his past glories ('Reservoir Dogs' and 'Pulp Fiction' for me), however, my main wish for Tarantino's next film is that he freely chooses or someone forces him to move back into writing it so that it exists somewhere inside the real world. 'Dogs' and 'Pulp' existed on that plane, but Tarantino has steadily been moving into a hyperbolic B-movie existence that started with 'Kill Bill' (a really fine and entertaining set of movies) kept going with 'Death Proof' (his weakest movie by far and which mainly consisted of characters sitting around tables and talking) and continues with 'Basterds,' which re-writes history so completely that it slams you over the head with how fake everything is.

Tarantino couldn't make a boring movie if he tried, and while 'Basterds' does deliver many thrills and excellent stretches during the running time, I'm simply ready for him to take aim at a project that moves back towards his roots.



  1. Boxer Says:
  2. Mr. Boxer saw this and I decided there wasn't enough vodka in the house to get me through the blood/guts, so I had lunch with my sister instead. I LOVED Pulp Fiction, but I have a low tolerance for violence. However, I agree I wouldn't mind watching a few Nazis bashed with a baseball bat. The scalping? *shudder* I can do without.

  3. Heff Says:
  4. I like a lot of Tarantino's stuff, but this one just doesn't look "over the top" enough for me.

  5. Boxer - Strangely enough, there really isn't that much blood/guts, which is what I was led to believe from teh previews. There are a few scalpings, but overrall, I thought there would be more (not that I needed more per se). The baseball bat scene was a little violent. Ha. Actually I think it was worse than the scalpings.

    Heff - This would work well for DISH. I think you'd dig it enough in that format to watch . . .

  6. I really liked this movie. It wasn't as violent as I thought it was going to be. I didn't care much for the history re-write though. I'd probably give it a B+.

  7. Native Minnow - I liked it, but didn't love it. The history re-write didn't do anything for me, which made the ending less interesting. I went back and forth between B & B- & if it wasn't Tarantino who I hold to high standards, it probably would have higher. And yes, there wasn't nearly as much violence as I anticipated (a good thing I thought).

  8. kmwthay Says:
  9. I really liked this show. I appreciated that the blood and guts were scaled down(some) because I do tend to have a weak tummy for that sort of thing.

    (Kill Bill vol. 1 literally made me throw up.)

    Anyway, it was a great way to kill a Saturday afternoon.

  10. TROLL Y2K Says:
  11. I liked his early work. Working as a clerk at Blockbusters. He should have stuck with that.

  12. Linda Says:
  13. Good review, I liked this one more than expected. I thought it would be a blood bath, but it wasn't. You're right, the trailers were misleading. I kinda liked the twist on history.

  14. JLee Says:
  15. I agree with your synopsis of Tarantino on "steadily falling in love with these long conversation pieces" and decline since "Kill Bill". I actually am with Boxer and Kmwthay with the violence too. I couldn't sit through all of Kill Bill...sort of made me sick, although I may revisit the series since maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind at the time. I also loved Pitt in "Burn After Reading" but for some reason can't take his fakey southern accent. Perhaps since I live in Texas? ;)

    wv: wayboms

  16. Joanna Cake Says:
  17. Ruf wants to take me to see this over the next week... if he gets his DIY finished in time so I havent read the post for fear of any spoilers. Will come back once/if I get to see the movie :)

  18. Kmwthay - I liked it too, and you're especially right about it being a nice way to kill a hot Saturday afternoon. That's exactly what I did at a theater where you could order a beer, which I also did. Ha. Glad this one didn't upset your stomach. :)

    Troll Y2K - It was some independent video store if I remember correctly. But he's easily one of the best directors since the 90s and has had considerable influence on a lot of things are 'Pulp' and 'Dogs.'

    Linda - I was expecting the same, and was pleasantly surprised when I didn't get it. As for the twist, I generally don't like twists on well-known history because it just reinforces the articialness (sp?) of the medium and slams home the fact that it is a movie (which I realize, but . . . ). I can handle small changes or minor points, but this one went for it all. Ha.

    Linda - I think he was supposed to be from Tennessee in the movie. Can't quite remember . . . I thought Pitt was a bit too hyper in 'Burn' but liked him well enough. And yeah, Tarantino is really liking these talks around tables, which is something I'd like to see less of in his next effort.

    Joanna Cake - Nice to see you around, and hope you get out there with RUF & then come on back to see if you agree or not. Just be warned - it is long (2.5 hours), so plan ahead.

  19. BostonPobble Says:
  20. I haven't felt strongly about seeing a Tarantino since the Kill Bills, which is distressing given how much I (we all, given the other comments) loved him prior. If we get to this one, okay. If not, okay.

    Have you noticed that, according to Hollywood, beautiful women were only Nazis if they were Nazis to hide something else or as a cover or something like that (a la Kate Winslet in The Reader)? Otherwise, beautiful women were with the Resistance and ugly, dumpy women were the Nazis out of belief. Go figure.

  21. Bostonpobble - Well, you didn't miss much with 'Death Proof' (his part of 'Grindhouse'). This one has some flair, so it's probably worth seeing if you have some time to kill on the road. And that's a very interesting Nazi observation as I hadn't thought of it before. But you're right. Very interesting indeed.

  22. Joanna Cake Says:
  23. I really enjoyed it. Yes, it was long - as we found out when we realised the free first three hour parking ticket had expired - but I didnt notice, I was so engrossed in the story. The main German guy was stunningly good as was the marvellous Mr Pitt. Great stuff and a fitting film for my first date as Ruf's proper girlfriend :)


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