Mr. Bill George Presents

You Magnificent Basterd

In Film on August 22, 2009 at 8:57 PM

Let’s get this out of the way up front: Deathproof was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my life and I still have not forgiven Quentin Tarantino for putting me through it.

And please, spare me the “he was trying to do” this or that. Don’t bother telling me in what light I should view it. It was a waste of my time. Plain and simple. I don’t care if it was a throwback or homage. I don’t care if he made it slow and excruciating on purpose. It was terrible and I’ll never get that time back.

My history with Tarantino has always been checkered. I really love Reservoir Dogs.  Pulp Fiction I’m lukewarm about. Jackie Brown left no impression on me whatsoever. Kill Bill pt. 1 I loved while pt. 2 felt played. His style is often a turn off for me, but the performances in his films and his writing keep me watching.

His latest work, Inglourious Basterds, is his best film to date. I say that without a doubt in my mind. He shows the kind of top notch director he can be when he focuses… but at times he still gets in his own way.

90% of the film is a fictionalized World War II drama about a group of Jewish-American soldiers and German double agents attempting to destroy the Third Reich, and it is phenomenal.

The other 10% is Tarantino being Tarantino: Over the top musical flourishes. Absurd typefaces. Random voiceovers. Unnecessary flashes of imagery, etc. Because his presence is felt so rarely, it proves only to distract rather than enhance.

But the rest of the movie makes up for it and then some. Tarantino has always had a gift for dialogue, but in the past that dialogue has been in a context that is usually fairly entertaining (opening scene in Reservoir Dogs) or worthless (girls in Deathproof).

This time, Tarantino pairs his gift for dialogue with some real substance. The outcome is some of the most riveting exchanges I’ve seen on screen in a long time. I cannot stress this enough: Inglourious Basterds is one of the most compelling movies I’ve ever seen.

A great deal of that has to do with the fantastic performance of Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa. He carries the film and is one of the most interesting and watchable villains Tarantino has ever brought to the screen.

As a warning, all the parts of the film I’m raving about (and also can’t stop thinking about), are subtitled and star no name actors. While the advertisements play up the Basterds and the star power of Brad Pitt, their role is actually fairly small in the scope of the story. Don’t go into the film expecting a constant bloodbath. This is a thoughtful and methodical tale of espionage with some occasional action.

The more I relfect on it, the more I want to see Inglourious Basterds again… right now.

It is the least Tarantino-y of his films and I feel it’s his best. That may say more about my taste than anything else, but believe me when I tell you that this movie is something special.

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  1. Wow. Reading this made me want to get up and get to the theater again to watch this movie. Hold on… I had to stop and watch a trailer to hold me over. I second everything you said. Even though I have not see many of Tarantino’s films… in full that is, this movie is quite amazing. This movie kept me wanting more after every scene. If I do not see this movie again in theaters… there is no doubt it will be in my DVD collection.

  2. just got back from seeing it, liked it very much, though i must say the 10% that you don’t like is something i love in his movies, im a sucker for that theatrical flair. However I enjoyed the movie, it was a departure from his normal routine and i really had no idea what to expect going in yet was pleasantly surprised

  3. OK i’ll try not to hold what you said about pulp fiction and kill bill against you, and yes deathproof was boring… but i just got back from seeing I.B. and i LOVED it also. and i love the tarantino touch that you seem to hate, that’s actually my favorite thing about his films. i dont mind random voice-overs, imagery, and the music in his movies are what make them as awesome as they are!!! the scene where shoshanna is putting on her makeup in preparation for burning the f*ck out of the nazis would be NOTHING without the song that accompanied it.

  4. To clarify:

    -I would never judge Tarantino’s general music selection. He is one of the best in the business. I’m talking about stuff like the introduction of the former German officer turned basterd, there is this unnecessary musical flourish along with the giant 70’s typeface. Leading to my next point:

    -I’m not against Tarantino’s style in general, just depends on the context. It works wonders in ‘Kill Bill’ given the content. They blend brilliantly. I just thought it stuck out like a sore thumb in this movie given the tone and the content of the story.

    -Another note to ponder, A.V. Club writer Noel Murray made a genius point in a tweet to another A.V. Club writer/editor Scott Tobias (yes I stalk the A.V. Club on twitter…). Murray referred to I.B. as a meditation on propaganda films, saying:

    “I’m sure you noticed that NATION’S PRIDE is, in essence, the movie *we’re* watching.”

    Think about it…

  5. Wow, that’s a pretty interesting and true thought. Oh Quentin, you and your ways.

  6. I read your book!

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