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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Inglorious Basterds

There are certain film directors who are so obnoxious and arrogant in their craft that I strongly suspect their lofty reputations have more to do with hype than talent. Quentin Tarantino is probably in the top 3 on that list, for me. That's the reason I had no interest in watching this movie in the theater.

Well, as often happens, I later second-guessed myself. I heard others describing scenes, then saw the trailer when the movie came to cable. Why not give it a chance, sez I. I initially had no interest in watching Saving Private Ryan or Love and Basketball, either, but boy am I glad I took a chance on them anyway.

Tarantino still loves trying to shock his audience with bloody gore and prolific profanity, but perhaps he's matured a bit. I certainly wouldn't take my mother to see Inglorious Basterds (nor would I even mention the title, come to think of it), but I did enjoy the experience.

I was pleasantly surprised at how 3-diminsional the German sniper in Enemy at the Gates was portrayed. Looks like QT took a page from that book. His villains are not just Germans, but Nazis...but not B Movie Nazis. "The Jew Hunter" had a dash of complexity, and it was downright disturbing what a pleasant conversationalist he could be. Yes, the audience just knows there's homicidal malice percolating under all his charismatic niceties, but it's far more sophisticated than it was with the Samuel L. Jackson character in Pulp Fiction. Jackson's mob muscle character struck me as steeped in stereotype--although a newer, fresher stereotype at the time. Now how in the world is it even possible to depict a ruthless Nazi like the Jew Hunter without resorting to stereotype(s)? It seems to me QT found a way.

I may be the last dude in the universe to see this flick, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone in case I'm not. Let me just say that when the movie drifts blatantly into an alternate history scenario, the audience is treated to what might be the most gratifying scene segment ever filmed. I felt compelled to watch it over and over, laughing, cheering and gesticulating wildly. (Aside from the TV, I was alone in the room. Hope nobody heard me.)

Oh, but I shouldn't limit my artistic dislike to QT--Brad Pitt is another Hollywoodite I don't care for. Pitt starring and Tarantino directing would normally be a guarantee that I couldn't possibly enjoy a movie. But I give credit where it's due: Pitt was the one of the few redeeming assets in the underwhelming Burn After Reading. And, like him or not (not, in my case), the actor knows how to play rednecks. His character in this flick is authentic throughout, and his hillbilly swag radiates through the screen in waves--even when his mouth is closed. The scene in which he is posing as an Italian filmmaker, demonstrating pronunciation for the Jew Hunter, is priceless. I have to give Pitt an A+ for this performance in Inglorious.

I was almost ready to sit up straight and nudge QT off the Top 3 Platform of Most Obnoxious Filmmakers because of his handling of the German war hero...up until the end. Alas, no A+ for you, QT.

But this is a solid B or B- effort. It was enough to convince me to take a chance on his next flick--whatever that's gonna be.

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