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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Inglourious Basterds" alter history; spelling


Prior to sitting down for Quentin Tarantino's latest two-plus hour homage to films he didn't make, films he did, gratuitous violence, verbose dialogue, comments about movie making with his movie making, and bare women's feet, I had to take a leak. In the men's room, a gent close to my age was violating a cardinal rule of Man Etiquette - Thou Shall Not Have A Boring Cell Phone Conversation Whilst Aiming Your Johnson Into A Urinal. He ended the conversation thusly:

"Hey man, I have to go... I'm about to see the new Brad Pitt movie."

Film Snobbery 101: even if he resurrected Orson Welles, Ghengis Kahn, and Jesus for the lead roles, you ALWAYS refer to a new Quentin Tarantino movie as "the new Quentin Tarantino movie".

His faux pas was even more apparent some three hours later: if you've seen the trailers for "Inglourious Basterds", you've seen pretty much every scene with Pitt and his Misspelled Miscreants.

This is a classic Tarantino bait-and-switch. Make the audience think one thing, and show them the opposite. Think he's going to tell a story in chronological order? Not going to happen. Think there's going to be a massive and protracted fight scene between Uma Thurman and David Carradine? Blink and you'll miss it. Think a movie about a covert squad of Nazi-skull-bashing Jewish-American soldiers will actually be about a covert squad of Nazi-skull-bashing Jewish-American soldiers? You can suck on Tarantino's Vincent Gallo, if you get my drift.

Instead, "Inglourious Basterds" focuses more on a Jew-hunting SD officer, Colonel Hans Landa, played by the fantastic scenery-chewing Christoph Waltz, and the owner of a small Parisian movie theater, Shosanna Dreyfus, played by Melanie Laurent. The Basterds, if they're able to improvise, will have an opportunity to blow a bunch of Nazi brass to the Great Big Nuremberg In The Sky, but not before a lot of Tarantino-styled slow-pace build-up-the-suspense conversation.

Paying homage to any number of spaghetti westerns, the most notable parallel being the first scene in "Basterds" and the first in "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly," Tarantino again and again showcases his ability to painstakingly ratchet up the tension of a scene with the threat of violence and absence of key information. Whether someone is enjoying a strudel or about to get their head smashed with a Louisville Slugger, Tarantino will make you laugh, gasp, and holy balls, will he make you wait. If this happens to be your cup of tea, you're in luck - "Basterds" seems to be, more or less, about five long, intense conversations interspersed with quick laughs, a dash of Mike Myers, and some good ol' fashioned knife violence.

The aggregate professional reviews seem to herald the same point, namely, the scenes are fantastic individually but don't seem to quite add up to a complete movie. Fair enough, aggregated professional reviewers. With Tarantino, though, the journey is always more important than the destination. With "Inglourious Basterds", the sum is less than the funny, brutal, and shocking parts, but with individual parts that are so much fun, the sum doesn't really matter.

TOO MUCH: foot fetishism, gratuitous Samuel L. Jackson and Harvey Keitel 'cameos'

COULD HAVE USED MORE: Nazi torture, Brad Pitt's southern drawl, forgotten 70's superhits

FILM SNOB NOTE: A face projected in smoke is the coolest "Sunset Boulevard" visual quote you will ever see.

IHYFM RATING: ABOUT FOUR out of FIVE MEHS

IF YOU SAID THIS WAS YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE, I'D THINK: You haven't seen "Reservoir Dogs", "Pulp Fiction", or "Kill Bill", or, you like BJ "Ryan the Temp" Novak so much you're willing to sit through a two-and-a-half-hour movie to hear him deliver six lines.

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