IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! Inglorious Basterds

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The 2010 Academy Awards are a fading memory. By now most of the Internet has moved on to more interesting things, like porn stars playing D&D. However, if I might indulge your attention for a few minutes, I'd like to discuss one of the films that was in contention for best of the year. Now, I don't wish to give the impression that I like The Hurt Locker any less. I still stand by everything I said in my review of that movie. However, comparing it to the film I'm about to discuss will require me to point out some things that fall on the negative side of things when it comes to Ms. Bigelow's magnum opus to date. The Hurt Locker is a fantastic film, and I'm so glad a woman won Best Director for it because she deserves the hell out of that award. But I'm not here to talk about that film again. I'm here to talk about Inglorious Basterds.

Courtesy Universal
What a bunch of basterds. The Americans can be a bit mean, too.

The film begins "once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France." This sort of phrasing is par for the course when it comes to the film's mastermind, Quentin Tarantino. I know there are a few people out there who just hear that name and immediately want to move on to something else, but bear with me, gentle readers. The trailers and adverts, for the most part, focused on the Basterds themselves, an octet of Jewish-American soldiers brought together by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) to form a covert resistance unit working behind enemy lines in France the way the Apaches worked along the frontier during America's expansion westward. This includes brutal beatings, scalpings and other means of revenge that verge on the gruesome but are somewhat palatable due to the fact that, let's face it, the Nazis are perhaps the greatest punching bags of all time.

However, these boys are only part of the film's overall story, which encompasses the lives of disparate characters from all walks of life, from a Jewish refugee living incognito in Paris all the way up to der Fürher. The refugee, played excellently by Mélanie Laurent, owns a cinema that will be hosting a gala premiere of the latest Nazi war film created by infamous propagandist Joseph Goebbels, and when the guest list featuring most of the German high command is leaked to the Allies, the Basterds are tapped to provide on-the-ground support for an operation that could, if successful, alter the course of history by ending the war in a single evening. The biggest potential wrench in the works is a nefarious SS colonel played with flourish and poise by Christoph Waltz who is best known by his nickname, "The Jew Hunter."

Courtesy Universal
This was another Oscar well-deserved.

Back to Tarantino. Along with his apparent propensity for violence, he is known for taking parts of a film's plot and mixing them up at the expense of linear progression for the sake of scene construction and character-building. When we see the first chapter heading, I think some could be excused for expecting the next 'chapter' to jump ahead only to have the one following jump back. However, the plot unfolds linearly, and the pacing of the story never feels schizophrenic or even rushed. As in all of his films, Tarantino leaves his scenes long, focusing us on the characters and the situations rather than the action or spectacle. Scenes of violence, in Inglorious Basterds, are handled with brutal speed and visceral cutting, and it never feels as if Tarantino is lingering on the violence for the sake of the violence. Instead, the violence happens, as it does in war, and we move on. The violence is a means to an end, rather than an end in and of itself. While Tarantino is no stranger to violence being its own end, with Grindhouse under his belt, here as in some of his other films the violence is treated with brevity so that we can focus on perhaps the strongest aspect of his filmmaking: the characters.

Courtesy Universal
This could be Brad Pitt's funniest accent performance since Snatch.

With characters come dialog. Sometimes you can get away with establishing and building characters without it; Wall-E and Up being the best examples in recent memory. However, Tarantino is known for his dialog as much as he is for violence, if not moreso. Here, he definitely focuses on the words spoken by these characters, rather than simply their actions. Eli Roth's Sgt. Donowitz is a bit of an exception, as he conveys a great deal without speaking, but he's still part of an intricate network of characters who all have something to say. Even minor characters, like the farmer we meet in the beginning of the film and the refugee's assistant in the cinema, are given tightly-written, well-acted dialog that helps draw us into the experience. Despite the overarching theme of the film, and the ways in which the Basterds exemplify it, the characters never feel artificial or cardboard. They feel real.

MovieBob has already discussed what I'm about to bring up at length, so let me just touch on it and then tie it into how I began this review. Quentin Tarantino, a man who's never been ashamed of his deep love for film of all forms but especially for "lower" forms of the medium, has created a movie that is, among other things, a treatise on the power of movies. The Basterds especially show us what sort of people are inspired by the macho heroes often shown battling evil with their bare fists on the silver screen. The naive young Nazi war hero played by Daniel Brühl comes from the other end of the spectrum, a man haunted by what he's done on the battlefield but willing to serve as that sort of macho inspiration to his country in Goebbels' film. In the midst of the audience cheering his exaggerated exploits, he is visually disturbed by both what he's seeing in the final cut and how people are reacting to it. With these characters, along with the German double-agent movie star, the British special ops soldier who's also a published film critic, and all of the references to the films of the late 30's and early 40's, Tarantino makes the mission statement of Inglorious Basterds perfectly clear.

Courtesy Universal
As much as I love the Basterds, this is your heroine. Right here.

Films are powerful things. They are often dismissed as mere escapist fodder, a waste of time and money indulged in by those with insufficient imagination to pick up a book or go for a walk instead. However, when a good filmmaker decides to tell a story in the mixed media of sound, sight, dialog and theme, a film can do more than simply wow the masses with shallow spectacle and beautiful stars. Inglorious Basterds sets out to not only tell us this is possible, but also shows us. Films can inspire, enrage and spur discussion and debate. Films can touch people from all walks of life in very different ways, and they can even change people. I'm not sure if a film has ever truly changed history the way Basterds's film-within-a-film does, but seeing this movie demonstrates how possible it really is, and speaks directly to the power of film.

This brings me to why I felt it necessary to bring up the winner of the Oscar for Best Picture. The Hurt Locker is a great film, as I've mentioned on more than one occasion, but when you get right down to it, the narrative & theme are pretty straightforward. As involved as we are in the story as it happens, caught up in the visceral and intimate feel of the scenes, we're not left thinking about much beyond what we just experienced. When you stop and think about it, it wasn't overly complicated. This simplicity works for it, certainly, but beyond the lives of the characters and what it tells us about modern warfare there isn't a lot more The Hurt Locker has to say. Inglorious Basterds, on the other hand, isn't just a sprawling and involving cloak and dagger story set in World War 2, it's a thought-provoking and well-crafted exploration of the true power of film. Considering that the Academy Awards strive to celebrate and promote the power of film, when they're not playing politics or padding their ceremonies with musical numbers and extra advertisements, I'm afraid there's only one conclusion I can draw given the outcome of this year's Oscars.

When it comes to the award for Best Film of 2009, Inglorious Basterds was completely and totally robbed.

Josh Loomis can't always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it's unclear if this week's film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain... IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

BlueInkAlchemist:

When it comes to the award for Best Film of 2009, Inglorious Basterds was completely and totally robbed.

DUN DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUN!

Silly Oscars, how could you give Sandra Bullock any recognition whatsoever?

Great review Alchemist. But now let me ask you, do you take requests? Can you review this film?

It won three Oscars and IT'S FUCKING HORRIBLE!. I hate it so much! It's so stupid and preachy and.... GOD!

Anyway, I would like to hear a second opinion on it from someone I can trust. If you don't have time to review it, but find yourself watching it anyway, I would really appreciate if you could tell me your opinion on it.

Hell, I might even review it myself. But first, I must review Blackadder!

Hubilub:

Great review Alchemist. But now let me ask you, do you take requests? Can you review this film?

Last week's ICFN was a request. I'll PM you on the whys and wherefores to avoid incurring the wrath of Ye Olde Moderators.

Yes, this film was part of my unholy trilogy of great mainstream films last year (Avatar, this and District 9. I haven't seen The Hurt Locker yet) and I think it's really Tarantinos return to form after the boring indulgence that was Death Proof (Planet Terror was pretty good though).

All in all, great review. Again.

Please make a bad review! I can't stand consistency!

/joke.

Watching this tomorrow among with the Hurt Locker. I have to. Judging by your review, totally worth seeing (and since it's Tarantino, that's not surprising).

Furburt:
Yes, this film was part of my unholy trilogy of great mainstream films last year (Avatar, this and District 9. I haven't seen The Hurt Locker yet)

.
Wooh. Now I can take revenge on you for hating Modern Warfare 2. Yee-haw.
(Well, you didn't like it that much, I bet).

Hubilub:

It won three Oscars and IT'S FUCKING HORRIBLE!. I hate it so much!

Sounds kinda like AVGN.
Also, three Oscars and being fucking horrible?
Reminds me of another movie. *hint, hint, wink, wink*

Journeythroughhell:
Watching this tomorrow among with the Hurt Locker. I have to. Judging by your review, totally worth seeing (and since it's Tarantino, that's not surprising).

Furburt:
Yes, this film was part of my unholy trilogy of great mainstream films last year (Avatar, this and District 9. I haven't seen The Hurt Locker yet)

.
Wooh. Now I can take revenge on you for hating Modern Warfare 2. Yee-haw.
(Well, you didn't like it that much, I bet).

Hubilub:

It won three Oscars and IT'S FUCKING HORRIBLE!. I hate it so much!

Sounds kinda like AVGN.
Also, three Oscars and being fucking horrible?
Reminds me of another movie. *hint, hint, wink, wink*

Only problem though, is that Avatar won for the special effects awards and those things.

This film won freakin' Best Picture.

DAMN THAT MOVIIIIIE!

On the review: As per usual very well done. I love your It Came From Netflix series and especially enjoyed this one.

On the film: Bloody brilliant. I found it very, very weird yet still loved it to bits. All the actors were incredible in my opinion and I loved the language jumping (since I am fluent in English, French and know some German). Plus when the comedy happened I found it funny (a scene in particular, the Italian part comes to mind)

Plus:

Furburt:

All in all, great review. Again.

Please make a bad review! I can't stand consistency!

/joke.

Bad as in poorly written, badly typed and completely derivative of other works? Or bad as in saying something like "Outpost is the best sci-fi video game ever"?

notyouraveragejoe:
On the review: As per usual very well done. I love your It Came From Netflix series and especially enjoyed this one.

Thanks for your support. You folks inspire me to keep this series going.

I often wonder if some sort of video supplement might work for it.

BlueInkAlchemist:

notyouraveragejoe:
On the review: As per usual very well done. I love your It Came From Netflix series and especially enjoyed this one.

Thanks for your support. You folks inspire me to keep this series going.

I often wonder if some sort of video supplement might work for it.

Yeah, I think it could. But only if it was a supplement a la Escapist Magazine. Thats just cuz your writing on its own pulls it along on its own so it'd be a shame if you just turned to video.

Loved the film, adored the review.

Needless to say, good review, the Escapist should really consider giving you your own section for these.

 

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