Oscar Vault Monday – Inglourious Basterds, 2009 (dir. Quentin Tarantino)

There is so much to write about with this film. Lots of production history and awards history, etc. But those are all things you can look up elsewhere, or watch on the DVD extras, so I am mostly going to stick with various impressions and favorite parts of this film. when taking screencaps for the post I somehow wound up with 177 images. I have whittled this down to 34. It was difficult. I’ll probably post the extras on Tumblr over the week. It’s just such a beautifully composed film. The first post I ever made on this site was about how Inglourious Basterds topped the SAG nominations, so this movie and this site are forever linked. I saw this movie when I managed to get a Friday off from a job that I hated. My mother and I drove 100 miles to Klamath Falls, Oregon and saw this and then got coffee for an hour and then saw (500) Days of Summer. I like to think of that trip as either Inglourious Summeror: (500) Days of Basterds. It was a good trip, if not a little emotionally draining. Inglouious Basterds was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning one: Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Supporting Actor Christoph Waltz (won), Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture. The other films up for Best Picture that year were A Serious ManAn EducationAvatarDistrict 9, PreciousThe Blind Side, Up and Up in the Air.


Obviously, there’s lots to say about Quentin Tarantino, but most of you probably know all of it already. He’s had three films up for Best Picture (this one, Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained), has been nominated for five Academy Awards and has won twice: Best Director (Pulp FictionInglourious Basterds), Best Original Screenplay (Pulp Fiction– won, Inglourious BasterdsDjango Unchained – won). I was recently at the Saturn Awards (I met Ewoks!!!!) and he won Best Screenplay and he gave this pretty great speech, but as manic as he seems when you watch his speeches television, pump that up by a factor of ten and you’ll get close to what it’s like to actually see him give a speech. I can’t imagine what he must be like up close and personal.


This is very much a formalist film, told in five chapters, each of which have a title card like this. I really dig it.


This whole intro scene with Hans Landa (played to perfection by Christoph Waltz) is the most terrifying twenty minutes I think I have ever seen in a theatre. I was so nervous and I never knew when the shooting was going to start. This is as much to Tarantino’s credit as writer/director as it is to the actors and, of course, the late Sally Menke, Tarantino’s long-time editor. Waltz won literally every award (including Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival) for his portrayal of this character and every time I watch the film I am blown away with just how great this performance is. Waltz won Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards for this film and again just this year for his work in Tarantino’s Django Unchained.


Two things about this shot: this is definitely an homage to John Ford’s The Searchers and it is so cool. Two look at that depth of field! Au revoir, Shosanna!!!


We then get this great introduction to the titular characters, a fictional group of Jewish American soliders, whose sole purpose is to get Nazi scalps.


They are lead by Lt. Aldo Raine (I like to think that name is an homage to Aldo Ray), known as Aldo the Apache, played by Brad Pitt in what I think is one of his all-time best roles. He straddles the line between humor and horror with expert precision.


Horror film director Eli Roth stole many a heart as Sgt. Donny Donowitz aka the Bear Jew, who beat the heads of Nazis with a baseball bat. Also pretty terrifying, the use of the Great American Past-Time as a way to kill people is pretty brilliant.


This is maybe my favorite chapter, if only because I love Mélanie Laurent so much and Daniel Brühl is so delightfully creepy hot.


Is there anything more beautiful than a movie marquee? Few things, I think.


Daniel Brühl, like Christoph Waltz, is one of those European actors who speaks a million languages, so he can be in movies all over the continent. This is very handy for a movie where people speak at least four different languages. He plays war hero-turned-actor Fredrick Zoller, who will not take no for an answer.


How is this scene so terrifying?!?! He knows it’s Shosanna pretending to be Emmanuelle Mimieux and she knows it’s Hans Landa, though she’s not sure he know who she is. He orders her milk (she was hiding on a dairy farm in that first scene when Landa murders her whole family). Then he makes her wait for the damn cream. What is going to happen?!?!? I’ve seen this movie many times and the hair still stands up on the back of my neck during this scene.


I took a million screenshots of all the great inserts in this film, but ultimately decided I couldn’t post them all. This one fo the cream, though, I had to post.


After making a huge deal out of the creme, Landa eats about half of his strudel, then puts a cigarette out on the cream. He’s one sick bastard.


You go girl, you get revenge. But also, why does Landa let her go? Why doesn’t he turn her in? Because he’s waiting to see how he can play the situation (which we’ll see later). Also, I think, in a way, he respects Shosanna’s drive and determination. And, he think he’s playing with her psyche, like a cat who taunts the mouse before gobbling it up. Little does he know. . .


Samuel L. Jackson provides some sporadic narration throughout the film. One of my favorite parts is when Tarantino gives the audience a little film history lesson about nitrate film. Pretty good.


Ah yessss Operation Kino, where everything looks too perfect and maybe, probably, is.


So the first time I saw this film I had no idea this was Mike Myers. The second time I watched it I noticed his name in the opening credits (I don’t know how I missed it the first time; I blame exhaustion after driving for 100 miles). He is quite good, actually.


Right about the exact midpoint of the film we get this dandy of a line. I took so many screencaps of Brad Pitt’s lines in this section of the film. His delivery is so right on. That accent! Oh my word. But really, don’t ever start a fight in a basement! Words to live by.


I didn’t talk about Til Schweiger’s Hugo Stiglitz earlier because I was waiting for this face right here. He barely has any lines in this film, but he is such a presence and his one major line (Say auf wiederseshen to your Nazi balls!) is pretty killer.


Oh, Michael Fassbender, no! When he did this my mother and I both gasped. We both knew that’s the wrong way to do a three in Germany. I’m sure many a viewer didn’t, though, and thus were unawares that poor Capt. Archie Hicox gave his cover away. Let’s also discuss for a second that Fassbender’s character is a movie critic (and expert in German cinema) turned solider and spy and that he fucks his mission up and dies. Is this Tarantino saying something about film critics? Hmmmm. . .Oh, but Michael Fassbender you are so pretty and we all know you should have gotten and Oscar nod for your work in Shame. Diane Kruger is also a favorite of mine. The very first film I saw in college was Wicker Park and I loved her in it so much. She actually received a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Screen Actors Guild Awards for her work as German movie star-turned-British spy Bridget Von Hammersmark.


Okay so after Archie gives himself away, German Major Hellstrom (oh that name!), played by August Diehl, notices right away, but doesn’t give away that he notices. Look at the subtlety of that eye movement! Parfait!


Then we get this amazing Mexican standoff where everyone is pointing pistols at each other’s testicles and they even mention that they’re pointing guns at each other’s testicles and it’s probably the most accurate Mexican standoff of all time. There’s a lot of Westerns where men compare guns and you know they’re really comparing dicks. Tarantino’s subversion of that in this scene just makes my Western-loving heart sing.


After everything goes to pot and everyone but Bridget dies, they recoup at a veterinarian’s and come up with a good (bad) plan. This is another scene where Pitt’s performance (and the film itself) balances comedy and seriousness perfectly. I used this shot because inserts!


This is the longest chapter in the film, where all of the storylines collide into one fabulous finale.


It’s starts with this amazing montage set to David Bowie’ss Cat People (Putting Out The Fire). I wish I could have posted a million shots from it because it’s such a beautifully done montage. Not only does it serve to show us how Shosanna and Marcel go about their plan to burn it down, it’s also a bit of an homage to the great training montages of the 80s, only with Shosanna getting ready for the night by putting on make-up and her hat, as if it were for a battle. Which, of course, it basically is.


She is like the great warrior queens of yore, using her “feminine allure” to attack without being suspect. Her choice of bright red dress shows just how badass and fearless she really is.


I love this shot where Landa meets with Bridget. We, the audience, know that he knows that she’s a spy. She doesn’t know. Again, we have a scene of pure terror. Which, of course, does not end well for poor Bridget.


I love the relationship between Marcel and Shosanna. They were persecuted together and they’re willing to die together.


But then stupid Fredrick has to come and ruin everything because he’s “not a man you say no to.” Enough people die by the end of this movie to make it a Greek tragedy, but mostly it’s sacrifices for the greater good, which is what one expects from a great dramatic Western. The way this sequence is shot is so wonderfully composed and so fluid in its movement. It’s both tragic and beautiful. It’s pure cinema.


Speaking of pure cinema. Movies that feature movies in theatres for the win!


Yesssssss. Good. You go Shosanna, burn those Nazis down.


This insert right here. How many times did they have to film this to get it just right?!?!?


All of these shots just make me so happy. The color. The composition. The intensity of it all.


So, as I said earlier, Landa was waiting to see if he could play the situation in such a way to benefit himself. He does so (it’s a bingo!) and secures himself a pardon and a free life in America after the war. This is something Aldo cannot abide and thus he marks him in a way that assures Landa’s past will never be forgotten (the Basterds were know for carving swastikas in the few Nazis they let live, so you’d think Landa would expect this, but. . .)


I really do love that this is the last line because in a way, it’s Tarantino commenting on his own film. And while some might have found it pompous to do so, I think he was just being honest and I think this does represent the pinnacle of Tarantino’s ability as both a storyteller, creator of characters and maker of cinema. All of his skills culminate in a film that is as entertaining as it is a celebration of the wonder of cinema itself.


About Marya E. Gates

Cinephile to the max.

Posted on July 1, 2013, in Oscar Vault Monday and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. blondieotoole

    This is such a perfect, perfect film and I have so many memories connected to it or things I found out because of it. What and awesome and beautiful review!

  2. This was a fabulous movie day – with lattes and drama and two great movies and crying and driving at night on a highway with deep ditches on both sides. I agree; the first 20 minutes of this movie are incredibly terrifying. I could barely breathe. We know that T loves the 3-way stand off in, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and he recreated it in that basement scene. Oh my. And Herr Waltz. I’m not sure I really have words to express my admiration for his talent and skills. T took a chance writing a character that speaks so many languages with perfect accents; what if such an actor didn’t exist? But he did and the world got to meet him and cinema is richer.

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