i’m only doing this because i promised myself i’d start writing reviews again. for the discipline. or something. kate’s away, and i’m working on a script. so i suppose it counts as creative procrastination.
but Inglourious Basterds is a perfect example of why i hate reviews: you come out of a Tarantino movie that’s not as good as some other Tarantino movies, and you have to list the reasons why. and so you make it sound shit. when actually you know it’s 54 times better than any of the movies you just watched trailers for. Case 39 with Renee Zellwegger and a demon foster child? fuck off.
apples and oranges, innit?
so. to be clear right from the top:
this is an A Grade Movie.
it has the scale and the chutzpah that you’d expect. and Tarantino and Robert Richardson (cinematographer) do that thing they do with the camera where you know you’re being shown a big beautifully lit sweeping camera move that draws twatty amounts of attention to itself but you don’t care because it makes you feel so happy. there’s no script editor at work here, scenes go on far longer than you’re used to. it’s brilliantly pitched in the spirit of the great old war movies that know they’re fictional Boys Own stories, rather than the earnest modern ones that try to fake historical authenticity. there are Tarantino chapter titles instead of contrived carefully-scripted plot points. it’s chaotic and bitty and feels like a bunch of short film ideas strung together, or maybe even like levels in a video game. in short: it is not McKee. halle fucking LUJAH.
if you’re reviewing a Tarantino movie, you have to compare it to other Tarantino movies.
so. what is this? In 30 words or less:
it’s the Tarantino war film.
nazis are bad. Spit’s jewish commandos kill nazis. pretty jewish cinema owner hates nazis. their stories converge.
much shooting, scalping, explosions. moral ambiguity, guilty laughs.
and that’s pretty much it. i think that’s the problem. like Kill Bill Vol 1, i realised afterwards that i hadn’t had enough of the Tarantino I love: the banter and characterisation. even in the long scenes of dialogue.
and i don’t think it’s the casting: i’m a huge fan of Spit. this is the kind of redneck role he’s so great at (tarantino wrote it especially for him) but somehow he ended up pulling more of a Mickey the Pikey than a Detective Mills or Tyler Durden.
where are Vincent Vega, Budd, Max Cherry? not here.
in the end i only really gave a shit about one of the characters: Mélanie Laurent’s Shosanna, the cinema owner. and i suspect that was mostly because she’s so distractingly crushworthy (and much more interesting than the flawless Diane Krugerandroid).
when Tarantino started out, he was pioneering complex interweaving narratives, where you simultaneously root for and against large casts of well-drawn characters. post-HBO, the bar is set much higher for all that, and it seems like Quentin’s not quite keeping up.
christ. poor Quentin. i wish i hadn’t written any of this. i feel dirty. and you know what the worst part is? next week i’ll go and see The Taking Of Pelham Fucking 1 2 3 and I’ll give it 300 words of surprised gushing praise. why? because it’s directed by Tony Scott; and after Days of Thunder, it’s impossible to be disappointed by anything he does. it’s all upside. this is why Tony is smarter than Quentin: after Top Gun, he deliberately made a movie so bad – so insultingly lame – that it pressed Reset on everybody’s expectations of him, forever.
that’s what you need to do next, Quentin: go out and buy Robert McKee’s Story, and make the Tarantino car racing film.
until then, this is getting an A minus.
and i am going back to write my own complex interactive narrative with large cast of conflicting characters that you’re supposed to simultaneously root for and against, that will doubtless be an eighth as good as anything Tarantino has ever done.