inglourious basterds

August 25, 2009

“each and every man under my command owes me one hundred nazi scalps… and i want my scalps!”

at moments during the film i was taken in by the beautiful camera movement and composition, at moments i was laughing hysterically, at moments i was scared to death. tarantino weaves a story that basically just rewrites history.  he throws caution to the wind and enjoys it as much as somebody should be allowed to enjoy something.

the basterds are a group of jewish american soilders whose only goal is to find and kill nazis.  they are led by aldo the apache (brad pitt) and because of his native american roots they not only kill the nazis, but leave their bodies dismembered and disemboweled so as to strike fear in their enemies eyes.  and quentin has now qualms showing us some of this action.

the movie has some very serious moments where normal ww2 films would let those moments sit and settle with the viewer.  but not quentin.  anytime the atmosphere gets too serious, he undercuts it with something ridiculous.  whether it’s busting out a gigantic pipe or a little quip from brad pitt or when eli roth comes out of the tunnel and we’re unbelievably scared.  he kills a german with a bat, then acts like an eight year old boy running around his back yard.  quentin doesn’t let the seriousness of any moment ever sit with us too long.

all the praise i’ve read so far has been for christoph waltz who plays colonel hans landa (aka the jew hunter), and i’m afraid i will be no different.  he is phenomenal.  he is unlike any villain i’ve ever seen in film, and i give qt a lot of credit for that as well.  but waltz is the one who materialized the character.  he gave life to one of the most intriguing characters on screen this year and is a lock for “best performance of the year” lists.  at least mine.  but don’t let his performance overshadow brad pitt, because i think he’s just as fun to watch.  he isn’t given as much screen time (which surprised me), but is just living it up on the screen when he’s out there.  he gives one of the more surprising performances of the year.

i never knew what was going to happen next in this film.  i was on the edge of my seat the entire time, and for a two and a half hour long movie it’s pretty painful to be sitting there.  quentin keeps us guessing around every corner, and gives us possibly the most fun we could have in theaters this year.  i did get a little uncomfortable in the scenes where i thought quentin was reveling in the violence a little too much, but in terms of a ratio to the rest of the film, those moments are few and far between.

la grande illusion

August 14, 2009

“i think we can do nothing to stop the march of time.”

synopsis for those who don’t know:  some french pows try to escape from various prisons during ww1.  obviously there is more too it.  and during the film i couldn’t help but think of the things that had inspired it (the count of monte cristo) and the things that took inspiration from this film (stalag 17, the great escape).

renoir does a great job of getting you to think about the way war has changed.  i couldn’t help but think about how officers are treated now.  would an enemy take such good care of you just because you’re an officer from your country?  i’m not sure.  the changing of the guard, the shift from the way things used to be to the way they are now is what this film is about.  but maybe that just doesn’t work as well for me.  maybe it’s because i’ve never known the way things used to be.  maybe i’m so ingrained to the way things are now, that the way things used to be seems foreign.  it’s not that i couldn’t recognize it, but it just didn’t have the same impact on me that it would have had on people of its time.

one thing that amazed me was how close to ww2 this film came out.  some of the foreshadowing of the changes in war are unbelievable.  to see things you know are going to change with ww2 foreshadowed in this film is amazing. and apparently as soon as the nazis occupied france it was one of the first things they siezed.

von stroheim is great as the german pow camp officer.  his interactions with boldieu (pierre fresnay) are great, especially their final scene on boldieu’s death bed.  their friendship, their past, is so tangible in that moment.  you can just feel the history between them, and the cultural history that von stroheim’s character is fighting with.  his inward brokenness is only slightly mirrored by his physical deterioration.

renoir never spells anything out for the viewer, he allows the characters to speak for themselves.  he lets the story unfold at a natural pace, is not afraid to add a little humor, but all the while is conscious of how his camera tells the story and speaks into the characters.  he does a great job of positioning every character and interlacing the multiple story-lines and characters.

6 films for fall

August 12, 2009

“did i know that i just met the most dangerous dark wizard of all time? no.”

to be honest, i hadn’t seen a harry potter film that i liked.  they all just seemed to fall flat and not fully encompass the scope of the books.  this was the first film in the series that i can actually say i enjoyed.  it didn’t necessarily fully encompass the book, but was able to take liberties with certain aspects, add certain aspects, and remove the unnecessary ones.  david yates (the director) was able to place the film in a time that seemed relevant.  i felt the terror that the world has to be experiencing at this time.  dark forces are at work, people are scared, and i’m buying it.

one of my biggest problems so far with the series has been the performance of daniel radcliff.  he always seems to earnest, too much like he’s spot reading, too fake, and too stiff.  in this film however, he seems to find more of a groove.  i wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a great performance, but it’s adequate.  maybe it’s because he doesn’t seem to have a lot of lines, but yates seems to be able to reign him in a little.  on the flip side, there are some truly great performances in this film.  they were able to just sweep me into the magic of it all.

jim broadbent – professor slughorn

broadbent gives one of the surprise performances in the film.  in the book, professor slughorn was a very hot and cold character for me.  sometimes i really liked him, sometimes i thought he was a waste of a page.  but broadbent makes me love him.  broadbent adds something to the character that i think the book was missing.  he adds heart, or humor, or maybe just a face, i don’t know.  whatever it is, he took a character from a book and really built upon it.  he was able to infuse something else that took the performance over the top for me.

michael gambon – professor dumbledore

i’ve never really liked gambon in any of the potter films.  the original dumbledore (richard harris) was made for that role.  that man just brought a level of gravitas that gambon just doesn’t (or didn’t have).  however, in this film, gambon brought it.  he brought it so hard that i was scared for fragile little daniel radcliff.  i thought he might shatter.  maybe it was the source material, but gambon just seemed to take the role to another dimension.  he added a dark side to it.  he made me scared just to look at him….and that’s just fun.

alan rickman – professor snape

rickman’s performance has always been a little one-note for me.  that being said, knowing what is going to happen in the rest of the films now (i finished the final 3 books in the last 6 months or so) seeing the subtext in his performance in this film was phenomenal.  i cannot wait to see what he will do in the final two films (based off one book…which might actually be a great idea).

helena bonham carter – bellatrix lestrange

she just scares the crap out of me.

tom felton – draco malfoy

this was were the money was at.  felton was absolutely great.  he was able to give the dual sides of malfoy so much life in this film.  he is able to give light to all the parts of the character i love.  he’s conflicted, he’s heartbreaking, he’s sad, he’s pitiful, he’s pushed beyond his years, he’s an actor i now am furiously excited to see what he does next.

there is a shot in the film where malfoy has to go out on his mission and he walks down the hallways of hogwarts.  at the same time in the shadows of the corridors we can see fellow wizarding students making out in the hallways.  the contrast of this shot and the beautiful way it was filmed had me almost jumping out of my seat with excitement.

this film left me the most excited to re-watch it of any film i’ve seen this year (including up).  that being said, it’s not my favorite film of the year, and has a lot of problems.  somethings i wanted to see explored at greater length, somethings i felt could be cut a little.  i wish the film could have actually been a couple hours longer.  maybe they should have split the last two books into 4 or 5 films.