In French, they’d be Les Décembres.
I almost went with Spanish for that sentence (Los Diciembres), but no, no, I could see immediately that it had to be French.
Go read the write-up and then come back here to comment!
In French, they’d be Les Décembres.
I almost went with Spanish for that sentence (Los Diciembres), but no, no, I could see immediately that it had to be French.
Go read the write-up and then come back here to comment!
First, a quick recap of the new shows I’ve seen so far:
Flash Forward is a maybe for me, but it’s a strong maybe. I found the pilot intriguing, and it’s full of great actors (loving John Cho and Joseph Fiennes), but segues to commercial breaks that feature an ominous voice telling me to do things like “pay attention to the kangaroo — it might be important” kind of make me want to kick someone in the shins. Don’t tell me what to do, you creepy bastard. If I want to pay attention to the kangaroo, I’LL PAY ATTENTION TO THE KANGAROO. (And if that’s not a Facebook status update of pure gold, I don’t know what is.)
NCIS: Los Angeles: [THIS PARAGRAPH CONTAINS A SPOILER] I love you, LL Cool J and Linda Hunt. And okay, you too Chris O’Donnell, if I must. However, your show is an absolute disaster. I must have laughed out loud 15 times watching your pilot, and only 2 of those times were because you let LL Cool J tell a joke. Plus, you know how at the end of the first episode, the bad guy is about to shoot “G” (O’Donnell) in the head, and just as he’s about to pull the trigger, G’s phone goes off, and so the bad guy is all, “No, no, go ahead. I’ll wait”? Really? I mean, REALLY really? Also, poor, broken orphan who never had a first name, only a first initial? And don’t even get me started on the rack of $300 designer jeans paid for with our tax dollars. Bah. One more episode and then I’m out.
The Forgotten: Same song, different verse — it’s actually just Cold Case all over again. I really liked Slater in this, but everybody else is a total throwaway so far, and the plots are going to have to get WAY, WAY more interesting if this show wants to survive longer than mid-October. My money’s on one more episode and then the boot.
Let me know what you guys thought? I still haven’t seen The Good Wife, but will try to catch that one this week. So far, in terms of returning shows, Supernatural is still kicking everybody’s ass, by the way. If you aren’t watching that series and you like smart, funny, clever, creative writing, DUDE. Is all.
Lie to Me (FOX) — 8pm. I watched this series last year and mostly enjoyed it, but it needs a lot of work if it’s going to keep me intrigued enough this year to keep going. I confess the part I like the best is that I feel like I am learning skills I can apply whenever I suspect someone is lying to me. Frankly, if they could just skip the character drama and turn this show into a TV-based training course in kinesics instead, I think I’d like it a lot better. Sorry, Tim. Maybe you can narrate?
Trauma (NBC) — 9pm. Another show tries to fill the void left by ER. But you know what, shows? We don’t really need you to fill a void. We sort of need you to do something new. This one is about EMTs and trauma surgeons, and maybe, MAYBE the EMT stuff might be sort of interesting. We’ll see, sigh. The cast has a few familiar faces (dashing-Kiwi Cliff Curtis, guy-who-creeps-me-out Jamie Sheridan), but for the most part don’t look terribly inspiring. Can you tell I’m really struggling to muster up ANY degree of enthusiasm for this one? Yeah, that. Go ahead, Trauma, make me eat my words. DOUBLE-DOG DARE YOU.
Hell’s Kitchen (FOX) — 8pm. You know what’s really weird? Watching this show and then watching Gordon Ramsey’s British shows like Kitchen Nightmares and The F Word. Why do we, as Americans, need to convert that guy into such an incredible jerk in order to make him entertaining and marketable here? I boggle, as does my mind.
Private Practice (ABC) — 10pm. This is still on? AND EYES GOT CANCELED? I hate you, ABC. And yes, I will hold that grudge for all of eternity, thanks for asking.
Til Death (FOX) – 8:30pm. Watched half of season one of this one, actually — I know, surprise, right? Yeah, it. . . meh.
Three Rivers (CBS) — Dammit, CBS, don’t fail me on this one, would you? Of the three medical shows starting this fall, this is the only one that actually has a chance of being relatively not-that-sucky. But here’s the problem — this series is about organ transplant doctors. Remember that OTHER series about organ transplant doctors — Heartland? The one with Treat Williams? That show was a veritable croque monsieur of cheese. This show needs to NOT BE LIKE THAT SHOW. And that’s really the only advice I can give at this point. Come on, Alex O’Loughlin, you mad-crazy hunkaroo, SAVE ME.
Mercy (NBC) – 8pm. The ads for this show make it look absolutely unbearably awful. Plus, stop claiming to be the only show about nurses, you morons, or I’m sending Nurse Jackie over to kick your ass. I strongly suspect the title of this series is going to be the rallying cry of everyone who watches it. Then again, JAMES TUPPER, people. It’s not like I can just NOT tune in.
Sit-coms (not watching): The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS) – 8pm, Gary Unmarried (CBS) – 8:30pm, Cougar Town (ABC) – 9:30pm, Modern Family (ABC) – 9pm. Of these four, the only one I’m even remotely intrigued by is Modern Family, which is a mockumentary-style sit-com about an American family being filmed for a Dutch reality show. But I’ll wait for you guys to tell me if it’s any good first — don’t leave me hangin’. As for Cougar Town, my plan for that one is to Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal it into disexistence. If I can’t see it, it can’t see me. Annnnd POOF.
Crime shows (watching due to irrational inability to quit even when quitting is the only logical move): Criminal Minds (CBS) – 9pm, Law & Order: SVU (NBC) – 9pm, CSI:New York (CBS) – 10pm. I still really enjoy Criminal Minds, even though it has gotten sort of repetitive. Stop me if you’ve heard this profile before: age 20-40, white male, issues with mom, works full-time and appears normal to the neighbors, has a dungeon in his basement. I just described the “unsub” from 95% of the episodes from last season, I swear. Nevertheless, I have a mondo crush on Joe Mantegna and that goes a long way towards keeping me engaged.
Law & Order: SVU, I would argue, has sucked almost unbearably for at least the last two seasons, if not longer. I need to let it go and for some reason find myself unable to. Here’s hoping it frees me like ER finally did, but doesn’t take nearly as long to get around to it.
Lastly, CSI: New York is the only one of the three CSI series I tune into with any degree of regularity anymore. The original series has been too hit-or-miss for about the last three years and Lawrence Fishburne is not doing it any favors (not his fault, I would argue — the conceit of his addition to the team was just really lame and unbelievable and I haven’t gotten past that yet). CSI:NY got a lot better in its second season, so if you bailed after its awful first, it might be worth checking it out again. It’s got some good characters and some annoying ones, but Gary Sinise is a steady helmsman, and, of course, I still love Melina Kanakaredes from her days on Due South and always, always will.
Eastwick (ABC) – 10pm. The ads for this show make it look absolutely unbearably awful. Hey, deja vu! I’m not crazy about two out of the three actresses running this machine, and the third one I’m only not not-crazy about because I have no idea who she is. That probably bodes significantly less than well. Then again, PAUL GROSS. Curses! Somebody in charge of casting all the terrible shows this year certainly has my number.
Flash Forward (ABC) – 8pm. This time-bending sci-fi show centers on a bizarre incident that causes all of mankind to black out for two minutes, during which time they each get a glimpse of themselves six months in the future. It’s obviously been inspired by Lost, which was reason enough at first for me NOT to want to tune in. I changed my mind, though, when I read two things about this show. The first is that we’ll get to the “future” by the end of the first season — no holding over what’s in the metaphoric hatch for a ridiculously long time. The second is that the series creators have already mapped out the full five years of the show. This gives me hope it will have neither the constant frustrations nor the time-killing flailings of Lost. As for the physics that make my brain hurt, I’m always happy to sign up for more pain. Especially with Joseph Fiennes and Courtney B. Vance at the helm.
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) – 9pm. Confession time: D-O-N-E.
CSI (CBS) – 9pm. As I said above, this series is not really doing it for me any more. Too many favorite characters gone, too many weird restructurings of the rest of the staff in the lab, too many repetitive storylines. I’ll probably watch, but not with regularity. Fishburne, get out while you still can! (By the way, if you get the chance to see the CSI exhibit that is touring various science museums in the U.S. right now, go! It’s totally fun!)
The Mentalist (CBS) – 10pm. I watched the first two or three episodes of this one last year and wasn’t impressed enough to want to make space for it in my weekly schedule. I’ve since heard that it got pretty good there towards the end, but I’m probably too far behind at this point to ever get caught up. Love Simon Baker, but can’t help thinking whenever I watch this show that I’d rather be watching Psych.
Law & Order (NBC) – 8pm. Nope.
Ghost Whisperer (CBS) – 8pm. Nope.
Dollhouse (Fox) – 9pm. Yep. Though it took me almost the entire first season to warm up to this Joss Whedon show, by the end, I was thoroughly hooked. When it finally broke free of the “prostitute conceit of the week” stories and really delved into the background stuff, it got incredibly engrossing. Plus, this season adds a dash of Jamie Bamber to the mix; I love that little bunny! Dear Fox: Try not to frak this one up, okay?
Medium (CBS) – 9pm (new network!). I’m beyond grateful that CBS rescued this series when NBC gave it the boot last summer. It may not be brilliant, but it’s thoughtful and well-acted, and that goes a long way in my book. Glad to have it back, and so soon too (last year we had to wait until January for it). Major crush on Jake Weber, of course. That probably goes without saying at this point.
I won’t be watching any of these, but here’s what’s back Sunday (I do watch Dexter, but have to wait for DVD on that one).
Amazing Race (CBS) – 8pm. Too stressful.
Dexter (Showtime) – 9pm. Too expensive.
Family Guy (Fox) – 9pm. Too cartoonish.
American Dad (Fox) – 9:30pm. Also too cartoonish.
Brothers and Sisters (ABC) – 10pm. Too Sally Field.
Cold Case (CBS) – 10pm. Too shut the hell up.
A few weeks ago, when John Hughes died, it got me thinking about the difference between movies about teenagers or young adults when I was a teenager/young adult, and movies about that demographic now. It seems to me the movies today that deal with that population, with some notable exceptions, of course, have gotten more focused on crass humor (Superbad‘s scene involving menstrual blood leaps right to mind) and scoring with chicks (the rest of Superbad leaps right to mind) and less on the actual interpersonal dynamics that are so complicated when we’re young. Granted, I’m old now, so maybe I just can’t relate as well to the movies made for the kids these days. But still, looking at the two sets of films side-by-side, what I see in terms of the plots, characters, and dialogue is empirically different. Not that we didn’t also have crass chick-scoring flicks in my day, of course (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, e.g.), but I don’t remember finding even our crassest of teenage flicks half as vacuous and obnoxious as the majority of the ones I see today.
I had a good friend here from out of town this weekend, and she and I sat down to watch this movie Sunday afternoon. We had just been talking earlier in the day about the impact John Hughes had had on us, and I think we both probably went into this movie expecting it only to further the divide. After all, it was written by the same guy who directed Superbad, Greg Mottola, which may have had some “good heart” moments now and again, but predominantly left me pretty unimpressed.
Only about 20 minutes into Adventureland, though, I was thoroughly engaged. What’s more, I was completely in love with every character in the movie, from the geek to the babe to the player. Everyone in this movie has painful insecurities that absolutely shriek out of every pore. In other words, everyone in this movie is utterly and completely REAL.
This movie is set in about 1987 (and yes, I recognize that only furthered my ability to connect) and is about a group of early 20-somethings who are all working at a local amusement park for the summer. The main character is a young man named Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg), who finds out at the beginning of the summer that his parents are no longer willing to pay his way through graduate school in New York City. Desperate for money, he asks his friend Frigo to get him a job at Adventureland. The job is everything you’d expect — awful, awful, awful. And also, AWFUL. But through that awfulness, the mostly-young staff begin to bond together pretty strongly. Brennan becomes particularly close to a girl named Em (Kristen Stewart) who also works the games at the park (all of which are completely rigged, by the way. I KNEW IT!). The two begin falling in love, but not without a whole mess of painful complications. In fact, if I had to describe this movie in two words, those two words would be “painful complications,” and that’s what made me love it so very, very much.
This is the first movie I’ve seen in at least a decade that actually made me reminisce about my early 20’s. I seriously doubt I’m alone in feeling like the early 20’s are the hardest period in everyone’s life. The most liberating period, but also the most utterly terrifying and disastrous. All the worst things I have ever been through I went through in my early 20’s, and to this day a lot of those things still have me firmly in their grip. But the best moments of that time were the moments when I was building relationships, both romantic and platonic. Every romance I had in my early 20’s was fraught with emotional complexities, often irrational ones, and for two out of three of the most important ones, those emotional complexities shattered everything. And yet — and yet — what a wonderful experience, as painful as it all was. What magic to fall in love and feel so much that made so little sense. What magic to come into adulthood, be on your own, feel the terror that comes from suddenly being the only one responsible for everything you do, screw up over and over, and still somehow manage to pull yourself through. This movie, more than anything I have seen in years, brought me right back to that age and finally made me see it for what it was: the time that builds you.
I wouldn’t want to be 21 again. No, sir. But I will confess that visiting it was pretty goddamn spectacular.
This movie is hilarious, clever, brilliantly-written, scored by a terrific soundtrack (my friend gasped and exclaimed, “Oh, that SONG!” like every five minutes, I swear) and absolutely packed to overflowing with heart. Forget your reactions to Superbad — this is an entirely different beast. I ordered a copy from Amazon the day after I saw it and had to resist the urge to have it express-mailed, that’s how eager I am to watch this movie so many times it becomes just as much a part of me as The Breakfast Club or Pretty in Pink.
Recommended like crazy. And hey, Brennan? I hope that when I’m dead, I’m fortunate enough that someone calls me “Henry” too. Right on, man.
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Martin Starr, Ryan Reynolds, Wendie Malick, Kelsey Ford
Brace yourselves — the crushing onslaught of returning shows begins NOW. Because there are so many shows to announce this week, I’m going to do tonight and tomorrow night first, and then will post again Wednesday with the next batch.
Heroes (NBC) – 8pm. It’s too bad this show sucks so much, because it was super fun the first season. Alas, it just sucks SO MUCH. I’m not going to bother at all this year. I didn’t bother last year either. Sorry, Greg Grunberg. I still love you.
House (F0x) – 8pm (two hour premiere). I quit watching House a few seasons ago, but sort of got re-roped into it last season and wasn’t all that sorry about it. I’ll tune in, see how things go. Assess the sitchuayshon. I’m willing to put up with a lot for Hugh Laurie because he knows Stephen Fry and Stephen Fry is my hero. Then again, last year’s finale ended with House being institutionalized for serious, serious mental illness; if this season starts with him immediately returning to work like he’s been magically cured, I may have to arch an eyebrow in this show’s general direction.
Dancing with the Pseudo-Stars (ABC) – 8pm. I don’t understand the appeal of this show. And people who love this show don’t seem to understand the appeal of So You Think You Can Dance. Someday, I hope we can all be friends.
Castle (ABC) – 10pm. This show is incredibly ridiculous, thanks to Nathan Fillion, who probably ought to tame it down a little bit but won’t, which is why I love him so incredibly much. Castle, in my opinion, fills a necessary void in the crime-show line-up — it’s not intense, it’s not gory, it’s not dark, it’s not complicated. It’s just a cute little cozy in television format, with a highly lickable nose front and center. I’m extremely fond of it, so keep your snark to yourselves.
Sitcoms: How I Met Your Mother (CBS) – 8pm; Accidentally on Purpose (CBS) – 8:30pm; Two and a Half Men (CBS) – 9pm; The Big Bang Theory (CBS) – 9:30pm. I know that HIMYM and Big Bang Theory are hilarious; everybody tells me this constantly. Some day, I’m sure I will rent them on DVD and kick myself for not having gotten into them sooner. But that won’t be today. Two and a Half Men just won an Emmy, if you care. Which I don’t. And Accidentally on Purpose is a new one starring Jenna Elfman, who just annoys the ever-living beheysoos out of me. Like I need THAT today, CBS. Really.
CSI: Miami (CBS) – 10pm. My Dad does the best impersonation of David Caruso of all time. Imitation is not always the highest form of flattery, trust me.
NCIS (CBS), 8pm. Still love it. Of all the cop shows on right now, this is the one that is the most consistently engaging, funny, and intelligent. A total winner. Plus, TWO ex-Boyfriends in ONE SERIES (Mark Harmon and Michael Weatherly)! It’s like heaven on earth.
Bonus Round: tonight’s season premiere of NCIS is followed immediately by the series premiere of its spin-off: NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS, 9pm). I confess I’m a little wary of this one, despite the fact I LOVE L. L. Cool J. and Chris O’Donnell. Love them, love them, love them. I’ve got my fingers crossed that this won’t be the CSI:Miami of NCIS. Please, please don’t be the CSI:Miami of NCIS. I’m begging you. Please don’t. Just don’t.
The Good Wife (CBS) – 10pm. I thought for a while I might give this one a try, but to be honest, I think I’ve bailed before it’s even begun. I’ve never been a big Margulies fan, and though it co-stars Chris Noth, hubba hubba, to me it sounds too much like Judging Amy, only without the Tyne Daly. Working-mother shows are always the same, lawyer shows are always the same, shows without Tyne Daly are ALWAYS THE SAME. I’ve got better things to watch (I hope). If you tune in and love it, though, definitely let me know and I’ll go back and check it out later on.
The Forgotten (ABC) – 10pm. I am going to try this one, I think, mostly because I really enjoyed Christian Slater in last year’s My Own Worst Enemy and I’d like to see him give this TV thing a second go. That said, I’m fairly certain this show is going to stink. It also sounds too much the same as every other show on right now — I’m getting as burned out on specialty-detective shows as I am on lawyer ones (this one is about a group of dicks who focus on identifying previously-unidentified dead people, by the way). Plus, also no Tyne Daly! Again with that! I shrug and throw my hands in the air. We’ll see what happens.
Check back Wednesday for the update on Wed-Sun’s returning shows!
Over the years, I’ve read Lorrie Moore short stories kind of here and there, now and again; I’m going to guess primarily in The New Yorker. But she wasn’t really an author I actively sought out. She crafted sentences with incredible brilliance, yet still failed somehow to connect on a personal level with me most of the time. I found her cleverness masterful, but it also struck me as sort of disruptively aggressive at times. It would interrupt the flow of whatever emotion I had just been starting to feel for one of her characters, like a sudden stubbing of the toe. Sometimes, I didn’t finish the story I’d started after one of those derailments. The magic got bumped.
A friend of mine recommended this collection of stories to me several months ago, though, and I bought it the next week. It’s been sitting around on the floor of my room since then, eventually getting kicked under the bed where it stayed until last Thursday when I went digging around under there looking for a lost shoe as I was packing my bags for a train trip. I dusted it off (the book, not the shoe) and the next day on the train pulled it out and started to read. Read the entire thing in a single sitting, barely taking a break to look up. Scenery, your loss.
Maybe it’s got something to do with the mindset — when you’re reading The New Yorker and suddenly come to the fiction section, it requires a dramatic changing of gears that I don’t always shift with grace. I wonder if that’s why I never felt overwhelmed by Lorrie Moore’s greatness before.
I’m overwhelmed now.
The characters in these stories are regular people, their situations as normal as they come, and I think that’s what makes them so mesmerizing. Some of the stories are hilarious, and others are almost unbearably sad, but they all seem like stories about people who actually exist, who weren’t dreamt up but are outside right now walking down your street. That’s startlingly refreshing, I have to say.
Moore’s writing style is something I still have some issues with at times, but one of the things I love most about it is the way she frequently pairs adjectives and nouns together that don’t really go together, and yet somehow go together perfectly. The one I remember most vividly from this book was the phrase “frantic candlelight,” in the story “Agnes of Iowa,” which is about a couple trying to overcome stagnation in their relationship. They “struggled self-consciously for atmosphere” in their bedroom, where “frantic candlelight flickered on the ceiling like a puppet show.” Candlelight can’t be frantic — that makes no sense. And yet, in two words, it completely conveys the emotion of that room and the two people in it.
There are dozens of other examples like this. Go discover them. I’ll wait.
Thank you for everything, Mr. Swayze. You will be missed.
Ordinarily, news that there is a planned remake of Red Dawn, one of the best Kevin Reynolds films of all time (which is saying a LOT considering the fact he also wrote, well, nevermind. . .), would send me spiraling into a rage tornado.
But then I read this morning that they are planning to cast ex-Boyfriend Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Lt. Col. Tanner, the Air Force pilot who gets shot down in the original movie and teams up with the Wolverines to help lead them to victory. That’s actually kind of perfect casting, if you ask me. Plus, I’d love to see JDM in a flight suit — sex-ay.
Therefore, I have now reconfigured my knee-jerk response from “IS NOTHING SACRED?!” to, “Oh, in that case, WORD.”
Go about your day.
Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill (CW, 8pm and 9pm). I don’t watch either of these shows, and even though I have read many positive reviews of Gossip Girl, I’m telling you right now, it’s just not for me. Girls are so lame. And, for that matter, so are boys. Which is why I never tuned in for One Tree Hill either.
Jay Leno Show (NBC, 10pm). You know what’s funny about this show? The ads. Except, when I say “funny,” I actually mean, “horrifying.” You know the ads I mean? The ones in which Leno interviews random people on the street who think Abraham Lincoln lives in the Vatican? Did you know those people are old enough to vote? It sort of makes me want to weep. And then throw myself off a bridge. Or maybe both at the same time. For that reason alone, I think this is one I’m better off avoiding — the world needs all the people who read newspapers it can get.
The Biggest Loser (or “Looser,” if you’re reading this on the Internet) (NBC, 8pm). I don’t watch this show. But it’s back tonight if you do.
The Beautiful Life (CW, 9pm). Mostly all I know about this new CW series is what I’ve read in gossip columns about Mischa Barton’s recent breakdown. And the fact I can’t remember if it was a mental health breakdown or an “exhaustion” breakdown or an addiction breakdown (or all three) tells you how much I was paying attention. This show is about two young high-fashion models – a girl and a guy (neither of which is played by Barton, I don’t think). It sort of sounds like a fictional ANTM, except possibly with less crying. Since the crying is the best part of ANTM, I’m pretty sure this show is not for me. If you watch and it’s good, let me know. [View trailer]
Survivor: Samoa (CBS, 8pm). This show is still on?
Bones (FOX, 8pm). Though there are a few things about this series that annoy me (primarily these days, it’s what they did to Zach, the obnoxious Zach-2.0s they kept rotating through last year, and pretty much any- and everything about Sweets, including the very existence of his job which makes no sense whatsoever), I confess I still love it. It’s funny, it’s clever, and it’s refreshing to watch a show that is still rocking a “mystery of the week” format. Plus, ex-Boyfriend David Boreanaz has a great butt and an even greater grin. My one request for this season? Make Stephen Fry a regular!
Fringe (FOX, 9pm). Halfway through season one of this show, I confess I started to get pretty bored. But I hung in there, and man, those of us who did ended up getting a serious treat in the season finale. (I’ll take Vulcans over smoke monsters ANY ol’ day of the week, J. J. Abrams!) This show is weird and it doesn’t really make a lot of sense — but it’s also extremely funny, clever, and nerdy, and that makes it a keeper in my book. Plus, ex-Boyfriend Joshua Jackson has a great butt and an even greater grin. My only request for this season? Make the cow a regular!
The Office (NBC, 9pm). I love this show, but I always wait to watch it on DVD. Which reminds me, is last season out yet? Oh, it is! Plans for the next free weekend, check! I hope Jim and Pam didn’t get too annoying while I was away. Happiness is such a buzzkill.
Parks and Recreation and Community (NBC, 8:30 and 9:30pm). I’m not generally a big fan of sit-coms. Never really have been (though, of course, there have been some notable exceptions over the years). If a sit-com survives the first two or so seasons, though, and is getting a lot of raves, I’ll usually give it a try on DVD. That’s my plan with these two too, so if you tune in and think it’s great, let me know. P&R stars Amy Poehler as a government official who has dedicated her life to public service and teams up with a nurse to turn a “city eyesore” into a public park. Hilarity ensues, apparently. Community stars Joel McHale (from The Soup) as a lawyer who gets his degree revoked. For lack of anything better to do, he decides to go back to college, “aligning himself with fellow oddballs,” including Chevy Chase and Alison Brie. Hilarity ensues, apparently. You let me know.
One of the things I love about Quentin Tarantino movies is that there’s absolutely no mistaking them for anything else. If I hadn’t known Inglourious Basterds was a QT film going in, I would’ve called it immediately the moment the film opened with a classic WWII scene paired with an oddball combination of Debussy’s Claire de Lune and the whistles and clangs of spaghetti Western music. Throw into that mix an homage to just about every film ever made coupled with a story that is both completely unique and brilliantly literary, and what you have is quintessential Tarantino.
This movie opens with two separate stories that, in typical QT style, collide together in the final act like hydrogen nuclei in a fusion bomb. The first story is about a young Jewish woman, Shoshanna, whose entire family is killed right in front by infamous the infamous “Jew Hunter,” Nazi Col. Hans Landa (played brilliantly by Christoph Waltz). For reasons that didn’t make a lot of sense — I’m guessing it’s as simple, and as complicated, as the fact he’s a sick, crazy bastard — Landa lets Shoshanna escape. We catch up to her a few years later, where she’s living in Paris under an assumed name, running a movie theater. A young Nazi soldier, a war hero and the star of the latest Goebbels smash hit, Stolz der Nation (A Nation’s Pride), tries to befriend her. But when he manages to get the big movie premiere switched to her theater, Shoshanna makes plans for more than just a simple screening. Revenge, she decides, is a dish best served piping-frakkin’ hot.
The second story in the film is about the Inglourious Basterds themselves. The Basterds are a group of undercover American soldiers, mostly Jews, who are dropped into France with the sole purpose of “killin’ Nat-zis.” Think “The Dirty Dozen,” except completely sociopathic. Led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt, rocking a thoroughly embedded Southern accent), each of the Basterds has been assigned the task of taking 100 Nazi scalps apiece. After taking out dozens and dozens of German soldiers, and not with mercy (to put it mildly), the group has become infamous amongst the German Army. Everyone fears the Basterds, and the stories of them, and specifically of their cruelest member, “The Bear Jew” (the wild-eyebrowed Eli Roth), quickly begin to rival folklore about the bogeyman.
The stories converge at the end, when each set of characters initiates a separate, complicated plan to destroy the movie theater and, in so doing, kill Hitler and end the war. Whether or not either plan succeeds is something I’ll leave for you to discover.
Instead, allow me to say a few things about a some of the actors in this film. First things first, if Christoph Waltz doesn’t win every Best Actor award from the Oscars to the Razzies, he was completely robbed. His character, Nazi Col. Hans Landa, is, hands-down, the most thoroughly disturbing Tarantino villain since Mr. Blonde in Reservoir Dogs, and for the exact same reasons. The most bad-ass of any character in a Tarantino film is always the one the exudes the most calm, and Landa is about as calm as they get. Had he, at any point, put on the radio and started dancing around a chair singing oldies songs, or begun quoting from Ezekiel 25:17, it would’ve merely been the icing on the holy-mary-mother-of-god terror cake.
And then there’s Brad Pitt, the leader of the Basterds, who continues to surprise me every time I see him of late and, with this film, has finally established himself in my brain as a goddamn genius as well as a pretty face. I keep thinking Legends of the Fall, and he keeps sweeping the leg, so to speak. When we walked out of the movie theater after seeing this film, it occurred to me I couldn’t think of a popular actor in Hollywood right now who was more versatile and talented than Brad Pitt. And in thinking about it some more since, I’ve still got nuthin’. Man, I hate it when geniuses are also ridiculously gorgeous. It’s like a boot to the shins.
Melanie Laurant, who played Shoshanna, was a new one for me, and I also found her a complete revelation. I thought her acting was brilliant, and loved even more the way Tarantino shot her, with close-ups on her eyes, her lips, her legs making her look like a 70’s psychological thriller siren, when the reality went so incredibly much deeper. More, more, more play on genre, which is Tarantino’s specialty and one of the primary reasons I think his films get better with repeated viewings than worse.
As for Eli Roth, whose work as a horror director I have long admired, his acting was a bit over-eager and clumsy from where I was sitting, though others I’ve talked to about this movie didn’t notice anything awry. That might be because I knew who he was, and so I was paying more attention to him than they were. But in any case, it hardly mattered, and besides, I’ll forgive him for all of it if his next project is turning his fake Tarantino Grindhouse trailer (Thanksgiving) into an actual film.
And now, to do something Tarantino himself likes to do in his films, I want to end this review by coming full circle back to the way I started it, and that’s with some talk about the Tarantino style. This movie does a lot of things Tarantino frequently does — it interrupts the story with asides, it pauses the film to slap on a bold character title to let us know who’s who, it throws music together from almost every genre without care for anachronism, it plays with camerawork — in fact, it plays with just about everything. Its characters are ridiculously larger-than-life, its women ridiculously more beautiful than life, and its violence so graphic it frequently crosses the border into camp (note to the squeamish, you may want to avert thine eyes during any and all scalping scenes). I love all those things in Tarantino films. I love that Tarantino films are completely unmistakable.
THAT SAID, while it always seems to work out brilliantly, including here, I will say I think there’s a point at which Tarantino is going to cross the line from brilliance to overdone predictability, and while I know a gazillion people (or, possibly, EVERYONE) is going to disagree with me on this, I think he’s reached that point. If his next movie features the same bag of tricks, regardless of the quality of the story, I’m going to sigh with a little impatience even while I lap it all up hungrily. Go ahead, argue with me. I’ll listen. But I’m still right. Just you wait, ‘enry ‘iggins. Just you wait.
And the rest of you, go see this movie, because it’s completely insane and absolutely brilliant. FIN.
Genre: Defies classification, really, but let’s go with War. WAR.
Cast: Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Diane Kruger, Til Schweiger, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender, Mike Myers (no, really!)