Lance Bass Is Married!

The Oscar Season Begins In August With Tarantino's 'Inglourious Basterds'

Andrew Payne Andrew Payne
August 28th, 2009 11:02am EDT
Inglourious BasterdsThe year in movies is always split into two different seasons. First, there's the endless malaise of the Winter, Spring and Summer where we suffer with movies intent on doing nothing more than making money. The second season is much more fruitful, it's when movies care about making money and winning awards.

This moment the season changes is often hard to pinpoint. Normally it occurs in late October when every single movie seems to have a minor-key melody scoring its trailer and actors from Britain make their first appearances.

Sometimes, however, awards season comes in with a bang as we're treated to a movie released much earlier in the year loaded with several potential nominees. It takes a special film to make the movie year suddenly turn a corner, this feat isn't performed by a singular standout performance or an impressive effects extravaganza, an early Awards Season requires the rare film so loaded with Oscar potential that those awards are all anybody can think about from that point forward.

This year, we have that rare film. "Inglourious Basterds".

This movie never seemed like an Oscar contender based on the original Nazi-scalping trailer and its summer release date. It appeared to be an attempted blockbuster, a more adult alternative to "G.I. Joe". After two-and-a-half scintillating hours, however, it was clear Tarantino had more in mind than the grand entertainment of "Kill Bill". This would be a prestige picture, his first surefire Oscar contender since he first truly entered the zeitgeist with "Pulp Fiction".

It's rare to see a movie this loaded with Oscar firepower so early in the year. "Inglourious Basterds", by all rights, should receive six major Oscar nominations. These in addition to numerous technical nominations the film should receive for its editing, cinematography, sound, art direction and costumes. But those tech nominations are boring. Instead, here's a breakdown of the six surefire Oscar nominations this movie should have coming its way in the sexier categories.

Best Supporting Actor - Christoph Waltz

Before this film actually hit screens, it looked like it would be one of those early-year one-nomination wonders that fail to really get us into the Awards season mode. It was this performance set to be the film's lone nomination, as Waltz had been slowly gathering buzz since winning the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Image © Albert L. Ortega / The Weinstein Company Inc.

To Oscar he'll be a supporting actor (there isn't a leading role in this film) and a very deserving nominee. There's not much to say about Waltz's performance that hasn't already been written in thousands of raves, but one more accolade shouldn't hurt.

The most remarkable thing about this performance is the extreme discipline Waltz showed in his portrayal of a maniacal Nazi officer so adept at hunting down Jews. This would have been such an easy role through which to chew scenery and play it over the top by still being memorable.

Instead, we saw an almost relaxed performance from Waltz, one that was all the more menacing in its confidence yet seemed outrageous at the same time. This role gave Waltz the chance to create a singular character, a charming monster like no other, and he delivered what may prove to be legendary results.

Best Supporting Actor - Brad Pitt

As lieutenant Aldo Raine, Brad Pitt was tasked with playing something of a hero - if there could actually be a hero in this type of film. His approach seemed to be to make the character larger than life, a square-jawed good ol' boy that is sociopathic all the same.

This seems like a strange cocktail for comedy but the laughs went down smoothly as Pitt attacked each of his lines with feverish bouts of funny, squeezing every last ounce of humor from his words.

Brad Pitt - Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds © The Weinstein Company Inc.

But this wasn't a mere comedic performance. The bombast with which Pitt played Raine was something of a throwback, like a cross between Clark Gable and Steve McQueen where the actor knew he was on film, playing the role with a bit of a wink to the camera.

Ultimately, this choice served the film in a much greater way than a straight performance ever could. Tarantino's movies are ultimately often about the movie itself, and when Pitt allowed himself to stretch outside the realm of his character and have Raine subtly comment on the portrayal of that world, he turned what was always going to be a memorable role into something of a hybrid of true performance art and self-parody.

Melanie Laurent - Best Supporting Actress

Tarantino flipped the damsel-in-distress character with Shoshanna, a French Jew who barely escaped massacre at the hands of Waltz's aforementioned Nazi officer. Instead of writing the part as a girl in trouble, Tarantino gave us a girl who was in no trouble whatsoever, and actually in complete control.

It is through that control that Laurent found a standout performance. Suffering for years with the memory of watching her family slaughtered beneath their friend's floor, Shoshanna harbored a secret vendetta upon which she was unable to act until the final moments of the film. A secret like this was very deadly in these times and any sort of outward emotion that could give it away was strictly verboten.

Melanie Laurent - Inglourious Basterds

Image © The Weinstein Company Inc.

This required Laurent to play Shoshanna as a bit of an emotionless shell. In order for a character like this to hide her past tragedy, she must essentially remove all semblance of humanity from her personality. Laurent did this expertly, while always showing hints of the fire that continued to smolder from the embers of her family's slaughter.

It wasn't until the movie's climax that this fire literally exploded onto screen, making the slow burn all the more magical in retrospect.

Best Original Screenplay and Best Director - Quentin Tarantino

The trademark of Tarantino is essentially to go as close to having his films bubble over as possible without a drip of his work ever overflowing his celluloid pan.

Never did he do that with more grandeur than with "Inglourious Basterds". Be it the inimitable precision of his words (see the breathtakingly sharp one act play that served as the film's first scene) or the overwhelming power of his images (watching Shoshanna dress to "Cat People/Putting Out Fire" must have spawned a million Google searches for "Fire Song in Inglourious Basterds") Tarantino was operating at the peak of his powers with this film (something he seemed to know based on the movie's last line).

While this film certainly serves a purpose as pure entertainment, it's hard to ignore how brilliantly Tarantino furthered his idea of exploring film as a medium through this work. Through the more obvious portions (the cinema setting, the movie star femme fatale) to the more subtle ones (his classic Girl, Hero, Villain trichotomy) this was as much a movie about movies as it was a movie about war. "Cinema Paradiso" in a way only Tarantino could make it. And more than that, his considerable abilities behind the camera and at the seat of typewriter simply show the audience the full breadth of what movies can do to us - how they can be made experiences rather than simply entertainment.

Of the six major nominations, these two are probably the least certain, based on the fact this film may be seen as a more of a popcorn chomper than a skillfully guided examination of film as a whole that entertains in a way nothing else did this year. A shameful bit of disregarding that mustn't come to pass.

Best Picture of the Year

With ten slots to fill and Harvey Weinstein driving the campaign bus, it appears certain that Tarantino will notch his first Best Picture nomination since "Pulp Fiction" first got him invited to the big dance.

The reasons for this nomination are outlined above, but there's also the fact that "Inglourious Basterds" is simply a virtuoso filmmaking performance. Every frame, every line, every performance fits into the film so well, not a hair out of place on its filmic scalp.

This film is a true vision, and thanks to what will certainly be aggressive campaigning and Oscar's new rule, we may finally see something that looks and feels so new invited to a party that normally rewards the familiar.

And with that, the Oscar season has officially begun.

Andrew Payne
Story by Andrew Payne

Starpulse contributing writer

Watch "Profile: Quentin Tarantino"






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