Monday, 28 December 2009

Movies: Juno and Inglourious Basterds

Again, apologies - posting from the safety of January 4th. And now that I come to think of it, I watched both of these movies after New Year, so it should be impossible for me to make comments about them on the date this post was made. That my friends, is either me being psychic, time travel or... blog magic. I'll let you decide which.

Juno was wonderful - funny and touching and better than I expected. The plot was interesting, the characters were just... implausibly likable and the dialogue (which I'd heard so much about) was playful and witty without being smug. I mean, it was smug at times, but it was meant to be smug within the banterous little universe they'd created there. It's not perfect by any means but I really liked it, and it had the best performance I've seen Michael Cera give yet. I mean, come on, I'm willing to be proven wrong here but so far in his burgeoning career Michael Cera seems to be a terrible actor. He gives exactly the same super-geeky performance in everything I've seen him in, and while that generally works and I like it well enough, it's only because the film makers are crafting the parts specifically for him. In Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist he was really fucking pushing it, playing the kind of romantic lead where the relationship - cute though it was - didn't ring true for me. I'm kind of worried about him in the upcoming Scott Pilgrim adaptation, because everything else about that seems utterly awesome.

Enough about Michael Cera. Juno was really good and the worst thing about it is the smugly twee faux indie films that have probably been green-lit because of it.

I liked Inglourious Basterds too, having finally had a chance to watch it, but I'm fairly bemused at the praise it has recieved. I mean, I liked it because it was a kind of demented pop-culture mash up - just Tarantino watching a bunch of second world war movies and thinking - man I'd love to make something like this, with Jews hiding from the Nazis and commandos in the French countryside and the tension of The Great Escape and the camaraderie and like... something to do with The Dirty Dozen... And then he just mixed all that up and slapped it together into a series of tight, very Tarantino-esque scenes and the whole thing is really kind of fun if you like Tarantino's directorial voice.

But by any kind of objective standards that I can think of, it's a terrible fucking movie.

I mean none of the characters were believable, likeable or interesting in anyway. They were mostly annoying in pretty deliberate, entertaining ways, but that doesn't really count. One would think that a lot of the drama of WW2 movies is symbiotic with the idea that the people are in real danger within... well, within World War Two. Inglourious Basterds is famously cavalier with historical facts, and I have no problem with that, but it just makes the slow boiling tension that Tarantino is trying to capture in most of the scenes seem cheap and pointless. The characters are cartoons, the setting is a cartoon... there's no reason to care about anything so it all becomes really uninvolving.

And even more absurdly by the time the finale has come around the ending is so clearly signposted that there's no tension at all! It's just a kind of Nazi bashing free-for-all which... y'know, is fine. But I didn't really like any of the heroes, and I didn't really feel like those Nazis were real Nazis so much as random baddies dressed up in Nazi uniforms, so I turned off completely.

The movie is divided into a small number of long scenes that act like mini-plays for Tarantino to basically play around with war-movie tropes. They're each kind of fun, but they make the whole thing seem very stilted and they sap any momentum the movie might have as a whole. Again, I'm sure the structure and its pros and cons were very deliberate choices that the director made, but... it really kinda sucks.

The one thing that I was technically impressed with was the way in which Tarantino moved the plot along. He used the stilted, extended-scene structure and in every scene gave you exactly what you needed to know to get to the next 'vignette', cutting away all the exposition inbetween. That - paring it down to just the long, tension building scenes that he obviously wanted to get cracking on - was a really nice way of telling the story. It's just that the tension seemed to be pointless since I didn't care about any of the characters, the whole thing seemed utterly contrived and it certainly never seemed to bear much resemblence to the actual historical conflict.

Also the music was interesting but terribly used. Really awfully used.

And despite all that griping I still liked it, but mostly because I like car-crash art, and entertaining, interestingly-bad art and there were plenty of bits that I just plain loved. All the typefaces and text throughout, the main bad guy, Mike Myers (why?), the Bowie track - all awesome. But the movie? Appalling.

I recommend it.


  1. oh juno... how i <3 thee. also i vote for time machine everyone knows magic isn't real.

  2. Nice work. I came across your blog while “blog surfing” using the Next Blog button on the blue Nav Bar located at the top of my site. I frequently just travel around looking for other blogs which exist on the Internet, and the various, creative ways in which people express themselves. Thanks for sharing.