Friday, December 11, 2015

Top 55 Things I Love About Inglourious Basterds (that no one talks about)

Inglourious Basterds marks Quentin Tarantino’s evolution into what he refers to as lyrical filmmaking. In QT’s words, Basterds, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight, make a trilogy of long, poetic, lyrical films. (He’s also said that, having completed the trilogy, he’s interested in getting back to more visceral filmmaking, like Kill Bill. Which good, potentially, mean the possibility of Kill Bill: Vol. 3. But since we’re talking about Basterds, I consider it one of QT’s most mature films, ranked right next to Jackie Brown in that regard. It’s classical and reserved, until, of course, it’s not. Enjoy!

Still in love with Tarantino’s love of using various fonts in his credits.

Inglourious Basterds, like every QT film, has a blast referencing other films. I’m not going to list them all, but here’s a great little nod to Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. It’s the opening shot of each film.

The music cueing up right as Julie (Tina Rodriguez) pulls the sheets back.

Léa Seydoux and the circles under her eyes. Love her.

How quickly Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) switches to English. Any other actor would’ve taken a beat. But Waltz just dives right in.

I love that Perrier LaPadite (Denis Ménochet) never actually lies about hiding the Dreyfus family. When the subject is first brought up, he simply says the German’s found nothing nine months ago. But when Landa asks the first time if LaPadite is hiding them, LaPadite comes right out with the truth.

Landa not even thinking to flinch when LaPadite steps behind him. Landa is so goddamn confident.

The slow pan through the floorboards to reveal the Dreyfus family is one of the best examples of Alfred Hitchcock’s famed “Thrill vs. Suspense” theory that I’ve ever seen. Fitting, given the Hitchcock reference later in the film.

“…French cow country…” Brilliant.

Want a very brief, very exceptional lesson in filmmaking? This scene has been going on for more than 13 minutes before Tarantino gives Landa a close-up. Most any other filmmaker would’ve gone in tight on Waltz’s face already, particularly to match Ménochet’s close-up much earlier in the scene. But Tarantino holds out. He waits. He waits to reveal Landa’s close-up during the most important exchange in this entire scene. THAT is genius filmmaking.

The shot of Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent) scurrying away like a… rat.

Landa adjusting his shoulder as he takes aim at Shosanna. Reminds me of Al Pacino in Heat.

There is no end to my appreciation for the way Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) pronounces the word “airplane.”

The way the Pitt’s voice actually gets louder when he walks toward the camera during his “I want my scalps!” speech.

Tarantino reusing a portion of Ennio Morricone’s “L’arena,” which he already used perfectly in Kill Bill: Vol. 2. Hey, if a song works, it works.

Major title card win.

A great way to pay tribute to one of your favorite films: begin playing its theme during one of the best hero shots in your own film.

The way the camera slightly shakes when one of the Basterds kills off a moaning German guard.

How quickly this German soldier points out where the German’s are hiding.

Love how this exchange it capture in one shot, with the camera tilting this way or that, depending on who’s talking.

Shosanna utterly unimpressed by meeting Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl)…

…and Zoller’s embarrassment to this.

Another great music call back. This time with Charles Bernstein’s “Hound Chase (Intro)” which QT used in Kill Bill: Vol. 1.

Excluding The Hateful Eight (which I haven’t seen), Quentin Tarantino has directed eight feature films, totaling 1086 minutes. Only 22 seconds of those minutes have been used to depict (consensual) sex.

The way the camera tracks Major Hellstrom (August Diehl) pouring Shosanna, and then himself, a glass of champagne. It’s almost as if we’re assuming Shosanna’s POV, wondering if the champagne is poisoned. But when the Major pours himself some, we (like her) know she’s safe.

Tarantino loves to leave things to the imagination. Just how bad was Mr. Blonde during the robbery? What’s in Marsellus Wallace’s briefcase? Did Jackie assume Simone was going to be replaced by Melanie? And on and on. But my favorite QT conundrum can be found right here: Does Landa know that the woman he’s talking to is Shosanna Dreyfus? (The milk line does seem like a giveaway, but I’ve never been certain either way). If so, is he concocting his elaborate plan right now, in this moment?

Furthermore, this scene should’ve earned Mélanie Laurent an Oscar nomination. The way her eyes reflect her mood, her barely contained fear, her collapse at the end – all superb.

Here’s that lovely Hitchcock reference.

The way Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) keeps looking back at Winston Churchill (Rod Taylor), as if Hicox is thinking, “Is this guy really in the fucking room?”

The first time I saw this movie, I believe it was right around this moment that I realized this actor was Mike Myers. I had no idea it was him until right then.

The flawless composition of this shot. Notice how the edges of the map are an equal distance from the edge of the frame, and the actors are an equal distance away from their respective edges of the map.

Love when Tarantino answers with a cut. You go right from “without Germans,” to a shot of a Nazi in the bar.

The shot of Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) greeting her co-conspirators. Love the ease in which she leans back while exhaling smoke.

The way Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger) never looks the least bit amused in this scene.

Hellstrom’s smile fading away for a second as the aged scotch is being poured. It’s as if he knows this is the end.

I’ve always adored the way Fassbender picks up and hands out the scotch. Sticking his fingers in each glass to pass them around. There’s a speed to it that heightens the tension. He really wants this charade to be over.

A great director knows how to effectively direct background players. Look at the bartender here. He can clearly see Hellstrom’s pistol, which is why he looks at the other Nazis, then to his barkeep to see if anyone else notices. All of this makes the insert shot of the bartender’s shotgun payoff even more.

Again with the withholding of the close-up. This is Fassbender’s first close-up in this scene. Tarantino withheld it until the moment Hicox realizes he’s going to die. So effective.

My favorite part of this epic shootout. Stiglitz stabbing Hellstrom in the back of the neck over and over puts Stiglitz in harm’s way. But that’s how much this dude hates Nazis. He’d rather see one die twice than keep living himself.

Forever in love with this line, and Pitt’s off-screen delivery of it.

The best three consecutive shots of the movie. First, the bird’s eye view of Shosanna leaving her room. The way the camera pivots with her movement, goes over walls, tracks her – incredible. Second, tracking Shosanna out to the balcony, timed perfectly to the beat of David Bowie’s “Cat People.” Finally, the slow push-in of Shosanna standing confidently and defiantly on her balcony, monitoring the scum beneath her. Those three shots rival anything Tarantino has ever filmed.

Great stealth oner (a long take disguised to not look like a long take): Shosanna walking to the lobby, greeting Zoller (who introduces her to Emil Jannings), craning back up to the balcony, revealing Landa, then following Landa down to the lobby where Hammersmark and the Basterds await. Total shot time: 1 minute 14 seconds.

Followed by another great stealth oner (length: 42 seconds), in which the camera continually circles around Landa and Hammersmark as they greet one another, and Landa steps away to laugh at Hammersmark’s mountain climbing story.

Sgt. Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth) and Aldo’s shared look while Landa is laughing.

Even the subtitles have a sense of humor during this scene.

Roth holding out the word “arrivederci…” while walking away as if to say, “I hope this woooorks.”

Aldo’s slight embarrassment when Landa reveals that Utivich’s (B.J. Novak) nickname is The Little Man. It’s like Aldo feels bad that Utivich has finally found out.

Roth’s speedily delivery of this line. There’s something about the way the film just BAM and cuts into this scene, and Roth hastily saying the line, that I love.

The music cue as Pfc. Omar Ulmer (Omar Doom) rounds the corner to kill the other guard.

Nice Battleship Potemkin reference….

…and Metropolis

…and The Wizard of Oz.

I’ve always wondered, did Donowitz and Ulmer know they were in for a suicide mission? Given these insert shots, the dynamite is still clearly strapped to their legs. Or did they just get overwhelmed by blood lust and forget to remove the explosives?

Favorite line of the film. No question.

Love that Tarantino’s longtime collaborator, the dearly departed Sally Menke, gets second credit in the film’s closing credits.

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  1. God, I fucking love this film. I had a fucking blast watching it in the theaters.

    There's so many things about that I loved including that moment with Lea Seydoux where I was like "whoa, who is that gorgeous young thing?" And she still makes a lasting impression as right now one of the best working actresses today.

    That scene you mentioned with Laurent and Waltz at the restaurant, you're so fucking right. At that moment, I was like "there's the Best Supporting Actress right there".

    I marked out at some of the music like the drum theme from The Battle of Algiers to Bowie who to me is.... GOD.

    1. Hell yeah man, this flick rocks. I remember taking notice of Seydoux too. So glad her career has taken off. Laurent needs more roles like this one!

  2. I just finished the quite informative 90+ minute podcast Quentin did with Bret Easton Ellis and seeing you mention the Hitchcock theory realized in the beginning along with the Hitch reference later on is now even more interesting.

    Out of everything QT has done, the scene in the basement is my favorite set piece. I can extol the praise of Christoph Waltz to no end in this film. But along with that villain, I must say, August Diehl's Major Hellstrom is one of the best characters Quentin wrote. He doesn't get much screen time as Landa but Diehl makes every second count in that scene.

    I always wondered about the cut scene from this movie- Donnie receiving his bat and Cloris Leachman's supporting role.

    You can tell this script underwent a fair amount of nurture. He started working on it after Jackie Brown and the work paid off.

    1. "I always wondered about the cut scene from this movie- Donnie receiving his bat and Cloris Leachman's supporting role."

      Dude... WHAT?! How have I never heard of this?! This is incredible. The movie does run long (but never too long), but I would love to see this scene.

      So excited to hear that BEE podcast. Avoiding it until I see Hateful Eight though.

    2. I remember there was another person that got cut from the film. Maggie Cheung who briefly came out of retirement to play the movie theater owner who would give Shoshanna the theater. Yet, she too didn't make it to the final cut which is a shame as I love Maggie Cheung.

    3. Damn, I had never heard that either. Would've been great to see. I'm sure QT had a tough time cutting those scenes.

  3. This is definitely one of my favorite movies of all time. I can watch it over and over and never get bored. I don't think there are many casting choices as perfect as Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa. So charming and creepy at the same time. Just the perfect movie villain. And damn that scene at the bar is tense. I almost started to sweat the first time i watched it. This is probably the first movie i really noticed Michael Fassbender in as well. I wish he was in it longer. He absolutely killed it every second he was on screen. Man, reading this really made me want to watch this movie again now. It's been a while actually. One think i have always wondered though is how would Adam Sandler would have been as the Bear Jew. Tarantino approached him first, but he couldn't do it because he was making Funny People at the time. I'm not a big fan of Sandler's comedies, especially these days, but give him the right director like Paul Thomas Anderson and he can give one hell of a performance.

    1. Never heard of the Sandler casting prospect. That's so risky. But, so was Travolta as Vega in '94. I haven't seen a bad QT casting decision yet, so I would've been interested to see that play out.

      So happy you're a fan of this film. It's one of my all-time faves too.

  4. Wonderful post again. I love this film so much, it goes back and forth with Kill Bill vol One as being my favorite Tarantino. Hugo Stiglitz's title card always makes me laugh, and I'm glad you pointed out how fast the German soldier pointed to the others, that always cracked me up too.I like what you said about the close ups too, that's something I didn't notice.

    And you're not the only one that didn't notice it was Mike Meyers until later.

    1. Thanks Brittani! That Mike Myers thing really blew my mind the first time I saw this. I missed his name in the credits, and I'm watching the that scene like, "Wait... is that... no... wait..."

      So glad you love this movie!!

  5. "The way Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger) never looks the least bit amused in this scene." - that kept me laughing throughout this scene, he looked so visibly pissed off and then Tarantino goes and inserts that flashback which only added to the brilliance.

    This is such a creatively made movie, not just the various cinematography tricks but also all those inserted scenes explaining the plot - like Meyers scene - flashbacks and those long, long scenes. It would feel chaotic but Tarantino makes it work because the plot which rewrites the history is equally nuts. Laurent really was terrific in that restaurant moment but I loved Kruger too - she really sold the fear when her character touches that shoe in the bag

    1. Hell yeah, totally agree with this comment. I still to see Laurent's film that you were telling me about. Need to check that out ASAP in fact!

    2. Respire! Playlist did this article about best films people didn't get to see in 2015 and it was on the list, I think the article mentioned it's available on Itunes or something like that

    3. Definitely going to watch it in the next few days. It sounds so good!

  6. My favorite work of his. Utterly superb film :D

  7. I truly, truly love this movie. I completely agree with you that Melanie Laurent deserved an Oscar nomination (if for that one specific scene alone). She was tremendous! Great post, as usual!

    1. Thanks Courtney! She's soooo good in this film. I love her more and more every time I watch it.

  8. Brilliant post, Alex! I actually used this as an educational film in my homeschool. It isn't historically accurate, of course, but it's an interesting pastiche of actual historical elements as well as a brilliant film. And I appreciated the fact that it looked at how filmmakers were used as vehicles of propaganda during WWII (this happened in the US as well). I don't remember seeing that explored in any other movie.

    1. I LOVE your notion about how Basterds shows that filmmakers were used to promote propaganda. Definitely happened in the US as well. And I've always wondered why more modern films don't discuss this. It's actually kind of fascinating. I remember hearing that after Hitler saw Metropolis, he offered to financially back Fritz Lang's films. In response, Lang fled the country and made an anti-Nazi film.

  9. Love this film, as I do most of QT's work, but it's near the bottom of his filmography for me. That said, most Tarantino films I'd give an A or higher. ;)

    So glad you mentioned Melanie Laurent, as she's my favorite part of the film. With this and Beginners, it's a shame she hasn't had more success.

    1. I agree about Laurent! But hey, if she's switching her focus to directing, I can't argue. Breathe is astounding.