Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino has balls. Huge frackin’ balls. He’s made a World War II movie that is unapologetically violent, funny, stupid, smart, and long. And what would a Quentin Tarantino movie be without a foot fetish scene?

But most importantly, he’s taken a knife and carved a great big swastika in the forehead of history. This is not the real WWII. This is WWII as directed by Quentin Tarantino. And then, in the final moment of the film, a character speaks directly to camera and declares: “This is my masterpiece.” It is as if Tarantino himself is declaring it about the film we’ve just seen.

And I wouldn’t argue. Inglourious Basterds is a masterpiece of some kind, although it exists quite apart from other movie masterpieces. It is the genre film taken to the level of high art. It is a commentary on filmmaking, war and Jewish revenge. And it also would laugh in your face and make witty pop-culture insults at you if you tried to intellectualize it.

And so I won’t. Go see it.

PS. Christoph Waltz is as good as you’ve heard.

Ponyo

You would think Ponyo, a Hayao Miyazaki film about a fish girl who falls in love with a human boy, would be as day to Inglourious Basterds‘ night. But they are both fantasies. Ponyo operates under the logic of fairy tales, where things happen because magical forces make them so. But it also has some nice realistic touches.

Sosuke (Frankie Jonas) for the most part acts like a real little boy. His mother (Tina Fey) is a real mother — unaware, sometimes angry, sometimes drunk — but not unloving. Ponyo (Noah Cyrus), on the other hand, is a fish-girl (I would not call her a mermaid), a princess of the ocean who, with magic, is capable of becoming a real little girl.

It sounds like Little Mermaid but it’s more, I think, aimed at younger kids. There’s plenty of Miyazaki magic for adults to appreciate, but I got bored about halfway through. The story just doesn’t have the same depth as a Spirited Away or a Princess Mononoke. The kids in the theater did not seem bored, however. The movie does a good job of telling the story from a child’s perspective. Every animated movie should be at least this good, but too many of them aren’t so I’d have to recommend the movie for fans of animation, Miyazaki or parents with children ages 3-7.