While on my trip home from Manhattan I watched Inglorious Bastereds. It's now November, and award season is right around the corner. Starting with 2009 I am going to watch a Best Picture nominee from every year, and analyze it's position in the Oscar race, and then talk about how it holds up looking back.
Basterd was the product of the genius, Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino's early credits include being an extra in The Golden Girls where he was an Elvis impersonator. Tarantino has moved far beyond this acting work, and has helped to shape film making today; his first major directorial work Reservoir Dogs is pretty solid. Tarantino's most critically acclaimed work came in in 1994, Pulp Fiction. Pulp Fiction earned the director two Oscar nominations for directing and writing; he won the award for best original screenplay. After these two films Tarantino's career has continued to thrive, but his next set of nominations did not come until 2009 for Inglorious Basterds (writing/directing).
2009 was the first year the Academy went back to ten Best Picture nominees since the year of Casablanca in 1943. The Academy never actually stated with directness why they went to ten nominees, but one of the things many award show gurus cite is the omission of The Dark Knight in 2008. The switch to ten nominees was a cultural change, that was met with mixed reviews. The rules have still continued to evolve. The Academy stated that this this year there can be anywhere from between 5 to 10 nominees. This will provide an interesting situation this year.
2009 was an interesting year for the Oscars where many people were focusing on the Avatar (big budget sci-fi extravaganze) vs. The Hurt Locker (the smaller scale war film). In this epic battle for the big prize and other awards most people discredited Inglorious Basterds. Basterds was nominated for Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Christoph Waltz), and Best Original Screenplay. Waltz was an early on front runner, and was poised to take the trophy throughout the entire awards season. Basterds got a decent number of nominations in the technical categories. Most of these categories were set to be split between The Hurt Locker and Avatar. Many people predicted that Tarantino would win in the screenplay category again, but he was bested by Marl Boal's The Hurt Locker. The Academy got it right! The Hurt Locker deserved to be the big winner.
While re-watching Inglorious Basterds, I was not as enamored with this film as much as I was the first time I saw the movie. It's sad that Tarantino's second nominations came from lesser work. The Academy seems to be obsessed with honoring films that center around World War II, the holocaust, the Nazi's etc. and this film fits within this category. Tarantino's Kill Bill Volume I and II were much better, but they did not gain any recognition. I love Tarantino, but he did not deserve the screenplay win for this film. Waltz was just as great the second time around, and I love how maniacal his character is portrayed, just brilliant.
The one thing I noticed this time was how much Diane Krueger impressed me. Kruger played Bridget Von Hamersmark a German actress who was also a double agent for Allies. Kruger's subtle looks in the sequence in the bar, and while she is being interrogated by Waltz are sheer brilliance. Melanie Laurent who plays Shosanna was also great in this film; her scene where she interacts with Waltz, the man who murdered her entire family is chilling! These two women deserved nominations for their work in this film, and it is sad that voters could not move past Tarantino's machismo aura of this film and recognize the actresses who did some of the best work in the film.
In the world where there are 10 nominees for Best Picture, I would have nominated this film, but looking back on the year there could have been five better films. This was the year of The Hurt Locker, Up, Up in the Air, A Serious Man, District 9, Star Trek, and my personal favorite 500 Days of Summer. Tarantino did a lot of interesting things within this film, but I would not cite this as his best best work.