Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Bang up to date

Possibly the best films of this and last year?

INGLORIOUS BASTERDS - I can't recall two and a half hours flying by faster at the movies than here, with Quentin Tarantino's take on war movies. This is both a comic and a cartoon and as stylish as they come, with of course no relation to history, though may be a new DIRTY DOZEN. I love the little '40s Parisian cinema (quite palatial on the inside) and Melanie Laurent as Shosanna is surely a new French actress of note. Christoph Waltz is amazing as Landa and has to be best supporting actor - though the whole ensemble is perfect, with lots of Quentin's in-jokes. Pitt here seems a combination of James Coburn & Lee Marvin - I thought at first his character was named Aldo Ray! There are stunning set-pieces: the long first chapter introducing Landa and his methods at the French farmhouse, where one sense's Tarantino taking his time setting out his stall; the German war hero sniper's (Daniel Bruhl - wasn't he the boy in LADIES IN LAVENDER?) pursuit of the cinema owner Shosanna taking her to the centre of the German occupation and her re-union with Landa ...
The film is audacious and hilarious, with great dialogue sequences like the shoot-out in the cafe and the conflagration at the cinema with all the Nazi high command in attendance. Nice period feel too, as though getting the look of the 40s was important (something that's often ignored in war movies). I just loved it, Tarantino's best since PULP FICTION. Great music choices too as ever - particularly good to hear Bowie's "Putting Out Fire with Gasoline" [from CAT PEOPLE] again, its particularly apt here. I just downloaded it from iTunes!

THE HURT LOCKER - Kathryn Bigelow's latest and a nerve-shredding, white knuckle ride with that bomb disposal unit in Iraq. This is surely war as it is lived and torn from the news bulletins - even more so now with the Afghanistan war on our screens every night. Bigelow of course is one of the most exciting directors working today and has been since POINT BREAK back in the 90s. Filmed in Jordan it captures the everyday work of the soldiers and the (hostile?) Iraqis lurking in the background, and those ready to prime a bomb. Ralph Fiennes and Guy Pearce appear, the lead Jeremy Renner seems rather like a new Russell Crowe, but certainly delivers. His Sergeant James lives for the adrenalin rush of disposing bombs which he compounds by not wearing his protective gear and maybe getting his colleagues into danger. The final set-piece with the wired Iraqi is edge of seat stuff. But as the quote at the start tells us: "war is a drug", our hero feels out of place back home in the supermarket, so has only one option left. It tackles war in a totally different way from Tanantino, but both films are dynamite.

I now feel like more "theatre of war" movies like re-seeing Peckinpah's CROSS OF IRON, Spielberg's EMPIRE OF THE SUN and Polanski's THE PIANIST, and I recently watched some Jeffrey Hunter [always ideally cast as a marine] titles like SAILOR OF THE KING, NO MAN IS AN ISLAND, FROM HELL TO ETERNITY and that Fox ensemble IN LOVE AND WAR. Robert Aldrich also did some gritty war movies like Palance and Chandler in the '59 10 SECONDS TO HELL [another bomb disposal unit!, in Berlin after WWII) and Palance & Lee Marvin in ATTACK, and of course Warners' big one, Walsh's BATTLE CRY in 1954. A great kids' movie too was Universal's ensemble in AWAY ALL BOATS ['57] and all those British war movies ....

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