My wife has gone international again (Haiti, of course). Solo nights + exacerbated insomnia = perfect opportunity to catch up on the movies we'd rather not waste our “together time” on. Today's cases in point:
Knowing, the infamous Alex Proyas/Nicolas Cage vehicle that Roger Ebert loved, despite the nearly universal chorus of contempt sung by the rest of his cohort. Braced for my own indifference, I was instead pleased to find myself beguiled by a story that was emotionally unsettling from beginning to end. Comparisons have been made, appropriately, to M. Night Shyamalan's Signs — both films attempt to explain the ways of God to men — but Knowing is the better film for its use of ambiguous biblical metaphors that raise deeper, more nettlesome questions than the superficial ones they settle. Having said that, neither film is one I'd care to add to my library: a single viewing with friends, family (or youth group) is enough to generate the desired dinner conversation.
Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds — if your idea of a well-rounded meal is Skittles and Beef Jerky, this is probably your idea of a great movie. Well-seasoned moviegoers don't need me to articulate just what a po-mo white trash meta-referencing geek Tarantino is — and if that sounds like a bad thing, I don't necessarily mean it to. It's just that by now Quentin's entire ouevre, with only one exception, has the collective feel of a marathon session of, “Why don't you come over to my back yard, and we'll all play 'Let's Pretend'?” (sorry, correction: “Lett's Pritend”) The tropes are all there: the cheery perambulations around a subject of deadly consequence, the Mexican Stand-Offs, etc. Tarantino's true gift lies in who he entices out to play. Say what you will about Tarantino's little-boy games, he sure knows how to get the girls involved: Mélanie Laurent and Diane Kruger bring the emotional content for Chritoph Waltz to endanger. Waltz deserves Oscars and more, as does Robert Richardson for framing it all so beautifully, and Sally Menke for working miracles in the editing room. But none of these people can rescue Tarantino from the grim fact that he was a wunderkind, whose wunder is fading with his status as kind.
Final verdict: Michael Blowhard used to rate the success of a movie by its lack of “fast-forward moments.” Neither flick prompted me to FF, but I was content to leave Basterds running for a few minutes while I took a bathroom break.