The Fate of all War Movies

United States
November 15, 2008 6:47am CST
As of this writing, Quentin Tarantino is busy filming his long-awaited World War II movie, Inglourious Basterds. Now, war movies have been and always will be a Hollywood staple - before the Age of Megaplex, the suits had to fill those grand old picture halls somehow... a two-hour dose of war usually did the trick. In this post-post-modern age (ushered in partly by Tarantino himself) of self-conscious, winking genre films (GRINDHOUSE, for example, or SCREAM), the war movie remains largely untouched by the needs of unoriginal, painfully self-aware little screenwriters to reinvent everything they come across. Tarantino's movie might change that... and maybe not for the best. The KILL BILL saga was essentially a wild infusion of all his favorite bits from a thousand martial arts movies and Z Westerns and such. Expect INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS to include references to John Ford, Howard Hawks, Preston Sturges, Michael Powell, Sam Fuller, Don Siegel, Clint Eastwood, Spielberg, and maybe even Kurosawa... as a script reader, I once read a horror-thriller set in WWII about a bunch of elite soldiers out to stop Nazis from resurrecting a demon (or whatever - yeah, a HELLBOY ripoff), and found it pretty absorbing. We've been seeing the reworking of the Western in recent years - 3:10 TO YUMA (deconstructionist rendering of the classic genre, focusing - wisely - on the two leads), APPALOOSA, etc... and I understand the impulse behind this. We filmmakers seek to commune to a grander time in our chosen craft's history. Westerns are timelessly American (which is probably why my Australian fiancee doesn't understand them), and in this largely baffling modern era, we want to break things down to their component parts, just to see if we can put them back together any better. Well, maybe the war movie needs some shaking up. If anything, Tarantino's flick (and, love him or hate him, even his most evenly paced, laconic film - JACKIE BROWN, his PULP FICTION follow-up - is never even remotely boring) will be a helluva good time at the theater, probably... I'm hoping INGLORIOUS will see a pendulum-swing to films that explore more traditional war movie themes, but reacher deeper to unearth the stuff that went hidden forty years ago. We'll see.
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