Monthly Archives: February 2010

Movie Review: Shutter Island

Sometimes, the language of film, and the language of literature, just fit together like a puzzle. When I think of great directors and great writers with similar visions, I usually just think of the Coen Brothers and Cormac McCarthy over “No Country for Old Men.” Now, I can add Martin Scorsese and Dennis Lehane, over “Shutter Island.”

In novel form, “Shutter Island” was a crackling and suspenseful psychological mystery that never took the obvious route. As a film, it is both a psychological thriller and an ode to a genre that seemed to have died ages ago. “Shutter Island” is set in the year 1954. Miles off the coast of Boston, there is a place called Shutter Island. It houses a mental institution for the criminally insane. The most dangerous patient, Rachel Salondo, has somehow escaped. U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) have been assigned to crack the case.
Before going on there are a few character points, rather than plot points, that need to be explained. Teddy is a war hero, haunted by what he saw when liberating Dachau. His wife (Michelle Williams) recently died in a fire. So yeah, this guy has problems. Meanwhile, Salondo murdered her children.
Over the years, Scorsese’s directorial skill has been put into question. Yes, he’s made a few flawed pictures (“Gangs of New York,” “The Aviator”), but even those are more watchable than most of the films that come out today. Truth is, most of his recent stories do not even come close to his old ones. However, could anyone ever make a film as good as “Taxi Driver” or “Raging Bull” ever again?
“Shutter Island” clicked for me because I feel it has something for everyone: a little bit of entertainment and a little bit of depth. It’s the kind of film that you walk out of wanting to talk to someone about the ending. It’s also the kind of film where you know, in the end, your money has been well spent.
“Shutter Island” shows that Scorsese, more than ever, knows how to work a camera. Not only that, but turn it into a form of art. Here, he brings back the long shots he used so masterfully in “Goodfellas” and does a few other camera techniques that bring out the ever growing sense of chaos.
This also shows how Scorsese is one of those rare directors who make movies with the self-awareness of being a movie, and being so inspired by movies of the past. The dark, smoke-filmed rooms totally bring out the film noir of the 1940s and 50s. I originally thought the music was somewhat overdramatic but when I think about it, I think it is meant to evoke the somewhat over-the-top nature of old thrillers.
Also, there is a very poor green screen in the backgrounds of some shots. It may evoke the Golden Days of Hollywood. However, it may also evoke some things about the character which I will not spoil for you. But only a director like Scorsese could use something so faulty and make them inspired and ironic.
Along with Scorsese’s direction, the acting was also fantastic. DiCaprio is truly proving himself to be a great leading man now. He corresponds well with Scorsese’s direction by constantly bringing out the trembling darkness within Teddy.
Also scoring a great performance by Ben Kingsley as the head doctor. I think it’s his line delivery that did it for me. The way he says, “it’s like she evaporated, straight through the walls,” is one that sounds both entirely innocent and oddly disturbing.
Back to Scorsese for a minute, because he is truly what makes this movie for a work. I want to use one specific scene to show his great direction. In one scene, Teddy is climbing down a steep, rocky cliff. We know the hero can’t die this early, but Scorsese puts a big, fat question mark to that possibility. He shoots this scene from very tight, claustrophobic angles and we feel like we’re there with him, climbing down those rocks. He takes a scene that might have made the viewer feel nothing, and packs it with suspense.
I believe the story goes from page to screen so well because Scorsese takes Lehane’s story and themes and makes them into his own style. Through the characters of Teddy and Rachel Solando, Lehane finds characters searching for redemption and trying to come to terms with their pasts, and their selves. Teddy’s own struggle with the horrors of war he’s seen could mirror what Travis Bickle had to live with in “Taxi Driver.” Through this, we can understand the character of “Shutter Island” even better.
The story of the film of “Shutter Island” isn’t much different than it was in the book. However, the fact that Scorsese can take Lehane’s style and mold it into his own is what makes this a truly faithful, truly successful adaptation. Scorsese takes Lehane’s dark message about human nature, and turns it into a haunting (and even relevant) message about how today’s world works.
Of course, there is quite a surprise of an ending. Even for somebody who read the book and knew the ending, I was still surprised when the big moment came. Scorsese masterfully knew how to both hide the truth and even make it seem very apparent at other times.
The more I think about “Shutter Island,” the more I like it. Scorsese has truly made a movie for everyone: it’s both simply entertaining, and complexly thought provoking. Quite simply, it is the ultimate experience for those who love movies.

Movie Review: Fish Tank

Mia is always running. You would to if you lived a life like her’s. Her life is hard. That might sound vague, but her plight is emphasized in almost unbearably vivid detail in “Fish Tank.”

“Fish Tank” is the next chapter in what I consider a British New Wave. Along with last year’s “In the Loop,” “An Education,” and “Moon” as well as 2008′s “In Bruges,” “Fish Tank” is part of a series of incredibly well crafted (and entertaining) British films.
Of all these films, “Fish Tank” might just be the darkest. It is a gritty look at lower class life. With its shaky camera, “Fish Tank” at times feels like a documentary. The film follows the life of Mia (Katie Jarvis). Mia is a 15-year-old living on the outskirts of London with a tendency to get in trouble. On the outside, she’s tough and reckless. On the inside, she’s vulnerable and dreams of being a dancer.
Any hope Mia might have is crushed by her physically abusive and unloving mother. Her mother’s new boyfriend, Connor (Michael Fassbender), is kind and caring. Mia soon falls in love with him, and begins a doomed affair with him.
“Fish Tank” introduces its audience to a world it is likely not at all familiar with it. By the end, you’ll feel like you lived it. As mentioned, the constantly shaking camera makes the film feel like a documentary. When Mia sits, the camera sits. When Mia runs, it runs with her, shaking all the way, as if someone is directly following her every step.
The film’s cinematography is just one thing to show that this film is alive. Not to mention, the constantly changing colors brilliantly match each shot and never get in the way of the story (this was a big problem for me in “A Single Man”). Then there is the music. The rap songs help make this film the most vibrant and energetic social drama I’ve seen since “Do the Right Thing.”
It is amazing to say that I’m saying that a film like “Fish Tank,” full of emotionally devastating abuse, could also be classified as energetic. It is a testament to the power of Mia, that she can still bring life and energy into such horrible circumstances.
Speaking of Mia, she’s an interesting character to talk about. She reminds me in a way of a young, more destitute Madame Bovary for the 21st century. She seems to base her life in the idea of fantasy so much that she blends fantasy and reality. This can be seen in her affair with Connor. She might think she’s finding true love, but actually, in a twisted way, she’s really searching for a father figure in her life. Or maybe she just needs an intelligent and caring male to counteract the poor female role model in her life.
Newcomer Katie Jarvis is electrifying in her debut performance. She has no problem going down to the hardboiled truth of Mia’s character. I was also thoroughly impressed by Michael Fassbender. Fassbender wowed me in his brief performance in “Inglourious Basterds” and in “Fish Tank” he brings that same tough yet relaxed geniality to make Connor a character who is hard to hate. Fassbender is blossoming into something of a great actor, and I’m expecting much from him in the years to come.
“Fish Tank” is a great movie because it takes a good story and uses a distinct directorial style to make it great. Director Andrea Arnold has a love of the surrounding world. She’ll often focus on different objects around a room to directly reveal character.
Arnold also focuses heavily on the surroundings, like a giant wind turbine that lies right outside her apartment. It creates a direct contrast between two very different worlds within such close distance. Then there is the film’s beautiful last image. I won’t give it away, but I will say is that it nearly encapsulates the entire film in just one shot. Even in a film that seems to deny the idea that people can live out their wildest fantasies, this one shot shows that in a hard world love still exists if you actually try and find it. The title itself, meanwhile, shows how everyone is trapped into their own personal fish tank of an existence. Only the strongest can swim away.
Even though it’s only February, “Fish Tank” is the first great film to be released in 2010, and one that will most definitely be a top 10 contender come December.

Movie Review: Moon

Of all the movies I’ve seen, even the strangest still give me something to say. It is at the rarest occasion that I am almost at a loss for words. One of these rare occasions occurred as I watched Duncan Jones’ “Moon.”

This doesn’t at all mean that “Moon” is a bad movie; it is in fact quite a good one. It is just so complex and almost non-linear that it will take a lot to explain what I just saw.
The film is a mixture of both the sci-fi and psychological thriller genres. Along with “District 9″ and “Avatar,” “Moon” proves why 2009 was the year that sci-fi made a comeback.
“Moon” is set sometime in the near future. At this point, humans have gone beyond using dirty forms of energy and have found a clean form of energy in fusion from the sun. This form of energy can only be found on the surface of the moon so the company Lunar Industries sends people to the moon to harvest it.
At the moment, the man on the moon is Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell). Sam is under a three year contract and, being the only person on the moon, faces extreme loneliness. He especially misses his wife (Dominique McElligott) and daughter. The only company he has is a robot named GERTY (Kevin Spacey). The only thing that makes GERTY seem remotely human is the little smiley face attached to him, which at times seems more intimidating than friendly.
One day, Sam is involved in a vehicle crash and wakes up to find himself in the middle of Lunar’s twisted, new experiment.
It’s going to be hard to discuss both the thematic and narrative implications of “Moon” without giving away a giant spoiler. Therefore, I will do my best to avoid revealing this huge plot point. What I will say though is that Rockwell does an amazing job dealing with this twist. I always knew he had talent, but “Moon” just proves it even further. He shows some great skill handling a character with a tendency toward both lunacy and normalcy. In the face of the very strange journey he goes on, he manages to seem as realistically perplexed as the viewer is.
Jones’ writing and directing also deserves great praise. I am always fascinated by visions of the future. Where do artists believe we are headed as a species? “Moon” definitely has some interesting things to say on that topic. While a lot of dystopian genres take the bad things of present day society and amplify them in the future, Jones does the opposite and takes the clean energy craze and turns it into something that could doom us all.
However, Jones also does tie in the topic of technology. Sam’s isolation could be a tool to show how our increasingly computerized world can be dehumanizing. In fact, the future of “Moon” seems like a time in which humans are treated more like machines that can be easily programmed and deprogrammed then like actual human beings with thoughts and emotions. The future will quite literally be dehumanizing.
“Moon” also manages to create a convincing futuristic hell through the amazing set designs. A lot of the cold, white hallways of the station were reminiscent of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” This isn’t very surprising, as that film also portrays a future where humans have been taken over by technology. Also, the utter attention and focus put on every detail of this time create a world that seems so vividly real that the viewer might almost feel a part of it. That is the true essence of a Kubrickian filmmaker.
The film also felt slightly like “Alien,” as it pits helpless crew members in space against a corporation with shady intentions. “Moon” also uses outer space the same way “Alien” did and uses it as a tool for being both trapped and extremely isolated. When you’re in space and you’re life is in danger, there aren’t many places you can turn to.
“Moon” will likely leave you feeling perplexed, and shaken up. It uses both genres it combines to compliment each other and create an extremely original and satisfying whole. It’s engaging from its very first shot and it never lets you go from there.
This is a Sci-Fi film not reliant on action but rather on character study and it reveals what the genre does best: use the extraterrestrial or technological world to reveal human nature. When you walk out of this film, you will question what it means to truly be a living, breathing, human being.

Movie Review: The Conversation

The next time somebody says to you, “they don’t make ‘em like they used to,” know that they’re likely talking about “The Conversation.” Nobody observes time and space while fully exploiting all the great elements of film quite like Francis Ford Coppola did.

“The Conversation” deserves to be known as one of the great, defining films in the greatest era of filmmaking: The 1970s. “The Conversation” is set in San Francisco and, like any captivating film, captures the life of a person we never wanted to see.
Coppola follows the life of Harry Caul (Gene Hackman). Caul is an expert private surveillance technician. Despite making a living off spying on others, he is extremely protective of his own privacy. Caul has been hired by a mysterious and very wealthy man to spy on what we presume is a very happy couple. This case mirrors one that has haunted Caul and he believes what he has seen is a recipe for disaster, and that he can stop it.
“The Conversation” prevails because it is top-notch at everything it tries to do: it has superb performances, a nail-biting story, and thrills that are actually thrilling. It’s hard to expect anything less from Francis Ford Coppola who also pioneered such other masterworks as “The Godfather” series and “Apocalypse Now.”
Despite the fact that the running time of “The Conversation” is significantly shorter than the running times of his other aforementioned masterpieces, it feels just as lengthy. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
While any other director would normally try and cram as many events as possible into under two hours, “The Conversation” basically only has a few scenes that go on for long amounts of time. In fact, nothing extremely thrilling happens in the film until its last half hour. The rest of the film serves as character buildup. We are given an understanding of Caul’s twisted psyche. Coppola allows the viewer to view him the way a detective would view someone he’s secretly listening to. In this manner, the detective here’s candid conversation up close and thinks he can figure everything out from there. However, the detective is not that person, and doesn’t know the full truth. This is both how Caul seems to view other people and a pretty brilliant mind trick that leaves us totally unprepared for the shocking finale.
Despite the fascination around the central mystery, this is not just a film about a story, but about a person. Hackman, always the dependable performer, brings even more life to Harry Caul. His performance here reminds me of his performance as Popeye Doyle in “The French Connection.” Caul and Doyle are very similar; they both seem to believe they’ve been put on this earth to rid evil in anyway they can.
Caul also has the added dimension of being a walking contradiction: he spies on people, yet will barely share anything of his own life with others. This may be a byproduct of having to remain in hiding for a living. Or, it could just be the work of a raging sociopath. Hackman plays Caul as being a mixture of both of these. This adds to one of the film’s eventual themes of how the world of work often spills over into the world of pleasure and that in the end, every person is vulnerable to being consumed by their job.
This film mainly showcases why Coppola, despite a less prominent future career, deserves to be known as one of the great auteurs of all time. He understands how time and place can be used to forward a story. He understands what type of music to use to jolt the viewer out of their seat. He knows when to place the light in one place and when to place it in another. Most importantly, he knows how to take a story that anybody else could’ve told wrong and figures out how to tell it right.
“The Conversation” is such an exemplary American thriller of the 1970s for many reasons. The film often reminded me of “Chinatown,” “Taxi Driver,” and “The French Connection” for its use of taut camera angles and brilliant use of light and shadows. Also, its musical score is both classical and jazzy, suggesting the great era of Film Noir. The hero of “The Conversation,” like in these other two films, also contains the characteristics of an anti-hero. Basically, the lives of others are being put in the hands of someone with a past too haunted to ever be trusted in a conventional Hollywood thriller.
All of the tense buildup of “The Conversation” is worth it. We get a mystery well worth the wait and a few scenes that simply remind us of the pure magic of good filmmaking. I guarantee the final scene of this film is one that will stay with you. It is a scene that fully respects the idea of image being more powerful then word as Caul rips apart the very floor he stands on and then smashes a statue of the Virgin Mary, suggesting a world that is not only empty of morality, but too paranoid to even care what morality is.

The One Tarantino Rumor I Hope is True

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about Quentin Tarantino. And over the past few posts, I’ve mentioned “Inglourious Basterds” at least once. You’re probably so sick of the name by now. However, this is one piece of news you just may have to hear.

I don’t know how entirely truthful this piece of news is. It comes from Tarantino himself. The man does have a knack for bringing up film projects he never seems to follow up on. Over the years, he’s brought up the possibility of a Vega Brothers movies, a “Basterds” prequel, and a third installment of “Kill Bill.” Those sound all like great follow-ups to such great movies. Then again, we are talking about Quentin Tarantino, one of the most original directors working today.
That is why today I was thrilled to read a story today on FilmDrunk (originally from the New York Daily News) that Tarantino is throwing around the idea of doing a film based on the Underground Railroad during the days of American Slavery. He’s defining it as being sort of like a Western, but called a “Southern.”
I’ve been hoping that someday, Tarantino would do a pure Western. However, I’m also invested on how he’s taken the Western ideology and implanted it into Nazi-Occupied France, Japan, and the greater Los Angeles area.
I can already picture Tarantino’s vision of slavery now. Like “Basterds,” it will take place in a slightly altered alternate universe and likely center around a slave rebellion. One slave will escape his plantation and seek brutal revenge on their former owner. Meanwhile, another group of escaped slaves will seek their own form of revenge by destroying plantations, and scalping lots of white people. Samuel L. Jackson will play a badass slave seeking vengeance, and Christoph Waltz will play a harsh yet charming slaveowner. Daniel Day-Lewis will have a minor, but affecting role as Jefferson Davis (just because he needs to be in a Tarantino film already).
I have a bad feeling this project might go the way of that Vega Brothers film. Let’s hope not. As much as I really want to see Tarantino save the Western by making a true one, I am enjoying seeing the ideas of the Western get inserted into other aging dramas. Has there ever been a good, tasteful film chronicling American slavery besides “Gone With the Wind?” I remember once watching an 80s version of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in school. That’s about it.
Then again, if there was anyone who could make a movie about American slavery and do it right, it would be Quentin Tarantino.
More information on this here and here.
Side Note: If you must understand the true roots of my Tarantino obsession, read here.

Movie Review: A Single Man

Ignore the posters that make this film out to be a romance between Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. Ignore the buzz that makes this film seem like nothing more than a “gay movie.” “A Single Man” is much more than a romance of any kind. “A Single Man” is a film with amazing depth, but unfortunately, falls just short of perfection.

“A Single Man” takes place in Los Angeles in the early 1960s. It centers on the complicated life in and out of the head of British college professor George (Firth). The film begins at a climatic moment one would expect to see in the middle, rather than beginning, of a story. George’s lover, Jim (Matthew Goode), dies in a car crash.
From there, the film becomes one of those films where the story is less a plot and more of an idea. George copes with the pain of losing his lover. He seeks solace in liquor, an old flame (Moore), and a curious young student (Nicholas Hoult).
Much praise has been heaped upon Firth. This is no surprise; he is able to express so much in so little. George is a character who keeps much of his true self hidden, and Firth always gives George a little less than a smile and a little less than a frown. We know he is not emotionless, and he eventually proves not to be.
Perhaps one of the most moving scenes of the year was made possible by Firth’s incredibly real acting. After getting the call that Jim was killed, George breaks down and cries. However, it is not a loud, over-the-top reaction. Rather, he remains silent. His silence increases the intensity of his reaction more than any scream could.
The film also contains an excellent, yet too brief, performance by Julianne Moore. She revives her British accent from “The Big Lebowski” and brings something of an uplifting spirit to an otherwise saddening story.
It may sound strange, but one of the strongest features of “A Single Man” is also its only real weakness: the directing. The film was directed by Tom Ford, a fashion designer. For a directorial debut, it’s somewhat impressive, and very promising.
Ford has already begun to establish a style. He directs the film like a fashion designer, paying very close attention to color and small details. He really loves color. Ford truly does embrace the aspect of style, and he tries to use it to enhance the substance. There are times when this works. For example, throughout the film, George is constantly shot with washed out colors. Meanwhile, every time Kenny (the young student) enters the frame, George’s world lights up with warm, lively colors.
Details like this work because they are subtle. However, other overly artistic details in the film don’t work at all. While the very strange way George looks at his neighbors serves to show how conflicted he is between lifestyles, the continuous freeze frames also take away some of the seriousness of the story. At other moments, George will be in the middle of experiencing an emotional breakthrough and Ford’s over-the-top direction will give away exactly what we’re supposed to get on our own from the complexity of Firth’s performance.
The major problem of this film is that the director, the film’s leader, is too present. While Ford is talented, he is also dealing with an extremely talented cast of actors. Without his constant intervention, their talents could have wowed us even further. While all of the best directors leave their personal stamp on every film they make, everyone else involved should be allowed to leave their mark as well.
Despite some small hiccups, Ford manages to get both the story and themes across effectively. In fact, George manages to come off as fully developed despite being someone who can barely express his true feelings. It seems that the whole point of the film is to do the best any film can to get inside someone’s head from an outsider perspective. We see a fully realized world of confusion and uncertainty.
“A Single Man” is the first movie in recent years with a gay main character not to make a huge deal of the character’s sexuality. The word “gay” is never used once in the film. Given the time period, most men were beyond closeted, and homosexuality seemed basically impossible. The relationship between George and Jim is used to convey the sense of freedom and openness that is trapped inside of him. The film becomes one about finding identity and reaching clarity.
The greatest thing Tom Ford does with “A Single Man” is that he makes it a love story that’s neither a gay love story nor a straight love story but rather just a love story about understanding love and dealing with loss.

That One Scene: Inglourious Basterds

“That One Scene” is a recurring series on The Reel Deal where I examine that one scene in a certain movie that sets it apart from all others.
First off, we have a major dilemma. When I first created “That One Scene” back in August, I promised to write about one remarkable movie scene every week. Obviously, this didn’t happen.
However, now that I am a second semester senior and certain responsibilities don’t exist for me anymore, I believe now is the perfect time to bring this post back. And now, I’m going to bring it back by discussing a movie I’ve talked about way too much recently: “Inglourious Basterds.” My incessant chatter though is for good reason, as this was a film made to be broken down piece by piece to be fully admired. Also, I hope this serves to show you why this film truly deserves to take home Best Screenplay this year.
There are a multitude of great scenes to break down in this film. I could’ve discussed the stretched out, tension-filled opening scene. I could’ve discussed the audaciously long tavern scene. I also could’ve had some fun and discussed the Bear Jew beating a Nazi with a bat. However, I’ve opted for one of the more subtlety beautiful and less appreciated scenes in the film. It’s a tour-de-force of fine writing, acting, and directing.
The scene occurs after our hero Shosanna (Melanie Laurent), a Jew hiding as a French movie theater owner in Nazi-Occupied Paris, manages to sit through an entire meal with Joseph Goebbels. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), the SS Officer responsible for the slaughter of Shosanna’s entire family walks into the room. Quentin Tarantino doesn’t skip a beat going into this scene. The banging drums seem out of place in a WWII epic, but it serves well in sending chills down the viewer’s spine.
As Landa greets her, Shosanna’s skin turns white as a skeleton. Laurent shows her as someone vulnerable enough to crack at any moment. Tarantino spends an awful long time focusing on Shosanna’s facial expressions, basically making the conversations occurring right above her shoulder seem insignificant. Laurent’s acting shows more fear, vulnerability, and ultimate strength in just a few smacks of her lips than any amount of words ever could. For a director so enamored by conversation, this seems like an interesting, and even welcome, change.
This entire scene contains an incredible amount of ambiguity around it. From the beginning, we are nervous of whether or not Landa will recognize Shosanna. By the end, it’s still impossible to tell if he did or not. For someone known as “The Jew Hunter,” Landa maintains a jovial demeanor throughout the scene.
Landa says the purpose of their meeting is to discuss security matters. At times, it seems less for information and more as a means of torture. He even orders Shosanna a glass of milk, the very thing he drank the last time they were acquainted.
Meanwhile, there is a great focus on the strudels. It seems unnecessary, but Tarantino seems to have a great love of shaping human interaction around the things we eat. That lovingly shot close up of Shosanna ripping off a piece of strudel, then piling a little cream onto it, reminds me of watching Samuel L. Jackson devour a Big Kahuna Burger in “Pulp Fiction.” Tarantino seems to think a lot can be said about a person by how they eat their food. In this instance, Shosanna is someone who is careful, and will never miss a detail. Landa, meanwhile, shoves the pastry in his face. This is consistent with much of the humor arising from this character; he seems to be funniest in how outlandish he is in just about everything he does.
It’s strange also to see the weird chemistry between Landa and Shosanna. While one is a Nazi and the other is a secret Jew, they seem quite good in listening to each other and responding to each other’s comments. At times, they chat almost as if they are old friends.
Of course, while parts of this scene may seem very light-hearted, one can forget its extremely serious undertones. After all, this is a film about the topic of genocide. The most serious moment comes as Landa states, “I did have something else I wanted to ask you.” His smile so quickly turns into a frown, showing how his character can go so quickly from kind to cruel. Shosanna of course, tries to stand her ground. Tarantino takes no hesitation in lingering on this long, frightful silence.
Suddenly, Landa’s deathly stare turns into an all-out smile. He states, “But right now, for the life of me, I can’t remember what it is. Oh well, must not have been important.” This reveals something very important about Landa. Throughout the film, he seems to constantly be on the line between very serious man, and cartoonishly over-the-top. He is a villain so frightening in his insane self-centered principles. Yet, here, he is as clueless as the conventional Hollywood villain who’s too underwritten to stop his foe.
In this case, it’s not poor writing, but some form of satire. That, and it reveals Landa as the most complex Nazi we may ever see on film.
If we look at it from the possibility that he did know it was her, why wouldn’t Landa try and stop her? Well, maybe he didn’t want to because he enjoys torturing her with mystery better. Also, Landa is always fixated on the idea of survival. He seems to hold great respect for those who will do anything to survive. This is why many believe he let Shosanna run away at the beginning. Now, he sees that she is not only surviving, but thriving (like the rats he discusses earlier in the film). He may be simply amazed at how she overcame so much to come this far, and that she deserves to remain in secret.
After Landa leaves, we get to see why Laurent deserved an Oscar nomination this year. After Landa leaves, her feigned smile quickly turns into a frown. When she sees she is completely alone, she lets out a giant gasp and begins crying. It seems almost as if she’s been under the identity of Emmanuelle for so long that she forgot how to feel like Shosanna. It’s strange how she turns around to see if it’s okay to cry; as this makes it seem like her reaction is almost mechanical. However, Laurent manages to make it the most emotionally realistic moment in the entire film. It could also be that she, like the audience, can’t believe she’s made it this far. In this way, Laurent turns Shosanna perhaps into the film’s most relatable character.
Overall, this scene seems to be an embodiment of what “Inglourious Basterds” is truly about: a celebration of the finer things in culture. This ranges from good cinema to good Scotch, good cigarettes, and of course, a fine dessert. Here is a scene that represents why Tarantino is the auteur of our generation: he has an incredible understanding of humanity, timing, and detail.

Oscars ’09: The Snubs

Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds)- In a film powered by raw, unforgiving violence, Laurent was the true heart of “Basterds.” Her emotional performance as a Jew hiding in Nazi-Occupied France truly brought sympathy for this lady vengeance. By the end, when she’s become nothing but a hovering, etherial cloud of smoke, her human presence is never gone. No, it’ll live on in “Too Good for the Oscars” immortality.

Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man)- If voters were actually paying attention, Stuhlbarg would be the frontrunner for Best Actor. Of course, they weren’t, because his brilliant performance was layered in deep, hilarious subtlety. For example, look closely as he waddles down his roof like a chicken as he spies on the woman of his dreams. The Coen Brothers couldn’t have found a more perfect man to portray awkward, Jewish angst.
(500) Days of Summer- How could one of the most inventive comedies in years be totally snubbed, not even scoring in the Best Original Screenplay category? You know you’ve got a special romantic comedy when it seems easier to compare it to “Memento” than “It’s Complicated.”
Peter Capaldi (In the Loop)- Here is a man who deserves to be one of the most famous actors in the world. Capaldi let comedic sparks fly high with the handling of his character’s incessant cursing. While his character is far from a joyous one, he doesn’t seem to curse out of anger, but rather out of involuntary obligation. His impeccable line delivery helped make this dark comedy as dark and funny as a dark comedy can be.
Lance Acord (Where the Wild Things Are)- Technical work saves a tepid screenplay. Acord’s cinematography, deeply observing the beauty of nature, becomes a story of its own. It’s one of those films where you could turn down the volume, and just enjoy the incredible imagery.
Other Glaring Snubs: Matt Damon (The Informant!), Fantastic Mr. Fox (Best Adapted Screenplay), Brad Pitt (Inglourious Basterds), Neil Blompkamp (District 9), Alfred Molina (An Education), “Stu’s Song” (The Hangover)