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Cannes 2009: “Inglourious Basterds.”

Cannes 2009: “Inglourious Basterds.” (photo)

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Spoilers below.

Quentin Tarantino’s a great writer of dialogue, and no one’s more convinced of the fact than Quentin Tarantino. The ratio of talk to action — not gun fights or explosions, but just people doing stuff — in “Inglourious Basterds” is, generously, nine to one. Again and again, characters sit down over drinks (whiskey, champagne, milk), and the stakes may be high, but the conversations are meandering and lengthy, and no matter how clever they may get, they end up defeated by their own pace and their writer’s inability to let anything go. Even the opening scene, a confrontation between Nazi Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) and a French farmer hiding a Jewish family which is supposed to be a slow build of tension and dread, is derailed by digressions about rats and nicknames. The film’s two hours and 40 minutes long, and could be shorn of an hour just by picking up the tempo.

One of the reasons “Inglourious Basterds” is so dialogue-laden is that at least half the scenes are there just to introduce and show off a character. Here’s Landa, whose abilities of detection have earned him the sobriquet “The Jew Hunter.” Here’s Lt. Aldo “The Apache” Raine (Brad Pitt), getting ready to lead a squadron of Jewish Americans on a secret mission to terrorize Nazi’s and take their scalps. Here’s Sylvester Groth playing Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, with Daniel Brühl playing Frederick Zoller, a war hero who’s starring as himself in Goebbels’ new film, and who’s fallen for French cinema owner Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), actually a Jew in hiding whose family was slaughtered. Here’s Sgt. Donnie Donowitz (Eli Roth), “The Bear Jew,” beating a Nazi officer to death with a baseball bat; here’s Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender), British film critic turned agent; here’s Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), German actress and Allied spy, and here are Mike Myers, B.J. Novak, Julie Dreyfus and Samm Levine in smaller roles. By the time that’s all out of the way, the film pretty much just skips to the end, a succinct orgy of violence and destruction that’s not sufficient payoff for everything that came before, even if Hitler gets, with minor historical inaccuracy, shot in the face dozens of times.

Despite the title and billing, it’s Laurent and Waltz that have the largest roles. The Basterds really don’t get the majority of the movie’s focus and the varied characters generally don’t have much opportunity to interact — “Inglourious Basterds” is an “assembling the crew” film that doesn’t allow its crew to hang out on or do much, and if you want to nitpick, Laurent’s character would have achieved what was accomplished by the time the credits roll all by herself, making the whole international intrigue angle superfluous.

There are still plenty of crackerjack shots, from a “Searchers”‘s quote to a camera following rapidfire exchanges between interrogator, translator and interrogatee to the grandiose up-in-flames finale, with a lingering movie projection shimmering across the smoke, the screen long gone. And the music is, as always with Tarantino, exhilarating. But I wouldn’t even call “Inglourious Basterds” minor Tarantino — it’s flat-out tiresome, and from a commercial perspective, incredibly dicey. If this is the pony the Weinstein Company has picked, well, bless ’em, because it’s hard to see this one pulling in crowds once word gets around.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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