INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (Quentin Tarantino)
OR: Once Upon a Time in Occupied France. The success of this, Tarantino’s 7th film, cemented his name among the heavyweights of world cinema. Like it or not. It became a losing argument to insist that Tarantino was just the king of the fanboys with a global following. And he did it by doing what he’s been doing since the beginning; meticulously structure his own screenplay and trust his instincts in turning it into cinematic magic. He also knew that he didn’t have a movie without the right actor to play “the Jew Hunter”, the suavely sinister Col. Handa. And he almost didn’t get one. After having auditioned dozens of actors to no avail, Tarantino was ready to pull the plug on the whole project. Universal was days away from giving the final green light and the megabucks to make it happen. IF Tarantino was good to go. At the 11th hour, enter Christoph Waltz, an Austrian actor, mostly known in Europe for his TV work. It didn’t take long for Tarantino’s instincts to tell him that he had his man. Waltz’s subsequent performance is one of the most casually brilliant ever filmed.
(500) DAYS OF SUMMER (Marc Webb)
Boy and girl meet cute, but not too cute in this beautifully executed rom-com that somehow manages to avoid cliches while realizing that some of them are just too good to avoid. There’s a lot of wisdom in this in-and-out of love affair, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are utterly believable throughout. There are precious few little gems like this one.