‘Inglourious Basterds’: A Most Unlikely Oscar Juggernaut

Quentin Tarantino's gruesome, profanity-laced epic nabs eight Oscar nominations.

On its surface, an exploitation film about Nazi hunters doesn’t exactly have “Oscar potential” written all over it. Factor in violent scenes of people having their heads bashed in with baseball bats, gruesome laughs that arrive with the mutilation of characters, and the fact that the movie was inspired by this, and it seems like a downright miracle that “Inglourious Basterds” would be deemed award-worthy.

But award-worthy it is, as evidenced by Tuesday morning’s (February 2) announcement that “Basterds” has hunted down eight Oscar nominations , second only to “Avatar” and “The Hurt Locker.” Once again, the incomparable Quentin Tarantino has displayed his knack for dusting off genres and plot conventions dismissed by pop-culture as unworthy and reminded us of the beauty he sees in those worlds.

“This thing was a gift. It landed in my lap; six weeks later, we were shooting,” Brad Pitt recalled of Tarantino’s stunning script. “You don’t want to change a thing. I compare it to working with a Coen brothers script, because the dialogue is so spot-on. And there’s a music to it, that if you take one step off the trailer, you just muck up the whole thing. And so you stay on course. It was really so defined and laid-out.”

We’ve been following the development of “Basterds” for nearly a decade, but it was the film’s Cannes premiere earlier this year that began the buzz that it might be awards-worthy. Tarantino’s films had previously sampled liberally from hold-up flicks (“Reservoir Dogs”), boxing movies (“Pulp Fiction”), revenge thrillers (“Kill Bill”), blaxploitation (“Jackie Brown”) and more, but his first war film still seemed like a long shot for the Oscars. After all, any movie that depicts Hitler finding his end at a movie theater ain’t exactly “Saving Private Ryan” in terms of somber realism.

Months before the movie came out, Eli Roth stopped by the MTV News studios to assure us that Quentin’s unique universe would remain intact. Later on, Quentin told us that his main musical inspiration while writing the film was … Jason Mraz ? But to write it off as simply an eccentric film for Tarantino nuts, we were told, was selling it short.

“There were very slight creative disagreements that I would have when we were finalizing the cut, before the film was shown with an audience, with Harvey Weinstein,” Tarantino admitted of his own difficulties in getting people to believe he was making an Oscar-worthy film. “And Universal too. They were afraid that the film was getting too funny, just because they weren’t used to it. They weren’t used to this many laughs in a World War II movie, funny that. So there was this concern: Is this becoming farcical? And I go, ‘Well, you say that like it’s a bad thing.’ ”

In the eyes of many, all of Tarantino’s films should have been nominated for more Oscars in the years they hit theaters. Now, a decade-and-a-half after being nominated for “Pulp Fiction,” Tarantino has once again convinced Oscar voters that carnage, cussing and exploitation can sometimes be award-worthy endeavors. On March 7, millions will tune in to see whether “Inglourious” can take home some Oscar glory.

Check out everything we’ve got on “Inglourious Basterds.”

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