Happy Oscar Weekend
everyone! We’ve got 10 movies fighting for Best Picture nods this year, and all
have something special that sets them apart from the rest. For tonight, let’s
watch a very lauded film, ” Inglourious Basterds,” with eight Oscar
nods, including Best Picture and Best Director. Check out my past reviews for
other films up for Academy Awards: “Up,” “Julie &
Julia,” “Coraline” and “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood
Film (with rating):
Inglourious Basterds (R)
Studio: Universal Home Entertainment
Summary: As WWII rages in
Europe, a Nazi-hunting (and scalping) squad of American soldiers known as the
“Basterds” is on a daring mission to take down the leaders of the Third
Reich, but others have their own plans for revenge as well.
Review: I’m always up for a
Quentin Tarantino film. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen “Kill
Bill.” But when I first heard the description for “Basterds,” I
wasn’t sold. I love a good WWII movie, but I couldn’t figure this one out at
first blush. Was it a comedy? A drama? A dramady? I skipped seeing it in
theaters, but I did check it out on DVD. And I was disappointed–that I didn’t
see it in theaters first on the big screen. “Basterds” is highly
deserving of its Oscar nominations. It’s not a comedy (except when Pitt tries
to speak Italian), nor is it a dramady. It’s a multi-layered Tarantino, and
that’s description enough.
As a true Tarantino film,
this one is ridiculously violent and bloody, but with a purpose and plot. In
fact, “Basterds” is almost entirely conversation- and
character-driven. The violence is
there, but Tarantino knows how to space it out for maximum impact. The ending
is explosively classic Tarantino. If viewers don’t know by now that Tarantino
has a thing for revenge and vengeance, they will after watching
Brad Pitt, the biggest
“name” of the bunch, does play an important character, but not
“the” main character, and I loved that. I wasn’t in the mood for some
Tom Cruise-ish film where the story revolves around the main guy. The title is
actually a bit misleading–the Basterds are not the central force of this film,
but actually a supporting player.
Pitt is the leader of the Nazi-scalping Basterds, but there are so many, many
other players involved who also take top billing and who actually move the
story forward much more. Such as Nazi Col. Hans Landa, played beyond perfectly
by an amazing Christoph Waltz. He is almost a sure thing to walk away with the
golden statue for supporting actor. His smarmy, charming, frightening
performance was a highlight of the film.
Other actors, such as Mlanie Laurent
as the fireball Shosanna and Diane Kruger portraying a double-agent German
actress, move the film seamlessly from scene to scene. Pitt’s drawling Basterd
could have come across as ridiculous, but he pulls it off with believability
and even likeability.
My only complaint is that at
times, the abundant subtitles were broadcast against something white in the
background, making it hard to read. But those hiccups were few and far between.
“Basterds” builds up and continues at breakneck speed to a
satisfying, exhausting conclusion.
Extra highlight: “The
Original Inglorious Bastards”
What to serve for dinner:
Tonight, we’re honoring a host of Best Picture nominees with our menu. We’ll
start off with French Onion Soup (“Inglorious Basterds“) and a Cool
Blue Martini (“Avatar“), then serve some Prawns Peri-Peri
(“District 9“) and Two-Potato Salad with Creole Mustard, Bacon and
Arugula (“The Blind Side“). For dessert, let’s whip up Red Velvet
Cupcakes with Coconut and Cream Cheese Frosting (“Precious“). Recipes
1. Cool Blue
* 3 oz (about 1/3 cup) gin
* 1/2 oz (1 tablespoon) dry
* 1 teaspoon blue Curaao
* 1 teaspoon fresh lemon
* Garnish: 2 lemon twists
all ingredients except twists in a cocktail shaker with ice, then strain into
two martini glasses and garnish with twists.
2. French Onion
* 2 lb medium onions, halved lengthwise,
then thinly sliced lengthwise
* 3 sprigs fresh thyme
* 2 Turkish bay leaves or 1
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 stick (1/4 cup)
* 2 teaspoons all-purpose
* 3/4 cup dry white wine
* 4 cups reduced-sodium beef broth (32 fl oz)
* 1 1/2 cups water
* 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
* 6 (1/2-inch-thick)
diagonal slices of baguette
* 1 (1/2-lb) piece Gruyre,
Comte or Emmental
* 2 tablespoons finely
* Special equipment: 6 (8-
to 10-oz) flameproof soup crocks or ramekins; a cheese plane
thyme, bay leaves, and salt in butter in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over
moderate heat, uncovered, stirring frequently, until onions are very soft and
deep golden brown, about 45 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Stir in wine and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in broth, water, and pepper
and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. While soup simmers,
put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange bread
in one layer on a large baking sheet and toast, turning over once, until
completely dry, about 15 minutes.
from oven and preheat broiler. Put crocks in a shallow baking pan. Discard bay
leaves and thyme from soup and divide soup among crocks, then float a crote in
each. Slice enough Gruyre (about 6 ounces total) with cheese plane to cover
tops of crocks, allowing ends of cheese to hang over rims of crocks, then
sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat until cheese
is melted and bubbly, 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Prawns Peri-Peri
* 18-24 large prawns (large shrimp)
* 200 g (3/4 cup) butter
* 10 ml (2 teaspoons)
* 30 ml (2 tablespoons) lemon
* 30 ml (2 tablespoons)
Peri-Peri sauce (recipe below)
* salt, milled black pepper
* 50 g (1 1/2 ounces) red
chilies, very finely chopped
* 5 cloves garlic, crushed
* 500 ml (2 cups) olive oil
* pared rind of 1 small
lemon (use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin in thin strips)
ingredients for the sauce together in a bottle and shake well. You can make the
sauce ahead and store it in the fridge; the flavor improves with age, reaching
its peak at two weeks.
Slit prawns down
their backs and de-vein. Leave heads on, or remove them if you prefer.
Depending on the size of your frying pan, cook them in one or two batches. Heat
the butter gently and add the garlic and lemon juice. Don’t let the garlic
burn. Add prawns and Peri-Peri sauce. (Shake first to make sure you get some of
the chili and garlic as well.) Sizzle for 4-5 minutes, turning frequently,
until cooked. Season with salt and pepper and tip into a warm serving bowl.
Garnish, if you wish, with chopped fresh parsley. Serve with rice or bread and
4. Two-Potato Salad with Creole Mustard, Bacon and
* 1 pound sweet potatoes,
peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
* 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes,
peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 4 scallions, finely
* 2 celery stalks, finely
* 2 Serrano chilies,
stemmed, seeded, and minced
* 1/2 cup plus 2
* 2 tablespoons Creole
mustard (see note)
* 1 tablespoon finely
chopped fresh tarragon leaves
* Freshly ground black
* 6 ounces arugula
Fry the bacon in
a large skillet over medium heat until crisp and browned. Transfer the bacon to
a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.
Place the sweet
potatoes and Yukon Gold potatoes in two separate saucepans. Cover the potatoes
with water (by 2 inches), add 1/2 teaspoon salt to each pot, and bring the pots
to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, and simmer the potatoes until
they are just cooked through and tender. The sweet potatoes will cook in about
15 minutes, and the Yukon Gold potatoes should be finished in about 12 minutes.
Drain the potatoes and allow them to cool.
potatoes, scallions, celery, and Serrano chilies in a large bowl. Add the
mayonnaise, mustard, tarragon, salt, and pepper, and combine. Taste for
seasoning, and add more salt or pepper, as desired. Toss the potato salad with
the arugula, and serve on a large platter, garnished with the crumbled bacon.
5. Red Velvet Cupcakes with Coconut and Cream Cheese
* 1 3/4 cups self-rising flour
* 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room
* 2 large eggs
* 1 tablespoon red food coloring
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
* 1 cup buttermilk, divided
* 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
* 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
* 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
* 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
* 2 cups sweetened flaked coconut (about 6
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners. Sift flour and cocoa into small bowl.
Using electric mixer, beat 1 1/2 cups sugar and 3/4 cup butter in large bowl
until smooth. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then red food coloring and 1 teaspoon
vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with 2/3 cup
buttermilk in 2 additions. Make well in center; pour in remaining 1/3 cup
buttermilk, vinegar and baking soda. When bubbles form, stir into batter.
Divide batter equally among
paper liners. Bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean,
about 20 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; transfer to rack and cool completely.
Beat cream cheese, 1/4 cup
butter, and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla in medium bowl until smooth. Beat in
powdered sugar; fold in 1 cup flaked coconut. Spread frosting on cupcakes,
leaving 1/2-inch plain border; sprinkle with remaining cup of coconut.
What to talk about over
dinner: Who was your favorite character? What is your favorite WWII movie? What
would our world be like if Tarantino’s fictitious tale were true? Would you
have ended the movie this way? What would cause you to enact revenge? What is
your favorite Tarantino movie? Favorite Tarantino character? What movie do you
hope runs away with the Oscar statues this year? Your nod for Best Picture?
What do you think of having 10 movies in the running? Is it Sandra Bullock’s
year, or Meryl’s? Or will those two split the votes and enable a newcomer to
walk away victorious? Perhaps “Precious’” Gabourey Sidibe? What about
Best Supporting actor? Do you think Waltz will “waltz” away a winner?
What has been your favorite Best Film winner ever? Best Oscar speech? Best
Oscar host? Do you think Steve and Alec can cut it? Do you prefer comedians for hosts, or more serious
performers? Anyone want to act like Joan Rivers and “critique” the