In Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, Michael Fassbender plays Archie Hicox, an undercover British film critic who’s one of the movie’s most surprising heroes. Movie critics stateside are returning the flattering favor, so far dishing up some very generous reviews for Basterds — currently at 82% on RT and 74 on Metacritic. If those numbers hold steady, Inglourious Basterds will have reached a level of respectability AMPAS looks for in candidates for the top categories. Even if it slips below the 70s, across the board praise for Christoph Waltz seems to have his supporting actor nomination firmly locked down. (The role is meaty enough to qualify Waltz for a Best Actor win in Cannes, but we don’t expect that hand to be dealt when Oscar shuffles the deck.)
“…as Nazi colonel Hans Landa, nicknamed ”the Jew hunter” for obvious and terrible ‚Ä® reasons, Austrian actor Christoph Waltz ‚Ä® triumphs, heroically, over Tarantino’s brash, cine-drunk tall tale. His Landa makes a ‚Ä® magnetic entrance in the movie’s first (and very best) scene, terrifying a French farmer suspected of hiding Jews simply by requesting a glass of milk. Waltz, who easily won the 2009 Cannes prize for best actor, centers Inglourious Basterds with the welcome subtlety of his performance. ” (Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly)
“…loquacious Nazi colonel, Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), humorously officious, hypnotizes his prey with a twinkling eye, giant grin, and steady stream of civilized chatter. Landa, the S.S. functionary assigned to rid France of Jews, is not only the movie’s villain, but also its master of revels… there’s a reason why the hitherto unknown Waltz was named Best Actor at Cannes, appears on the current Film Comment cover, and is the subject of an “Arts & Leisure” profile. Waltz’s elegant and clever S.S. man is the movie’s most crowd-pleasing creation‚Äîanother in the long line of glamorous Hollywood Nazis. (See: Tom Cruise in Valkyrie for a recent example.) Indeed, this smooth operator is Eichmann as fun guy!” (J. Hoberman, Village Voice)
I was bowled over by Christoph Waltz, a juicy, flamboyant Austrian actor who speaks perfect English, in the unforgettable role of the finger-licking Gestapo Colonel Hans Landa, a combination of every handsome, blue-eyed movie Nazi from Otto Preminger and Helmut Dantine to Ralph Fiennes in Schindler‚Äôs List. Passionate about gourmet food and fresh milk, oozing a lethal charm that thinly veils a capacity for murderous outrage, Mr. Waltz emanates such energy and discipline that he‚Äôs one 35-millimeter Nazi who deserves an Academy Award.” (Rex Reed, The New York Observer)
But will the cartoon violence and mythological rewriting of history be too over-the-top for Academy voters who like their WWII revenge served cold, and hold the humor? We’ll have to wait and see if the movie’s popular appeal is as broad as its comedic elements.