… 75 percent of everyone polled said it isn’t Congress’ or the president’s role to pressure Hollywood to make less-violent movies and TV shows. [...] Meanwhile, 68 percent of liberals say the NRA bears more blame than Hollywood, but 74 percent of conservatives blame Hollywood more than gun-ownership advocates. However, 60 percent of all respondents agree that mental illness is the single biggest cause of mass killings. [Hollywood Reporter]
SPIKE LEE is acting like a punk, but he’s got a lot of company stirring up mind numbing hysteria. Blaxploitation just can’t get no respect anymore. And blaming films like “Django Unchained” for violence in American society certainly won’t solve the mental health crisis that is at the heart of massacres like Sandy Hook. Hey, but if it makes the nags on the left and right feel better to pick a convenient target, gang up on Hollywood, which just happens to be the most lucrative and creative American export we’ve got, beyond making war.
There’s a reason Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” is making people flock to see it. Not only is it Tarantino’s best film, but it’s the most eviscerating narrative through filmmaking on Spaghetti Westerns meets Blaxploitation and the U.S. history of slavery ever to be created. Everyone gets what’s coming to him or her, with heroes willing to do anything, including lay down their lives, to do right against pure evil. There’s retribution laced throughout the spectacularly entertaining and gruesomely violent ride, complete with a love story at its heart, all of which John Legend tried to capture in the song he wrote for the film.
“I can’t speak on it ’cause I’m not gonna see it. The only thing I can say is it’s disrespectful to my ancestors, to see that film.” – Spike Lee via Twitter
That Spike Lee made his judgment without seeing the movie sounds like a fit of pique out of professional jealousy, because he couldn’t have gotten the big budget financing to make a similar film, a frequent gripe of his. This is mostly due to his earnest myopia that has kept him from producing entertaining films of late. Or maybe it’s just sour grapes over the crash and burn of “Red Hook Summer.”
Oh, my, as a white chick, is that even okay for me to write?
Given all the politically correct historical caterwauling, on top of the gun nut versus anti gun battle over violence that actually stems from mental illness and access to firearms, it seems a whole class of culture warriors is bellyaching without bothering to even understand the actual scope of Tarantino’s film vision.
That’s really the whole reel. You either get Tarantino’s fearless genius or you don’t. Many critics are simply using him to hijack the film for their own agenda. That it’s helping to make the film a bigger success is a fitting irony.
GROSS: You sound annoyed that I’m…
TARANTINO: Yeah, I am.
GROSS: I know you’ve been asked this a lot.
TARANTINO: Yeah, I’m really annoyed. I think it’s disrespectful. I think it’s disrespectful to their memory, actually.
GROSS: With whose memory?
TARANTINO: The memory of the people who died to talk about movies. I think it’s totally disrespectful to their memory. Obviously, the issue is gun control and mental health.
That Ennio Morricone, who wrote the music for over 500 films including beloved spaghetti Westerns, is presenting Quentin Tarantino with a lifetime achievement award today in Rome, just before the European debut of “Django Unchained,” sets a wider backdrop for what’s happening in the U.S., as moviegoers flock to the film. Peter Bogdanovich calls Tarantino “the single most influential director of his generation,” which “Django Unchained” clinches.
The film is not only brilliantly constructed from beginning to end, but entertaining and horrifying, never once disrespecting slavery, as the unfolding plot obliterates the history of westerns and civil war slavery whitewashing, while using both as a springboard on which to construct a stunning display of satisfying storytelling.
Jelani Cobb’s piece on the movie is a sad example of the New Yorker’s pervasive intellectual arrogance and could only happen in the We Take Ourselves Very Seriously New Yorker.
If either Spike Lee, Cobb or Alyssa Rosenberg of Think Progress cared about anything but their own agenda, which is cloaked in cloying earnestness and ignores the filmmaking and the actual story the film tells, they might have been spared how silly they sound. If they’d only taken a clue from the casting, which is inspired.
Why don’t critics digest the reason why Franco Nero was cast? The information has been out there for ages, since 1966, to be exact. Franco Nero starred in Sergio Corbucci’s original “Django.” Tarantino even resurrects the theme song! In fact, the music of the film further cements his narrative.
In fact, Tarantino has brought together tracks from the godfather of spaghetti western music composers, Ennio Morricone (“The Braying Mule” and “Sister Sara’s Theme,” both from his score from “Two Mules for Sister Sara”), rapper Rick Ross (“100 Black Coffins”), jazz musician Anthony Hamilton (“Freedom,” with Elayna Boynton), R&B-pop singer John Legend (“Who Did That To You?”) and ‘70s folk-rocker Jim Croce (“I Got a Name”).
Here’s what Tarantino says about the film‘s main theme, “Django,” composed by Luis Bacalov.
“It’s sung,” he says with a chuckle, “in quasi-Elvis style, by Rocky Roberts. Now this was the actual title track to the original 1966 movie ‘Django.’”… I’ve always loved this song–I think it’s fantastic. Not only that, ‘Django’ was so popular around the world, I’ve heard Japanese versions of the song, Italian versions of the song, I’ve heard Greek versions of this song, because it was played all over…”
Get it yet?
Then you’re already way ahead of most of the critics and culture nags.
Jamie Foxx is a much different kind of Django than Franco Nero, but he’s solidly in control and sure of where he’s headed, which is to find, rescue and reunite with his wife. This is the love story of the film, on which everything revolves and is rooted in none other than the lore of Siegfried and his beloved Brünnhilde. Everyone else then enters to play their parts in the myth to perfection.
Dr. King Schultz, played by Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, is the glue for the entire film, but playing the hero in a Tarantino epic comes at a cost. That’s as it should be, because the nature of being an extraordinary person willing to die for what’s right means the ultimate sacrifice must come due at some point. That King Schultz is German and aiding Django to find his Brünnhilde, which is made possible through a shared language, German, is script magic.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie has too much fun in the film to actually get paid for what he’s doing. Of course, I say that in jest, but the unbridled fervor with which he plays this role is a feast for the senses.
Don Johnson, from “Miami Vice” fame, is so cloaked in character he’ll be unrecognizable for some viewers, delivering a satisfying southern plantation owner’s craven capitalistic hunger. One of the most jaw dropping, cringe worthy and simultaneously hilarious scenes comes when a mob on horseback, a pre-KKK crew, pitches a fit at a rally because they can’t see out of the eye holes in their homemade clan hoods.
Samuel Jackson is “the Dick Cheney of Candyland.” Of that, let there be no doubt.
There’s also Wolton Goggins, a superb actor that people were introduced to on television, before “Cowboys and Aliens,” whom you might know from “The Shield” or “Justified.” Tom Wopat from “Dukes of Hazzard” plays a sheriff. The gifted James Remar of “Sex and the City” and “Dexter,” but also Broadway, produces his usual intensity through his presence, without needing to say much.
There is also the important presence of Kerry Washington, whom you might know from ABC’s political drama “Scandal,” who is the wife of Django, from whom he was separated when they were sold separately and is the force behind everything Jamie Foxx’s character Django is doing to find, free and unite with her. Washington doesn’t have big scenes, but hovers over Foxx’s relentless drive and is what makes “Django Unchained” a breathtaking love story, though I’ve not read or heard anyone comment on this element. Washington’s Brunhilde von Shaft represents and plays to perfection what we can only imagine today was the desperate, palpable and overwhelming panic and fear a black female slave would live with day in and day out during the terrifying days of the slavery.
“Nigger” being spat on the screen 108 times is exploding heads and putting wagging fingers on high. Taking issue with “nigger” in a film that is telling the history of moviemaking and the view of slavery and racism during the Confederacy in U.S. cultural filmography is only matched by the nags making Quentin Tarantino’s use of gun violence and exploding body parts an issue to hit the N.R.A. When Tarantino explodes it’s justice, just like when Django blows away Mr. Candie’s sister, which causes the woman to fly through the doorway and an adjoining room four feet off the ground. It’s retribution on steroids for her ordering his manhood cut off and his future neutered. Why shouldn’t she get as bad as any man? Tarantino’s method through “nigger,” naming one, is to render the viewer desensitized to the word in order to remind us all that there was no power in it when slavery and racism ruled, because it was as commonly accepted as “he” or “she.”
I also wonder why Rosenberg of Think Progress, as long as she’s citing examples of guns and violence, didn’t mention Tom Cruise’s “Jack Reacher.” The ex-military hero, played by Cruise, sent to solve the case of the accused, doesn’t carry or own a gun, even if he shoots expert. Perhaps she didn’t see the film and the juxtaposition doesn’t fit her narrative. The assassinations at the top of the film might keep people from seeing the film, which is too bad, because greed is at the heart of the killings, not madness. It’s Cruise’s best script in a very long time, with what’s on the page sheer perfection for this genre. The story is not only believably, but perfectly delivered, with the interchanges between Cruise and Robert Duval alone worth the price of admission.
Quentin Tarrantino’s films aren’t for everyone. That’s what the critics prove. But the complaints are replete with self-serving agendas. It’s fodder for a conversation that is taking way too much light away from a film that deserves a bank of klieg lights set on high. A film that is so deeply rich in moviemaking history, indicting with extreme prejudice what has come before on the subject, that at one point Django is hung upside down naked, with Jamie Foxx’s full naked body exposed as he awaits castration before being banished to a fate of working in a mine of the walking dead. It’s one of the most harrowing moments in the film.
Everyone in “Django Unchained” has skin in the game and took a risk knowing the wailing and gnashing of teeth that was to come.
In the case of Django, Tarantino tells Fresh Air host Terry Gross that he was much more uncomfortable with the prospect of writing the language of white supremacists and directing African-Americans in scenes depicting slavery on American soil than he was about any physical violence being portrayed. His anxiety about directing the slavery scenes was so great, in fact, that he considered shooting abroad. “I actually went out after I finished the script … with Sidney Poitier for dinner,” he says. “And was telling him about my story, and then telling him about my trepidation and my little plan of how I was going to get past it, and he said, … ‘Quentin, I don’t think you should do that. … What you’re just telling me is you’re a little afraid of your own movie, and you just need to get over that. If you’re going to tell this story, you need to not be afraid of it. You need to do it. Everyone gets it. Everyone knows what’s going on. We’re making a movie. They get it.’” [Fresh Air, with Terry Gross]
Quentin Tarantino rewards their trust with an epic film that belongs on any serious film lover’s top 10 list of all time great films, which also happens to be spectacularly entertaining.