"You've gone from being crazy like a fox to crazy like Fox News."- Amy Wong
"Knoxville is a guitar town with a banjo problem."- Susan Bauer Lee
"Republicans in East Tennessee live in a government compound of national and state forests, land grant universities, nuclear research labs, and TVA lakes and dams, while pretending to be coonskin cappers guarding the mountain passes to stop socialism." - (Commenter from Oregon discussing the Tennessee Governors contest in the NYT)
Spike Lee may be thinking what I think, which is, isn't it too bad Quentin Tarantino, who is capable of making great films, is basically so lazy and half ass with his gift that he keeps coughing up action hero comics as "transcendentally bad" (quoting a British film critic) as Inglorious Basterds? This Django (name ripped off French gypsy guitar genius) movie might be really good, I might wind up liking it. But Spike's bad feeling about how this thing might come off as shallow exploitation is completely reasonable in view of Tarantino's track record.
The "Django" name actually comes from the title character of a whole series of spaghetti Westerns—Franco Nero was the original Django—that Tarantino obviously loves and admires. As for Spike, I have a lot of respect for him, but dissing a movie you say you don't plan to see is a classic ass move.
I haven't seen the Nero movies, which Spike Lee references in the clip, but had read about them and the controversy for violence. (The point about the name is pretty minor but whoever made the original Django probably had heard of Django Reinhardt and thought the name sounded unique and bad ass.)
OK I'm going to play whoever used to write those blurbs for Metro Pulse called Psychic Movie Predictions, which frequently dissed movies the non-viewing critic had never seen (I don't know who wrote them and this was after LeeG's time, and anyway they were just for fun so can't be called ass moves), and predict the remake will involve the violent killings of lots of Zed and Maynard-style psycho racists on the way to one eventual multi-weapon screwball shoot-em-up in which the wealthy former slaveholder character gets his. Which may be worth sitting through just to see Leonardo di Caprio get blowed up real good.
But I haven't seen it, so I'm gonna give it chance. It might advance a very important human rights message. Or it might just create a black action hero in the tradition of (not being a smart aleck here, being for real) some kick ass exploitation flicks from the 70s, just moving the action back a century and making the protagonist a former slave. And not being black, I don't know how I'd feel about the super white creator of such low life characters as Jules and Ordell taking on that transformation. But I might be suspicious.
We'll see : - )
edit: I just read a summary that says Chrisoph Waltz plays a "German former dentist" bounty hunter. I'm proposing a "Chekhov's gun" principle about introducing violent or psychotic German characters, post-Marathon Man, who are dentists, and saying I will be disappointed if there isn't a chair scene.
Last edited by Hildegard; 12-26-2012 at 10:50 AM.
I used to write similar blurbs for CP, so it's not like it's an unfamiliar practice, but dismissing sight-unseen the latest effort from a filmmaker of some substance (say whatever else you will about him) based on matters of some substance in a forum where you're gonna get quoted all over the world is still an ass move in my book.
Almost everybody I know who's seen it so far seems to have had one variety or another of a good time, though I think the only person of color I know whom I know has seen it had an impressed but somewhat ambivalent reaction (then again, he's British, so maybe his perspective is a little different anyway).
I don't really have a dog in this fight. I want to see it, but I'm not a fanboy. (I found Inglorious Basterds and the Kill Bill movies kind of overstuffed and logy, for all their piecemeal charms. Deathproof, too, and that's not two-and-a-half-hours long, either.)
There is no wealthy former slaveholder character. Leo plays a wealthy current slaveholder.
I liked the movie quite a bit. Jamie Fox & Christoph Waltz are solid. It's one of the more straightforward stories Tarantino has made, plot-wise, and that's almost disappointing, though the plot's roots in legend make up for its relative simplicity. Hint: the heroine's name is Broomhilda. Wagner might not know what to think.
It's frills are many: chocked full of subtle & not-so-subtle film references; many actors playing against type (Don Johnson, Tom Wopat, Leo, Sam Jackson, Jonah Hill); fun cameos; streamlined Tarantino dialogue, etc. There is a beautifully hilarious skewering of "Birth of a Nation" at one point.
At the end of "Inglorious Basterds," the film ends WWII with a bang. While institutionalized slavery is not wholly ended by the end of "Django Unchained," there is the promise that it takes place just a year or two before the Civil War.
Well, I'm gonna see it. I decided that I'd see it pretty much right away, but I'll wait for the Netflix version. I was so disappointed when I saw Inglorious Basterds (not sure I misspell that correctly) that I wondered if Tarantino had directed it over the phone, to use a cliche. I was an early and avid Tarantino fan - Jackie Brown is one of my favorite films from the 90s - but I'm kinda over him now. When I read his interviews during the publicity for the first Hostel movie he (produced? He was executive producer or something to do with it), he was so full of shit (and himself) over the importance and "honesty" of the movie, I was turned off. I don't know what it's like to become that successful, but I suspect for some people, it makes them seriously overvalue themselves.
Which leads to Spike Lee, and I admit he comes off as smug and sanctimonious, but I'll say one thing for him: He has always been like that. So my take on this thing is: Where's the surprise? Spike Lee is being a dick again. Well, well. I would have been pretty surprised if his comment on a Tarantino movie about a slave would be anything other than a diss. Did you watch the clip in that link? The way he shrugs off (literally shrugs, btw) the idea of even seeing the film as an affront to his ancestors, is one of the most priceless dick gestures ever. It's way beyond an ass move.
But OTOH I shouldn't judge a black person's reaction, whatever it is, to the film whether they've seen it or not esp if they have reservations about the artistic motivations of the filmmaker. (Edit to acknowledge Lee G's good point that Spike Lee's stature makes his response particularly ass-like.)
The only other thing I'm going to say about Tarantino is that he also seems to have lost the sense he demonstrated early in his career for complexity in the nature and morality of men (or women) who do evil things. And that's all I've got to say about that. FIN.
Note to Randall - I know it's a spoiler, so don't post here. Message me when you get time: Is there a chair scene with Waltz the Dentist?
Last edited by Hildegard; 12-26-2012 at 11:42 AM.
Just saw the movie, but before I get to that let me just note that Spike Lee is not the only one with misgivings. See this Gawker piece: "The coming right-wing freakout over Django Unchained."
Anyway, la fille and I both thought it was great. She's a bigger QT fan than I am -- I haven't really liked a movie of his since Jackie Brown, and had gotten so bored with him that I have yet to get around to Ingluorious Basterds. But I will now, because Django is way better than I expected. It does well by all its various reference points -- westerns, blaxploitation, buddy films -- but not in a way that trivializes its subject matter. Spike Lee doesn't need to worry (except maybe in the sense that he hasn't made a movie this lively in ages). There are some scenes that are very hard to watch, and should be. And part of the reason they're hard to watch is that we've seen so few scenes like them.
(Also, yes, it's over 2 1/2 hours long and it does drag in the middle. But worth the ride.)
I'm rarely in the mood for ultra-violence on screen. I'll probably wait for the comic book.
"Sometimes a stick in the eye is a tool for enlightenment, but mostly not." Manfred Minsk