Saturday, December 29, 2012

Movie: Quentin Tarantino: A revenge-fantasy movie on the culture-cutting theme of slavery in 'Django Unchained'

In the much reviewed new movie 'Django Unchained,' directed by violence-prone Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds  here), this movie is styled a "slave-era spaghetti western" and "a plaftorm for a bloody, profanely comic-pop entertainment" over one of the most important reviews to date, by Erin Aubry Kaplan.  I can't recommend strongly enuff that your read Kaplan's the Los Angeles Times (Dec28,2k12).  The movie was released June 12,2k12, and is now being assessed in the turn-of-the-year surveys that will dominate much entertainment news reporting until after the New Year.

In the meantime, shift your gaze from critique of the director, especially on racial grounds, to a critique of the very prominent black actors among the stars — like Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, and Samuel K. Jackson.

Shay Riley's blog, Booker Rising, reports:

"Instead of just at white director Quentin Tarantino, asserts [Constructive Feedback,] the conservative blogger in Georgia:

If Spike Lee was serious, he would channel his anger over 'Django Unchained' towards Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, and Samuel L. Jackson [black actors in the Tarantino-directed film — refWrite]. While Spike Lee engages in yet another battle with yet another peer movie director — his arguments fail to capture the real issue with the projection of 'Black history' as a 'Spaghetti Western'.  IF 'Django Unchained' was a 'Minstrel Show' — Spike Lee would be fighting against the producer but giving the actors 'in Blackface' a pass.  It is only the fact that he has a good relationship with Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington that he has EXCLUDED them from his attacks per their participation in the production.

Constructive Feedback "continues his commentary about racism chasing:
There is no question that Black Progressive operatives [like Lee] understand the ramifications of their criticism of fellow Blacks in good standing [Foxx, Washington, but Jackson not included?].  It is easier for [Black Progressives like Lee] to express rank 'intellectual dishonesty' by targeting their words at a 'White director' — giving the 'Black supporting actors' the ability to claim 'This is a debate between Lee and Tarentino, not with me'."
Of course, so far as I know director Tarantino isn't debating anything with director Lee.  This is a debate between Lee and Foxx, Washington, and Jackson, if it is any debate at all.  Rather, its most probably a debate between Spike Lee and Spike Lee.

The brilliant Mr Lee, outstanding director himself, is simply itching for his periodic debate with yet another White director.  Lee has developed a line about White directors who produce movies with Black themes and using/casting/hiring Black actors for said movies because their excellence as performers calls them to this production.  On the issue he puts forward once again, the venerable Mr Lee has worked himself into something of a corner, but he can't pull back (as in "pull his punches") from making his now pro forma (or formula) critique, because the actors have clout and respect from black movie-goers; and the film, tho very tarantino in its stylistics, is one where director and actors seem to have developed a symbiotic relationship with one another for the purposes of the film which centers around a credible black protagonist in a historical depiction of America's old West.  Just on the plot level alone, the work that Tarantino and script writers have invested in the motivation of Mr. Foxx's lead character establishes both his historical likelihood and his crediblity, the more fortuitous feature of the story-line is that of his white mentor.  I for one don't find the friendship that emerges as incredible, but some Black critics may do so, of course.  Yet, by this time in the story, even they may let their defenses down, based on the likeability and solidarity-evoking strength of character played by Jamie Foxx.

— Moviethink, refWrite Backpage movies newspotter, analyst, columnist

'Django' an unsettling experience for many blacks

Plot Summary:  Set in th South two years before the USA Civil War, Django Unchained stars Academy-Award-winner Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave whose brutal hjistory with his former owners lands him face-to-face with German-born bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Cristoph Waltz).  Schultz is on the trail of the murderous Brittle brothers and only Django can lead him to his bounty.  The unorthodox Schultz acquires Django with a promise to free him upon the capture of the Brittles dead or alive.  Success leads Schultz to free Django, though the two men choose not to go ther separate ways.  Instead, Schultz seeks out the South's most wanted criminals with Django by his side.  Honing vital hunting skills, Django remains focused on one goal: finding and rescuing Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), the wife he lost to the slave trade long ago.  [Her character's very name seems a trivialization of her personhood, as I grew up on the comic strip with the same designation.]  Django's and Schultz'e search ultimately leads them to Calvin Candie (Leonardo di Captrio), the proprietor of 'Candyland,' an infamous plantation where slaves are groomed by trainer Ace Woody (Kurt Russell) to battle each other for sport.  Exploring the compound under false pretenses, Django and Schultz arouse the suspicion of Stepen (Samuel L. Jackson), Candie's trusted house slave.  Their moves are marked, and a treacherous organization closes in on them.  If Django and Schultz are to escape with Broomhilda, they must choose between independence and solidarity, between sacrifice and survival. — Trailer Addict 
YouTube (Dec28,2k12)  4,141,938 hits to date, a very busy webpage.

Moviethink, refWrite Backpage movies newspotter, analyst, columnist

'Django' an unsettling experience for many blacks

Another retro update (Jan2,2k13)

Pastor Matt Blog (Dec29,2k12)

Well before Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained hit theaters it generated a lot of controversy.  Even though actors, agents and studio execs are supposed to keep high level scripts under wraps, Tarantino’s screenplay had all of Hollywood buzzing about the degree of violence and the frequent use of the “N” word.  How did it all turn out? Is it just a shockfest? A corny homage to spaghetti westerns? Actually, it is easily Tarantino’s finest film since Pulp Fiction and perhaps the best movie of the year.

The story is set in the south two years before the Civil War.  Dr. King Schultz (played brilliantly with an ironic innocent glee by Christoph Waltz) is a German dentist turned bounty hunter who needs a recently sold slave, Django (portrayed by Jamie Foxx in an Oscar worthy performance), to identify three outlaws–the Brittle Brothers.  After freeing Django, locating the Brittles on a Tennessee farm and battling a band of masked white supremacists, Schultz asks the recently freed slave to be his partner.  Django agrees, with the proviso that they free his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), from Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a plantation owner who delights in “mandingo fighting” where slaves battle to the death.  Schultz concocts a plan to infiltrate the plantation to find and free Broomhilda by posing as a wealthy degenerate who wants to purchase a champion fighter.  All goes well until Candie’s trusted house slave, Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), begins to suspect that Schultz and Django are up to something.  I couldn’t reveal anymore without dropping serious spoilers but let’s just say it gets bloody.

The movie is nothing short of a masterpiece: The acting rivals Lincoln for the best ensemble performance of the year and although it is close to three hours in length, the pace is crisp.  My only criticisms are that Tarantino’s cameo is distracting as are some of the songs chosen for the soundtrack (Jim Croce?) but these are minor flaws in an otherwise near perfect film.

But what is a Christian to make of the graphic violence, brief nudity and strong language? Given the setting and message of the film, I believe they are warranted.  Now, before you yank my evangelical card, please hear me out.

First of all, the free use of the “N” word, the brief nudity (related to the torture and humiliation of slaves) and some of the violence highlights the brutality of the pre-Civil War South in the same way the graphic depictions of the holocaust by Spielberg inSchinder’s List underscored the barbarity of the Nazis.  The inspired authors of Scripture also use graphic depictions of depravity to make their point–read about the rape, murder and mutilation of the concubine in Judges 19.

Second, the violence is part of the theme of justice that pervades the story.

I am preparing to teach a class at a local church on apologetics and the Christian worldview.  One of the arguments for the existence of God is the inherent human desire for justice even for complete strangers.  In the end, Django Unchained is about justice.  In fact, the overall trajectory of the film is injustice, death, resurrection and justice.  Sound familiar?

When justice comes it is brutal but have you read the Book of Revelation? When ultimate justice comes to our world it will not be pretty!

With those with eyes to see and ears to hear, Django Unchained is actually a powerful movie about depravity, resurrection and justice that echoes Scripture.

I give it an A+ and highly recommend it for those who have the stomach for it.


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