Friday, January 18, 2013

Film Friday: Django Unchained

The Prelude AKA Don't Dance Around The Word and its History

NOTE: I spoil parts of the movie so you should maybe see it first if you don't want to know some of what happens.

There has been much written about, "Django Unchained," around the internet. There has been a lot of talk about it on television, and if you ask someone if they've seen a good movie lately odds are they will say they've seen either, "Django Unchained, or, "Les Miz," if they prefer musicals (both films are doing quite well at the box office so I'm pretty secure in thinking your theoretical friend has seen at least one). I've been bugged a by a fair amount of the writing and talking about, "Django," as I will call it for short, however. The reason is people are discussing pointless things that don't matter a bit.

Django is a film about racism, slavery, and violence. People are choosing to discuss idiotic things such as if the movie is somehow anti-white, racist, or if Quentin Tarantino enjoys having the use of, "The N-Word," too much in this movie. Okay, first off there were white folk who didn't think black people were inferior back in the 1800s, but most thought a black person was a subhuman, not a someone but a something. I myself do not ever use, "The N-Word," in my life. It is a hateful term with a history of misery and pain, but that is how people talked back then, and if in our reviews we refuse to face that fact or even say the word, "nigger," we are trying to brush over history. 

Yes, I just said the word, because while I would never use it in life if I'm talking about history or the word itself you are just coming off as someone afraid to face how in the past one group of people used that terrible word against another group of people in order to put them down, make them slaves, and otherwise treat other humans as if they were inhuman. David Brother's puts it best when he says, "Basically, if you are utterly incapable of saying the word nigger, you shouldn't be talking about the word nigger...We're adults right? Adults use words, understand the history of those words, and understand that painful words can be used in certain contexts without offense." This movie is about slavery, violence towards ones fellow man, and the word, "nigger." The very people playing racist characters felt uncomfortable with the language in the film, but knew it was needed, so they used it. They used it because they knew it was disingenuous to do otherwise.

If there is any word that when used against a whole population says to someone, "I think, 'these people,' are less than human," that word is nigger. "Kike," is the closet to being another word to debase a whole group, but doesn't really come close because it is barely used. Seriously, in all 24 years of my life having met some people who hate Jews I've never been called that world because its mostly forgotten. Yes, I've gotten, "Christ-killer," or been told I'm going to hell, but I've not been called, "kike." I will bet you any black person can tell you of at least one time they've been called nigger, however--and not in the "nice" way we hear in Hip-Hop with people saying they are trying to take back the word. "Django," is about the titular hero who fights against racism, slavery, and anyone who would dare call him nigger. You can't do a movie about the word without using it, so if you're going to talk about this movie, or that word's historical context, please be an adult and just say it. Plus, if you can't get past the fact that word is used extensively in, "Django," you'll miss an amazing flick.

The Review Itself AKA Damn, That Was a Great Movie
Django is an incredible movie. If I had any complaint it would be that perhaps it goes a little long at 2 hours and 40-ish minutes. There were various bits that could have been cut to, "trim the fat," of the film as it were, but by having so much in there the movie truly is an epic, so maybe it should run as long as it does.

When you're talking about the quality of the movie the absolute first thing you have to do is discuss how incredible everyone is in their acting. Christoph Waltz played an absolutely terrible person in the form of a Nazi in, "Inglorious Basterds," and here he plays one of the most caring and nice people possible as Django's friend and partner in bounty-hunting--while of course having the violent edge he needs to murder the various criminals they go up against. Jaime Foxx is one of the most talented men in existence because his standup is delightful, his music albums are stellar, and he is one of the best actors you could ask for when you need a character to be both vulnerable and gentle, yet harsh and tough. His expert range and depth is a sight to see on the, "silver screen." Samuel L Jackson is a hoot as someone you just hate with his conniving and plotting. Kerry Washington is superb as Django's wife too. The man who often steals scenes though is Leonardo Dicaprio.
Leonardo Dicaprio is amazing as the disgusting Calvin Candie
I used to hate Dicaprio. I saw, "Titanic," and thought he barely emoted and at most showed a glimmer of acting talent. Little did I know that with time the glimmer would become a bright and gorgeous shine of expertise. While Foxx may show the most range in, "Django," with his character going from a sad and broken man to an incredible force of vengeance, Leo cranks his intensity up to 11 and never lets down. Dicaprio plays a man who is just a terrible person, a monster, plain and simple. Dicaprio is just so mesmerizing as Calvin Candie however that while you loathe Candie, you also love Leo for playing him so well. 

Calvin Candie thinks he is an intellectual and southern gentleman. He thinks he has everything figured out in life. He, "knows," white people are superior to black people," due to their very bodily make-up. He says Django is that, "1 in 10,000," of slaves and former slaves, an, "Exceptional nigger." He feels Django is just that, an exception, while the white man is superior with his mansions, cotton farms, and supposed smarts. Candie is an abomination of a person, and seeing someone so terrible portrayed so damn amazingly just startles you. One can't help but feel disbelief that this man is admired by so many people despite being awful, because back then someone who thought like Candie was just as common as the cold. It's amazing acting on Dicaprio's part, and between him and everyone else this flick never fails to impress when it comes to watching actors practice their craft. How is the story though? Just plain great!

At its heart, "Django," is a love story. It's about one man who will do whatever it takes to get back the woman he loves--in this case that man is Django and that woman is his wife. So yes, this is a love story...that also happens to be a western, tale of the evils of slavery, and an impressively-done and quite violent action movie. There is a lot of blood in this movie, but the gore isn't meant to be fun so much as it is to be alarming. Guns aren't fetished in this movie as much as they are shown to be the destructive tools they actually are. 

Often in movies bullet-wounds are shown as little holes with a hint of blood. In real life that isn't the case, bullets are horribly destructive, ripping through flesh, breaking bones, and otherwise making a huge mess. Tarantino shows this because the man has never shied away from violence for both the reasons he likes his movies bloody and that he isn't going to ignore the brutality of mankind. We feel disgusted when Candie has his dogs maul a slave to death because Tarantino doesn't pan away from it, he wants us to see how terrible it is--hell, the vicious nature of that scene sticks with Waltz's character throughout the movie as we see later on his reflecting on it.
The Klan, shown to be the fools they are.
One thing that I haven't yet mentioned is that, "Django," is quite funny. Its not a comedy, but Tarantino knows that with a topic such as this if you aren't careful to make sure the audience is entertained you'll just have a huge downer of a movie lecturing to the audience. Therefore, he uses humor to prove points. When the Klan that wants to attack Django is shown debating whether to wear their hoods or not it illustrates these men are huge dullards who couldn't even cut the eye-holes in their hoods correctly. Its hilarious and imparts the truth behind how those in the Klan are just morons. Candie calmly announcing how they'll be, "white cake," in the parlor after screaming violent threats about bashing in the brains of Django's wife illustrates this is a man who thinks killing a slave is as casual an occurrence as having dessert--that's how abhorrent a man he is. "Django," is often quite serious, but it knows when to make the audience laugh, and often we laugh because otherwise we would probably cry, that's how uncomfortable and painful it is to look back at this depressing part of American history when it was thought to be normal for a person to treat another as property based on something as simple as their skin color.

The Conclusion AKA What Else Can You Call This Movie Besides A Masterpiece?
Tarantino has made many great films, but this is probably his best yet. It has his love of action and fondness for clever dialogue, but also is full of history, reflections on the evil humans are capable of, and otherwise is one of the best movies ever, plain and simple. This is the kind of movie you see and then tell all your friends to view so they can marvel at it too. Tarantino has made a film that doesn't shy away for the horrors of slavery. However, it also doesn't just make the audience feel sad. We get to see people fight against the terrors of that time, rise up against the word, "nigger," and not let evil win. Indeed, we see how there were people back then who weren't going to stand for the nightmare of slavery, and we get to have a really good time seeing all of this.
You should feel proud, Quentin, you made something amazing.
"Django Unchained," is one of those movies that is an instant classic; this is a film to be discussed for years by scholars who examine all of its symbolism and cultural impact, as well as talked about by movie-watching folk who enjoy fantastic movies. Those rare times when something just plain amazing comes along need to be treasured, so don't miss this film. This movie makes you uncomfortable, it makes you angry, but it also makes you think and laugh. "Django Unchained," is a masterpiece, and if you disagree with me and claim it isn't, fine...but you're wrong. See, "Django," if for some reason you haven't (I apologize for spoiling some things, but I warned you). You'll be glad you did, I guarantee it.

5 out of 5 stars.

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