Some Django Unchained blowback from me, in response to the distinguished review by the guy who does a far better job of analysis than i do, Matt Poole
okay . . . some observations on this film
i think i hated it, but i’m not sure . . .
i didn’t say it was a bad film, i never once thought i’d
rather not have seen it, or thought about walking out, but as for its
‘importance’ or ‘merit’ i have to think right now that it has little to none .
. . it self-destructs
Tarantino is a dork . . .
last week, i thought one of the actors in the film was a
waiter and asked him to get me a menu (which he did) . . . in retrospect it’s a
cool deal, but i was horrified when i figured out what i’d done . . .
i suspect you’re going to be pretty much on the money about
nominations, but i’ll hate that too . . . except that in a relative sense maybe
some performances stack up, but they’re not what i would throw against some of
the classic Oscar performances . . .
what i’m trying to say is that i become more and more disenchanted every year
with what passes for ‘good’ performance – there is too much allowance for stretches
of poor characterization forgiven for a few minutes of brilliance (this is the
fault of the director imho), and too much acceptance of stereotypical
characterizations rather than applauding unique performances (and which is
where, imho, Pulp Fiction [or for that matter Reservoir Dogs] generously
outweighs Django in the heavyweight filmmaking department; and is also why
Tarantino will never achieve the level of say, the Coen Brothers, which is what
i think he aspires to) . . .
Leonardo DiCaprio is one of my all-time favorite actors, but
in this film he is always just rote Leo with one major hissy fit (which was not
completely as out of the blue as it needed to be, but also strangely too out of
character for the character we had been witness to) . . . now, rote Leo is good
acting, but again he was just that caricature of a slimy (to use your word)
plantation owner . . .
Kerry Washington was totally wasted . . . while this film, ultimately,
i guess, was about the horrors of the time, she still was the point of the
quest . . . the minuscule, in some cases totally disjointed, flashbacks and the
handful of scenes in which she is a) naked, b) screaming or crying, and c)
struggling to make herself believable as the incapable-of-pulling-off-a-life-saving-lie
dame in distress, did nothing to make us believe in the strength of their love,
to make us care about them as a couple, or to believe in the quest,
despite being told in fairly pedantic and ultimately ridiculous form about the
German legend (smarmy old white German guy instructing the freed black slave as
Neanderthal around the campfire) . . . and, i thought everyone was just
misunderstanding her name . . . there is no Broomhilda in German . . . it’s
Brunnhilde . . . but alas i see she is even in the credits as Broomhilda . . .
so is this some weird cultural reference to Broomhilda the cartoon witch? and
what would be the significance of that? are we to think she is really a witch
(in the nagging spouse sense) and he just has been blinded by love and hasn’t
seen it? if so, then there is no other hint of it anywhere . . . then again,
Tarantino is such a dork . . .
Jamie Foxx . . . i can’t say i disliked his characterization
. . . i only wish that he hadn’t spent the entire second half of the movie
either brooding menacingly or reaching for his pistol, only to impress us with
his self-control, until of course he has no more self-control (warranted of
course, we sorta could guess it was coming, but if you’re going to show the
growth of a ‘man’ then don’t squander all that heart by making him ultimately
ruthless and soulless) . . . his hero-worthiness kinda vaporized for me in that
ridiculous denouement – sorry i’m gearing up to go into my story-making rant –
i realize most everyone will go to the movie a) to see all the stupid gore, and
by that i mean, the slapstick crap, and/or b) because Tarantino is such a dork
and people want to see what he does next . . . okay, so back to Jamie Foxx, ultimately
i think he is the most forgettable main character of the lot . . . sad but true
. . . unfortunately i think Will Smith or Jim Carrey or Jon Heder (or whoever
else QT wanted) would have been just as forgettable because this was about
in-camera direction . . .
Waltz – meh . . . as you said, we’ve seen this guy before .
. . and i’m not sure they’re so different . . . as with Foxx, we see him
ultimately build to a breaking point, one that seems to defy the man we thought
he was (again, the story is set up so that we cheer when he does it, but it
felt rather manipulative to me) . . . if there’s a difference it’s that his
growth was always building in that direction, we saw him grow both queasier and
also harder hearted, so that his end was inevitable . . . the best part, from a
story-telling angle was that, in his character, we could actually get under his
skin, to feel what he felt and to have a sympathetic reaction to how he tried
to handle things . . . it’s a shame that his supporting cast was not along for
the ride . . . ps, he had some really bad stretches of phone-ins
Jackson was brilliant in his role (the best total
performance of the lot i think) . . . as it were . . . do i buy that someone as
racially ruthless as DiCaprio would allow him to do what he does – no, i don’t
. . . and yeah, i get the history between them . . . but it doesn’t square with
history, nor does it square with human nature . . . if this is a complete
farce, well okay i guess, but then one should definitely be comparing it to
Blazing Saddles (which it obviously is in some homage to) instead of something
more weighty . . . at least in Blazing Saddles they took the race issue, put it
in the forefront, and did something smart with it . . . there is a huge
difference in taking a comedy and using it as a cultural mirror vs. shoving a
mirror in our face and then trying to get a few chuckles and guffaws out of it
. . .
this might as well have been an animated feature . . .
Matt, i’m pretty sure we have gone down this road before . .
. my ideas about storytelling . . . i am going to assume that this was an
attempt at telling a story, if not, if it was just as it seems, Tarantino
seeing how much crap he could throw up on a screen and have us pay to see, then
my whole point will be moot . . .
my concept, to restate and elaborate on, is that regardless
of what you are dealing in, be it film, novels, poetry, songs, painting, dance,
or music, art is about telling a story . . . my story-telling acme is that in
which nothing gets in the way of the telling and full understanding of the
story itself . . . and so, when editing, etc., my objective is always to expand
that which needs it for the sake of the story, and eliminating everything else
that makes one stop and go “what was that?” . . . it’s okay to make folks stop
and ponder bits of the story, it’s okay to create backstory, it’s okay to lead
one down a false path as long as all those things further the finished telling
. . . but making someone stop to reread a sentence ten times because it’s so
poorly written that it makes no sense? in the moment it takes you to do that it removes
you from the story and it falls apart . . . tell the story man, if you have a
story to tell . . . if you have to constantly throw meaningless stuff in, then
you probably don’t have a story to begin with . . . if you have to throw in
stupid gimmicks and cutesy dialogue (and make no mistake, a lot of his dialogue IS smart and does
prod the story along; but some of it is pure crap; there is a rather large
difference between intellectual, or knowing, ‘smart’ dialogue, and
‘smart’-aleck dialogue that ultimately is worth nothing more than the moment in
which it is uttered and delivers a chuckle . . . there is no “The Dude abides”
in this film, not even a shadow of it . . .), then that is
nothing but base ego (and i guess there are plenty of folks who like that
gimmicky crap because it’s signature Tarantino, well fine, but it’s still
gimmicky crap and it’s still, pathetically, about his ego and not the story)
there is a time and place for non-linear exposition and
flashback, but Tarantino either hasn’t located that place, or he is
deliberately screwing with us – if the latter is the case, then fine, he
succeeded, but at what cost? the loss of story? pretty pathetic that he’ll take
people’s money and do that to them . . . especially when the film had not only
the potential to be something really special, but important . . . he could have
made a defining statement, replete with humor and bloodshed, and odd moments,
but it’s completely squandered by stupid giant titles, and beyond ridiculous
violence and stunts that make a mockery of film and even his own abilities . .
. he has concocted a story little short of brilliant and then turned in into a
Lego version of “The Village” . . .
so . . . the Blazing Saddles hood scene, i agree, the
funniest (intentionally anyway) scene in the movie . . . but it totally took me
out of the story, totally, and it was also unnecessarily long, the humor could
have been done in about 15 seconds . . .
so, the dog scene, i suppose, was meant to display some level
of brutality, and also to show the limits Walt’s character could stand before
breaking, but those things could have been handled elsewhere, and the dog
scene, if necessary, could have been much shorter . . . in any case, the scene
took me out of the story again . . . i feel like that’s because i had the gut
instinct that the real purpose was to get Tarantino’s cutesy little hillbilly
stereotypes into the story . . . again, maybe for slapstick it works, maybe not
for the purpose of a good story . . .
so, a screen-sized Mississippi crawling across the screen,
not only figuratively took me out of the story, but literally too, as nothing
could be seen behind it . . . pure ego-flashing gimmick . . . silly at best . . .
so, i’m not much into gratuitous violence and bloodshed . .
. but i can certainly handle it when it is a part of the story, and i don’t
think that one should back away from depicting reality, but when it gets
cartoonish (yeah, i know it’s just another signature Quentin ‘thang’, but it’s
also just another really dorkish signature) then it immediately takes me out of
the story because i begin thinking about how ‘unreal’ it is and dissecting
scenes instead of staying engaged (and this is a fault with a lot of films the
last decade) . . . when it approaches cartoonish then i am really out of the
story, and this film has perhaps done that to me more than anything since
Natural Born Killers & Tropic Thunder (don’t get me started) . . . it
really feels most like Tarantino trying to one-up Tarantino, because no one
else is willing to sabotage their own films at his level . . . the final
bloodletting at the Big House was just ridiculous . . . okay the bloodnuts in
the house got a kick out of it, but what else did it accomplish, besides
removing one from the story? and okay, i know guns, i was a long-time
instructor/hunter/yadayada, i know guns . . . there isn’t a shotgun made that
will blow someone 20 feet into a bookcase and destroy the bookcase (oops, taken
out of the story again), nor will a shot from a balcony from any non-military-only
rifle (especially of that era) blow someone off their feet, even a petite lady,
at a 90 degree angle to the shot – the killing of Laura Cayouette’s Lara was
especially ludicrous, and brought the first, unintentional, laughs in the
theatre i was at in probably 30 or 40 minutes, though there were a lot of
attempts to humor in that time (i think we were all thoroughly numb by then) .
. . so all the semi-serious bloodshed, supposedly in service to rescuing one
damsel in distress, lost in one foul moment of either a) poor direction with
lousy stunt engineers, b) intentionally stupid filmmaking, or as c) the last
big fuck you to the audience who lined his pockets . . . out of the story . . .
i could go on, but the idea is that we spent much of the
time in that quite taxingly overlong film being dragged around places that
served no purpose other than to excite Tarantino fans . . . most of those
moments would have been much better had they been uploaded as out of context
clips on YouTube (maybe that was his real goal?)
i guess it’s obvious that my big frustration was that so
much could have been done with this story and it was clearly a hugely wasted
opportunity . . . maybe QT is not capable of really delivering a good story, i
don’t know . . . i understand, but don’t really like, his cult appeal . . . but
again, holy crap man, if you actually come up with a good story, and have an
opportunity to really make a splash, to really create a living pinnacle for
your really uneven ouevre, then why squander that chance for a few moments of
pure goof . . . highly disappointed . . .
i’d almost like to take the film when it comes out on
DVD and recut it myself, but i’m afraid i’ll find there was far less substance
than even i give it credit for . . . and then i’d put the leftovers on YouTube
. . .
ps, the music was cute, if obvious sometimes, and occasionally cheesy, which i know he did on purpose because there was so much spaghetti sauce lying around when he was done, high dollar Ennio Morricone sauce at that . . .
pps the two guys i went to see the film with really liked it . . . i think . . .