The Pink Elephant In The Room

Django Unchained (2012)
A Review by Ben Hunter
4 out of 5 Stars
December 25, 2012

“Get to the Point Ben!”  I really liked it and was emersed in the world the Tarantino always beautifully creates with the amazing dialogue that he writes!  I mostly didn’t find the harsh nature of the film offensive coming from this Caucasion man using harsh language to my ancestry.   But at the same time, it’s hard to ignore the obvious that he’s using the word and frequently.  After my logic kicks in, I feel better and can truly appreaciate the story for what it is, amazing!
Jamie Foxx as Quentin Tarantino's adapted version of "Django" in his latest film, the Spaghetti Wester, Django Unchained.  I think I might go as Django for Halloween, in this costume.  Probably almost everyone will ask, "who are you dressed as" which will give me the PERFECT segue to say, "Django ... the 'D' is silent".  
Back in the days of the origin of the character, somewhere around the 1960’s, in a lot of European countries such as Austria, the word “Django” (“Jane-Go”, the “D” is silent and ironically the catch phrase of the film) was used in the titles of many westerns that debuted during that time, whether or not it necessarily had anything to do with the character of Django.   It still is, to those who remember this era, a synonym for “cool”.  To the kids growing up in these areas, especially the Italians where the Spaghetti Western originated, if they told jokes about extremely cool and popular people, it was always about Django.  If someone behaved in a somewhat cool exaggeration, they called him Django.  Everyone simply just knew Franco Nero, the original Django and the inspiration and the character of whom Tarantino based his film upon.  He was the biggest star amongst these crowds during this time (and a bar patron in Tarantino’s Django which most people probably don’t know; his original film is where the theme music of this one comes from), and he was … “Django”.  Everyone tried to talk like Django, to look like Django, and behave like the cool character that he is, popular and the in demand person everyone wants to be.  This was to the point where to be cool became the normality of the time.  So younger circles naturally and un-ironically went against the status quo to find their own voice and started to poke fun at coolness … via Django.  Stated well by actor Christoph Waltz who grew up during this era.  This is where Django comes from, and a background of who he is.  This is what Jamie Foxx took on in writer/director Quentin Tarantino’s new Spaghetti Western, Django Unchained … well; at least he tries to in my opinion. 

Set in a time close to the beginning of the Civil War; Christoph Waltz plays a recently retired dentist turned bounty hunter, Dr. Schultz, who frees a slave, Django (Foxx), or “unchains” him, because he can help him catch the bounties he’s currently hunting.  Their lives change when Dr. Shultz realizes he can help Django rescue his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from the ownership of the evil plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).  I thought it was really neat that Waltz’s character is named Dr. King Schultz … Dr. King … who frees a slave. 

Okay, let’s cut the crap and stop avoiding the pink elephant in the room.  Was the movie offensive in its racial nature?  I believe it’s been officially stated that Tarantino broke the record for usage of the infamous “n-word” to African Americans in a single film of his (over a hundred times in Django).  A lot of my friends of all colors are split between the two sides of the argument, however the majority I would say find the film offensive.  In a recent interview, Tarantino addressed the issue.  He stated that he spoke with one of my heroic legends in the history of cinema, an idol of mine, and definitely one of my all-time favorite actors; someone who I would say I look up to, and imitate to model the class, elegance, sophistication, and proper perfection to portray as a filmmaker, an African American, and the bottom line, a man; my example, my highly respected and exonerated, my favorite … Sidney Poitier (yes, this man deserves no shorter and respecting of an introduction).  So Tarantino spoke with Sidney and addressed his concerns about recreating a slave movie and shooting it on American soil.  He felt that the sight of this would recreate the feelings we as African Americans have tried to or have already made peace with.  So Tarantino was concerned to hire a lot of black actors and “put them through this again” in a sense of course.  To which Sidney then responded, that Tarantino needed to “MAN THE HECK UP!”  If you’re afraid to shoot this in the rural areas of Southern America then you’re simply afraid of your movie and you don’t believe in it and you shouldn’t be making it. 

So if someone I HIGHLY respect and admire is behind a movie that blatantly uses the “n-word” so frequently, is it REALLY that bad?  Well, I saw the film before I found out about this conversation; and my initial reaction was that I was NOT offended in the slightest bit.  I initially felt that because Tarantino is already well established as a blunt and harsh director, very in your face, that this fact would indeed help him in this matter of backlash of his new film’s harsh nature.  I think his already established harshness helps to give a more accurate depiction of this gruesome time for my ancestors.  Now that the hype of the film has died down, I generally still feel this way but I do look at it in a different light as well.  Part of me now feels because it’s purposely tongue in cheek, it’s kind of disrespectful in a way even though it is giving a realistic taste of these harsh times.  The exaggerated and exploited nature in a sense gives it the look of insulting and not honoring.  This is only slightly to me, because as I said, this movie is BLUNT!  It’s very in your face with it.  So you can’t help but feel the pain of what the slaves went through.  So it feels more on the accurate side and not the offensive side.  So my take is that Tarantino was going for emotional relief or a break for one’s emotions so you can take in this entire heavily weighted story.  I think David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) accomplished this quite nicely. Tell a heavily dramatic story for 3 hours without burying your audience with all the drama and the heavy stimulation you’re putting them through for 3 hours.  So my bottom line would have to still lean more towards it’s okay with what Tarantino is doing and the comedic nature is apart of this style of filmmaking (Spaghetti Western), and not so much trying to be disrespectful.  However, as an African American man, it is hard to hear the “n-word” used in the graphic nature that it’s used in this film, made by a white man.  I totally understand and respect the feelings of the opposition to this film.  Part of me does feel like, “where the heck does Tarantino think he got his pass from to use that word … THAT MUCH!!??”  That’s emotion talking, my logic then kicks in and feels it’s the honoring history to give a realistic take; but then again this isn’t his first film with the offensive word used frequently.  You have to ask yourself, even if it is quick to some of us, does he really have a pass because he’s the amazing filmmaker “Quentin Tarantino”?  It’s a very touchy subject but is it okay because it’s a man trying to take down slavery to save his wife?  He is fighting for what my ancestors couldn’t have back then as we were considered property and not people, so is what Tarantino doing all that disrespectful?  Would we even be having this conversation about the infamous word’s usage if Tarantino was a black filmmaker?  Would it still be SO HARSH? 

Leonardo DiCaprio as the talented and Academy Award snubbed (as always) evil plantation owner Calvin Candie.
Whatever side you stand on, I think we all have to agree that Tarantino has the testicular fortitude to take on subject that Americans, white or black have all tried to ignore.  Or at least not touch upon as much when the subject is “dealt with” in the media.  Other movies haven’t REALLY gripped this issue we’ve lightly addressed or brushed under the rug.  When other countries are forced to deal with it.  So I think Tarantino gets some points for at least putting his heart in the right place to want to address the subject matter and being one of the few if not only filmmakers to seriously take on slavery, unlike most films about the subject.  His already established, harsh nature really helps him do this and eases the pain of the vulgarity that most would call disrespect.  Was he right to do it though?  There in lies the rub and thus continues the never-ending song. 

Hold your arms up in front of you, with your hands straight, to make a pyramid.  Now move your arms upwards to make the top of the pyramid, so the tips of your fingers repeatedly bump into each other.  THAT was how PERFECLY Tarantino’s last film, Inglourious Basterds (2009), climaxed and oh so perfectly built itself up to the peak of it’s story for everything to interchange at this peak and unravel at exactly the time it needed to, to end at the only time it should have ended.  Django WAS NOWHERE NEAR THIS LEVEL OF PERFECTION!  The two films are not even in the same league and don’t even compare and I’m really tired of mentioning this to other film geeks and scared that I have to mention it!  Django’s pyramid goes upwards like every story’s pyramid needs to, but its fingertips don’t bump into each other like Basterds does, perfectly.  A lot of films don’t.  They just miss and your arms end up making an “X” instead of constantly bumping to indicate the perfect peak where all your stories meet and explode from perfectly building up the right about of steam to get to the that ending point, to climax (Would you rather have a decent orgasm or an AMAZING one?).  Or they just go straight upwards, paralleled, and never meet.  What you think is where everything comes to a well built climax in Django, is not only NOT the climax, but another 30 MINUTES or so of the story is needed to complete it!  EVERYONE that I’ve talked to about this film all has said it needed to be about 20-30 minutes shorter.  It’s a bad break on emotions because our emotions are down because we think the story’s over, but there’s a lot more that needs to play out to properly end the story.  Why your hands never meet to climax the pyramid, they just keep going up to form an “X”.  

Christoph Waltz is a talented actor!  The fact that he can speak multiple languages just diversifies his abilities and makes him all the more capable of more choices to take scenes as an actor both artistic in the stereotypical sense as well as commercially if he wanted to.  Mind you, this is just speaking multiple languages. There are so many other ways to take scenes as an actor, to give a perspective of his talents. All the more reason why he’s amazing! 

I think Jamie Foxxx did a decent job, a passable job.  It would’ve been nice to see Will Smith, who initially passed on the role, perform this character.  But ultimately, with Smith being a family man, I don’t think this was up his alley and I see why he turned it down.  My point being, Foxx wasn’t all the way there with the character.  I conclude this to the not so good construction of the pyramids that build this story up to where it needs to go. He was good, but not AMAZING like Tarantino worships him to have done. 

Nonetheless, Tarantino REALLY knows how to write dialogue and understands sentence structure to then put his artistic taste upon.  I can understand why some people feel like there’s too much talking to hide the not enough action of the story or action that takes too long to get to.  But I respectfully disagree.  His words are poetic, and I could listen to his sentences in any 3 hour movie he does (provided the pyramids properly meet).  It’s the nature of a Tarantino film.  The lingo is similar; it’s how the people of these worlds that he creates speak to one another.  I think it’s immature or un-classy of someone to call it boring.  It’s just not your taste is the way to address this if it’s not up your alley.  The next time you hear that, think of the high school freshman that says the same about Shakespeare.  We all know it’s revered as great work, just not necessarily our taste in interests.  To most I’d say though that Tarantino’s work is not really an acquired knowledge to comprehend or appreciate, yet rather to enjoy.  In short, you may not like his movies, but you have to admit, the dude is talented!  FAR FROM OVERRATED!!

Django is off the chain ya'll!
Controversial or not, adults everywhere are talking about Tarantino’s newly created bad mama jama … DJANGO!

… The “D” is silent …

… And off the chain!

Django Unchained (2012)
Spaghetti Western, 165 Minutes, R
Written & Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, & Leonardo DiCaprio

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