Happy New Year! I hope everyone has a safe, healthy, and successful 2013. Since it’s the end of 2012, a lot of the big movies up for various awards flooded the theaters over the last few weeks, and I’ve found myself going to the theater a lot lately. Most recently, I saw Les Miserables, which I enjoyed and recomend, and Django Unchained, which I also recomend. I’ll admit that I don’t like a lot of Quentin Tarantino’s films, except for Pulp Fiction. I find a lot of his work outlandish, flat on character development/growth, and overly violent and profane. However, I liked Django Unchained quite a lot, especially Tarantino’s decision as the film’s director/writer to make a nearly 3-hour long picture that addresses America’s ugly past of slavery, and in doing so, Tarantino juxtaposes scenes that are at times humorous and cartoonish with scenes that are utterly brutal and violent to show the violence white slaveowners unleashed on black slaves. One scene in particular shows Mississippi plantation owner Calvin Candie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, release a set of hungry dogs on a slave who tried to run away. As you can imagine ,the dogs literally tear him to pieces, and the audience witnesses this with long slow motion shots.
Another reason I enjoy the film is for its character development, especially Django, played by Jamie Foxx. The filmmaker incoporates several flashbacks to illustrated how Django was treated on the plantation, how he ran away, and how he lost his wife, as well as what happened to her during their separation. The audience ends up rooting for the protagonist throughout the film, as he mauls down one white slaver after another, and Jamie Foxx is stellar in the role as a gunslinging, freed slave out to save his wife.
The film has also opened up a dialogue about race between Spike Lee and Tarantino, after Lee said he refuses to see the movie because it turns the history of slavery into a spaghetti western. Furthermore, Salon.com recently ran an article stating that only Tarantino, a rich white filmmaker, could have made such a movie. The article can be read here, and it’s worth a read for anyone interested in the movie or film criticism in general. The article is not critical of Tarantino, and in fact, it praises him for choosing such a project when he can make any type of film with any type of story that he wants, but it does raise questions about how far we have or have not progressed as a country and who can make what type of art.