Tag Archives: Inglourious Basterds

Django Unchained: “I Like the Way You Die, Boy!”

27 Dec

Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie

Django Unchained is an exercise in restraint for Quentin Tarantino.  Although some scenes of the film rival the bloodiest that Tarantino captured on film in the past, the fact remains that Django, like many of Tarantino’s films, lacks the high levels of violence typical of your Kill Bill or your Reservoir Dogs.  We meet Django (Jamie Foxx) as he is being transported between plantations.  The entrance of an eccentric alleged dentist, Dr. King Schultz, played by Christoph Waltz, allows Django a chance at tasting freedom and the possibility of being reunited with his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).  Waltz, channeling his Hans Landa that made Inglourious Basterds a delight, makes a charming bounty hunter seeking three overseers whom he determines Django can identify. Django, tasting the possibility of freedom, throws away the tattered blanket covering him, and a pronounced shot of his back, scarred by a whip, fills the screen.  Schultz trains Django in the art of bounty hunting and gunfighting, realizing that Django, as we will see throughout the entirety of the film, is unlike any slave to be found in the South.

On one of their first bounty hunts together, Schultz offers Django a beer.  Django shows his delight in tasting the beer, clearly symbolic of his “tasting” freedom for the first time. Django then accompanies Dr. Schultz on a series of bounty hunts, collecting one third of the bounties the men make.  Eventually, Dr. Schultz learns that Broomhilda is likely on a plantation referred to as Candie Land, owned by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is a known Francophile but cannot speak a word of French.  Dr. Schultz and Django then pose as slavers seeking to buy a “black Hercules” to use for mandingo fighting, the practice of forcing slaves to fight to the death.  DiCaprio plays Candie, his first villain, with an awareness of just how ridiculous his character is.  Naturally, the film peaks with Django fighting for his beloved Broomhilda, though those details are best left undiscussed.

Django’s discovery of how good he is at killing can be summed up in one line from the film: “Killing white people for money? What’s not to like?” It’s that daring, overtly racist yet unforgiving attitude that places what Django is really about in focus. It’s a film about exploring a legacy that has left the U.S. in an eternally divided state, focused on the power of race.  Race is huge in this country and Tarantino’s daring in exploring this issue is commendable.  The fact that he is a white Italian filmmaker trying to make sense of the white black paradigm is good on him, despite many protesting these efforts (Spike Lee among them).

Overall, Django Unchained is a massive effort by Tarantino to continue to outdo himself in terms of story, scale, and retelling history.  For me, Inglourious Basterds wil remain my Tarantino masterpiece.  It will be interesting to see what he will do next, as it seems that his tendency to make films in homage to other films is becoming rather tired. Django Unchained places Tarantino at an artistic crossroads of sorts, and it will be his choice to break free from the chains of his own art, much like Django succeeded in doing within this film.

Rating: B+, for effort and creativity.

82nd Annual Academy Award Predictions

26 Jan

My life goals involve sustaining an acting and writing career – I will write more on this when I move to Los Angeles later this year, but for now I would  like to touch on the 2010 award show season.

I am an open award show-junkie. I find winning awards to be very satisfying, and what could possibly feel better than being handed a heavy 24 carat gold statuette with your name engraved on it? Not every actor will be lucky enough to win an Oscar – the Oscar is perhaps the most recognized award in the world. I famously told a friend that I would rather win an Oscar over a Nobel Peace Prize. He scoffed and said I was shallow, I was just being realistic and considering my talents. (But perhaps I am a little shallow.)

2009 was very strange for actors and films. Hollywood is currently caught in a transition in which agencies are consolidating and celebrity is becoming increasingly democratized. It has become impossible to read a celebrity gossip rag or watch a celebrity news show without scratching your head at least a few times and thinking, “Who the hell is that?”  The golden age of Hollywood is tarnished by reality television and famewhoring (see: Heidi and Spencer Pratt).

There appears to be a lack of one great film to stand as the biggest achievement of  2009. In my opinion, that film could potentially be Inglourious Basterds, but its reception so far at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards do not lend to my hopes that Quentin Tarantino will win either Best Director or Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars. Instead, it seems that Avatar, a film that I have avoided entirely, will take top awards.

Here are my predictions for the top Oscar prizes:

Best Picture: Avatar

Best Director: James “Asshat” Cameron for Avatar

Best Actress: This is a tough call. I do not consider Sandra Bullock Oscar-worthy, but I will say it’s between Bullock for The Blind Side and Meryl Streep for Julie and Julia

Best Actor: Jeff “The Dude” Bridges, Crazy Heart

Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique, Precious (I will complement her on campaigning for an Oscar on her own talk show. Slick.)

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds (I will forgive him for his nonsensical acceptance speech at the Golden Globes. He had said something about how the Hollywood Foreign Press had taken his dream and “transformed it into a golden orb”. He’s not American, so it’s an automatic forgiven misstep. He delivered the best performance I saw all last year.)

I’ll add on more predictions if I feel like it, damnit.