Archive for "Quentin Tarantino"

Movie Review: “Django Unchained”

Published by Clay Cane on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 12:00 am.

(Photo: The Weinstein Company)

Summary: Bounty hunter King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) frees Django (Jaime Foxx) for him to point out three overseers he is ordered to kill. Quickly realizing Django has a knack for shooting, Schultz hires Django as his right-hand man. Django only agrees if Schultz will help him rescue his enslaved wife, Bromhilda (Kerry Washington).

Review: The antebellum was a heinous time in American history, yet, it is a sacred era. Anyone who touches slavery on screen will get a cynical side-eye (Beloved, Amistad, Queen). In this review, I will not argue the trite debate whether the film is or isn’t that hot-button word: racist. Racism is the Central Park Five, the execution of Troy Davis and wannabe cops who “stand their ground” to unarmed Black boys — not a Hollywood film, which is meant for entertainment and includes some of the most respected and intelligent Black actors of today. My perspective: Is Django Unchained a good or bad film?  Neither — Quentin Tarantino’s seventh film is phenomenal.

Surprisingly historically correct for Hollywood, the pre-Civil War western is a serious take on the cruelty of slavery, but not without Tarantino’s signature style: sensitive, bloody, witty, comedic and respectful in all of the right places.  The Oscar winner authentically breathes life into characters that have morphed into spectacles on the big screen over the years — from the slave master to the slave, Tarantino dug for depth.  He found a new way to tell a story that should never be dismissed. The Black characters aren’t the docile “Negros” we’ve seen in the past. These are fully realized roles and when they are unchained, the tables turn.

The casting of Django Unchained is perfect. Jaime Foxx gives the best performance of his career since Ray. Leonardo DiCarpio as Master Calvin Candie is like we have never seen him before. Kerry Washington is core-shaking, disturbingly letting out the roars of whippings and, again, not the stereotypical mammy, maid or temptress that Black women are relegated to in films about the antebellum South. Christopher Waltz as a smooth-talking bounty hunter provides much needed comic relief and the grace in which he handles King Schultz will certainly shower him with awards. But the king of the show (and the most controversial) is Samuel L. Jackson as a “house Negro” named Stephen. The fervor Jackson brought to the character is historically correct and wonderfully three-dimensional. Cry me a river to anyone complaining Jackson is playing a house Negro, see the film before judging — he is a inventive actor whose résumé speaks for itself.  Damn it — give Samuel L. Jackson his Oscar!

Over the years, Tarantino has been criticized for his use of the N-word. Well, Tarantino didn’t hold back this time around — the N-word is said approximately 108 times in the two hours and 45 minutes. Every main character spat the racial slur with the exception of Kerry Washington. While I could go without hearing the N-word ever again in movies (I love that Nicole Kidman refused to say the word in The Paperboy), as a writer, Tarantino wrote characters, not historical figures (although it is important to note the N-word was used more during Jim Crow, not the Antebellum South).

Django Unchained thunders across the big screen as a fireball of celluloid flawlessness. Part western, part Black exploitation but absolutely stunning film-making, it’s Quentin Tarantino’s greatest work since Pulp Fiction and, undoubtedly, the best film of 2012.

Django Unchained is in theaters December 25.

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Movie Review: ‘Inglourious Basterds’

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, August 21, 2009 at 9:00 am.

inglourious-basterds-p00Summary: Set in World War II, Jewish-American soldiers are on a mission to kill as many Nazis as possible. Caught up in the mix is a French-Jewish woman who is also seeking revenge for the Nazis killing her family.

Review: There is no denying that Quentin Tarantino is a genius. He is a gifted writer and director who has changed the world of cinema. Sure, his films don’t always translate but by the end of every Tarantino movie you know something clever happened — you’re just not exactly sure what. The good thing about Tarantino is that the audience knows what to expect: endless dialogue, perfect cinematic style, lack of editing, smart one-liners, superb acting, nothing tying together until the last 40 minutes and by the end, a movie that is so towering you just have to like it.

Inglourious Basterds is no different. Even with its fatiguing scenes and non-linear plotline there is still a cunning, edgy and solid film floating around in Tarantino’s world — a movie that could’ve been much better if an hour of the 153-minute running time was shaved off. I can’t help but wonder if this film would be as acceptable if this was Quentin Tarantino’s first effort and he was just any other unknown filmmaker?  But I digress…

Although I know what to expect when experiencing Tarantino, one trait I have never been able to get past is his obsession with babbling dialogue; Inglourious Basterds has more than enough of it. It’s almost like watching stuffy dramatic theater with the writers more concerned about showing off their knack for vocabulary than an interesting storyline. Scene after scene, characters are chatting the running time away. If anyone yapped this much in person you would interrupt them with a bathroom break and never return.  Tarantino knows this is something that critics hate. I can only assume he does this dialogue to piss everyone off and with each movie it gets even more excessive. So, if that is the case — job well done, QT!

Basterds is set around the Holocaust and Tarantino uses his filmmaking powers to avenge the Nazis via a female heroine (Mélanie Lauren) and a country Jewish lieutenant (Brad Pitt).  This is a plus to the film, regardless of the flaws.  QT bullseyes a fictional take on destroying Nazis.  Not surprisingly, each actor nails their character and even though he has a small role, the one Black actor, Jacky Ido, who is in love with Lauren’s character, is a central force to the plot and makes his quick role memorable.

In typical Tarantino style, the timeline shifts and bounces, chapter after chapter you are in a new land, following these characters that eventually end up in the same location with the same goal. The goal is cataclysmic with an operatic and tragic ending, smoothed over by Tarantino’s raunchy camp.

Although Inglourious Basterds is not the best representation of Tarantino’s genius, he can do no wrong, even if it is sometimes misguided and laborious.

Inglourious Basterds is in theaters today.

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