Sunday, December 30, 2012

What Were You Thinking About After You Saw Django Unchained?

I’d intended to just write about end-of-the-year stuff until 2013, but this is what I’m thinking about now, so there you go. Spoilers ahead, of course.

Were you thinking about what may have happened in Quentin Tarantino’s life that prompted him to make so many movies that hinge specifically around revenge?

Were you thinking about how frustrating it was that Dr. Shultz refused to shake Calvin Candie’s hand, and how that eventually made Django and Broomhilda’s escape from Mississippi so much more complicated?

Were you thinking about how difficult it would have been for Django and Broomhilda to escape slavery-era Mississippi on their own, even in spite of Django’s cleverness?

Were you thinking that Dr. Shultz could have just cornered Calvin Candie and simply offered to pay, say, $1,000 for Broomhilda, saving everyone a lot of time and trouble?

Were you thinking about Spike Lee’s complaint about the film being disrespectful to the memory of his ancestors who endured slavery in the United States? About Lee’s refusal to see the movie that he regards as a spoof? Lee tweeted, “American slavery was not a Sergio Leone spaghetti Western. It was a holocaust. My ancestors are slaves. Stolen from Africa. I will honor them.” And while I understand his objection, I focus on his choice of the word holocaust. While Inglourious Basterds focused more on killing Nazis than the suffering of Jews, it did turn a similarly awful chapter in history into pulpy, hyperviolent entertainment, and I wonder if anyone as prominent as Spike Lee — or at least as famously tied to Jewish culture as Lee is to African-American culture — objected to Basterds. Is it just that it’s awkward to object to killing Hitler?

Were you thinking about how many people left the theater thinking, “Holy shit, humans have done some awful things to each other”? Or were you thinking, “Yay for Django for blowing away those crackers”?

Were you thinking about Kerry Washington, and why she chose to play the role she did in spite of the fact that Broomhilda doesn’t get to do much but receive violence and then wait to be rescued? We see her whipped, branded, stripped naked and tossed into a wheelbarrow like a sack of potatoes. In playing the role, was Washington showcasing the particular awfulness that slavery wreaked on black women? Or was she simply set dressing?

Were you thinking about the symbolism of a slave character named Broomhilda, with an “m,” instead of Brunhilda, as the name would more typically rendered?

Were you thinking about how Django Unchained was conspicuously lacking in strong female characters even though that’s typically something Tarantino seems to relish in creating? There’s no Jackie Brown, no Beatrix Kiddo, no Shosonna Dreyfus in this script.

Were you thinking that the ambiguously incestuous relationship between Calvin and Lara Lee served as a cheap way to underscore their moral baseness as characters?

Were you thinking that Lara Lee kind of looked like Kristen Wiig?

Were you thinking that you’re more or less okay with Zoe Bell’s role as the unexplained, masked, silent female tracker? Or were you wondering how this woman came to join the redneck thugs at the Candie plantation?

Were you thinking that the winking cameo of Franco Nero, the original Django, was a nice touch? Or was it too on-the-nose that he knew that the name Django was spelled with a silent “D”?

Were you thinking about how that exchange tied back into Tarantino’s weird fixation on names and letters of the alphabet?

Were you thinking that damn, Franco Nero, you look damn good for being not only 71 years old but also someone who was a big deal in moviemaking circles in the 70s?

Were you thinking about how Django Unchained’s use of the theme song from the original Django will make a whole lot more people understand the references in that one episode of Bob’s Burgers?

Were you thinking that the comedy surrounding the Ku Klux Klan scene underscored that these men were incompetent idiots? Or did that humanize them in a way that made you uncomfortable?

Were you thinking that you agree with Tarantino — and, really, Django too — that the true villain of the story wasn’t any of the white people but Samuel L. Jackson’s character, who stayed loyal to his masters in spite of the inherent unfairness of slavery?

Were you thinking that the woman gazing down from the window looked a lot like Amber Tamblyn?

Were you thinking, “Wait, that actually is Amber Tamblyn. Amber Tamblyn, how’d you get in here?”

Were you thinking it would be weird if Quentin Tarantino had seen Joan of Arcadia?

Were you thinking, “Wait, Alexandre Dumas was black? Did I know that?”

Were you thinking that Quentin Tarantino’s character spoke with an Australian accent because maybe he couldn’t do a passable Southern accent?

I guess it’s pretty clear, at least, what I was thinking about.


  1. Anonymous11:40 PM

    Now what I'm thinking is "if it had been Kristen Wiig playing Lara Lee, would that really have been that odd?"

    1. No, especially given Tarantino's affinity for female comedians -- Kathy Griffin, Margaret Cho, Julia Sweeney...

  2. I was thinking that it's weird that James Remar plays two roles.

    1. Odd, yes, but it's a stunt he's done before. Gordon Liu played Pai Me and Johnny Mo in the Kill Bills, and Michael Parks played both the sheriff and the pimp in those movies. Cool how it allows actors to show range, I guess.

  3. I thought how ultimately unsatisfying revenge porn can be. Just like I felt after Inglorious Basterds.

    And that Jamie Foxx is great when he isn't channeling Tom Cruise's maniacal arrogance (as in the last third of the movie).

    1. "Maniacal arrogance." That's a good way to describe his bravado.

  4. I did think about Zoe Bell's character, and I almost felt that there should be a side movie based on how she got into the group.

    I was also wondering if Candie kept Bob's skull for the sole purpose of using it in a monologue some point down the road.

    1. That seems like the kind of backstory that would have been handled with an animated short in the Kill Bill universe, no?

      And yes, that's a good point. Him keeping the skull is unexplainable otherwise. Unless he's just nuts.